Questioning is not something that should just happen at the end of a book. It is a strategy that should be used throughout a book and used often. By wondering about who, what, when, where, why, and how, a reader is constantly checking for understanding. There are two types of questions that I teach students about; thin questions and thick questions. Thin questions have answers that are quick and can be found “right there” in the text. These are helpful when trying to locate specific information. Thick questions have answers that you have to think about and search for. Thick questions are more meaningful because they make you wonder. They help us to think deeply about the text and how the author wrote it. Often times, there are no solid answers for thick questions, however, they make for strong, thoughtful discussions. Helping students notice and develop questions, especially thick questions, will deepen their comprehension of any book.
I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day 1 of Questioning Week – Introducing the Strategy.
Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about Questioning this year, I start by questioning them. To get their attention, I call on random students and asking them anything that comes to mind, like “What do have in your lunch?” and, “Where did you get your shoes?” or, “Who are you going to play with at recess?” I want them to figure out what I’m doing. At first, the students are confused, then they think it’s funny, and eventually, they catch on that I am asking questions because it is the strategy we will be working on. I then give them a chance to ask me questions. As they do, I answer them and also write them down so we can underline the question words we use.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on Questioning, which is when we ask questions to help us clarify our thinking." Show them the Questioning anchor chart, which includes the question words we identified earlier (I do not share the bottom of the anchor chart yet, which includes Thin vs. Thick questions. That will be part of my lesson tomorrow). I tell them that our minds should be Questioning while we are reading books and I want them to become more aware of it.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I read an excerpt from our current read aloud book and I pause to ask questions as I go, like why did the character act that way or how will the characters solve the problem? I ask them to raise their hands as I read to share questions of their own. We identify the question word for each one.
Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Questioning, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice examples of Questioning while reading one of the books in their browsing boxes. I explain that Questioning can happen at any time throughout the book and should be happening constantly. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they noticed. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.
Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get five minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for forty minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading.
Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to share examples of Questioning from the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups.
Closing: At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice Questioning in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Questioning. Then I ask them to meet with their reading partner to share examples. After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Questioning for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.