The Integrated Teacher

19 Short Stories and Questions For Critical Thinking

Apr 2, 2024

There have been rumblings in different online teacher groups recently about replacing novels with short stories and informational articles in middle and high school English classrooms. I have to admit I was shocked when I first read the comments because I am a book lover at heart, but since then, I’ve considered that there are several pros and cons to this approach.

Short stories and other smaller texts can provide a briefer timeline to complete tasks, and this process is helpful when there is already SO MUCH curriculum to cover. Short stories and related activities can also be more engaging for our students because of the exposure to diverse voices and themes! Using short stories and lessons provides students with amazing choices to meet their needs and preferences!

On the other hand, incorporating mainly short stories and other shorter passages means students’ already-pressed attention spans (as a result of social media influences and pervasive sources of technology) are reinforced. Plus, students miss out on the more complex stories within longer pieces of fiction that are, dare I say, life-altering! A novel can provide opportunities for sustained reading and layers for analysis that shorter pieces of literature like short stories and related texts cannot offer.

Ultimately, no matter where you find yourself on the issue, I think we can all agree that short stories and their counterparts can be vital, effective, and helpful in the modern classroom!

Continue reading for 19 Short Stories and Questions For Critical Thinking!!

Need help with Test Prep ?  Check out this  FREE Pack of 3 Test Prep Activities  to help students achieve success on standardized tests!

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Table of Contents

19 Short Stories and Questions – Suggestions for Teaching Them

You don’t need to remove all novels to be able to include short stories and smaller passages like vignettes, articles, and narratives; there’s a time and place for all genres! But if you’re thinking about ways to include more short stories and fun activities, check out this list of 19 varied short stories and critical thinking questions as well as suggestions for teaching them in middle school and high school.

1.  “The Most Dangerous Game” 

“The Most Dangerous Game” is one of my absolute favorite short stories and overall plots to teach! This suspenseful short story by Richard Connell follows the harrowing ordeal of Sanger Rainsford, a skilled hunter who becomes the prey of a deranged aristocrat named General Zaroff. Stranded on Zaroff’s secluded island, Rainsford must outwit the cunning general in a deadly game of survival, where the stakes are life and death. 

the most dangerous game short stories and activities


  • You could focus on the setting (description of time and place) and examine how the setting changes throughout the story.
  • Students could learn about the plot (major events in the story) and list the major events and evidence as they read.
  • Define foreshadowing (hints for what will happen by the end of the story) and encourage students to hypothesize about what will happen after every page.
  • Analyze the character development (how a character changes over time) of Rainsford and highlight his traits/actions as you read along.


  • How does the setting contribute to the tension and suspense in the story?
  • How does the author use foreshadowing? How does the author hint at the danger Rainford is facing?
  • What inferences can you make about the main character and the changes he undergoes from the beginning to the end of the story?

If you want to teach plot elements and plot analysis , check out this lesson bundle for the story , which includes comprehension quizzes and a variety of activities!

2.  “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

Ambrose Bierce’s story is a gripping tale set during the American Civil War, where a Southern civilian named Peyton Farquhar faces execution by hanging after attempting to sabotage a Union railroad bridge. As Farquhar falls through the trapdoor, time seems to stretch, and he experiences a surreal moment, only to realize his grim reality. 

Integrating historical texts with other short stories and passages like “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” will make history come more alive and relevant for our students!

  • Teach about irony (when the opposite occurs from what is expected) and how it plays a role throughout the story.
  • Explain the term characterization (how a character is depicted) by looking at direct and indirect references while reading with your students.
  • Discuss the major themes (messages) of the story and how they connect to our modern era within a Socratic Seminar.
  • How does the author use characterization to convey Peyton Farquhar’s thoughts, emotions, and motivations?
  • What is the purpose of irony in this story? How does its use affect the reader’s interpretation and understanding of events?
  • What is the significance in our contemporary/real world of the themes of the story, including reality and fantasy, the passage of time, and the consequences of actions?

Ensure students’ understanding of the story with this set of reading questions that are perfect for state test prep, too !

an occurence at owl creek bridge short stories and questions

3.  “The Masque of the Red Death”

This chilling tale from Edgar Allan Poe is set in a secluded abbey where Prince Prospero and his wealthy guests attempt to escape a deadly plague known as the Red Death. Despite their isolation efforts, the guests are confronted with their own mortality as a mysterious figure in a blood-red mask appears.

If you have not read any short stories and poems from Poe, this story is a perfect journey into the horror genre!

  • The setting (description of time and place) plays a MAJOR role in the story, so following the Prince from room to room and highlighting the imagery (description that connects to the five senses) is very important when reading.
  • If you have not introduced mood  (emotion intended for the reader to experience), this story is PERFECT for delineating its progression from start to finish.
  • As students read, you might guide them through identifying various examples of  symbolism  (object, person, or place that represents something else); each room, objects within, and the “antagonist” is symbolic in some way!
  • How does the author convey the tone of the story? How would you, as the reader, describe the story’s mood?
  • What role does the plot structure (focus on the different rooms) play in shaping the reader’s understanding of the story?
  • What is the purpose of the symbolism in the story such as the clock and the masked figure?

Check out this EASY-TO-TEACH bundle , you can practice with your students, so they will feel more confident analyzing higher-level language in “The Masque of the Red Death!”

4.  “The Cask of Amontillado”

Another chilling tale from Poe is the classic story “The Cask of Amontillado.” This one is set during Carnival in an unnamed Italian city. The plot centers on a man seeking revenge on a ‘friend’ he believes has insulted him. If your students are anything like mine, they will relish the ending particularly!

This is just one more of Poe’s short stories and tales that will capture the mind of every reader!

  •  As you plan for this short story, be sure to encourage your students to analyze the changing setting (description of time and place); following Fortunato from scene to scene will help your students track what is really going on.
  • This story is the perfect moment to teach about dialogue (conversation within someone=internal and/or between someone and someone/thing else=external); Montresor certainly means more than what he SEEMS to say!
  • You might also offer a mini-lesson on the 3 types of irony and how each plays a role in the story: verbal (when a person says the opposite of what is really intended), situational (an action occurs that is the opposite from what the reader expects), and dramatic (a character expects a result, but the opposite occurs and the audience can tell what will happen)!
  • Describe Montresor. What are his motives and personality?
  • What inferences can you make about Montresor’s mindset based on his dialogue?
  • What is the purpose of the family’s motto and the carnival atmosphere? 

Check out this Short Story Activity & Quiz Bundle for Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” which contains questions and answers modeled after various reading standardized tests as well as pre-quiz reading comprehension questions, graphic organizers, and a writing activity to get students thinking critically about this classic short story involving REVENGE!

Want 7 more teaching ideas for one of Poe’s epic short stories and questions to go with it? Click below!

questions for the cask of amontillado

5.  “To Build a Fire”

This story by Jack London describes the treacherous journey of a man through the harsh Yukon wilderness during extreme cold. Despite warnings and the company of a loyal dog, the man’s arrogance and underestimation of nature’s power lead to a tragic end.

Short stories and ideas related to survival in nature are still relevant today! Who knows when you might get lost on a hike or crashland in no man’s land?

  • This story is PERFECT for a bit of  literary analysis  (examining the impact of various ideas, elements, or themes within a piece of literature); you could hone in on literary devices, characterization, theme, etc.!
  • Integrating clips from survival shows will help students see connections to the world and extend their thinking by comparing (recognizing similarities) and contrasting (recognizing differences) varied experiences!
  • Write a short narrative about surviving 24 hours in a different setting (description of time and place).
  • How does the author use irony? Provide an example and explain. 
  • What real-world connections can be made between this story and our contemporary life? 
  • What is the story’s message about preparedness and respecting nature?

Grab these engaging short stories and activities to make teaching this Jack London story stress-free!

6.  “The Cactus”

Told from the point of view of a young man at his former lover’s wedding, the narrator retells their story. Like most of O. Henry’s short stories and texts, this one has a twist that involves the titular cactus plant.

The ending will end in a bit of fun for your students!

  • Introduce diction (word choice) and its impact within the story by hyperfocusing on specific words within the story . Students can look up definitions, locate synonyms, create their own sentences, replace the words, etc.
  • Investigate twist endings (unexpected finish to a story); before reading the end of the story, ask students to guess why the girl “rejected” him. Some students may know the answer before reading it!
  • Describe the main characters. What similarities and differences are evident? How does this affect the story’s action?
  • What inferences can you make about Trysdale and his feelings about love and marriage?
  • What are the real and symbolic meanings of the cactus?

This resource packed with questions and answers, graphic organizers, and writing activities is sure to get your students thinking about this love story driven by misconceptions.

short stories and activities image

7.  “After Twenty Years”

This tale of friendship and betrayal focuses on the reunion of two old friends after twenty years apart on a New York City street corner. As they reminisce, something is revealed that demonstrates the reality of their bond as well as the choices they’ve made in life.

If you have not read O. Henry’s short stories and incorporated character analysis yet, this is your chance! The story is not long and can be completed in one to two class periods!

