Basic comprehension questions play an important role in language intervention

Basic comprehension questions are questions that are designed to improve a student's knowledge of a story's meaning.

To be an effective questioner a clinician needs to develop good listening skills. Well thought out and productive questions tend to be open-ended, and ask 'what' and 'how' type questions.

Good questioning technique is a vital skill that a clinician uses in shared book reading activities, because it provides a framework and support that a child with language difficulty may need to understand a particular text's meaning.

Good questioning technique helps to:

  • Provide students with a meaningful scaffold to better understand written language

  • Extract interesting and thoughtful responses from students

  • Cultivate new ideas and new insights in students' minds.

  • Problem-solve meaning based text in a cooperative way.

    Effective questioning technique aids a student's inferencing ability. The student is prompted to consider, 'what information is concealed and might happen next...'

    When engaged in shared book reading activities the best type of basic comprehension questions to ask are designed to be thought provoking and interesting.

    Closed-end questions, that require only yes/no responses, have their place, but the most effective questions tend to be open-ended.

    To fully engage a student, particularly when searching for deeper meaning in a text, it's not enough to simply point out the answer. It's best if the student works the problem out for themselves.

    The best way to facilitate this is to consistently ask the student thought provoking questions.

    Text example: 'The storm tossed the tiny boat on the seas as if it were a tiny matchstick. The sun shone for a moment, but its warming rays were quickly engulfed by the angry and bruised sky.'

    Clinician questions with: 'What could be happening to the boat?' What are the waves doing?' What happened to the sun's rays? What do you think the boat's captain should do?'

    Or... 'How do you think it will end? Will the boat survive? How long do you think the storm will last?' 'What does angry and bruised mean?'

    There are an infinite array of open-ended questions that can be created from this short, single passage alone.

    Perhaps the most important point in developing good questioning technique is that well thought out questions, pertinent to the story context, help guide the student on the path you lay out for them.

    Basic Comprehension Questions and Good listening

    Good listening abilities are a sometimes overlooked set of skills.

    In order to gain the most from using basic comprehension questions it's important to question to the student's response.

    When a clinician attentively listens to a response they can build a deeper knowledge of a student's understanding of a text passage by listening for subtle cues and information that can be built on and added to later.

    At times it is best to remain silent, rather than barge in with a clarifying comment, or provide the answer to a difficult question.

    I've discovered that silence is a highly effective technique to use when working with children with language difficulty.

    Students often create their own solutions to difficulties they may encounter in the text. Silence from the clinician provides a window of opportunity for students to independently come up with their own answers.


    DeKemel, K.P. (2003) Intervention in Language Arts: A Practical Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists. Butterworth-Heinemann.

    Kaderavek, J & Justice, L.M. (2002) Shared Storybook Reading as an Intervention Context: Practices and Potential Pitfalls. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Vol 11. 395-406.

    Paul, R. (2001) Language Disoders form Infancy through Adolescence. Assessment and Intervention. Mosby

    Wallach, G.P. (2008) Language Intervention for School-Age Students: Setting Goals for Academic Success. Mosby Elsevier

    Content Updated 7/11

    Return from Basic Comprehension Questions to Shared Reading

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