Reading Strategy: Here's What. So What?

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10855

Parents get tired of a child asking "Why?" Teens replace "Why?" with "So what?" When enjoying literature in any form, asking those questions leads to deeper understanding. Learn how from Carl and Ray!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • 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 have to dig deeper (or go underwater) to see the topic in its entirety.

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 his or her thoughts on the topic. He or she 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, if you want to understand character motivations or themes, you have to 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 this question:

  • When a character experiences a strong emotion: Why does this expression of emotion matter?
  • When you recognize a change in tone: Why does the author introduce a new tone towards the subject?
  • When you identify a change in mood or setting: Why does the author take time to portray this change?
  • When you recognize a symbol: Why does the author give this object figurative significance?
  • When the author shifts the point of view: Why would the author do this?
  • When you make a connection within the text: Why does the author remind you of a previous scene or concept?
  • When you make a connection outside of the text: Why do you think you remembered this connection?

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.