Reading to Learn

 Lana Woods

                                                                                        Why ??

Rationale:  In order for students to be able to learn while reading they must comprehend or understand what they read.  When students are actively participating in what they are reading it has been proven to improve comprehension.  As students become fluent readers and enter upper grades such as fourth and beyond they are expected to read and comprehend expository texts such as history and science books.  One method that seems to help students retain important information in text is the generation of certain kinds of questions.  The type of questions that seem to help most are inferential questions.  These are not one answer trivia questions, but higher level questions that help students determine cause and effect relationships.  Most of these questions begin with "Why?"

Materials:  Alabama: It's History and Geography, paper, pencils


1) This year you all have been given text books to read.  You have been assigned to read chapters and then answer questions that help me know if you understood what you read.  Today I want to teach you a strategy that will help you remember the information you read better.  We are going to learn to ask questions as we read.  These questions are not just any questions; they are questions that help you remember the main ideas of what you read.  Remember last week we learned to find the topic sentences in our text sections.  This week we are going to learn to ask questions that usually begin with "why" and determine the reasons events took place in our text.
2) Everyone read the first section of our chapter about the Civil War on page 207.  We will read silently.  Remember that when we read silently we do not talk out loud or move our mouths.    After we read, we will come up with some questions to help us better understand our text.
Text:  "The North and South had many sectional differences which caused them to go to war.  The North had a much larger population who worked mostly in industry.  Most of the South's people lived on farms.  Over one third of Southerners were black.  Slavery was one very important difference.  Alabama seceded from the union and joined the Confederate States of America.  Not all Alabamians wanted to leave the Union.  They were called unionists.  Jefferson Davis was sworn in as President of the Confederacy on the front porch of the Alabama state capital.  The Civil War began on April 12, 1861.  A large number o Alabamians fought and a larger number died.  Almost everyone worked in one way or another for the war effort" (Dodd, 207).
3)   One example of a good question to ask yourself while you are reading is "Why did the Civil War begin? Or "Why did the North and South disagree?"  Try to avoid questions that you can answer with one word such as "What year did the Civil War begin?"  This question is too narrow and will not help you comprehend what you are reading.
4) Now that we are done let's generate some good questions. Have the students share and discuss different questions and talk about if the questions would be helpful or not.  Discuss how asking ourselves questions while reading helps us understand and remember what we have read than if we just read through it.
5) For Assessment:  I will have the students read the following section of their text on the outcome of the Civil War on page 207.
Text:  "There were 78 battles fought in Alabama.  Large numbers of Union troops marched through the state destroying farms, homes, animals, and industries.  The only Alabama battle was in Mobile Bay.  Admiral Farragut was the Union Commander and Admiral Buchanan was the Confederate commander.  After 17 Union ships sank 4 Confederate ships they moved to attack Mobile.  Union General Wilson moved 13,500 men through central Alabama to capture Montgomery.  On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia" (Dodd, 207)
 After they read I will have them come up with a good 'Why' question and try to answer it.  I will remind them to avoid questions that have one word answers.  I will take up this assignment and give them feedback on their question and answer. This will help me know if the students understand this strategy or if we need to spend more time in practice.

In order to assess their question and answer I will check for:
1. That the student can ask a question that begins with why or a question that does not have a one word answer.
2. I will make sure the student can answer the question because they comprehended what they read.


 Dodd, Dr. Donald B. (1993). Alabama: Its History and Geography.  Clairmont Press, Montgomery, AL. p207.

 Pressley, Micheal, Johnson, Carla J., Symons, Sonya, McGoldrick, Jacqueline A., Kurita, Janice A.(1989).  Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text.  The Elementary School Journal, vol 90, number 1.

Click here to return ot Inspirations.