  • Sometimes, we ask students to visualize (create a picture) in their minds, but why not give them the opportunity to use their artistic skills to draw the two characters?
  • As students read, annotate for a description of each character; then, students can do a character analysis (investigation of the characters’ similarities and differences).
  • What type of irony is used in the story? How does its use affect your interpretation and understanding of the story?
  • How does the urban setting contribute to the mood of the story?
  • What is the story’s message about friendship and loyalty?

Examine the links between loyalty and duty with this set of resources designed specifically for this O. Henry story.

8.  “The Lottery”

“The Lottery” is the quintessential short story for middle school or high school English! Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” tells the story of an annual ritual that takes place in a seemingly idyllic town. When the townsfolk gather for the lottery drawing, a shocking turn of events demonstrates the dark side of human nature and their ties to (outdated) traditions.

  • Introduce the terms suspense (uncertainty and/or excitement leading up to a major event) and tension (anxiety or uneasy feelings experienced by characters). While reading, identify evidence that relates to each of these concepts and chat/write about their impact on meaning and plot.
  • Teach title (the name of the text) analysis. The title of “The Lottery” is perfect for teaching the impact of the title and audience expectations. Before reading, students may write what they believe the story will be about based on the title. After reading, students can complete a quick write responding to their previous expectations! You can do a text analysis for all short stories and poems!
  • What role does the plot structure play in building suspense and tension? (Consider the revelation of the lottery’s ‘prize’ in particular.)
  • What social commentary is being made through the story and its characters?
  • Describe Mr. Summers, Tessie, and Old Man Warner. What does the story reveal about their role in the community and their feelings about the lottery?

Give yours elf a breath of fresh air with this NO PREP curriculum that integrates test prep within the teaching of literature by using Shirley Jackson’s quintessential story!

the lottery short stories and activities

9.  “The Pedestrian”

This Ray Bradbury story follows a lone walker in a futuristic society in which everyone else is consumed by technology, particularly the television. One evening, the walker encounters a police car that questions his unusual behavior and the end is quite unexpected! (Most of Bradbury’s short stories and texts connect to the future and technology in some way!)

  • This story exemplifies Dystopian Literature (texts that include a supposedly perfect future society marred in some way by governmental or societal oppression). Using this story to introduce this type of literature is always fun for students because they will easily make connections to other dystopic short stories and poems!
  • Teach about mood (the emotional impact of a story’s description/action). The goal is to get students to deepen their critical thinking skills by recognizing how the mood changes and the purpose for that change!
  • How does the author use foreshadowing and suspense to build the mood of the story?
  • What is the central theme of the story? How might it connect with our current world?
  • What similes and metaphors does Bradbury use to describe the community and its members? What is notable about these comparisons?

With this resource about Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian,” you can just print and teach the lesson and activities with EASE! 

10.  “The Gift of the Magi”

This 1905 story by O. Henry relays a tale about a couple struggling to make ends meet. Throughout the story, they both figure out gifts to buy one another for Christmas and realize what love truly means!

  • Review character traits (how a character is depicted internally and externally). Log the traits of each character within the story and how they are important to the meaning of the story.
  • Extend (move beyond the text) critical thinking skills by encouraging students to think and write about other people. If they had $1,000 to spend on someone else, how would they spend the money and why?

the gift of the magi short stories and questions

  • How would you describe Della and Jim, and their relationship?
  • What values do the characters have, when you consider their actions and decisions?
  • Explain how dramatic irony is used in the story. Is it necessary? Is it effective? Why or why not?

This tale is a great addition to your short stories and questions unit around the winter holidays! Save yourself time at that time of the year with this lesson bundle . 

11.  “The Monkey’s Paw” 

“The Monkey’s Paw” is a classic horror story about the White family who come into possession of a mystical monkey’s paw that grants three wishes. Despite warnings, they use it and then face devastating consequences as a result.

  • Teach about the elements of the horror/suspense genre (Ex. Scary movies are typically dark, stormy, surprising, morbid, etc.).
  • Create a thematic statement (message relayed by the text in a complete sentence). There is no perfectly created theme (message) unless it is directly stated by the author; however, students can create a theme by supporting their ideas with evidence from the story!
  • What is the main theme of the story? Or how does the author communicate the themes of greed or fate? Is one stronger than the other?
  • Are Mr. and Mrs. White more alike or different from one another? How do you know?
  • Should we be afraid of the unknown? What message does the story share? Do you agree or disagree?

Examine W.W. Jacobs’ classic story with this set of questions and answers along with rigorous reading and writing activities . While it is ideal for a spooky season, the story is valuable for its ability to hook readers any time of year!

12.  “Lamb to the Slaughter” 

This classic story with a killer plot twist is about a woman who kills her husband and gets away with murder thanks to cooking a leg of lamb!

  • You could introduce the plot elements (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution), encourage students to identify major events to fit each element and write down textual evidence to support their ideas.
  • Complete a film analysis (examination of film techniques and their effects) to compare/contrast the short story with the classic Alfred Hitchcock television episode.
  • What is Mary Maloney’s state of mind? Does it remain the same or does it change throughout the story? Explain.
  • Is the resolution of the story satisfying? Why or why not? Why do you think the author ended it as he did?
  • How does irony contribute to the theme of deception in the story? Explain.

Spice up your middle school English or high school English class with this short stories and activities bundle for Dahl’s famous story!

13.  “The Tell-Tale Heart” 

Poe’s classic psychological thriller is narrated by an unnamed protagonist who insists on their sanity while recounting how they murdered an old man. The narrator is haunted by the sound of the victim’s beating heart, which ultimately drives him to confess to the crime despite not originally being a suspect. 

  • Teach symbolism (object, person, or place that represents something else) by focusing on the heart and eye . The author used these symbols in various ways!
  • Investigate psychology (the study of the human mind) as a part of the story. Determine what is fact and what is fiction within the narrator’s mind.
  • What does the story reveal about the human psyche?
  • What is the deeper meaning of the two key symbols in the story – the beating heart and the eye of the old man?
  • What role do the narrator’s inner thoughts play in the development of the plot?

the tell tale heart short stories and activities

This Short Story Comprehension Bundle offers quick (and effective!) ways to assess students’ learning and understanding of the story. It’s easy to use and will no doubt save you time too!

14.  “The Scarlet Ibis” 

Emotional short stories and their counterparts have a place as well in English classrooms! This short story by James Hurst about two brothers is a heartbreaking must-read. Through flashbacks, the unnamed narrator tells the life story of his younger sickly brother William Armstrong, who is nicknamed Doodle. And the end…well, you’ll see.

  • Define and explain the purpose of a flashback (referring back to the past within a story). Think about the implications of never thinking back on the past or always thinking about the past.
  • Complete a comparison chart between Doodle and the Ibis as you read along. Then, students can create a visual of each after they have ready by using their own evidence!
  • What is the meaning of the story’s title and the presence of a scarlet ibis in the story?
  • What is the central theme of the story? How do the events of the story support this chosen theme?
  • How does the author use personification for the storm? What effect does this have on the story?

This flexible resource features critical thinking questions and answers as well as writing and reading activities for students to explore Hurst’s heartbreaking story.

15.  “The Veldt” 

This science fiction story by Ray Bradbury was first published as “The World the Children Made” and it is quite fitting as a title! The story focuses on a futuristic world in which a video screen can be controlled and it turns out to be more than simple virtual reality! By the story’s conclusion, the world the children made is the downfall of their parents. 

  • Compare and contrast “The Veldt” with “The Pedestrian,” two short stories and dystopic texts by Ray Bradbury. Analyze the similarities and differences of both short stories and create a thematic statement that connects to both texts!
  • Make connections to our current reality in the 21st century. Locate research about the implications of technology on young people and integrate this information as you discuss this short story.
  • How does the author address the theme of technology versus humanity in the story? Do you agree with this commentary? Why or why not?
  • How does the nursery reflect the personalities of Wendy and Peter in this story?
  • Do you know the story of Peter Pan and his friend Wendy? What connections can you make between it and this story by Ray Bradbury?

Ray Bradbury’s classic short stories and similar passages are the BEST to teach in middle and high school English! With so much to dive into, they are sure to be a hit with your students. Grab this set of activities to extend your students’ engagement with rigorous reading and writing activities about “The Veldt.” 

16.  “The Necklace” 

A woman who longs for a life of luxury and elegance beyond her means faces consequences when she loses a borrowed necklace. Guy de Maupassant’s story ends with a twist that has the reader question the value of material possessions. 

  • I love comparing this short story with O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” You might choose to focus on the theme, characterization, setting, etc.
  • Summarize (writing about the main idea with details) each chunk of the story as you read with your students. Instead of asking students to write a paragraph, you could ask students to create each summary in only one sentence.
  • The story explores vanity, deception, and the consequences of striving for social status. Which theme do you think is the most important? Explain with support from the story.
  • Is Mathilde Loisel a likable character? Does this change during the story? Does it matter if the reader likes her? Why or why not?
  • What clues does the author provide throughout the story that foreshadow the twist at the story’s end?

