Tool for the Field: Scaffolding by Turning Subheadings into Questions

One way to improve students’ comprehension of the content of their textbooks is to have them look at the passage or chapter before reading it and turn the passage or chapter subheadings into questions.

A high school science textbook section on the chemical element phosphorous might have the following subheadings, for example:

  • The Thirteenth Element.
  • Differences between Phosphorescence and Luminescence
  • The Discovery of Phosphorous
  • How Phosphates are Used Today

Asking the students to turn these subheadings into questions would probably result in questions like these:

  • What is the thirteenth element?
  • What are the differences between phosphorescence and luminescence?
  • Who discovered phosphorous and how was it discovered?
  • How are phosphates used today?

The students should keep personal reading logs and, as they come to important points that help answer the question they made up from the subheading, they should jot those points down in their logs.  After they complete the section under each subheading, they should write out their answer to the question using complete sentences.

A teacher, paraprofessional, or peer should then read the students’ answers to see if they are accurate and complete. If a student has not created a clear, complete, or accurate answer to one of the questions, he or she should read the section of the chapter again and revise his or her answer to the question. If the student does not succeed the second time, more support will be needed. For example, you might read the passage to the student and help him or her generate an oral answer to the question.