Teaching Questioning to Primary Readers
Teaching questioning to primary readers can be challenging. I recently released a new edition of Concrete Comprehension for Primary Readers: Questioning. In this blog post, we’ll dig deeper into this important reading strategy. We’ll also dive into some concrete, hands-on activities to teach questioning skills to young readers. (If you missed my post about Schema & Metacognition, you can find it here.) Before we start to learn about some lesson ideas, let’s quickly chat about why questioning is such a critical component of comprehension.
Throughout this post, you’ll find some Amazon affiliate links, which means Amazon throws a few cents my way if you happen to purchase something from those links – at no extra cost to you. These little links help me keep my tiny corner of the internet up and running, so that I can continue to share lessons, teaching ideas, and resources with you!
Let’s think back to the scenario I provided in my Schema & Metacognition post. We were at a fancy, French restaurant and we did not understand the menu. We used our schema to figure out that Soupe de Poisson à la Rouille was a fish soup with some sort of sauce. When we thought about what we already knew, we were able to understand that small piece of the menu. Now, put yourself in that same situation. What would most likely happen next at the restaurant? The waiter or waitress would probably appear and say something similar to: “Do you have any questions about the menu?” The chances are high that you most certaintly do! You are slightly confused and the menu is hard to understand. You don’t have a lot of experience with fancy French restaurants, so your schema is slim to none. Right away, you start asking the waiter or waitress a series of questions to help you better understand the dinner menu.
Questioning is an important skill in the real world. It also holds high importance to readers:
Questioning helps deepen our understanding.
Asking questions helps us clarify our own thinking and the text.
It sets up a dialogue between the reader and the author.
A reader who asks questions about the text is engaged.
Questioning turns a passive reader into an active reader.
As teachers, our own question for our comprehension lesson plans is simple, yet daunting. “How do I teach the skill of questioning to my primary readers in an engaging manner that brings this reading strategy to life for them?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s get started and learn some ideas for teaching questioning to primary readers.
Teaching great questioning skills to my students first starts with collecting some great picture books I use throughout my instruction. The following books are staples in my classroom for lessons on questioning.
You can quickly and easily find the picture books above on Amazon by clicking on the links below:
Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman
Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
Why is the Sky Blue? by Sally Grindley
Just as we made metacognition and thinking visible in our Schema & Metacognition unit, we use the following Questioning Sticks as we read and enjoy the picture books together:
When students are curious or confused during a read aloud, they activate their questioning skills by holding up a Questioning Stick instead of raising their hand. We utilize this simple, visual reading tool for two reasons during the read aloud. First, the Questioning Sticks set the purpose for our lessons within the unit. Our purpose is to improve and build our questioning skills. Holding a Questioning Stick throughout the read aloud is a visual reminder to students that we are not sharing personal stories or talking about what we are doing this coming weekend. We are asking thoughtful questions to help us deeply understand the text. It also helps students remain engaged and active during the read aloud. Even my students who hesitate to participate in class discussions during a read aloud want to share their question with the class, because they are dying to use their Questioning Stick!
With some simple concrete objects, it IS possible to making the skill of questioning concrete and exciting!
In my recent edition of Concrete Comprehension for Primary Readers: Questioning pack, I’ve written 5 detailed, differentiated lesson plans that each use concrete objects and hands-on activities. The photograph above shows some of the concrete objects I utilize with my readers when we are learning how to become Questioning Experts. Let’s take a closer look at one of the objects and lessons I use to teach this important skill.
In the lesson pictured above, we take a simple sand pail, shovel, and sand. (You can also use flour, sugar, dirt, or anything else you have laying around the house or at school.) Our objective for this lesson is simple: I can ask questions to better understand the text. By using these simple concrete objects, we create an interactive read aloud experience for our students. (I love to use The Matchbox Diary picture book for this lesson, although any picture book will work.) As students ask questions, we share how questioning helps them dig deeper into the text. As we dig deeper into the text and go beyond what we read and see on the surface, we understand the text better. Throughout the read aloud, we scoop sand out of the bucket with each question that is asked and discussed. When the class reaches the bottom of the bucket, they are rewarded with Questioning Expert certificates.
(You can find the exact sand pails and shovels that I purchased for my own lesson plans on Amazon by clicking HERE. I like this set of pails because the various colors allow me to complete this lesson in a whole group setting, or in small cooperative learning groups.)
In my pack, I’ve included both individual student certificates and a whole class Questioning Certificate the teacher can “bury.” There are also differentiated recording sheets, graphic organizers, a guide to common questions for The Matchbox Diary, an exit slip, and anchor chart pieces.
The full, complete “Digging Deeper” lesson and coordinating resources are available in my Concrete Comprehension for Primary Readers: Questioning edition. You can find it in my TPT shop by clicking HERE. Below, you can grab a free recording sheet that you can use with any picture book you choose. I hope you find it helpful!
Let’s keep learning about more concrete lessons for questioning! In the lesson idea below, I used puzzle pieces to show students how asking questions before, during, and after reading can help us reveal more information about the text. The puzzle pieces also helped students understand that as we ask questions, we uncover new understandings.
We started by covering up one of the informational articles in my Questioning pack. I’ve included an informational article on Asian Elephants and one on Green Sea Turtles, so you can actually repeat this lesson more than once, or use one of the articles within a small group setting. We covered everything except the title with puzzle pieces. I started by having students ask questions about the title of the text to uncover information or reveal what they think they might expect to read about.
Then, one by one, we uncover a section at a time. As students ask a question, I allow him or her to take a puzzle piece off of the article. We read the section and ask thoughtful questions about the text to help reveal more information and clarify our misunderstandings. By “chunking” the articles in this way, we are helping students to focus deeply on one small amount of text at a time, rather than try to comprehend and make sense of the entire passage. This strategy really helps make the text manageable for struggling readers. It also allows them to target their questions and focus their questioning skills on one specific aspect of the text. As a result, the students tend to ask more in-depth questions about what they are reading.
Another FUN, concrete tool to use when teaching questioning is a Magic 8 Ball!
You can find the Magic 8 Ball above that I purchased for my lessons on Amazon by clicking HERE.
In this lesson, we use a Magic 8 Ball to learn how to confirm or revise our understanding of the text, based on the questions we ask while we read.
(The passages and recording sheets for the Magic 8 Ball lesson can be found in my Questioning Unit by clicking HERE.) I’ve also included several interactive anchor charts that are perfect for whole group comprehension lessons. These anchor charts can be used over and over again with any text you choose.
The Concrete Comprehension for Primary Readers Questioning unit includes 5 detailed, differentiated lesson plans for your K-2 readers. The puzzle and sand pail lesson that we looked at within this post are included in the unit. I shared a quick glance at these lessons within this blog post, but you’ll find the complete, teacher-scripted lesson plans I wrote in the complete unit. (Click HERE to learn more!)
The resource also includes all of the passages, articles, exit slips, organizers, and recording sheets. The recording sheets and graphic organizers come in various differentiated formats, so that you can pick the templates that work best for your readers.
Thank you for taking a closer look at this new comprehension resource with me. I hope this blog post gave you a couple ideas that you can use in your classroom when teaching questioning skills to your students. I also hope you’ll check out the entire unit in my shop by clicking HERE or on the image below. If you enjoyed this blog post, you’ll LOVE to own the entire resource with the additional lessons and materials!
You can use the image below to save this post to your Pinterest page and refer back to it throughout the year.
Thank you for stopping by!
This looks great! Do you do these throughout the school year or all together? I would like to definitely incorporate these into my year.
I complete them as a whole unit. 🙂 I use the 5 lesson plans that are available in my Questioning Pack. 🙂