Increasing Student Comprehension: Questions Before, During, and After Reading

Ryan Crawley

The Importance of Before, During, and After Reading Questions

As a certified Reading Specialist, I have encountered and helped students of all ages that have comprehension difficulties over the last 15 years. Most people mistakenly believe that if a child’s reading fluency is on point, then their comprehension will follow. 

However, this is not always the way it works. It takes an active reader to comprehend the text that’s being presented to them. 

The ongoing process of asking questions before, during, and after reading helps focus the reader’s attention on analyzing and connecting with the text. Reading is not a passive exercise: an active mind will ask and answer questions while engaging with a text.

Boosting Comprehension with Questions Before, During, and After Reading

More than 40 years ago, Dolores Durkin, a classroom teacher herself, conducted a study showing that most teachers only ask questions about the text after the entire passage had already been read. To say this was stunting comprehension of the material would be an understatement. 

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? 

“Before questions” encourage students to scan the text and make predictions. They will also activate background knowledge on the topic. 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 and sets a purpose for reading.  

During reading, teachers 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

How to Include Before, During, and After Reading Question in Your Instruction

1. Using Generic Before, During, and After Questions For Everything

To save time, you can always ask the same questions of your students, 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 you can always adjust your questions when possible.

2. Have Students Create Questions

Another option is having your students create their own questions. Encouraging students 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 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.

3. Included Questions

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.

4. 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.

Adding personalized critical-thinking questions to any online text is faster and simpler when LessonWriter does the heavy lifting! Try it out 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.

Calling All Writers! 

LessonWriter is currently accepting blog post submissions from educators and school administrators. Head to our “Write for LessonWriter” page for more details.

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