Reading Strategy: Here's What. So What?

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10855

Why? So what? Does it matter? Asking questions is essential. When reading, asking questions leads to deeper understanding. Learn how here!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What does the term tip of the iceberg mean?

Write down a definition.

The tip of an iceberg reveals only a small portion of its bulk because most of the iceberg is hidden underwater.


Therefore, the phrase tip of the iceberg is used to describe a situation or topic where only a small portion is visible. You must dig deeper (or go underwater) to see the entire topic.

When you are reading works of literature, you will often encounter elements that the author introduces that could fall into the category of the tip of the iceberg.

The author will introduce an idea, character trait, or conflict. Frequently, the author will not spend time directly stating their thoughts on the topic. They will expect a careful reader to go beneath the surface of the issue to understand why this topic matters to the work as a whole.

When you read and develop a basic, or surface, understanding of the text, you understand the topic and the plot points of a work. However, to understand character motivations or themes, you must go beneath the surface. You can do this by asking the question, "So what?"

You can ask the "So what?" question at any point in your reading, but there are a few key sections of a piece of literature where you should stop to ask questions.

When a character experiences a strong emotion, ask the following.

  • Why does this expression of emotion matter?

When you recognize a change in tone, ask the following.

  • Why does the author introduce a new tone towards the subject?

When you identify a change in mood or setting, ask the following.

  • Why does the author take time to portray this change?

When you recognize a symbol ask the following.

  • Why does the author give this object figurative significance?

When the author shifts the point of view, ask the following.

  • Why would the author do this?

When you make a connection within the text, ask the following.

  • Why does the author remind you of a previous scene or concept?

When you make a connection outside of the text, ask the following.

  • Why do you think you remembered this connection?

Continue in the Got It? section.

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