With the shift to Common Core I have found myself striving for greater rigor in my teaching of reading comprehension skills and strategies in both literature and informational text. RL.1.1 requires students to ask and answer questions about key details in a text. This seems to be the same as previous standards, but if you read it in the context of the corresponding College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard (Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly to make logical inferences from it, cite specific textual evidence when writing on speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text), the need to increase the level of rigor in the instruction of reading comprehension becomes clear. One of the things I decided to do is to approach the When, where, who, what and why questions independently. My goal was to delve deeper into variations of the questions, ensure that students routinely answered using complete sentences, and became used to explicitly referring to the text both when generating and answering questions. This would be a far cry from simply answering multiple choice items, or one sentence written answers.
In this portion of the lesson, I told the students that I was going to read them a book and I wanted them to pay special attention to the characters because in today's lesson we were going to learn how to ask and answer questions with "Who ...?" I read Who's that knocking on Christmas Eve? by Jan Brett, but this lesson can be adapted to any story.
After reading the book, we created a chart listing the characters. Then I modeled asking and answering Who? questions. I made a point of referring to the book as I searched for both the question and the answer. I began with the cover page and the title and asked "Who knocked on Christmas Eve?" Then I flipped through the pages and showed the page where the boy knocks, and read the relevant sentences. They I told them I would answer: The boy from Finmark knocked on Christmas Eve. I wrote both question and answer on the board and underlined the part of the question which I had used to make my complete sentence to answer. I then asked another question "Who was traveling on skis?" and asked for volunteers to answer. I went very slowly because I am finding that a slow start with careful scaffolding is helping me take my students to deeper understanding and truer independence than when I neglected the basic, seemingly too easy steps. After asking a couple of questions, clearly showing them where I was getting the idea from, I asked for volunteers to ask the questions and the class wrote a complete answer on their dry erase boards.
I then told the class that I wanted them to write 3 questions about the book. When I saw some worried faces, I offered to read it to them again. They gladly accepted! Early finishers could continue writing questions or work on an independent activity.
After I collected their work, I put some of the samples under the document camera, and showed them how well they had done, with capitals, punctuation and adjectives (this was a big deal, because they had just recently (and finally!) began appearing spontaneously in their writing.. I read questions from some papers and called on volunteers to answer them.