Focus on the standards with this Short Story Lesson Bundle for “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant!

Need help with implementing activities for “The Necklace?” See below!


17.  “A Vendetta” 

Guy de Maupassant’s late-19th-century story is all about REVENGE. A mother is obsessed with creating a plan to avenge her son’s murder and she then puts the plan into action with a morbid outcome.

  • There are so many texts that involve REVENGE! Why not use this concept as a focus for a thematic unit (texts linked to a similar concept and/or message)? You could read “A Poison Tree,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “Lamb to the Slaughter” as well as “A Vendetta” with the intention of writing about all 4 for a comparison/contrast paper, presentation, or seminar.
  • Analyze the development (how a character changes over time) of the mother and the dog throughout the story; you might annotate for similarities and differences as well as their motivations!
  • What comment is the story making about the nature (or need) for justice? Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
  • What similes and metaphors does the author use to communicate the main character’s feelings about the vendetta?
  • How does the author use details to explain the main character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivation?

Add these activities for this lesser-known work to your short story plans. It’s sure to keep things fresh for your short stories and activities unit! 

18.  “Thank You, Ma’am” (also known as “Thank You, M’am”)

This heartfelt story by Langston Hughes tells the story of Luella, an older woman in the neighborhood, who is nearly robbed by a young man named Roger. In response to Roger, Luella brings him back to her home and treats him with an abundance of kindness, which has a profound effect on Roger.

This tale is at the top of the list for the BEST short stories and passages for upper middle and younger high school students!

  • Introduce perspective and/or point of view (how a story is told: 1st, 2nd, 3rd omniscient, 3rd limited, 3rd objective). Students might rewrite the story from another perspective or extend the story using the perspective of one of the main characters.
  • Review plot elements with a focus on the exposition (introduction to the characters, setting, and conflict), climax (highest point of interest/turning point of the story), and resolution (how the story is concluded and/or resolved in some way.) You could assign an activity surrounding each concept: visualization of the scene, a journal response to the event, or a short response focused on how the element is important to the overall theme!

thank you maam short stories and questions

  • Do you believe in second chances? What does the story say about second chances? 
  • How might the climax of the story also be seen as the turning point in Roger’s life?
  • How would you describe Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones? Are her actions expected or unexpected in the story? Consider from Roger’s and the reader’s point of view.

Click to check out all of the details for this BUNDLE with differentiated options , which includes a Test Prep Quiz (with varied options), Venn Diagrams, Graphic Organizers, and Writing Responses!! 

19.  “Click Clack the Rattle Bag”

This short story by Neil Gaiman is creepy and fun in the best ways possible! The narrator is taking care of his girlfriend’s little brother and walking him to bed when the child asks for a story. Instead of the narrator sharing a story, the boy shares about the Click Clacks who drink their prey and leave behind rattling bodies. The end is too good to be missed!

Short stories and plots like those in “Click Clack the Rattle Bag” will most certainly engage even your most struggling learners!

  • We all know that test prep can be tough as many reading passages are, well, boring! Why not accomplish some test prep with your students and incorporate 5 standardized test-related questions ? You could focus on theme, structure, order of events, characterization, etc.!
  • Help students make inferences (acknowledging and hypothesizing about the impact of details that are not directly referenced or stated) as the scene moves along. Students can analyze the change in the setting, the little boy himself, the story the boy is telling, and specific phrases from the story.
  • What details in the story contribute to its eerie atmosphere or mood? Or what figurative language devices does Neil Gaiman use to create a sense of suspense in the story? 
  • How does the author use ambiguity in the story? Is it effective or not? Explain.
  • What inferences can you make about the relationship between the narrator and the young boy?

click clack the rattle bag short stories and questions

This “Click Clack the Rattle Bag” Quiz Pack for middle and high school students uses the Common Core standards and contains questions and answers modeled after various state standardized tests! Make teaching this amazing short story by Neil Gaiman SIMPLE & EASY!

Why should we incorporate more short stories and activities in our teaching?

While I would never advocate replacing all novels with short stories and smaller texts, there is still something to be said about spending quality time with short stories and excerpts. 

Including short stories and standards-based activities is an ideal option to improve reading comprehension and develop skills, especially in middle and high school English classes!


short stories and questions unit

This  Short Stories and Test Prep Questions ULTIMATE BUNDLE with Lessons, Quizzes, and Activities uses the Common Core standards with reading comprehension QUESTIONS and ANSWERS for 18 short stories such as “The Most Dangerous Game,” “The Monkey’s Paw,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “After Twenty Years,” “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Veldt,” “The Lottery,” “The Pedestrian,” etc. modeled after various state reading exams.

Make teaching short stories and activities SIMPLE & EASY!

Just PRINT & TEACH with engaging short stories and lessons!!

Need more fun ideas for teaching short stories and corresponding activities? Check out my store Kristin Menke-Integrated ELA Test Prep !

critical thinking reading comprehension activities


I primarily focus on  integrating multiple disciplines and subjects. The goal is to make teaching simplified and effective!

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Writing Resources

The English Department

  • College Composition

Critical Reading Activities

  • Active Reading
  • Appealing to an Audience 
  • Finding the Commonalities
  • Sofa to 5k: Active Reading
  • The Verbal Shove-Off: Active Reading
  • How to Eat a Poem  

Active Reading: Marking Up the Text and Dialogic Journals

Purpose: Helping students learn to actively read texts, how to take notes on readings, and gain an understanding of their preferred styles for notetaking and the possible benefits of each.

Description: This exercise asks students to try two active reading strategies using the sources they might use for their research papers. Then, they discuss in order to articulate their preferred note taking style and the benefits of each.

Suggested Time: 50 minutes

Have students bring in at least two articles they plan on using for their research. Give students the two handouts below. Give students 20 minutes to try each technique, using one article for each technique. Give 5 minutes for independent writing in which students explain which method they prefer and why. Then, have a class discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of each method.

Active Reading – Mark up the Text

  • Underline key ideas – for example, topic sentences.
  • Box or circle words or phrases you want to remember.
  • Place a checkmark or a star next to an important idea.
  • Place a double check mark or double star next to an especially significant idea.
  • Put a question mark near any unfamiliar reference or a word you need to look up.
  • Number the writer’s key supporting points or examples.
  • Use different color highlighters.
  • Don’t be afraid to write your thoughts in the margins or on a separate sheet of paper (like the dialogic journal).

Questions to Ask (and Answer) when Reading a Text

  • What issue is the writer focusing on?
  • Does the writer take a clear stand on this issue?
  • What is the writer’s thesis (if there is one)?
  • What is the writer’s purpose for writing?
  • Who is the audience for this writing?
  • What is the writer’s tone?  Why do you think he/she writes with this tone?
  • Does the writer seem to assume readers will agree with his/her position?
  • What evidence does the writer use to support the essay’s thesis/central argument?  Does the writer include enough evidence?
  • Does the writer consider, address and/or refute opposing arguments?
  • Do you understand the vocabulary?  If not, look the words up.
  • Do you understand the writer’s references/citations?  If not, look them up.
  • Do you agree with the points the writer makes?  Why/why not?
  • What connections can you make between this article and others you have read?

Dialogic Journals (also called Double Entry Journal)

Before reading, answer these questions:

  • Why are you reading this piece?
  • What do you hope to learn as you read it?

Fold a page in your daybook in half (long ways) and follow these steps to complete your dialogue journal:

  • Write the title and author of the article at the top of the page.
  • In the first column, “write down anything from the reading that catches your attention, seems significant, bores you silly, confuses you, or otherwise causes you to take note (or stop taking note).” 1  Make sure to also write down the page number from which you have taken the quote.
  • In the second column, explain what made you write the quote in the first column and/or respond to, question or critique the quote.

Note: You will ping-pong between the two columns.  When you find a quote you want to write down, you will write that quote in column one and then respond to it in column two. Then you will go back to reading, notice a new quote you want to write down in column one and respond in column two.  And so on…

For this assignment, I want you to choose at least two quotes per page.

When you have finished reading, answer these questions:

  • How is this reading useful or not useful for my purpose (in this case, for your inquiry project)?
  • If it is useful, what is useful about it, and what in the reading illustrates that use?


1  Adler-Kassner, Linda. Considering Literacy. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006. Print.  (Quote taken from page 10)


Appealing to an Audience: How Publications Set a Tone with Content, Structure and Design  

Purpose: Understanding how journals and newspapers set a particular tone for their audiences. Description: This exercise asks students to analyze various features of publications. Homework assignment that turns into a discussion the next class period. Often used when students are preparing for a feature article or remediation project.

Suggested Time: 20-50 minutes (depending on discussion time)

Give students the following homework assignment:

Publication Analysis (2-3 typed, double-spaced pages)

For this short assignment, you will identify what specific publication you are going to write your feature article for, and analyze the publication in four areas:

  • Content – skim through several issues of the publication, primarily paying attention to the feature articles (i.e. usually the major articles that are listed on the front cover). What subjects/topics do their authors write about? Make a list of the most common subjects you see.
  • Style – pay attention to the type of vocabulary used, the tone employed, the length of the articles, paragraphs, and sentences, the persona/ethos that the writer constructs, and the overarching themes that emerge.
  • Structure/Design – what kinds of organizational structures do the writers use? What about their “hook”? Do they typically start with an interesting quote, a shocking statement, the posing of a problem, factual information, an anecdote, etc.? What kinds of design elements are present? Are there off-set quotes, images/advertisements, unique fonts, subject headings, works cited, bio of the author, etc.?
  • Audience - On the basis of the feature articles’ common types of content, style, and structure/design, what can you infer about the audience? Start with demographics like age, race/ethnicity, gender, religious/political affiliations, etc. but don’t stop there. What does this audience value? How do they perceive themselves? What kinds of weaknesses or desires do the advertisements tend to exploit or encourage? What kinds of knowledge or background experiences do the articles assume that their readers have?

Have students discuss what they found either in small groups, whole groups, or both.


Finding the Commonalities: Investing Organizational Structures and Formatting of Academic Articles  

Purpose: Helping students develop knowledge about organizational structures and formatting common to academic articles, so that  can use  this information to help them read difficult texts

Description: This exercise asks students to identify and present on the features and types of academic texts. This exercise works for particularly well for research-based classes, but can work in other composition courses as well.

Suggested Time: 2-3 class periods and outside of class work time

In groups of two or three, students choose one of the types of essays or essay features from the list at the bottom of the page and create a short presentation for the class.  (The list is by no means complete but is applicable to most of the texts students encounter in scholarly databases.)

For the article types, students should explain

  • the purpose of the article (i.e. what does a review article actually do?)
  •  the  kind of information in each section (i.e. what does the results section do?)
  •  how each section is connected to the others (i.e. how is the lit review connected to the argument?)
  •  and how knowing this information helps readers understand the text  (i.e. how can you read differently knowing the purpose of a lit review?)

For the features common to multiple article types, students should focus on

  •  the purpose of those features (i.e. what do notes do?)
  • the kind of information in the features (i.e. what kind of information would you find in notes?)
  • how the features are connected to the content of the article (i.e what is the relationship between the subject heading and the actual text?)
  • how knowing about these features helps readers understand the article (i.e. how might you read differently knowing about subject headings?)

Each group creates a PowerPoint or similar artifact that can be distributed to the rest of the class.  After the presentations, discuss what the students learned and then, during the next class period, apply this knowledge to a course reading.

List of Article Types and Features

  • IMRAD Articles (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion)
  • Review Essays (Introduction, Methods, Article Discussion, and Implications)
  • Humanities Essays (Introduction, Lit Review, Body/Argument, and Conclusion)
  • Book Reviews (Introduction, Summary, Critique, and Implications)
  • Subject Headings
  • Signposts / Forecasting Moves
  • Notes/Endnotes/Footnotes
  • Works Cited Pages

Sofa to 5k: Active Reading   

Purpose:  This exercise demonstrates the relationship between active-reading and efficient-reading. Students should learn that attentive reading habits can increase their retention and comprehension. It is well-suited for the beginning of the semester, or in conjunction with a research-based assignment.

Description: This exercise prompts students to reconsider quick and non-interactive reading by comparing the processes. It should demonstrate that retaining information is more difficult and time-consuming from a passively read passage.

Suggested Time: 40 minutes

  • Ask students to read an excerpt of your choice projected on the board.
  • Remove the projection and ask them to write short answers to a series of questions referencing specific content, as in phrasing or numerical details.
  • Discuss their answers, and draw extra attention to their (in)ability to quote exactly from memory.
  • Project the excerpt again and ask them to double-check their answers.
  • ...Did it require them to essentially read the entire passage again?...
  • Provide a second excerpt on a printed hand-out and ask them to read the material with a pencil in hand. Encourage them to mark the passages they think are important, especially the author’s thesis or relevant / convincing facts. Ask them to anticipate as they are reading which details you may have chosen for questions.
  • Project a new set of questions for the second excerpt, and ask them to write their short answers on the same sheet of paper as the first excerpt.
  • Discuss their answers. How did engaging with the text affect their ability to find the specific answers? How well did they understand the second text? Did they need to completely re-read to find the answers?
  • Start a discussion about which process seemed "better" to them, or more useful for writing with research.
  • Be sure to question which factors might prohibit them from physically writing in their books (they want to sell them back?), and address possible solutions (post-its).

The Verbal Shove-Off: Active Reading 

Purpose:  This exercise compels students to engage with authors in an exaggerated take on the “talking back to the text” reading strategy; and serves as a nice precursor to an opinion-editorial.  Students should be motivated by the outlandish or absurdly biased (poorly researched) essays to challenge the author with questions in the margins of their essays. Comments like, “say what?!, seriously?, really?, says who?,” are what we want.

Description: While this exercise aims to generate a conversation between the student and the author, it  invites students to scrutinize the resources used within the text. It prompts students to challenge claims in a colloquial manner, and then provides the opportunity to discuss varied viewpoints and draft a counterargument. This is aggro active-reading, or active reading with a purpose.

Suggested Time: 60 minutes

  • First, you need to find an “article” which presents opinion as fact, and refers to questionable sources like Wikipedia. Here is one, for example:  Interest Convergence, FSU, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida .
  • If you’re in a computer-classroom have your students respond in a document as they read the article. If not, and preferably, provide copies.
  • You’ll also want to offer a brief introduction to the topic.
  • Ask the students to decide—as they are reading—if they “agree” or “disagree” with the statements being made—considering a decision, means thinking.
  • Liken it to the way a lawyer collects a defense.
  • When they are done reacting to the piece, facilitate a discussion of the essay.
  • What points did the author make well? Where did they fail? Do you agree? Etc.
  • Ask them to write a response.
  • Resume discussion for another 10-minutes.
  • Last question, did having your paper written out help you articulate your thoughts?

How to Eat a Poem 

Purpose: When reading poetry, students so often feel pressure to find the “deeper” or “underlying” meaning. This exercise is meant to demonstrate that they can read poetry and get meaning from it, and that they don’t need to feel pressure about it.

Description: This exercise provides one way for students to “eat” a poem, meaning to digest a meaning from a poem for themselves. Basically, you’ll choose a contemporary poem and explain how to read a poem, then have students read according to that protocol.

Suggested Time: 35-50 Minutes

Step 1: Prepare for Lesson

  • For this lesson, you’ll need to pick out a poem to read to the class. I recommend picking out something contemporary that easily connects with students. Examples of this could be Tony Hoagland’s “Poor Britney Spears,” Kim Addonizio’s “First Poem for You,” Matthew Dickman’s “V,” Dorriane Laux’s “Facts about the Moon,” or Sherman Alexie’s “Heroes.” Obviously these are just examples -- there are tons more out there. The point is not to pick something too archaic or hard to understand; rather, choose poetry that is contemporary and digestible.
  • Make copies of the poem so that each student has one to read in class. Make sure that students have writing utensils ready.

Step 2: Dispell the Myth of the “Underlying Meaning”

  • To start this exercise you’ll need to give a brief talk or have them read something that dispels a myth that has been instilled in many young adults, the myth that poetry has some “hidden meaning.” Here’s an example of what I tell my students:

People often offer me this complaint when I talk to them about poetry: ‘I don’t understand poetry. Why do poets hide meaning? I wish they would just say what they mean!” Perhaps you’ve thought this (I did when I was in college).

But thinking that poets are trying to “hide” their meaning is misleading, and hiding meaning is not what poetry is about. If the best poets could hide their meaning the most, then the “best” poetry would be unreadable to anybody else. Instead, poetry is more exact in meaning than prose or plain speech.

Let me explain: if I say “I love you,” you have some vague idea of what I mean. But I’ve said that phrase to my parents, sister, brother, ex-girlfriends, former classes I taught, pet bird, favorite book, etc. The phrase has little meaning on its own. Sometimes it means “I want to get in your pants;” others it means “I commit my life to you,” or “you birthed me, that was pretty cool,” “I grew up with you and we are linked that way forever,” “you were the best classroom I‘ve taught,” “you whistle the Mardi Gras Mambo, that’s pretty cool.”

What I’ve just done is made my language more specific to its audience and to the rhetorical situation. Poetry is that magnified times 10 -- it is the most specific form of expression. Sure, there are many kinds of poetry, some easier and some harder to understand. Sometimes you will be able to verbalize a meaning, and sometimes you won’t, and that’s ok. Sometimes, maybe, you’ll feel like you know what the poem means, but won’t be able to describe it. But what makes poetry hard to understand is that you are zooming in to unpack the specific meaning of each word when you read it.

