The Little Engine that Could and Levels of Comprehension Questions

The Little Engine that Could is one of my favorite books. When you finish reading the story what questions will you ask? What will you talk about?

If you think about the levels of comprehension, literal, inferential, and applied, you might ask questions at these three levels. Or you can think about the levels of thinking, according to Bloom’s taxonomy. The knowledge level, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

So let’s go through and ask some questions based on these levels. You might start with the literal level, or the knowledge level. You might ask, “What were the four engines that came along when the little train needed help?”

You might ask, “How did each of the engines respond?” What did the engines say when asked to help?”

Let’s go to the inferential, or the comprehension level. If you go to the first engine, which was the shiny, new engine, you could go back to what the engine said, but what was the engine really implying? You could reread the text. When I read it, it tells me that this engine thought it was too good. The engine tells us all the things he has done. He just felt that pulling this little train was below his status.

Have you ever been around people who came across like they were better than you? That is how the first engine acted.

The second engine was a big freight engine. He just felt he was too important. He said, “I pull the likes of you?” The freight engine didn’t think he could do that because the job was not important enough.

Let’s go on to the application level. How can you apply this story to your life, or to your child’s life. Which engine have you acted like when you had an opportunity to help someone.

The other day I was at a store. I had come out, and looked down, and noticed my phone rang. I had tried to call my son earlier, and he was calling me back. So I’m talking to my son, and the lady starts tapping on my window and she is telling me she needs help. It’s really important. I’m trying to do two things. I had an opportunity to help the woman, or to give an excuse of why I couldn’t.

The next level is analysis. You might ask questions like, “How was the first engine, the shiny, new engine, alike or different from the last engine, or the little blue engine?" Compare and contrast. That would be an analysis question.

Then there is synthesis. Synthesis has to do with the theme. What is the theme in this story, The Little Engine that Could? Many times we think of the theme as, If you think you can, you can. If you don’t think you can, you cannot.

Think about opportunities in which you may have responded the same way.

Talk about challenges that your child faces and have the perspective of you can! The Little Blue Engine had never pulled a train over the mountain. All he had ever done was to help cars switch tracks.

But the Little Blue Engine started thinking. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. And he did.

The last level is evaluation. We do this many times. We make judgments. Have your child evaluate different responses or different things that she has done. Ask if it was a good thing to do.

Always ask open-ended questions so the child explains why, or how it could have been different.

These are different levels at which you can ask questions.

Remember, the most important thing is to  make reading an enjoyable time with a child, even if the child wants to walk away and do something else, she may still listening.

Reading to a child is a wonderful way to develop her comprehension and language skills.

Show a child the importance of this time together. Talk about important ideas. Grow together.