Teaching During Reading Self-Questioning Strategies

What are Self-Questioning Strategies?

Self-Questioning is the ongoing process of asking questions before, during, and after reading that are used by a reader to understand text. The questions posed are based on clues that are found in the text and are generated to spark curiosity that focuses the reader's attention on investigating, understanding, and connecting to the text. A Self-Questioning Strategy is a set of steps that a student follows to generate, think about, predict, investigate, and answer questions that satisfy curiosity about what is being read.

How can Self-Questioning Strategies help your students?

Poor readers approach reading as a passive experience. That is, they read the words with the idea that the meaning will reveal itself, if they read enough words. However, good readers challenge what they are reading by asking questions as they read. Why did they say that? What do they mean by that? I wonder what they were doing there? How did she do that? Why am I reading this? Many students have not learned that they can increase their comprehension by using self-questioning as a strategy, and they have not learned how to use self-questioning strategies as an ongoing process for connecting to text (i.e, Why am I reading this? How can I use this information? Do I agree with this?). Self-Questioning requires a reader to look for text clues that make them wonder, think about possible meanings, ask questions about the meanings, make predictions about the answers, read to find the answers, evaluate the answers and their predictions, and reconcile differences between their questions, their predictions about answers, and the information actually provided by the author in the text.

Self-Questioning is more than just asking questions. Students must learn to pay attention to textual clues that they typically pass by. They must then use their background knowledge to generate questions and make predictions. This background knowledge will personalize the questions and predictions, but since background knowledge will vary with the individual, each reader will wonder about different aspects of the text. Once these have been generated, the student must learn that the answers to all questions may not be found, that predictions may not be accurate. Then the student must learn to correct his or her thinking. This is important, because some research indicates that once some students make certain judgments or predictions about what will be read, they read to confirm their prediction regardless of the information actually provided in the text. Teachers need to instruct students and provide practice in self-questioning strategies that help students learn to continuously question, predict, confirm, correct, and reconcile information. As students encounter text in different areas, they need an approach to question what they are reading, and they need to see how individuals with sufficient background knowledge use this question to reconciliation process. Asking students to self-question and read without the teacher describing and routinely modeling how to use an appropriate self-questioning strategy, especially with varying text lengths, content areas, and text complexities, will not improve the ability of students to self-question. However, since almost all learning in school requires that a student ask question and answer questions, self-questioning comprehension strategies are important to teach.

Who can benefit from instruction in Self-Questioning Strategies?

Some students can generate questions fairly well. However, as text becomes more difficult, becomes more abstract, increases in length, is more inconsiderate, or the student does not have sufficient background knowledge, comprehension will falter and more deliberate work on self-questioning is required. Struggling readers may need instruction and practice in surveying text and generating questions before they read; other students may need instruction and practice in using self-questioning as they read; others might used self-questioning as a way of summarizing or studying. Regardless of when the self-questioning process is used, the basic components of the strategy are the same.

What are the types of Self-Questioning Strategies that I might teach?

Self-questioning is used before, during, and after reading text. However, if students do not know or use self-questioning as an ongoing strategy during reading, they are likely to have trouble with before and after use of the strategy. Therefore, a self-questioning strategy for use during reading is described first in some detail, followed by descriptions of how the strategy is used before and after reading.


  • The During Reading Self-Questioning Strategy. This strategy focuses on teaching the students to use a self-questioning process as they read paragraphs and sections of text.
  • The Before Reading Self-Questioning Strategy. This strategy focuses on teaching students to use the self-questioning process as a way of previewing text before reading begins and creating a set of guiding questions to check comprehension during reading.
  • The After Reading Self-Questioning Strategy. This strategy focuses on teaching students to generate questions and answer questions after they have read the text. This strategy is usually used for studying and self-testing information that should have been gained from the text.


How do you teach the During Reading Self-Questiong Strategy?

  1. Self-Questioning is used before, during, and after reading text. However, if students do not know or use self-questioning as an ongoing strategy during reading, they are likely to have trouble with before and after use of the strategy. Therefore, a self-questioning strategy for use during reading is described first in some detail, followed by descriptions of how the strategy is used before and after reading.
  2. Before you start asking students to apply a Self-Questioning Strategy to a passage, explain to them the purpose of learning a Self-Questioning Strategy. Focus your rationale on the idea that it helps to really think about what we are reading and connect with the author. This will help the reader understand and remember the information and make it more personal.
  3. Describe the strategy and make a list of the steps on the overhead or board. Ask students to write the steps down and keep the steps and what the steps mean in their notes. The critical steps of the strategy that you could describe might include these steps:
    Step 1: Tell yourself, "I need to question the author and predict where the author is going."
    Step 2: Read the passage and identify clues that make you question the author.
    To identify question clues, look for words, phrases, sentences, or pictures that make you curious.
    Step 3: Ask yourself good questions.
    Ask yourself, "I wonder......"questions."

    The "I wonder" questions use "wh' and "h" words. These words are include: who, what, when, where, why, which, how, how many, and how much.

    When you ask yourself a question, think of a way to remember the question, so you don't forget it as you read. For example, in the margin in light pencil (or a separate piece of paper), draw a picture of a face to help you remember a "who" question.

    Step 4: Create predictions.
    For each question you ask, create a prediction based on what you are thinking and what you know.
    Step 5: Keep questions and predictions in mind as you read.
    As you read, keep checking to see if your questions are answered and your predictions are confirmed.
    Step 6: Evaluate the answers.
    If your questions are answered, remember the answer. If not, keep them in mind as you continue to read. If your prediction is correct, remember the answer. If your prediction is not correct, restate what the correct answer is and adjust your thinking.
    Step 7: Review what you know and read on.
    Restate what you know from your questions. Focus on what you learned from the information that the author actually gave you. Summarize the main ideas and details that are critical to understanding the author's message. 

    If your questions were never answered or your predictions were wrong, then think about why your questions were not answered and how the author tricked you. These may be good questions for further discussion and exploration.

  4. After describing the During Self-Questioning Strategy, model how the strategy should be used on an interesting passage. Say each step of the strategy as you model it, so students see where you are as you start and complete each step. Think aloud as you model and explain how you made each decision. Using another passage of several paragraphs, model the strategy again, and this time begin to ask students to participate in following the steps of the Self-Questioning Strategy.
  5. Now that students see how the strategy works, instruct students to partner with another student and have them practice describing the steps to one another as you walk around the class and listen to their practice. Tell them to refer to their notes to help them describe each step. After the partner practice, move into a group review and ask students questions about the purpose of each step of the strategy. The goal of this activity is to make sure each student understands each step of the strategy and how to use it.
  6. After the strategy has been presented, post the steps of the strategy in a place in the classroom where you and the students can refer to it when needed. Several times each week identify an interesting passage and model how you would use self-questioning on it. As a class, work through several passages. Use different types of content to demonstrate how self-questioning can work.
  7. Make reading assignments that require students to read part of the passage and generate questions and predictions on one day. Then on the following day, ask students to answer questions and confirm predictions as they finish the passage. Although this will vary, assignments of five or six paragraphs are about the right length for this type of assignment. As students perform the Self-Questioning Strategy, walk around the room and see which students have difficulty with the strategy.
  8. Students who have difficulty with the self-questioning process may need more individualized attention than what can be provided via large group instruction.

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