Reading Comprehension Resources

Three Types of Questions to Build Comprehension:

This information can be found at:

Literal, inferential, and evaluative questions help learners read and think in different ways.

To help students monitor their comprehension, it helps to ask questions while you read. The three levels of questions are:

  • Literal. The answers to literal questions can be found in the text. They are directly stated. We sometimes say this information is on the surface.

Examples: What is the main character’s name? What happened in the story on that page?

  • Inferential. The answers to inferential questions can be found in the text too, but they are implied, not directly stated. We often say the information is in between the lines orunder the surface.

Examples: Why did the main character laugh? What do you think will happen next?

  • Evaluative. The answers to evaluative questions require information outside of the text. We sometimes say the information is in the head or somewhere else.

Examples: How are you similar to the main character? Why did the author write this book?

Rather than simply tell students they are right or wrong, it is better to ask students to support their answers. For literal questions, students can go back to the text and show you were they found the information. For inferential questions, students can explain their reasoning and show the part of the story that supports their idea. For evaluative questions, students can explain their ideas and identify the other sources of information.

Our questions shape how students think about literature!

Children’s books are a great way to explore people and places.  When reading books with kids, it is a great idea to ask questions.  Keep in mind that the types of questions you ask are as important as the content of the question.  Here are a few suggestions to maximize the benefits of asking questions during reading time.

  1. Ask a mix of literal, inferential, and evaluative questions.  Literal questions focus on the surface of the story.  The answers are stated directly in the text.  Answers to inferential level questions are found “between the lines” are require students to make inferences.  Evaluative questions take the reader beyond the book.  Answers require additional information that the students need to synthesize with the book.
  2. Be careful how you word the questions.  Open ended questions allow for a wider range of responses and invite higher levels of participation.  Close ended questions (e.g., yes or no) limit thinking by restricting the possible responses.  They also minimize thinking because students either know or do not know the answer.

  3. Focus in the important features if the book.  Ask about the main characters, essential words, and key events.  If those are all well understood, explore secondary elements such as peripheral characters or words that are interesting but not essential to understanding the story.

Remember, questions are intended to promote thinking. As long as students are thinking, it does not matter as much as to whether students can answer any particular questions.  Be more concerned with whether your questions as a whole are directing students to consider about the important elements of stories.

 Think of a book as a dark room.  The questions can be a lamp used to shine a light on what the students need to see.

Levels of Comprehension

This information can be found at:

The three levels of comprehension, or sophistication of thinking, are presented in the following hierarchy from theleast to the most sophisticated level of reading.

  • Least = surface, simple reading

  • Most = in-depth, complex reading

Level One
LITERAL – what is actually stated.

  • Facts and details

  • Rote learning and memorization

  • Surface understanding only

TESTS in this category are objective tests dealing with true / false, multiple choice and fill-in-the blank type questions.

Common questions used to illicit this type of thinking are who, what, when, and where questions.

Level Two
INTERPRETIVE – what is implied or meant, rather than what is actually stated.

  • Drawing inferences

  • Tapping into prior knowledge / experience

  • Attaching new learning to old information

  • Making logical leaps and educated guesses

  • Reading between the lines to determine what is meant by what is stated.

TESTS in this category are subjective, and the types of questions asked are open-ended, thought-provoking questions like why, what if, and how.

Level Three
APPLIED – taking what was said (literal) and then what was meant by what was said (interpretive) and then extend (apply) the concepts or ideas beyond the situation.

  • Analyzing

  • Synthesizing

  • Applying

In this level we are analyzing or synthesizing information and applying it to other information.

The National Reading Panel recommends:

  • Question answering

  • Comprehension monitoring

  • Cooperative learning

  • Graphic/semantic organizers/story maps

  • Question generation

  • Summarization

Research on Reading Comprehension tells us that…

  • Time spent reading is highly correlated with comprehension

    • Provide for lots of in-class reading, outside of class reading, independent reading

    • Encourage kids to read more and read widely – develop a passion for reading

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: