Using Before, During, and After Reading Questions – by Madeleine Hogan of LessonWriter.com

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented change in the schooling system. Many teachers will be teaching remotely this fall, and some parents have and will be their children’s teachers. With the lack of in-school instruction, it’s important to educate new homeschooling parents on the best techniques to keep students learning and growing. Fortunately, we can keep children advancing despite the interruption in their regular education.  

One of these ways is keeping improving literacy and comprehension skills. Literacy helps students advance in every subject: the better a student can read and understand a text (whether it’s Math instructions, or a history textbook), the easier it will be for them to continue advancing in that subject. 

Most people believe that if a child’s reading fluency is on point, then their comprehension will follow. But reading isn’t a passive exercise: an active mind will ask and answer questions while engaging with a text. You may be able to read Shakespeare, or a new poem, fluently, but understanding the meaning coming across is a different story. 

For example, try this phrase out: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. (Hamlet, Act 1). You may have been able to read that fluently, but did you automatically understand the meaning of the sentence? 

Something that helps students comprehend a passage better is the asking and answering of questions. But note: these questions shouldn’t only come after a text is read. The ongoing process of asking questions before, during, and after reading is what helps focus readers’ attention on analyzing and connecting with the text

Boosting Comprehension with Questions Before, During, and After Reading

Studies show that traditionally, most teachers only ask questions about a text that’s already been read. That seems instinctual perhaps, but by not taking advantage of before and during-reading questions, students are missing out on several opportunities to build their comprehension and literacy abilities. 

One of the best research-based strategies to increase comprehension of a text is to continuously present before, during, and after questions to the student. Questions require students to consolidate various pieces of knowledge, because though some answers may be found in the text, some come from background knowledge, some from inferring, some from discussion, and others from further research. By providing before, during, and after questions, teachers can demonstrate how questioning enhances the reading experience and deepens understanding. 

What are Before, During, and After Questions?  

Prior to reading a passage to gain general knowledge, students should have an idea of what the text is going to be about. It prepares the mind for the topic they are about ready to explore, as well as sets a purpose for reading. “Before questions” encourage students to scan the text and make predictions. They will also activate background knowledge on the topic.

During reading, teachers and parents should be asking questions that keep students focusing on the main ideas of the passage, particularly those that require students to make inferences

It may be helpful to incorporate graphic organizers in order to organize “during” questions. There are many great graphic organizers available for both fiction and nonfiction text. A good graphic organizer can be added to every reading to help students analyze the text as they read, and note the main parts of the story. 

Or, including short questions in text breaks is also simple and effective: 

  • Who is the main character?
  • What is the conflict in the text?
  • How do you think this will end?

End-of-the-text questions are useful to put all of the information into context. Plus, it challenges the student to recall the beginning, middle, and end of the text correctly, as well as develop analysis about the overall meaning of the piece and the author’s intentions, perspective, and voice

Using Generic Before, During, and After Questions All Lessons

To save time, you can always ask the same questions of your students or children, providing they’re adjusted for each subject you teach. For example, asking students for the main purpose of the passage is a pretty standard, but helpful, question. 

While using the same questions for all text is easier, you may not really be focusing on the specifics about the passage with the students. But it is better than skipping the questions altogether, and just always adjust your questions when possible. 

Have Your Students Create Questions 

Another option is having students create their own questions. Encouraging your kids to ask before, during, and after questions will engage their interest, promote comprehension, and give them more of a reason to read. 

This can be done in addition to creating your own questions. Great readers ask questions, and seek answers as they read. This helps them focus on the text, and understand what they’re reading. 

Use Questions Included in the Reading 

Using pre-made lesson plans can save valuable time and provide teachers with tools they need to consistently provide new lessons. However, make sure to choose reputable sources and review the provided questions before sharing them with your students. If they only provide before questions, or after questions, or during questions, add your own questions so the students can experience and learn from all three. 

Question Crafting and Placement using LessonWriter

LessonWriter’s question-writing tools make it easy to craft critical thinking questions and position them exactly where they will do the most good: before the reading–to stir students’ thoughts or provoke opinions, following a particularly complex part of the reading to reinforce understanding before continuing–or at the end of the passage. You can even ask questions before and after each paragraph, as students work through the text. 

Adding personalized critical-thinking questions to any online text is faster and simpler when LessonWriter does the heavy lifting. LessonWriter is also ideal for parents trying teaching for the first time: read an article this morning you think is interesting? Use it as a lesson for your kids later that day. You can try it out for free here.  

Reading Comprehension Needs Before, During, and after Questions 

Questions are the heart of a reader’s understanding. Asking and answering questions helps readers monitor their comprehension, and allow a deeper interaction with the text.Whether you’re planning a lesson or reading for yourself, use before, during, and after questions and notice higher engagement, and even a greater passion for learning. And at this time, nothing could be more important for the future of our learners. 

About LessonWriter

LessonWriter was built by teachers, for teachers, with one idea in mind: make it easier to teach better. LessonWriter.com automatically creates print, web, and mobile-ready lessons to promote comprehension in any subject: an article on cell structure for biology class, a primary source document in history, a short story, or this very moment’s headline news. All you do is copy and paste the article’s URL, and your work is done. Try it today!

Editors note: Thank you LessonWriter.com for this article! LessonWriter do incredible work providing high quality lessons to time poor teachers. They have a lot of brilliant, research led articles on their blog, anyone interested in creating outstanding lessons would do well to add their blog to their regular visit list!

If you found this article helpful, tweet @BIBeducation and @lessonwriter and let us know! At Believe in Better Education we love sharing articles that help teachers and students. If you would like to contribute, get in touch!

Further Research

Watch: “The power of effective questions”

Read: The excellent articles over at https://lessonwriterblog.com/

Do: Pick a topic you will be teaching soon, write out all the possible questions you could use. Consider what answers you are looking for, what misconceptions students may have, and how you can address those if they do! This extra preparation will ensure you get the best out of your students!

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