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Tutor Tip of the Month: Using Questions to Focus on Text

(From Contra Costa County’s Project Second Chance)

A tutor reported a conversation she had had with her student. It went something like this: "I asked Bob to read the paragraph and he read it out loud just fine. Then I asked him to explain it to me. He was a little annoyed because in his mind I had switched the task — kind of like ‘bait and switch’ at a used car lot. ‘You asked me to read it,’ he said, ‘not to understand it!’ For him the two activities were quite separate."

If your student has trouble understanding and remembering what he has read, teach him to ask (and answer) questions while he reads.

Try this activity. List the six basic questions:

1) Who?
2) What?
3) When?
4) Where?
5) Why?
6) How?

After you read a paragraph or two, take turns rolling a die, and see if you can ask whatever type of question came up. If the tutor rolls a "1," he or she asks the student a "who" question. If the learner rolls a "5," he or she asks the tutor a "why" question.

If you can’t ask a "who" question — maybe there are no people in the story at all — just roll the die again. The idea isn’t to be rigid about which questions will be asked. The idea is to have a fun way to pay attention to, make sense of, and interact with, the text.

As you play, looking back in the text to find answers is fine. Good readers do that all the time to find information. You can model the process for your learner.


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