Use these Effective Questions for Boosting Reading Comprehension

Questions are among the fundamental cornerstones of reading comprehension. Whether you’re teaching in an online, hybrid, or face-to-face classroom, questions can help:

  • Prompt students to critically analyze and reflect upon learning material.
  • Review lessons and assess student learning.
  • Engage students in the classroom.
  • Enhance student interest and motivation.

There are different types of questions, and it is important to choose and implement the correct questioning techniques to for specific responses from students. Some of these questioning techniques are effective at improving students’ reading comprehension. These include:

Open-Ended Questions:

Teachers can use open ended questions to initiate discussions. These questions can prompt students to:

  • Form opinions and support them with textual evidence – Why do you think that character behaved like that?
  • Describe and explain information – What are the factors that led to that event?
  • Find connections between ideas and concepts – How do you think they influence or affect each other?
  • Predict events – What do you think will happen next?

Socratic Questioning:

This method uses student-generated questions to facilitate learning. Student groups can be instructed to read a passage and try to understand the material by asking themselves questions. Initially teachers can assist by giving students a list of questions to follow. With practice, students are taught to generate questions on their own and apply them to improve their understanding of the text.

Probing Questions:

Students can use probing questions to understand topics in-depth, and to clarify information. For instance, a question like, “what exactly do you think the author meant by that line?” can encourage students to read between the lines of text to find further answers.

Leading Questions

As the name suggests, leading questions lead students to specific ideas to find the correct answers. Teachers can lead students using:

  • Assumptions: Do you think the author meant it in this way?
  • Choices: Which of these factors do you think influenced the event the most?
  • Personalizing questions: I think the character chose to respond in a that manner because [of these reasons]. What do you think?

Teachers can use these questions interchangeably depending on the direction of discussion and learning objectives. Other points that contribute to effective questioning are the use of:

  • Pauses: An adequate waiting time must be given after each question to give students time to think and formulate their answers.
  • Tone and body language.

These are a few ways to increase comprehension and get discussions started through questioning techniques. Effective questioning plants the ideas that can guide students through reading materials more easily and with heightened understanding of the content.

Learn more about reading comprehension in the brand new online PD course: Early Reading Skills.

May 2021 Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through, and, Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD for schools.