Is it most useful before reading? During reading? Or after reading?
From my experience, engaging students while they are reading makes the greatest positive impact. It helps students pull greater meaning from the text they are reading, and it models the kinds of thinking good readers do.
What kinds of questions help?
• What does that mean? “That” could refer to a vocabulary word, a sentence or a concept.
• What is confusing or hard to understand? Often a teacher can tell that something the student has read confuses him, but the student doesn’t say so. Even if the student says, “I don’t know,” the teacher likely has ideas about what is difficult to understand. Identifying the problem—an idiom, a metaphor, a reference to another part of the text—and explaining it can be vital to the student’s understanding.
• Who is she? What is her relationship to ___? Sometimes poor readers fail to recognize relationships among characters or the role of a particular character in the text. Or they may fail to recognize that Jean Louise and Scout are the same person.
• What will happen next? Predicting shows students know enough of a story to say what is possible. Not being able to predict might indicate students are not following the plot or a character’s emotional response to a situation.
Modeling by an adult is important for struggling students. “Hmm. I wonder what Nate the Great will do next?” Or “What is a spinning wheel anyway? I’ve never seen one. Have you?” Or “A red letter day? What in the world is a red letter day?”
Struggling readers need to see that asking questions while they are reading is not a sign that they are dumb; it is a sign they are intelligent. They need to know that good readers ask lots of questions as they read, and if they don’t know the answers, they find out—stopping in the middle of their reading to ask an adult, a dictionary or the internet.