Detectives ask WHY!

 

Reading to Learn

Amanda Cummings

Rationale: The goal of reading is comprehension. Comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning or importance of something read. In this lesson, students will apply comprehension strategies so that they can understand and retain the information they are reading. Students will learn to ask questions about story structure in order to better understand the text prior to reading, while reading, and after reading as well as examine key components such as main characters, conflict, and resolution.

 
Materials
: copies of Miss Nelson is Missing (Allard, Harry. Houghton Mifflin Company.
1977) for each student and teacher; copies of Flat Stanley (Brown, Jeff. Scholastic.1992); blank sheet of paper for each student; chart on board with before, during, after; criteria for group oral assessment as below:

Procedures:

  1. Introduce lesson by assessing students’ familiarity with questioning a text. “How many of you read a book and ask questions to yourself as you read?” Good readers ask questions as they read a text in order to understand what they are reading. Asking questions like why while reading is much like solving a mystery. You ask a question, look for the answer as you read, and when you find that answer you ask another question in order to understand the story. You may ask questions about the main characters, the problem, or solution in a story.  Detectives ask these types of questions about story structure, search for an answer, and often ask a new question about the answer they found until they fully understand why something happened. Today, we are going to practice being detectives by asking questions to ourselves before we read, while we read, and after we read so we can understand what we are reading. So let’s get started; clues are waiting for us.
  2. Model thought process of questioning and using story structure from Flat Stanley, Chapter 1. Read chapter aloud as a class. Ask questions such as: Who are the main characters? (Mrs. Lambchop, Mr. Lambchop, Arthur, Stanley, and Dr. Dan). What is the problem? (Stanley gets flattened by a bulletin board, his clothes won't fit anymore, etc.) How are they going to solve the problem? (Get new clothes for him made, wait until the doctor finds a cure). Ask why questions such as: Why is Stanley not scared of being flattened? Why was his brother upset? (Maybe Stanley is not scared because he thinks it will be neat to be flat for a little while and he thinks the doctor will think of a cure. His brother was upset because he thought Stanley was hurt or he was scared.) Explain to students asking why questions helps us think of possible scenarios for why something is the way it is.  Detectives do this all the time! Remember good readers ask a question, look for the answer, and then when they find the answer they make sure the answer they got makes sense, and if not they may ask another question. Just then we asked questions about the story structure prior to reading, we looked for our answers, and made sure they made sense or we may have asked other why questions.
  3. Now, pass out a copy of Miss Nelson is Missing to each student. Students will read silently. Give book talk: “Miss Nelson is a teacher who goes missing one day. The kids in her class are behaving so badly, that is until their substitute Miss Viola Swamp arrives. She is scary and mean. The kids worry what happened to Miss Nelson and wonder if they will ever find her. Let’s read on and think about questions about story structures like the characters, problems, and solution.” Use 3 column chart, on board with categories for before, during, and after. This will stand for questions and predictions before reading, during reading, and after reading. Before students begin reading the text silently allow students to ask questions based on the cover and title of the book. Also use illustrations from the book for the before section. Students will generate questions about things they want to know. For example, I may write in the before category, “Who is Miss Nelson? Why is she missing?” Begin reading, stop frequently and allow time for students to develop questions and answers from each page fill them in on the chart on the board. Write answers to questions under the question as you find the answer. Remind students they want to know and understand what the story is about. They must search, like detectives, for the answers to their questions in order to find Miss Nelson.
  4. After reading, begin discussing chart on board. During this time students will answer orally story structure as well as why questions such as: Who are the main characters? What problem was Miss Nelson having with her class? How did she try to fix the problem? What was the conclusion of Miss Swamp coming to school? Why was Miss Nelson missing? Why did the kids start acting differently? How could this story have ended differently?  Examine the questions asked and the answers found. Ask students: Was it easier to find some answers more than others? Ask them how they found answers to their questions? Was it from the reading, the illustrations? Ask them what they know about the characters in the story after reading the text? What do they know about Miss Nelson? Miss Viola Swamp? The children? (Note: Other students may be able to help answer these questions. Keep in mind that some students maybe have more developed self-helping strategies such as questioning and may find answers to the questions more easily than others.)
  5. Assessment: Students ability to formulate questions and find answers will be assessed orally through their participation in developing the 3 column chart on the board. Students will be assessed by the appropriateness of their answers about story structure as well. This will be done by simply recognizing if the students understand the material covered or not. I will keep certain criteria in mind while listening to students answers and reviewing their work on the chart. See materials for criteria.

 

References:

Haffarnan, Jessi. “What Are We Reading for Again?” 2006.
http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/persp/haffarnanrl.html

Perrson, Kristy. “The Who, What, When, Where and Why of Reading.”2006.
http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/persp/perssonrl.html

 Wright, Madelyn. “The 5 W’s” 2006.
http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/persp/wrightrl.html

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