Step 3: Instruct Students on How to Read a Poem, They Read Chosen Poem

  • Read the poem first with your pen down. Read at a moderate pace -- slow enough to enjoy the language, but fast enough to follow the meaning of the sentences.
  • As you read the first time, try to play a video in your head of the images in the poem. Reading a poem should be like experiencing your own personal movie. This may not work for the entire poem, but do it as much as possible.
  • Reread the poem, this time with a pen in your hand. Underline your favorite images, and make a short note about why you connect with them. Put a star next to any parts you don’t understand.
  • Also, on this second read think about the tone of the poem as you read. Is the poem traumatic? Hilarious? Is the speaker yelling at you? whispering? Try to see if you can hear those things in your head.
  • Finally, let the poem affect you and write down how it makes you feel. Allow yourself to be moved, or to take something from the poem, or even to get angry with the poem. This requires letting your guard down and believing that a poem can do this. People have different “readings” of poems/literature - some will find the same poem offensive as another might find beautiful.

Step 4: Class Discussion of the Poem

  •  Have a conversation about the poem with the students. Make sure to have the conversation on the student’s terms -- this means you should start by asking them what the poem meant to them, what images or lines they particularly enjoyed, or what video they saw in their heads while reading.
  • As you discuss with them, be sure to ask abou the poem’s rhetorical situaton, the audience of the poem, etc.
  • Also, be sure to ask them about the process of reading -- did it work for them? Did it not? Why or why not?

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Critical Thinking Ideas for Children

critical thinking activities for kids

Reading is a great way to help children build their critical thinking skills. Access over 3500 children's books with comprehension quizzes online with Reading Eggs. Free Trial

When you're reading a book together with your child, one of the most important things to do is to help them build their understanding of the story.

The words and pictures in a book can only tell us so much. Good readers search for deeper meaning and find ways to connect stories to their own experiences, and the world they live in. A way of looking for these connections is to use critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is the ability to draw on existing knowledge and experiences, as well as existing problem‑solving skills, to develop a deeper understanding of a story.

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Reading Eggs includes over 3500 children's books to practice critical thinking skills. They can be accessed on a desktop, iOS, or Android device. Each book includes a short comprehension quiz, which assesses your child's understanding of the story, as well as exciting rewards to collect!

During reading time, there are a few things you can do to foster your child's critical thinking skills, not only to help them understand the story at hand, but to prepare them for a lifetime of literacy success:

Critical thinking ideas for children

1. choose books with familiar experiences.

For example, if your child is starting a new school , choose a book about making new friends. This will let your child draw on their personal experiences and feelings to make sense of the book.

2. Add a little conversation to every book

Pause several times during the book to talk about important character developments or events in the book. Take a few minutes after reading to continue the conversation and reflect back on earlier comments.

3. Think aloud to solve problems in the book

Let your child hear your thought processes and encourage them to express their own thoughts and opinions. To encourage your child to solve a problem in a story, say something like, “I wonder what the princess could do to break the witch's spell?”

4. Predict what will happen later

A good reader uses their knowledge and experiences to predict what might happen in the story. During reading time, ask your child to predict what might happen next. Or when you finish reading the story, ask your child what could happen in the future.

5. Ask open‑ended questions

Avoid questions that allow for “yes” or “no” answers. Instead, opt for questions that begin with one of these six words: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

6. Let your child make their own decisions

Instead of giving your child answers or telling them they're wrong, allow your child to draw their own conclusions about a story and build confidence in their thinking skills.

7. Encourage thinking outside the box

When you have finished a book, ask your child to think of alternative endings or solutions to problems. For example, “What else could the pigs have done to get rid of the big bad wolf?”

8. Relate real-life experiences back to stories you've read

Observe situations and problems you encounter in real life and find opportunities to relate them back to the stories you've read with your child .

9. Read aloud as a family

Reading together with more than two people invites several different opinions and perspectives. When reading aloud with your child, pause at important parts of the story and let each person share their own thoughts.

10. Role‑play stories through imaginative play

After you've read a story, gather a few props and act out the story with your child. This gives them a fun way to think about how one event leads to another, and why characters act and react the way they do.

By fostering your child's critical thinking skills, you're laying the foundation for them to make clear judgements, solve problems, and think creatively; not only while reading and writing but in all other aspects of their life.

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Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking Improve Student Outcomes

Over 85% of exemplary schools focused on explicit instruction of comprehension strategies and text structures to address excellence gaps.

How does a focus on Critical Thinking and Reading Comprehension Strategy improve student outcomes?

Reading comprehension is a cornerstone of academic success, playing a crucial role in students' ability to understand, process, and engage with texts. Effective reading comprehension strategies not only enhance students' understanding but also foster critical thinking skills, enabling them to analyze and interpret information more deeply. Educators can significantly improve student outcomes across various subjects by integrating these strategies into the curriculum.

Increase Critical Thinking with Reading Comprehension Strategies offers a detailed approach to embedding comprehension strategies into your teaching practices. This guide emphasizes the importance of understanding text structures and employing targeted strategies to deepen students' engagement with texts. By providing educators with the tools to integrate these strategies into their curriculum, the guide ensures that students understand the material they are reading and interact with it on a deeper level. This deeper engagement with texts is crucial for developing critical thinking skills as students learn to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information rather than merely memorize it.

Fostering a more profound interaction with reading materials equips students to think critically and achieve higher academic success. As students become more adept at comprehending and interacting with texts, they are better prepared to tackle complex ideas and concepts across all subjects. This enhanced comprehension ability not only improves their performance in specific reading-related tasks but also contributes to their overall academic growth. By mastering these comprehension strategies, students gain the confidence and skills needed to excel in their studies, paving the way for future educational and career opportunities.

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Reading Comprehension Strategies - Key Takeaways

Enhanced text engagement.

Equip students with the skills to think critically about texts, enabling them to engage more deeply with the material and develop a greater appreciation for reading. By fostering a love for reading, students are more likely to become lifelong learners, continuously seeking knowledge and improving their critical thinking abilities.

Effective Strategies

Discover and implement proven methods for integrating reading comprehension strategies into every lesson, ensuring that students build strong reading and analytical skills. These strategies are designed to be flexible and scalable, making them suitable for both individual and group activities, and adaptable to different grade levels.

Improved Comprehension

Help students expand their ability to understand and interact with texts through targeted comprehension practices, leading to better academic performance and a deeper understanding of content. Enhanced comprehension skills also contribute to students' overall cognitive development, aiding in their ability to make connections between different pieces of information and apply their knowledge in real-world contexts.

Comprehensive Toolkit

Gain access to a wide range of tools that help seamlessly incorporate text structures and comprehension strategies across all subjects, thereby enhancing critical thinking. This toolkit provides practical resources and techniques that can be easily adapted to suit various learning environments and student needs.

With the right strategies and tools, your students will thrive. Gain practical insights, effective strategies, and an adaptable roadmap for improving reading comprehension for all students through the dynamic integration of text structures across the curriculum.

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Contact us today to explore how Increase Critical Thinking with Reading Comprehension Strategies can help meet the needs of all students. Let's work together to enhance critical thinking and empower every student to thrive academically!

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Unveiling the 3 Key Stages of a Reading Comprehension Lesson Plan: Pre-reading, While Reading, and Post-reading

Reading comprehension lesson plan stages and activities

In this extensive article, we delve into the essential elements of a comprehensive reading comprehension lesson plan, focusing on key stages and engaging activities . Each stage is meticulously defined , accompanied by practical examples of impactful reading activities tailored for your students. For those seeking a convenient and organized resource, a downloadable PDF document is available for less than $2. This resource includes a compilation of all activities discussed in the article, along with a reading comprehension lesson sample, a KWL Chart sample, and a list of reading strategies, providing educators with a valuable toolkit for effective teaching. Explore the intricate details of reading comprehension lesson plan stages and activities, enhancing your teaching approach and fostering an enriched learning experience for your students.

Reading Comprehension Activities PDF – 16 Pages of Engaging Lesson Plans and Strategies

Table of Contents

Introduction:, reading comprehension lesson plan stages and activities.

In the following section, we will cover crucial reading comprehension lesson plan stages and activities.

Reading Comprehension Lesson Plan Structure:

1. pre-reading stage:.

The pre-reading stage is the initial phase of the lesson, designed to prepare students for the upcoming text . It involves activities that activate prior knowledge, build interest, and introduce key concepts or vocabulary.

2. While Reading Stage:

The while-reading stage is the core of the lesson, focusing on the actual reading of the text . Students engage directly with the material, applying various strategies such as close reading, annotation, and note-taking.

3. Post-reading Stage:


Pre-reading Stage

What are pre-reading activities, examples of pre-reading activities, while-reading stage, what are while-reading activities, examples of while reading activities, post-reading stage, what are post reading activities, examples of post-reading activities, conclusion:.

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How to Encourage Critical Thinking Skills While Reading: Effective Strategies

critical thinking reading comprehension activities

Encouraging critical thinking skills while reading is essential to children’s cognitive development. Critical thinking enables them to engage deeply with a topic or a book, fostering a better understanding of the material. It is a skill that does not develop overnight but can be nurtured through various strategies and experiences.

