BIG Questions About Informational Text!

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SWBAT ask literal and inferential questions as they read to demonstrate understanding of key details in an informational text.

Big Idea

Stick all of the question words up there!!


  • Why We Have Thanksgiving** by Margaret Hillert  You could use any informational text that has clear illustrations and is at the 2nd grade reading level
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: questioning, inference, beginning, middle, end, informational text, literal
  • Set up whiteboard
  • post-it notes for the students and teacher   square size is fine
  • big question mark   cut from butcher block
  • Ask & Answer Questions worksheet


This lesson is one of the first of many about questioning. My students are able to ask lots of questions, but they tend to be literal. Using questioning to improve comprehension is not a reading strategy that they often employ. In this lesson, the students ask and answer to demonstrate understanding of key details in an informational online text (RI.2.1), which supports the shift in Common Core Standards toward using text evidence to improve comprehension.  This focus on using information from a text to support their answers, especially in an informational text is great practice for Social Studies, Science and other disciplines. This cross-curricular learning encourages students to draw on their abilities to discover answers for themselves rather than rely on adults to supply the facts, a shift in learning from the Common Core Standards.

** I chose this book because it has nice pictures about why the Pilgrims left England. Although the title is about Thanksgiving, it really sums up the Mayflower and Pilgrim experience nicely. The text is early 2nd grade level, which lets me focus more on the questioning strategy and allows the opportunity for independent reading.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words should emphasized and put on my Reading & Writing word wall for later reference. I pull off words for each lesson, helping students understand the vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words.


Get students engaged

  •  Show giant question mark and post-it notes (see lesson image).
  • "Today we are focusing on informational text and questioning.  I'll write some questions and let you fill up my big question mark with your question post-its."


Common starting point

  • Create a web on the board with the students about the history of Thanksgiving. Here is the web that we created. Keep the focus off food and on what happened to the Pilgrims and why they came to America (or the topic that you've chosen).  Start with a few ideas - more will be added from the book.
  • You'll be using the web to write a story. Here's my explanation of how we'll use the web to write a paragraph.
  • Write a paragraph on the board based on the information. This is the paragraph that we wrote.


** The rigor expected by the Common Core Standards has caused me to shift the practice of teacher-led explanations toward student-led learning. I now spend time asking them to lead the learning process and discover information. Encouraging students to ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and demonstrate understanding of key details in a text allows them to become active learners. (RI.2.1)  In the previous lesson, The Whys and Whens of Literature, I explained to students how to use find answers to literal and inferential questions in the beginning, middle, and end of a literature selection.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "This story has lots of good information about the Pilgrims and colonies."
  • "We can read and ask questions to help us to bring meaning to the text and become active readers! We question before we read, as we read, and after we read."
  • "Where do we find answers to the questions?"


Introduce strategy - teacher models with the paragraph on the board

  • "Let's ask a question before we read...Where were the Pilgrims from?"
  • "Now let's read part of the paragraph and ask with a different question word...How did the Pilgrims feel about the King?"
  • "I'll finish the paragraph and then let's ask a question...Did the Pilgrims pay a lot of taxes?"
  • "Now I'll go back and answer the questions, inferring or finding the answers in the text. If I infer I color it yellow.  If the answer is in the text, I color it pink." 


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Let's try this questioning strategy with our book."
  • Question before you read the first page - get question ideas from the students - write the question on my question organizer. My kids picked...'Who did the Pilgrims feast with?'
  • Here are the questions that I wrote, and this is what the whiteboard looked like when we were done.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

  • Pass out worksheets
  • "I'll go through the book and let you read on the Elmo."
  • You need to write a question for each of the 'question words' on your worksheet."
  • "Draw a yellow or pink star next to the question - pink for infer and yellow for literal."


Students work

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Share what you know

  • "Now choose your best question and write it on the post - it note. When you're done, put it on the big question mark."  Take a look at a student adding a post-it.
  • "Which kind of question did most kids write?  Why do you think most kids used that question word?"  Here's our discussion.
  • We did take some time to reflect on the activity.  This is our reflection on the question mark.
  • "Let's work together to answer these questions."  This is the part of the reading lesson when the students can learn social studies/science!  Love the cross-curricular focus.
  • "Did these questions help you understand the text better?"  Discuss with the kids.
  • Help students understand that hearing others’ questions inspires new ones of their own; likewise, listening to others’ answers can inspire new thinking.


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

The text for this lesson is easier so students with difficulty reading could still participate. You could also read through the text as you show it on the Elmo or bring the students to the rug to work separately.  They may need help formulating questions.

Students with greater ability should be encouraged to ask more inferential questions. As you walk around, see if they can ask a question with a 'harder' answer - that's not in the text.  Remind them that we must be able to answer the question however.  One of my students said, "What is the name of the Pilgrim?"  I reminded the whole class that we need to focus our questions on what we can answer.