"To Question or not to question?"

Melanie Smith
Reading to Learn


 The ultimate goal of reading is comprehension.  We can adopt some key strategies to improve our comprehension and make ensure we are good and independent readers.  One good comprehension strategy we can use while reading is to think of questions.  We can think of questions that will help us connect the information we are reading to our own lives or other parts of the text.  Generating questions while we’re reading is a good strategy because it engages us with the text and ensures that we are active readers.  In this lesson we will learn to develop good questions.  We will learn the different between helpful questions and misleading questions.


Computer access for each student, class collection of Tuck Everlasting ,plenty of sticky notes (enough for each child to have several), checklist for each student {What do I want to know?  What am I wondering?  What have I learned?  Can I find the answer to my question by rereading?  Could there be multiple answers to my question?}


1. Ask students:  “Why do we read?”  Allow the students to answer. “We read because we want to learn about something or get information about something, or sometimes just for fun. If we could never remember what we read then our mission for reading is not complete. We read because we want to comprehend the text so we can get the full message, otherwise we are just reading and don’t gain anything 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)”

 2. 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 “Think of how loud the grocery store would be if everyone was reading every label out loud?”  “If we 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 silently in your head, but you need to ensure you are actually reading and comprehending.    

 3.  “To make sure that we understand 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 so we can comprehend the story.”

 4. “While you're reading you can generally ask yourself two different types of questions, questions that are answered easily and questions that you have to think about…”  (The book I’ll use for my example is Tuck Everlasting)  After I have read chapter one aloud to the class, "I’ll model the example of a bad question 'What is Mae eating for a snack?”  Mae is eating an apple; since that question is factual and you can easily read the answer and no reasoning is require it is not a question that will help you comprehend any text.  An example of a better question would be “Why is Mae not telling the little girl why she can’t drink the water?” Since there are a lot of different answers to that question you would have to reason to figure out the answer.  (Ideally you are teaching the kids to reason)  “I think maybe Mae doesn’t want her to drink the water because something in the water would hurt her.  Why do you think Mae is keeping the water from her?  When you are reading and think of a question you can remember if it is a good question or not by asking yourself ‘Did I just read the answer?’ the question is bad if the answer just pops out and you don’t have to think about it, the question is good if the answer is not in the immediate text and you have to think about it.”  Ask the students to give you an example of a good question and a bad question to ensure that they grasp the concept.

 5. Explain to the kids that asking questions is important when you are reading fictional text and expository text.  “Now, on your own I want you to go to the National Geographic for Kids website, everyone should type in the following address, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngkids/0606/index.html . Read the article about elephants and as you do so I want you come up with a few ‘good’ questions that would help you to comprehend the article.  Look at your checklist to make sure that you are writing ‘good’ questions. Then, write those questions down on sticky notes and we will look at them once everyone is finished.”   

6.  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, using the checklist they each have to evaluate their questions.  Then I will wrap up with asking the students once again why it important to ask questions while reading and what the differences are between good and bad questions.


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

Fitzgerald, Kristi.  “Sunny or Shady” http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/invent/fitzgeraldrl.html

National Geographic website.  June/July 2006.  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngkids/0606/

Smith, Carrie.  “A Quest for Questions” http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/invent/smithrl.html

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