One effective way to cultivate critical thinking in children is by sharing quality books with them and participating in discussions that facilitate an exchange of ideas and opinions. Through these conversations, children can draw on their existing knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and experiences to expand their understanding of a subject.

Parents and teachers help kids think more deeply about things. They can do this by answering questions that help kids compare different ideas, look at things from different angles, guess what might happen, and develop new solutions.

Importance of Critical Thinking Skills in Reading

Critical thinking helps us understand what we read better. It helps us ask questions and think more deeply about the text. Critical thinking skills can help us analyze, evaluate, and understand what we read.

By incorporating critical thinking, readers can differentiate between facts and opinions, forming their views based on logical reasoning and evidence. This ability is particularly crucial in today’s information abundance, where readers are often exposed to biased or unreliable content. According to Critical Thinking Secrets , using critical thinking in reading allows learners to exercise their judgment in assessing the credibility of the information.

Furthermore, critical thinking promotes creativity and problem-solving skills. Practicing critical thinking allows learners to devise new and innovative ideas to address various challenges. This skill improves academic performance and prepares young minds for future professional endeavors.

Engaging with quality books and participating in thought-provoking discussions can nurture critical thinking abilities in children. Reading Rockets emphasizes the importance of exposing children to texts that challenge their thinking and encourage them to ask questions, fostering the development of critical thinking skills over time.

Teachers also play a significant role in promoting critical thinking in the classroom. Employing various instructional strategies, such as problem-based learning, asking open-ended questions, and providing opportunities for group discussions, can help students cultivate critical thinking habits.

Developing a Reading Environment That Fosters Critical Thinking

Creating a reading environment that promotes critical thinking enables students to engage with texts more deeply and develop essential analytical skills. The following sub-sections outline strategies for choosing thought-provoking materials and encouraging open discussions.

Choosing Thought-Provoking Materials

Selecting suitable reading materials is critical to stimulating critical thinking among students. Teachers should look for texts that:

  • Are relevant and relatable to students’ lives and interests
  • Present various perspectives and diverse characters
  • Pose challenging questions and open-ended problems

By incorporating such texts into the classroom, students can be exposed to new ideas and viewpoints, promoting critical thinking and engagement with the material. For instance, in Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking , teachers are advised to choose compelling topics and maintain relevance to foster critical thinking

Encouraging Open Discussions

Fostering an environment where open discussions occur is essential to promoting critical thinking skills while reading. Teachers should:

  • Create a culture of inquiry by posing open-ended questions and encouraging students to form opinions and debates
  • Facilitate discussions by asking students to explain their thinking processes and share their interpretations of the text
  • Respect all opinions and viewpoints, emphasizing that the goal is to learn from each other rather than reach a “correct” answer

Students who feel comfortable participating in discussions are more likely to develop critical thinking skills. The Reading Rockets emphasizes the importance of reading together and engaging in conversations to nurture critical thinking in children.

Active Reading Strategies

Active reading is an essential skill for encouraging critical thinking skills while reading. This involves consciously engaging with the material and connecting with what you know or have read before. This section discusses key strategies that can help you become an active reader.

Annotating and Note-Taking

Annotating the text and taking notes as you read allows you to engage with the material on a deeper level. This process of actively engaging with the text helps you to analyze and retain information more effectively. As you read, it is important to make marginal notes or comments to highlight key points and draw connections between different sections of the material.

Asking Questions While Reading

One important aspect of critical reading is questioning the material. This means not taking everything you read at face value and considering the author’s interpretation and opinion . As you read, develop the habit of asking questions throughout the process, such as:

  • What is the author’s main argument?
  • What evidence supports this argument?
  • How is the information presented in a logical manner?
  • What are the possible opposing viewpoints?

By asking questions, you can better understand the author’s viewpoint and the evidence presented, which helps to develop your critical thinking skills.

Summarizing and Paraphrasing

Summarizing and paraphrasing are essential skills for critical reading. Summarizing the material allows you to condense key points and process the information more easily. Paraphrasing, or rephrasing the ideas in your own words, not only helps you better understand the material, but also ensures that you’re accurately interpreting the author’s ideas.

Both summarizing and paraphrasing can enhance your critical thinking skills by compelling you to analyze the text and identify the main ideas and supporting evidence. This way, you can make informed judgments about the content, making your reading more purposeful and engaging.

Developing critical thinking skills while reading literature involves a comprehensive understanding of various literary devices. This section highlights three primary aspects of literary analysis: Recognizing Themes and Patterns, Analyzing Characters and Their Motivations, and Evaluating the Author’s Intent and Perspective.

Recognizing Themes and Patterns

One way to foster critical thinking is through recognizing themes and patterns in the text. Encourage students to identify recurring themes, symbols, and motifs as they read. Additionally, examining the relationships between different elements in the story can help create connections and analyze the overall meaning.

For example, in a story about the struggles of growing up, students might notice patterns in the protagonist’s journey, such as recurring conflicts or milestones. By contemplating these patterns, learners can engage in deeper analysis and interpretation of the text.

Analyzing Characters and Their Motivations

Character analysis is an essential aspect of literary analysis, as understanding characters’ motivations can lead to a thorough comprehension of the narrative. Encourage students to analyze the motives behind each character’s actions, focusing on the factors that drive their decisions.

For instance, in a novel where two characters have differing goals, have students consider why these goals differ and how the characters’ motivations impact the story’s outcome. This exploration can lead to thought-provoking discussions about human behavior, facilitating the development of critical thinking skills.

Evaluating the Author’s Intent and Perspective

Critical thinking is essential to evaluating the author’s intent and perspective. This process involves deciphering the underlying message or purpose of the text and analyzing how the author’s experiences or beliefs may have influenced their writing.

One strategy for accomplishing this is to examine the historical or cultural context in which the work was written. By considering the author’s background, students can better understand the ideas or arguments presented in the text.

For example, if reading a novel set during a significant historical period, like the Civil Rights Movement, understanding the author’s experience can help students analyze narrative elements, enhancing their critical thinking abilities.

Methods to Encourage Critical Thinking Beyond Reading

While reading is essential to developing critical thinking skills, it can be further enhanced by incorporating certain activities in daily routines that promote critical thinking.

Debates and Group Discussions

Debates and group discussions are excellent methods for encouraging critical thinking. By participating in debates or discussions, learners exchange diverse ideas, challenge each other’s reasoning, and evaluate the strength of their arguments. These activities require participants to think and respond quickly, synthesize information, and analyze multiple perspectives.

Teachers and parents can facilitate debates and group discussions by selecting topics that are relevant and related to the subject matter. Promoting respectful dialogue and modeling effective listening skills are also important aspects of setting up successful debates or discussions.

Exploring Other Media Formats

In addition to reading, exploring other media formats like documentaries, podcasts, and videos can help stimulate critical thinking in learners. Different mediums present information in unique ways, providing learners with various perspectives and fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Using diverse media formats, individuals can compare and contrast information, question what they know, and further develop their analytical skills. It is essential that educators and parents encourage learners to explore these formats critically, assessing the credibility of the sources and ensuring accuracy in the information consumed.

Assessing Progress and Providing Feedback

Developing critical thinking skills while reading requires continuous assessment and feedback. Monitoring students’ progress in this area and providing constructive feedback can help ensure development and success.

Setting Measurable Goals

Establishing clear, measurable goals for critical thinking is vital for both students and educators. These goals should be specific, achievable, and time-bound. To effectively assess progress, consider using a variety of assessments, such as:

  • Classroom discussions
  • Reflective writing assignments
  • Group projects
  • Individual presentations

These different assessment methods can help determine if students are reaching their critical thinking goals and guide educators in adjusting their instruction as needed.

Providing Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is essential for students to improve their critical thinking skills. When providing feedback, consider the following guidelines:

  • Be specific and focused on the critical thinking aspects of students’ work
  • Link feedback directly to the established goals and criteria
  • Encourage self-assessment and reflection
  • Highlight strengths and areas for improvement
  • Offer realistic suggestions for improvement

By implementing these strategies, educators can ensure that students receive the necessary support and guidance to develop their critical thinking skills while reading.

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Post-Reading Comprehension Strategies

Kathryn starke.

  • November 28, 2015

Teenage boy reading while imagining various parts of the book

Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading and should be assessed before, during, and after reading. Readers of all ages should be able to successfully comprehend a text on their independent reading level and instructional level with guidance. Through a read-aloud experience, often of a higher-level text, listening comprehension is evaluated.

So, how do teachers check for a student’s post-reading comprehension in all of these scenarios? The following literacy and learning strategies that can be implemented during reading instruction are also most effective for checking post-reading comprehension for students of all ages in any grade level.


This strategy promotes critical thinking, conversation, and collaboration , and is best used after a whole group reading comprehension lesson. In this manner, a whole class of students can respond to a text by participating in a think-pair-share exercise. A think-pair-share means exactly what it sounds like it means. After hearing any piece of text, teachers provide students with a question stem or prompt for students to individually think about and answer on their own. Then, they pair up with a partner to share their thinking with each other before the partners share their responses out to the entire class.

