Using Questions to Aid in Reading Comprehension

  • Situation

    My 16 year old grandson can read quickly and easily but seems to have difficulty when it comes to understanding what he has read. Books aimed at his age group seem to go right over his head. He prefers movies-usually animated and loves to watch old movies aimed at little kids. How can I help him to better understand what he is reading?

  • Summary

    Having the ability to read the words of a text does not always mean that the individual is able to understand what is being read.  Try to use questioning before, during and after the story to help him start to do this on his own, as good readers do.  Begin to practice the questioning strategy with texts that are at a lower reading level and more likely to interest your grandson.

  • Definition

    To aid in their comprehension, skillful readers ask themselves questions before, during and after they read (Pressley and Afflerbach 1995 ). By modeling this behavior you can help him become more proficient and encourage him to use it when he reads independently.

    Some of the questions might include:


    Prior to reading:

    • By looking at the cover and reading the description, can you make any predictions about what the story might be about?


    While reading:  (pause throughout the reading of the text)

    • What is this story about?
    • Who is the main character?
    • What does the main character want?
    • Will he/she get it? If so how?


    After watching/reading:

    • What was the main sequence of events in the story?  Graphic organizers are a great way to visually show sequence of events or story elements.
    • Why did the story end this way?
    • What was the author’s purpose in writing this?
  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    A prepared set of individualized questions and/or a visual organizer.

  • Process

    1. Develop a collection of questions to be asked before, during, and after reading. These questions could be placed within a graphic organizer to help with visual organization and to support him in becoming more independent with this activity.

    2. Begin using this strategy with texts that have a higher interest level and lower reading level.

    3. Initially, you will model the questions aloud for him as you engage in a shared reading activity.  Then you can move to him reading aloud or even silently with you present as you cue him to stop and think about the text as he reads.

    4. Since he loves movies, you may want to practice asking him the same “before, during and after” questions about one of his favorite movies.  You could even have him write down the sequenced events of a movie or answer questions about characters, plot etc. with a graphic organizer to practice the skill with a more preferred activity.

    5. Although this takes more time, you might want to look ahead into the story and pull out some vocabulary words that he might not know and “prime” or pre-teach the vocabulary prior to reading the story together.  Instruction would include:  providing a “student friendly” definition of the word, providing a synonym or antonym if applicable, providing a “non-example” of the word and using the word in the context of a sentence.  There are graphic organizers available to assist with this.  (e.g. Frayer Model)

  • Documents and Related Resources

    graphic organizers (website with printable reading graphic organizers)


    simple wh visual (PDF)


    sandwich graphic organizer (PDF)


    Paulakluth (website- comprehension strategies)


    Question Answer Relationship Strategy (Raphael 1986) (related answer on this site)


    Color Coding Adaptation for Comprehension (related answer on this site)


    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.