New Year’s Resolution: Part 2

“How can I help my child become a better reader?”  Great question!  Your child’s reading ability affects his learning in other subjects like math, science, social studies, and writing.  In the early elementary years, the focus is on learning to read.  As early as second grade, students begin reading to learn.  Your child reads great authors in order to learn how he can become a better writer.  Your child reads nonfiction to learn about history, people, and the world around her.

ANSWER:  Ask them GOOD questions about their reading to increase comprehension and stimulate critical thinking skills.

If you aren’t sure what I mean by “good,” you’re not alone. Read this excerpt from an article written by Stacia Garland at

We all want our children to use necessary critical thinking skills. Thanks to Bloom’s Taxonomy, parents can help develop and strengthen their child’s thinking skills at home. Unfortunately, teachers and parents are more likely to ask children questions at the Remembering level, which is the lowest level of thinking. This includes questions like: who, what, where, when and why. These types of questions only require children to use memorization in order to respond.

Article in its entirety:

The only reason I know how to ask good questions is because I took classes in order to get my Bachelors in Education!  But don’t worry.  You don’t have to have a teaching degree to glean some simple strategies to help your child today.

Since I taught second grade, I do want to add one thing before I lay out the levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Please don’t SKIP the Remembering level all together.  There is value in asking those reporter questions: who, what, where, when, and why.  And it doesn’t take long.  I even had a RETELL story glove (it was a cotton work glove–$1.50 a pair at Lowes).  Each finger had a different label: characters, setting, problem, events, and solution.

I’d have the child wear the glove (purely for fun) and ask the beginner reader to answer those questions for the story or chapter we’d read.  If he knew the answers, great!  We would move on to the next level.  But what if he didn’t?  This was a good indicator that the child was struggling to decode, remember, or organize in their mind what they were reading.

A struggling decoder is easy to spot, but the “hooked on phonics” type kid can slip through the cracks.  He or she is excellent at decoding and reading aloud, but might not be able to answer a single question about the story.  This totally changes your approach with that child, whether parent or teacher.

So trust me, don’t skip any of the levels, but do adjust how much time you spend on the first level based on your child’s needs.

Now, what are the levels in this taxonomy?  I’m so glad you asked.

  1. Remembering
  2. Understanding
  3. Applying
  4. Analyzing
  5. Evaluating
  6. Creating

Bloom’s Taxonomy:
This link will show you a chart of the 6 levels PLUS key words, model questions, and instructional strategies.  Good news!  The work is already done for you.  You can pluck questions directly from here and engage your child today.  You’ll soon have a feel for your child’s exposure and capacity for critical thinking.

As you listen, be patient because kids get WAY more experience with levels 1-2 in school.  Thankfully, as a 2nd grade teacher, I did not have to administer a standardized test, but I wouldn’t doubt the following quote, from Stacia Garland again, has some truth to it:

Teachers state that with the big push of state testing and the pressure to teach to the test, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to be able to take their time and teach at a higher level. As a parent you can help your child to use critical thinking skills and work on exercising their mind so that they will be a high level thinker.

The sooner you start this habit of reading with and to your child, the better.  I’ve already shown you the benefits for your child.  But here’s the benefit for you, the parent.  Let’s be honest here.  It is MUCH easier to read a 1000-word picture book with your young child and ask these questions because you’ve just read the book with him.   YOU KNOW THE ANSWERS!

And each day you do this, you are creating a strong foundation of critical thinking skills that your child will carry with her.  She’ll be able to apply this higher-level thinking to other reading because you’ve given her practice, which leads to confidence.

In my guided reading groups, we’d often be reading lengthy chapter books.  Yes, even in second grade—the wonderful fruit of great parents who read with their children.  But the thing was, this meant I had to take home a stack of chapter books each weekend and read the next week’s assignment!  How else could I ask (and know the answers to) these Bloom’s Taxonomy higher-level questions?

And so now your child is reading Magic Tree House or Ivy and Bean, between 5,000 and 10,000 words per book!  Unless you’re going for some Parent of the Year award, I’m guessing you don’t have time to read every book your child reads.  And I know I get uncomfortable asking questions that I don’t know the answer to.

Once you get past the Remember and Understand levels, there ARE no right answers!  We’re talking about higher level thinking here, so you want them to take the information and weigh it, arriving at judgments and conclusions for themselves.

So ask your child to retell the who/what/when/where stuff briefly (summarizing is always a good skill to practice).  And then take a few nuggets from what he says and springboard from there.

What would happen if [cause]…?  What would be the effect?
What do you think the motive was for [character]?
Which seems more appropriate: what [character] did or [character]?
How did [character] try to persuade [character]?
What ideas justify the conclusion?
Propose an alternative.  How else would you…?

Which statements are facts?  Which are opinions?
What’s the relationship between [animal] and [environmental force mentioned]?
How much change would there be if…?
What’s the main idea?

And maybe, once in awhile, curl up with one of the good books your child is reading—10,000 words and all—and enter that world.  You’ll be treated to the sweet conversations that follow between you and your child as you share in their experience.

In my next post, I’ll explore my own reading of late:
What? Mysteries
Why? I’m doing “research” for my dog detective picture book.
How can mysteries help your child? I think these types of stories encourage critical thinking in students of all ages.  I will provide a reading list for you, as well.

One response to “New Year’s Resolution: Part 2

  1. Will have to be more intentional with this 🙂 thanks!

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