When this strategy is used correctly, the students are leading their thinking and discussions while teachers are facilitating. The teachers are walking around listening in to the students’ conversations and asking additional probing or clarifying questions when needed.

This strategy can be altered by putting students into groups and assigning a specific question or prompt to each group while the teacher, again, facilitates. This time, when the sharing component begins, the students are learning something brand new because every group has a different topic to think and brainstorm about with their peers. The think-pair-share model allows teachers to observe students’ understanding and comprehension of an article, book, poem, or any text selected for a specific lesson or unit.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are another way to check post-comprehension after a whole group or small group instruction. It is also an easy way to assess a child’s individual comprehension after an independent reading assignment. Graphic organizers are used to help readers think about what they are reading before, during, and after reading. They are selected to match a specific reading comprehension skill or strategy.

Teachers strategically select text to match a reading comprehension standard they want to teach. This may include understanding main idea, theme, or cause and effect. During an initial literacy lesson, teachers model how to complete a graphic organizer to match the selected standard. Graphic organizers are used to help readers think about what they are reading before, during, and after reading.

A great example of how to appropriately implement this strategy is to model the use of a cause-and-effect graphic organizer during a whole group lesson using nonfiction text. The students can work in partners or on their own to the complete the organizer after reading. The same graphic organizer can be used in small group instruction using leveled nonfiction text as well. Finally, after practice, teachers can assign a nonfiction article and the same graphic organizer template for students to independently complete to assess post-reading comprehension of cause and effect.


Retelling and summarizing are post-reading comprehension strategies students can use to show their full understanding of a text. While both comprehension strategies focus on highlighting the sequence, characters, setting, problem, and solution of a text in any genre, there are also a few differences.

Retelling is a comprehension skill that requires a reader to tell the details in order of everything that happened in a story from beginning to end. It is best assessed in a one-on-one setting between teacher and student and most appropriate for emerging and beginning readers. The student orally retells the story while the teacher makes note of the amount of story elements and sequence of events present in this child’s retelling.

While many students like to turn a summary into a retelling, the expectation of summarizing is different. Summarizing is a more complex comprehension strategy because it requires the student to be able to provide the main idea, characters, problem, and solution in the most concise way possible. Summarizing is also sequential, but rather than focusing on the details of the story, it focuses on the overview and takeaways from the text. Summaries are written examples of post-reading comprehension strategies that are most appropriately used for upper-grade and fluent readers.

QAR (Question Answer Relationships)

Questioning is a key strategy in comprehension, and the QAR model helps children understand question and answer relationships in a variety of text. This strategy can also be used after a whole group or small group lesson and can certainly be implemented after independent reading.

The QAR explores four types of questions that students will most often encounter during reading. “Right there” questions assess literal questioning skills while “think and search” questions require more inferential thinking skills. “On my own” questions can be presented without actually reading the text because it focuses on a child’s background knowledge. Lastly, the “author and you” questions are answered based on combining the information in the text and the reader’s personal experiences. The four square template of questioning can be used after any text to evaluate a student’s understanding in multiple forms.

Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are another way to quickly check post-reading comprehension skills and strategies after a whole group or small group literacy lesson. An exit ticket consists of one or two questions to evaluate a child’s understanding of the text. The question is most often found to be in the form of multiple-choice, true or false, a cloze sentence, or a short answer response. Exit tickets can quickly identify the students who fully comprehend a reading standard or objective after reading a text.

The one or two question format can also help teachers determine whether to reteach a comprehension standard and how to teach it so that students can best understand. After collecting student responses, the teacher can explain to students how to understand the question and how to figure out the correct answer. Therefore, when the same question is presented with another text at a later date, students will be familiar with how to successfully answer it.

Writing About Reading

While comprehension is the ultimate goal in reading, writing about reading is the most advanced post-comprehension assignment students can complete. The short answer responses, graphic organizers, and written summaries are a more guided way for students to practice written comprehension responses.

However, writing about reading provides the opportunity for students to analyze and interpret a text. Examples may include writing about the problem in the story from the perspective of one character, writing an alternate ending to the text, or writing what could happen next despite the fact that the story has ended.

Students can also use research to show their post-comprehension and write further about a nonfiction topic. Narrative and expository writing that correlate to the text help teachers to understand a child’s deepest understanding of a text after reading. Various writing assignments can be given for students to complete independently or during a modeled interactive writing lesson. All of these strategies help teachers to vary their instructional practices and check student post-reading comprehension.

*Updated March 2021

  • #PostReading , #readingcomprehension

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Boost Reading Comprehension with Engaging Detective-Themed Activities: A Guide for Teachers

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Detective-themed reading activities can be an effective and engaging teaching tool in the classroom. These types of activities can stimulate a child's love for reading while also teaching critical thinking and comprehension skills. The detective genre, beloved by many, encourages learners to collect clues, make inferences, and develop predictions - all vital skills in reading comprehension.

Reading comprehension - be a detective with the Case of the Missing Parrot and Case of the Missing Jellybean!

Teachers can create their own detective reading activities by splitting a story into several parts, each focusing on a different aspect of the mystery.

Such a segmented approach allows students to focus on each piece of the puzzle and helps them understand the importance of details in storytelling.

These reading exercises can then be supplemented with activities that encourage students to apply their reading strategies to detective work. For instance, after each reading session, students could be tasked with writing a detective report that summarizes the events, outlines the clues collected, and states their inferences and predictions.

Such an approach can also captivate students and keep them hooked week after week. They'll be eager to change their predictions, make inferences, and collect clues as they delve deeper into the mystery. Engaging reading exercises like these can often become a highlight for students, making their learning journey fun and exciting.

What are the benefits of detective themed reading comprehension?

One of the greatest benefits of this method is that students often don't even realize they're applying the reading comprehension strategies they've been taught. The activities are so engaging and entertaining that learning becomes an immersive and enjoyable experience.

For a successful implementation of this method, it is important to choose age-appropriate and kid-friendly stories. Stories should be exciting but not too complex that they become overwhelming. Also, include activities that cater to different learning styles to ensure every student can participate and benefit.

Moreover, teachers can create an exciting sequel to the initial detective story to keep the momentum going. A follow-up story gives students something to look forward to and provides additional opportunities to practice their reading and critical thinking skills.

Reading comprehension - be a detective with the Case of the Missing Parrot and Case of the Missing Jellybean!

Creating such a comprehensive and engaging detective-themed reading activity can be time-consuming for teachers. That's where the Detective Reading Investigation Pack comes in handy. This resource offers a kid-friendly detective case split into four parts, each accompanied by a range of activities. It provides an integrated opportunity for students to practice a range of reading strategies, all while solving a fun and engaging case. A continuation of the story, "Case of the Missing Jellybeans", is also available for teachers who want to maintain the momentum and provide additional opportunities for students to practice their reading and critical thinking skills.

Reading comprehension - be a detective with the Case of the Missing Parrot and Case of the Missing Jellybean!

Feedback and reviews for the Detective Reading Investigation Pack have been overwhelmingly positive. Many teachers have reported that students found it to be the most fun they've ever had at school, and that it aligned well with their lessons on making predictions.

In conclusion, detective reading activities can be a powerful tool in teaching reading comprehension. They make learning an adventure, turning students into detectives who are excited to crack the case using their reading skills. Whether teachers decide to create their own materials or use pre-made resources like the Detective Reading Investigation Pack, the result is a more engaged, enthusiastic, and skilled group of student readers.

Find the Detective Reading Investigations HERE!

Case of the missing parrot.

Reading comprehension - be a detective with the Case of the Missing Parrot!

Case of the Missing Jellybeans

Reading comprehension - be a detective with the Case of the Missing Jellybean!


Wow! I have a reading comprehension student (private student) who LOVED this activity so much. He said it is the most fun he has ever had at school. Awesome!!
Wonderful product! Fit beautifully with my predictions lessons. Used whole group spread across a week

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critical thinking reading comprehension activities

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critical thinking reading comprehension activities

Reading Detective® A1

Using higher-order thinking to improve reading comprehension.

Grades: 5-6

Language Arts

critical thinking reading comprehension activities

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Description and Features

These highly-effective, literature-based thinking activities develop the analysis, synthesis, and vocabulary skills students need for exceptional reading comprehension. This 192-page activity book is especially effective at helping students in Grades 5-6 understand challenging critical reading concepts such as making inferences, drawing conclusions, determining cause and effect, using context clues to define vocabulary, and making predictions and generalizations.

