A Quest for Questions
Carrie Smith
Reading to Learn

Rationale: The ultimate goal of reading is comprehension, or understanding the overall of message of what has just been read.  To help us comprehend, we can adopt some good comprehension strategies (independent self-help tactics).  One good comprehension strategy we can use while reading, is to think of questions that help us connect information from different parts of the text.  It is thought that this improves comprehension and memory of the text because we become active readers when we generate questions while reading.  In this lesson, students will learn to develop good questions by having to pick out questions that are helpful in comprehending a certain passage and generating their own questions to help them comprehend a text.


Materials: Overhead projector

 Overhead projector sheet with the passage “What is a Law?” printed on it (http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/lawmaking/index.html)

White board/Chalk board, White board marker or chalk

Class set (or at least enough for half the class) of Fire in Their Eyes by Karen Magnuson Beil

Class set of assessment sheet (attached)

Paper for each student

Pencil or other writing utensil for each student


Procedures: 1. Introduce the lesson by asking students,“Why do we read?”  If students do not give an answer about comprehending or understanding the text then provide then with a few answers to select from (such as A. to keep ourselves busy, B. to get enough points for a pizza party, or C. to comprehend or understand something).  To help us comprehend a text, we can become “active readers.”  One way to do this is to ask ourselves questions about the text while we read.

2. I am going to show you the difference asking questions can make when I read this text.  The first time, I am going to read it through without asking myself any questions or doing anything but reading the text.  Teacher will then read out loud (quickly and boringly) the passage “What is a Law?”   Then on the board, she/he will write down everything she/he remembers from the text, making sure to only write one or two word phrases that are not very important to the meaning of the text (when not connected to other points about the text).

3.  Now, I am going to read the text again.  But this time, I am going to stop every now and then to ask myself a question about information I think is important to the overall meaning of the text.  Ask students "What makes a good question?"  After they have provided some feeback, tell them that good questions ask about information that is important to the overall meaning of the text.  They also bring ideas together and of course, they can be answered!  Teacher will then read out loud again the text, but this time stopping at after the following words to ask questions:

·        rules or laws. –How is day-to-day life like a board game?

·        side of the road! –Do all countries have the same laws?

·        state governments. –Who makes laws?

·        national level. –What is the difference between national and state laws?

Then on the board, she/he will write down everything she/he remembers from the text, making sure to write complete phrases or sentences about the text that are important to the overall meaning of the text (guided by the questions) and show comprehension of different parts of the text.

4. Now, I want you to pair up with your neighbor and take out your Fudge-a-Mania books.  I want the partner on my left to first read from the beginning of Chapter 3 (page 14) to the end of the first paragraph on page 16 outloud to their partner.  Don’t generate any questions this time.  Afterwords, write down the information you remember.  Then, you will switch and the partner on my right will read from the beginning of Chapter 7 (page 50) to the end of first paragraph on page 52 outloud to their partner.  Again, do not think of any questions while you read.  When you are done write down the information you remember.

5. After each partner has read through their passage once, I want you to switch back again.  This time each partner will read their passage and generate questions while they read that will help them understand the overall meaning of the passage.  Make sure when you are done reading, that you have at least asked yourself three questions.  When you are done reading, again write down the information you remember.  You should notice that you remember and understand more of the text when you ask yourself questions while you are reading.

6. Finally, pass out and have students complete assessment sheets that have them pick the best question to ask after reading a passage.

Government Printing Office. “What is a Law?”http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/lawmaking/index.html. 1 Dec 1999.
Beil, Karen M. Fire in Their Eyes. 1999. Scholastic Inc.: New York.
Stanley, Sarah. “Fat or Skinny?” http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/explor/stanleyrl.html.

Additional Materials:

What is a Law?

So what is a law? Well, picture your family sitting down to play a board game. You need to know the rules in order to play, right? The same thing goes for your day-to-day life -- you need to know the rules or laws. Every country has their own set of laws and each is unique to that country. For example, in the United States, the law says we drive on the right-hand side of the road. In England, on the other hand, their law states they drive on the left. You could really do some damage if you didn't know that law and started driving on the wrong side of the road!

Now that we know what a law is, who makes the laws? Well, laws can be made by the national government or by individual state governments. National laws are those laws that everyone in the country must follow. Laws made by individual states are only good in that state. On this site, we will talk about how laws are made on the national level.


Making Questions Assessment Sheet


Name:­________________                                                                         Date:_________


Instructions:  Read each passage, then circle the question you think would best help you understand the information.  If you do not think either question is helpful, then use the space provided to create your own question.


Passage 1: Jenny loves her mom’s blueberry cobbler.  They eat it every Sunday after church.  Jenny’s mom always wakes up early on Sunday mornings to make it.  The sweet smell wakes Jenny up early on Sundays.  Jenny usually follows the smell to the kitchen and helps her mom make the cobbler.  After the cobbler comes out of the oven, Jenny and her family head to church.  The only thing Jenny can think about at church is her mom’s blueberry cobbler.



What time does Jenny’s mom wake up on Sunday mornings?   OR

What is special about Sundays at Jenny’s house?



Passage 2:  Some trains are powered by steam engines.  A steam engine runs on boiling water. A fire of coal or wood heats the water, and the boiling water makes steam. The force of the steam pushes a piston up and down. Gears change the motion of the piston into the round-and-round motion of the wheels on tracks.                                                

(from http://www.transitpeople.org/lesson/train.htm)



How does a steam engine power a train?

What are the different methods that power trains?



Passage 3: Ben and his brother David are very talented yo-yoers.  Together, they travel around their state and put on shows for schools, churches, and other events.  They perform tricks such as Walk-the-Dog and Around-the-World.  What makes their show so unique is that David cannot see—He is blind.  When he was three years old, his older brother Ben began to teach him how to yo-yo.  Now, eight years later, David can do more tricks than his brother Ben!



How old is David today?

What is special about Ben and his brother David?

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