Strategies for Parents & Teachers: How to Incorporate Discussions & Questions Through Picture Books
After Reading a story in my household, a free-homework summer break did not exist. Instead, my dad would create homework plans for me and my sisters to do each week to prepare for the following school year. Part of my summer homework included reading a book that my dad had chosen and answering discussion questions that he had written out.
Each night after dinner, my dad would sit me at the dinner table and go over my answers to the questions and then proceed to quiz me on the characters, plot, and theme of the book. Of course, as a young girl, I did not see the appeal in this. It was summer, and that should mean days full of fun and no work, yet I was still having to clock in hours of learning for five days out of the week. Looking back now, I am grateful that my dad was so involved in my education, as it helped me improve in all areas of reading. All the discussions, questions, and quizzes he had encouraged me to complete had a firm hand in developing my comprehension skills, critical thinking, vocabulary and language skills, and even my love for reading.
As a parent or educator, it can be conducive to incorporating discussions and questions after reading a story as it can significantly improve the reading experience for children of all ages. Not only can it foster a passion for reading, but it can also serve as an influential teaching tool to support and improve academic development.
By doing so, children can deepen their understanding of the book by switching from surface-level reading to deep reading, which promotes critical thinking. Below are a couple of strategies that can help enhance reading time with children through discussions and questions.
Strategies to Improve Literary Understanding for Little Readers
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Encourage discussions by asking questions that cannot be answered by a “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions will help stimulate critical thinking and promote a range of responses. For example, the 5 Ws- who, what, when, where, why, and how- will encourage deeper exploration of the story’s concepts, themes, characters, elements, and plot points. Socratic questioning techniques are also a way to help children think critically and deeply about a story. Include questions that will prompt children to analyze, make predictions, identify themes, or compare to their own experiences. Overall, include a mix of critical thinking, comprehension, and open-ended questions to strengthen the reading level of the children or students.
Create a Safe and Open Environment
We want children to be comfortable participating in discussions and sharing their opinions as this can help in making a more enjoyable reading experience. Create a safe and open environment where all children can participate and avoid judgment and criticism. Do provide constructive feedback on their responses, but allow them to elaborate and support their answers in any form.
Have Questions or Discussions That Relate to Real Life
Connect the story to the children’s lives, experiences, or interests. By having that relatability in the discussion, it can create a more engaging and fun environment. The children will be more likely to participate and be active in discussions. It incentivizes the children to share on their own rather than be coerced into it. The children will feel as though their input is valuable and that they have something to contribute. Relatable discussions also encourage children to apply what they have learned from the story to their own lives. This can lead to real-life decision-making, problem-solving, and application of the story’s lessons.
Encourage Debate and Different Perspectives
Participating in discussions, helps children gain confidence in their ability to voice their ideas and thoughts. They learn to articulate their ideas and engage in constructive conversations that will help them develop skills in both academic and social contexts. The children can all learn from one another and bring various perspectives and opinions to the discussion, which will encourage them to see different viewpoints. This will show that a story can have multiple valid interpretations,which promotes open-mindedness and critical thinking.
Offer a Variety of Formats
Formats of discussions can include group discussions, one-on-one, and written reflectIt isdes creative ainas part of the discussion, such as drawing, games, role-playing, or writing out a different plot point in the story. This can reinforce understanding and engagement.