Students read and analyze short literature passages and stories that include fiction and nonfiction genres. Then they answer multiple-choice and short-response questions, citing sentence evidence to support their answers. Concepts and skills covered include: Literary Analysis Skills      •  Define vocabulary using context clues      •  Recognize figurative language      •  Identify main idea, supporting details, and theme      •  Recognize literary devices      •  Identify story elements: theme, plot, setting, and characters Reading Detective® A1 includes the following genres: Award-Winning Literature Excerpts      •  Fudge-A-Mania      •  Mr. Popper’s Penguins      •  Maniac Magee      •  Owls in the Family      •  Blue Willow      •  The Jungle Book      •  Island of the Blue Dolphins      •  Where the Red Fern Grows Stories and Articles      •  Mystery      •  Humor      •  History      •  Adventure Nonfiction Topics      •  Science      •  Math      •  Geography      •  History      •  Biography      •  Inventions      •  Sports

The Grades 5–6 ( A1 ) level include mixed-skills throughout. All levels provide an introductory lesson for each skill. Teaching Support Includes pretests, post-tests, lesson guidelines, and answers with detailed evidence. Reading and literary analysis skills are based on grade-level standards.

Product Details

Cheryl Block, Carrie Beckwith, Margaret Hockett, and David White
Language Arts
Student Book with Answers
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192, perforated

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Arctic Animals – Reading Comprehension - Polar Bears

Arctic Animals – Reading Comprehension - Polar Bears

Subject: English

Age range: 11-14

Resource type: Worksheet/Activity

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Last updated

12 July 2024

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pdf, 1.17 MB

This teaching resource provides a comprehensive reading comprehension exercise centred around the captivating theme of Polar Bears. The content is designed to enhance various critical skills essential for academic development and success.

The PDF download of this resource is non-editable, ensuring the preservation of the meticulously crafted content and layout. This feature guarantees that the material is presented in its intended form, maintaining the integrity of the educational exercises and assessments.

The focal point of this resource is to hone a range of important skills vital for effective reading comprehension. Students will have the opportunity to sharpen their abilities in word meaning, inference-making, summarising texts, as well as analysing and evaluating information. By engaging with the content, learners will also work on enhancing their proficiency in understanding the content, structure, and quality of written pieces.

Furthermore, the resource offers exercises that encourage students to practise retrieval skills by locating specific information within the text. Students will also be prompted to predict outcomes based on the information provided, explain their understanding of key concepts, and explore different perspectives within the text.

Moreover, the resource includes activities that focus on comparison and synthesis, challenging students to draw connections between different parts of the text and construct cohesive analyses. By engaging with these tasks, students will develop a more profound understanding of the text and build their skills in critical thinking and academic writing.

In conclusion, this teaching resource on Polar Bears reading comprehension is a valuable tool for educators looking to enhance their students’ literacy skills. It provides a structured approach to developing key competencies necessary for academic success while immersing students in the fascinating world of Polar Bears. Download this resource today to enrich your teaching practice and support your students’ learning journey.

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The Arctic Resource Bundle

Are you looking for high-quality teaching resources to engage your students with the wonders of the Arctic? Look no further than The Arctic Resource Bundle. Perfect for educators based in England, this bundle contains a range of educational materials designed to spark curiosity and deepen understanding of the unique Arctic environment. All resources included in this bundle are PDF downloads, ensuring easy access and compatibility across different devices. They are carefully crafted to enhance learning experiences and facilitate meaningful interactions with the topic. The Arctic Resource Bundle features a variety of resources, such as: Glaciers Research Task Glaciers Presentation Harp Seal Reading Comprehension Snowy Owl Reading Comprehension Arctic Environments and Geographical Processes Worksheet Arctic Hare Reading Comprehension Arctic Wolves Reading Comprehension The Arctic Circle Worksheet The Arctic Circle Lesson Presentation Cold Environments Lesson Presentation One of the highlights of this bundle is the Reading Comprehension Polar Bears resource. With approximately 500 words of engaging content, this resource delves into the fascinating world of polar bears, providing valuable insights into their habitat, behaviours, and adaptations to survive in the Arctic. Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity to enrich your teaching toolkit with the Arctic Resource Bundle. Ignite curiosity, foster learning, and make the Arctic come alive in your classroom today!

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Imperial China - Ancient Civilization Chinese No Prep Critical Thinking

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critical thinking reading comprehension activities


10 Engaging Non-Fiction Reading Comprehension Passages with Read Aloud audio, Critical Thinking Questions, Self Marking Multiple Choice, Open-ended Questions and Writing Prompts.

[See the video preview for detailed information]

This resource series is designed to engage students in an in-depth study of Ancient China - Beginnings of Chinese Civilization , including:

  • Ancestor Worship & Rituals in Ancient China
  • Ancient Chinese Agriculture & Farming
  • Ancient Chinese Dynasties - Xia, Shang, & Zho
  • Ancient Chinese Myths & Legends
  • Early Chinese Society & Family Life
  • Silk - The Discovery & Making of a Luxury
  • The First Chinese Cities - Urban Life in Ancient Times
  • The Invention of Writing - Oracle Bones & Script
  • The Mandate of Heaven - Divine Right to Rule
  • The Yellow River - Cradle of Chinese Civilization

Each lesson is crafted to cater to various learning styles and abilities, ensuring inclusivity and comprehensive understanding.

The unit is outlined with a teacher led slideshow introducing each of the 10 lessons with a brief synopsis of each.

Structure of Each Lesson

  • Textual Content (Approx. 1000 Words): Each lesson begins with a detailed narrative with full audio. This narrative provides a vivid account of key events, figures, and themes ensuring that students can follow along visually and auditorily.
  • Multiple Choice Questions: After the reading, students engage with self-marking multiple-choice questions that reinforce their comprehension and recall of the material. These questions are designed to be straightforward, helping students of varying abilities to check their understanding.
  • Critical Thinking Questions: This section challenges students to delve deeper into the material, encouraging them to analyze and evaluate the significance of events and figures. These questions are crafted to stimulate intellectual engagement and discussion.
  • Open-Ended Questions: Open-ended questions provide students the opportunity to express their thoughts and insights more freely. They encourage creative thinking and personal connection to the historical content.
  • Writing Prompts: Each lesson includes thought-provoking writing prompts to help students develop their writing skills and deepen their understanding. These prompts encourage students to reflect on the material and make connections to broader themes.
  • Save and Print Options: Students can save and/or print their work, allowing them to create a tangible record of their learning. This feature is particularly useful for review, parental engagement, and portfolio building.

Classroom Implementation

  • Versatility: This series is suitable for a wide range of student abilities. The varied question types allow for differentiated instruction, catering to both advanced learners and those who may need additional support.
  • Flexible Use: The resource can be used as standalone lessons or expanded into a more extensive unit on the Civil War. Teachers can supplement the text with additional activities such as group projects, role-playing, or multimedia presentations.
  • Engagement: By incorporating listening, reading, and interactive questions, this resource keeps students actively engaged. The historical narratives are designed to be compelling, making history come alive for students.
  • Assessment: The self-marking feature of the multiple-choice questions provides immediate feedback, while critical thinking and open-ended questions offer deeper insights into student understanding and thought processes.

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critical thinking reading comprehension activities

Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Everyday AI > Five Kids’ AI Activities to Prevent the Summer Slide

Five Kids’ AI Activities to Prevent the Summer Slide

Whether you’re hosting a meeting for a product launch or to check in on work progress, leaving a good impression during a client meeting is crucial. These meetings can be high pressure and anxiety-inducing, especially as you aim to grow your working relationship. Learn how to effectively plan and run a client meeting to nurture a positive work relationship.

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What AI can do to help prevent the summer slide

Eight weeks off from school can degrade a child’s ability to recollect and retain knowledge from the previous year. Consequently, when they start a new year at school, it can be difficult for them to keep up with lesson plans: their participation and academic performance can slip and it may prompt teachers to need to review and recap old information. As a result, your student may fall behind.

With the help of AI, it’s easy to instruct them on information from the previous year. Some ways you can use AI to help prevent the summer slide include:

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Ask for summer reading suggestions

Summer reading books help maintain comprehension, vocabulary , critical thinking, and grammar skills. If your school doesn’t provide a summer reading list, you can use AI-powered software to ask for reading recommendations appropriate for their age group, reading level, and learning goals. Your child can request for novels in specific genres to foster their interest in reading.

Create DIY science experiments

AI can help design DIY science experiments, so you don’t have to spend time searching for them online. For elementary and middle school students, this is a great way to build a baseline understanding of the scientific method. Summer experiments help them establish hypothesis and interpret results in a fun, interactive setting—such as building a volcano, creating a battery powered by a potato, and more!

Set learning-based goals

Learning based goals are a critical tool to help prevent knowledge loss. Review your child’s lesson plans from the previous year and see what information they learned. Ultimately, your summer learning goals will reflect last year’s, just to ensure they return to school prepared.

Practice math problems

Generate practice math problems appropriate for you children’s grade level. AI software can create numerous problems and practice sheets. You can create enough for weekly practice quizzes so they can learn all summer long.

Logic puzzles

Logic puzzles are a fun way to stimulate your children’s brain. They enhance cognitive skills like memory, promote logical reasoning, and problem-solving abilities. AI can generate logic puzzles from your prompts and specifications. Alternatively, it can create logic puzzles without additional input and take the creative reins.

The summer slide is an avoidable phenomenon; if you take active role in your child’s summer learning, you can make sure they retain information and stay on track for the next school year. Keep your child’s academic future on track with more ways to use everyday AI .

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