Every time I try to have students ask questions, I somehow get multiple stories; this happens because students still don't understand what it MEANS to ask a question.
The way I decided to confront this time-consuming battle was to teach my students about question words. Question words aren't an easy thing to understand, so this lesson is one that I use regularly. Why, you might ask?... Because it works!
Once students realize they are able to gain more information and expand their learning by asking questions, they love to use their question words. In the end, the more students ask, the more they will have to answer; therefore, the more they learn!
I have this introductory conversation a couple of months into the school year. It is about this time where I feel students can really start paying attention to and genuinely learning from videos. Since this lesson has an important video connection, it fits in well at this point in the year!
"Today, I am going to show you a video about question words. This video is going to help us learn how to ASK questions. Has anyone ever noticed that sometimes, when I tell you that you can ask a question, I have to remind you that you're telling me a story?"
(Students will nod or say yes.)
"That happens because we still don't KNOW in our brains what exactly questions are. This video is going to help us learn about question words. What will this video help is learn about?"
(Students will say, "This video is going to help us learn about question words.")
"Yes! Question words are the words that questions begin with. If I do not start something with an asking question, then it's not going to be a question. This video will help us understand this a little better. So, as we watch this video, I really want you to pay attention to the following words: who, what, where, when, how and why. Let me say that again- who, what, where, when, how and why. If you hear one of those words, point at it! Also, remember that if the video asks you a question, you need to answer it in a complete sentence! So, make sure you listen for those asking words- I don't want you to not know when to answer! If you're ready to learn about question words and even answer some questions, find a spot in the room where you can get your wiggles out and see."
(When my students find a spot for this (or any interactive video), they know that my expectations are that they participate and watch while they move around.)
Now, since I don't like to reinvent the wheel, I found a pre-made, awesome video that is perfect for this exercise! Harry Kindergarten has a great video called Questions Start with These. This video is indeed perfect and I love it. It not only tells the difference between questions and statements, but it also repeatedly goes over the question words and even asks the students to answer questions. This video is great for students and teachers alike!
"Now that we have watched a video about questions, I am going to ask you a question. What is one thing you just learned about questions?" Usually, I will let this conversation go wherever the students take it; sometimes, they have ALL of the information down and sometimes they need a lot of guidance. I prompt and probe as we go through this portion. After we have talked it all out, I have students help me.
"I need help making a list of question words. We aren't going to look at our poster, but we are going to think about the video as well as what we know. So, if you know a word that questions start with, please raise your hand."
As I write the words students give me, I have the whole class "Please repeat the question word that _____ said." I do this because it reinforces the specific words while also giving me five seconds to write down the word on my chart! Once we have the chart, we go over each word individually.
"Now, you are going to practice using these words. I am going to give you a question word, and you are going to use it and make a question with it! Please get into your dependable partner groups (these have been decided ahead of time and are created for students to experience all facets of learning from all different ability levels)." As students move into groups, I will make sure they all can see the reference chart we just made.
"Now, our first question word is who. I would like for you to think of a question beginning with who." (Wait time here.) "Now, I would like for you to take turns asking each other a question beginning with the word who. Remember: a question is something someone has to answer. So, a question I might ask with the word who would be, "Who is your favorite singer?" That is a question, beginning with who, that my partners can answer. Your turn!"
I will walk around and listen to students coming up with and responding to questions. I will provide academic feedback and give help whenever it is needed.
"Great! I heard some good questions and answers! Let's try this again. Now, I want you to think of a question beginning with the word what." (Wait time here.)
This process will continue (with no teacher example) until all of the question words on the chart have been used. Although it takes a while for every child to use every word, this lesson helps students get exposed to each question word three times while not only allowing them to hear but also create questions! As this process goes on, I make sure to monitor, adjust and re-teach if needed, as this activity is very teacher-assisted!
After we have reviewed the question words, I hang our chart up on the wall. I will likely leave our chart up throughout the year, as it provides the students with a reference when reading, writing and speaking & listening. As I hang up the chart, I have students think of ONE question they really want to ask- they go write this down. I take up all of my students' questions and assess them.
I look for three things: 1- are they asking me something, 2- did they use a word from our conversation, video and/or chart, and 3- did they use a question mark.
After assessing these, I can easily see who needs re-teaching, who had a general understanding and who needs some extension to further their learning.
Once all students have brought their questions to me, I have this closing conversation:
"What did we just learn about?"
(Students should say, "We learned about question words.")
"Yes! We did learn about question words. Question words are really important and that is why we are focusing on them! Question words are special because we use them to help us gain information. If we didn't ask questions, we couldn't find things out. So, we need to be able to use the appropriate words to help us find more information. After all, the more questions we can ask, the smarter we can be! Please say that with me."
I will say that with students, "The more questions we can ask, they smarter we can be!"
"Good! So, from now on, we have one goal we are going to work on together- we need to ask more questions!"
From this point on, I make sure to have students ask or write questions at some point each day!
Here is a video of a student reading her questions to me as I assess her use of question marks and question words.
To follow up, I show this video once very few weeks. I like for the students to be reminded that they ASK questions and have to use asking words. After all, who wants to miss class time for story after story, when a question leads to so much more learning?
For example, when I read Little Quack, a story about a duckling, I do not want to hear a bunch of students talk about the time they saw a duck in the creek; I love hearing my students asking questions, such as, "Why does the duckling look different than the duck?" This is an important skill for students to be able to have not only to clarify information, but also to be able to properly respond in a meaningful, connected way, to texts!
In the Introduction to Students section, I attached our reference poster that hangs in my room. I go over this about sheet once per week throughout the year (especially when I am asking students to ask questions in response to a text). Also, we use this poster when we write questions, and even when we talk through our Modified Morning Message routine almost daily!
This page hangs in my room throughout the year and I have it available for students to refer to if someone is telling me something when they are supposed to be asking. In conjunction with this video, this page works magic in my classroom! I love having more ASKING going on!
Also, I love having question words in centers and even for homework. I have attached some games, centers and flash cards (which I send home for homework) here as extension pieces as well!