Young Minds

Thoughts of an early childhood teacher…

Comprehension & Questioning for Kindergarteners

on August 23, 2012

Reading a book to a child is more than just reading the words on the page – unless of course it is ‘quiet time’ and you are using a book as a calming method!

As children develop their literacy, they move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” and for this reason it is really important to identify what they comprehend from what they have heard or read. It is not only important in terms of literacy, but also important in everyday life, such as listening to and following instructions, exercising their memory and learning the difference between ‘listening’ and merely ‘hearing’.

So how can you recognise what your child comprehends at a young age like three or four? A lot of children will share their immediate thoughts with you whilst others need prompting. The most effective way to work out what a child is getting from a book is quite obviously questioning. There are several different types of questions you can ask when you are reading to your child (or when they are reading to you!):

1.Prediction – ask before you start to read what they think will happen in the story. They should be able to identify the picture on the front and say something reasonable…the rest will be their imagination. If there is a picture of a dog they will likely say that the story will be about a dog but they might elaborate, for example “I think the dog will run away from home and they try to catch it but they don’t.”

2.Knowledge – this is a comprehension question where the answer is right in front of them. For example, if the text plainly says that the dog’s ball is red, you might ask, “What colour is the dog’s ball?”

3.Inference ­– this is a comprehension question where your child will need to read into the text in order to infer the answer. For example, if the text explains that “Sally got her umbrella, went outside and opened it up” you might ask your child, “Do you think it was a rainy day?”

4.Opinion – This is an open-ended type of question and quite often my favourite to ask kindergarteners! You are asking your child their personal thoughts. You might ask them what they would’ve done if they were in the same situation as one of the characters, how they would’ve felt if they were in the same situation, or whether they liked the story and why or why not.

5.Memory – As the name suggests, you are seeing what your child can remember from a book that you have already read. As an example, if you read to your child The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you might ask, “Can you remember all the different food he ate? What happened to the caterpillar after he ate all that food? What happened at the end?” If you are questioning them about a book that you have read yesterday, you might ask them, “What book did we read last night? What happened in the story? Do you remember the name of the boy?” etc.


Generally three year olds will be able to predict and answer knowledge questions if the question is asked at the end of a small piece of text (4-5 lines). Some three year olds may be able to at least have a go at answering an inference question. Try asking anyway and then explaining the answer. They will also be able to give you an opinion of the story itself in a ‘liked it’ or ‘didn’t like it’ format.

Four year olds will be able to predict and answer knowledge and inference questions after a small piece of text. They may start to form their opinion of the story beyond ‘liked it’ or ‘didn’t like it’ and they may give you a reason and start to relate to the characters. For example, “I didn’t like Cinderella’s sisters because they were mean to her”.

Five year olds should be able to predict, often in great detail and particularly when you point out various parts of a picture. They should be able to answer knowledge questions, often after an entire page, and answer inference questions. They will begin to apply knowledge, for example if a character goes out in the rain and gets wet they may tell you what they would do if they were the character – “I would take an umbrella!”


Please understand that every child is so different; this is only a guide and taken from my own experience in kindergartens. Children develop at different rates! Also, keep in mind that if your child is not particularly verbal, less so around their teacher, they will be harder to ‘assess’. Some like to talk your ear off, others are naturally very quiet!

Please send me an email if you have specific questions! (


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