sun and tree
Sunny or Shady?

Reading to Learn

Lessons for Teaching Children to Ask or Answer Questions

By: Kristie Fitzgerald


Rationale:  Comprehension should be the main focus when teaching reading.  We read to learn and to understand things. So if we did not comprehend anything from the text, than the purpose of reading has failed. It is imperative that students learn how to start asking themselves questions so they can comprehend a story.  And as teachers it’s our job to make sure they know the difference between bright and shady questions and that they know how to ask good questions. That is what this lesson focuses on.  Students should learn to ask shady questions that are important, ones that make them search for more.  They should not be asking bright or factual questions.  This lesson will encourage students to begin asking themselves questions that will help them to comprehend the story.



1. , copies for each student (you can choose any chapter book of your choice)

2. Sticky notes, plenty for the whole class to have several each

3. Chalkboard and chalk

4. Checklist (below), a copy for each student

Can I find the answer to my question by rereading?

Do I have to reason to answer my question?

Could there be multiple answers to my question?



1. Explain Why:

-Ask students if they know why they read.   Allow the students to answer. We read because we want to learn what we are reading or get information about something. If we couldn’t remember what we read than, the mission for reading is not complete. We read because we want to comprehend the text so we can get the full message, otherwise we just read but we doing gain from it. It is also important to learn to read so that we can communicate with each other and so that we can understand written language. What are some examples of why it is important to read? Some examples are items in the grocery store, driving signs, newspapers and many more. 

 2. Review

-To review with the students you can discuss silent reading or other reading strategies that you have been working with.  “Can anyone tell me what silent reading is? Why is it important that we learn how to read silently?”  Make sure that the students understand that silent reading is the way most adults read, otherwise, think of how loud the grocery store would be, reading labels and things! If we had out D.E.A.R time and didn’t read silently we would be interrupting others reading time and nobody would understand what they just read.  Explain to the students that reading silently means that you read to yourself silenty, but you need to make sure you are actually reading and comprehending.    

 3.  Explain How:

-“To make sure that we are understanding the message, comprehending, it is important to ask ourselves questions.  These questions will help us to think about what we are reading and help us to remember what it is that we are reading. Good questions let us understand the story better.  So today we are going to learn to ask good questions while we read our new book so we can comprehend the story.”

 4. Model:

-“There are two types of questions you can ask, sunny or shady.  Sunny questions are factual questions."  Write on the board, "Mae is eating an apple for a snack"  "An example of a shallow question would be, “what is the fruit Mae is eating today for snack?  Apple, that is a fact, but it does not make you think further.  Now what if I asked you, why do you think Mae is not telling the little Foster girl why she can’t drink the water?  There could be a lot of different answers to that question, and you have to think about it.  I think maybe she doesn’t want her to drink the water is because there is something in the water that is not good for her. One way to remember which question is which is to think that you are in a bright place and you can see everything without having to think about it. With a sunny question it just pops out at you and you don’t have to find the light to help you find the answer to your question. The book tells you the answer to a sunny question. But a shady question opens up to all of the other questions around. Think of when you are in a shady (dark) place where there is not much light. To see something you have to find light, like bringing a flashlight to figure out what something is. That is just like with reading. With shady questions you are the light to the answer of the question. You have to bring the light to find the answer of the question.  Does that make sense?”  Make sure the students grasp this concept.  In fact, you may want to ask the students to provide you with examples of a bright or shady question.

5. Simple Practice:

-“Now let’s talk more about how you know when a question is sunny or shady.  If you can find your answer by rereading the story or if it is something that was clearly stated in the book, what kind of question do you think that would be?  A sunny question.  What if you asked a question where you had to guess about some information you have not yet read about or if there is more than one answer to it?  That would be a sunny question.  I will start this new story off by reading the first chapter to you.  Then we will talk about some questions afterwards.”  Read the first chapter of Tuck Everlasting to the students.  When you finish, ask the students to give you some examples of sunny questions and shady questions from the reading.  An example of a sunny question could be, what did the Tucks not want the little girl to have?  An example of a shady question could be, why do you think the little girl decides not to keep her promise and not drink the water?

6.  Whole Texts:

-“Now, own your own I want you to silently read the second chapter. As you do so I want you come up with a few shady questions that would help you to comprehend the story.  Look at your checklist to make sure that you are writing shady questions. Then, write those questions down on sticky notes and we will look at them once everyone is finished.”   

7.  Assessment:

- I will look at the questions they wrote on the sticky notes, asking students to share what they wrote.  In this way, I will assess each of the students individually to make sure that they comprehend the types of questions we discussed today.  Then I will wrap up with asking the students once again what it means to ask bright and shady questions and why this is important.   


Rebecca Smith: Deep or Shallow

babbit, Natile. Tuck Everlasting, Douglas and McIntyre Publishing Group. Copyright 2000. 171, pages.

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