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Self-questioning

Teaching strategies

Self-questioning: a guide for teachers and teacher aides

Self-questioning – asking yourself questions in order to obtain a deeper understanding or to check that a text was understood.

Self-questioning can be employed in almost any learning activity including writing, viewing, speaking, creating, solving and investigating. However, it is most commonly associated with reading comprehension – understanding what a text was about. Self-questioning is a metacognitive skill commonly used by literacy teachers to improve reading comprehension. Students who struggle with reading comprehension are often passive readers; they can read and understand individual words but struggle to connect words and sentences to make meaning. Passive readers don’t visualise what they read and fail to connect details to people, places and things. Students who struggle with comprehension will read a passage from a text and not be able to recall key points or details. Comprehension is a common issue that teachers face in all grades and subjects. One strategy that is known to be effective is self-questioning.

Self-questioning helps passive readers to become active readers by directing their reading. During and after reading a passage, students ask themselves questions. There are 2 main types of questions. Firstly, students ask themselves general questions (such as whether they understand what the passage is about). Secondly, they ask themselves specific questions (for example, about where the passage is set, who the characters are and what happened). Teachers can direct students to read for specific information to answer these questions. High-achieving students and competent readers employ active-reading strategies such as self-questioning; they are continually reflecting on their understanding and employing strategies such as re-reading as a result.

Passive readers don’t visualise what they read and fail to connect details to people, places and things.

Self-questioning helps passive readers to become active readers by directing their reading. During and after reading a passage, students ask themselves questions.

PQ4R is an acronym for a popular method of self-questioning:

  • Preview – students predict what may happen and consider reading cues.
  • Question – students list several questions to be answered before reading.
  • Read – students read while actively searching for answers to their questions.
  • Reflect – after reading, students consider whether their questions were answered.
  • Recite – students re-tell or discuss the main points of their reading with a friend.
  • Review – students and teacher reflect on the activity (for example, ‘did we ask the right questions?’).

You may have noticed that PQ4R incorporates many of the reading strategies examined earlier in this book – ‘preview’ for example is similar to ‘prediction’ and ‘using cues’. Self-questioning is very effective as a metacognitive skill. Independent and self-directed learners use self-questioning before, during and after an activity. As with all metacognitive skills, self-questioning needs to be explicitly taught to students. Regular opportunities for practise need to be provided in order to encourage automaticity.

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.

ADAM GREEN

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Teaching Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners. Amazon #1 best seller in the category of Classroom Management.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

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