Text Features Help Us Answer Questions

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SWBAT use text features to write and answers questions about an online informational text.

Big Idea

The answers are in the features!



I chose this online article, "How Magnets Work", because the text is an 2nd grade level, it has clear text features, and has information about our science topic. My goal is to really focus on how questions help the student comprehend better and be an active reader. You can use any book or online text that has informational text at the 2nd grade level. Choose a topic you are studying and encourage students to read about what they are learning in science and social studies. I encourage you to use online text, when possible. Students today will be using less and less printed materials and more online information. They need to be able to read and comprehend this text, using questioning to more fully interact with the text.

This is a lesson in the middle of a unit about questioning. In this lesson, the students ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text (RL.2.1), which supports the shift in Common Core Standards toward using text evidence to improve comprehension. We are using informational text to ask and answer the three kinds of questions - literal, evaluative, and inferential. My students are fairly comfortable with the three types of questions and understand how to find the answers to each type. We have created charts to help with starting the questions (in materials section). They have also learned about and used the kinds of text features in multiple lessons.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' 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

  • Pull out some magnets - my students are SO interested in this topic (if you're doing another topic, find a video). Concrete examples are a powerful way to engage students and to bring them to a common learning place.
  • "Let's write a few words about this topic." (We used attract, repel, magnet, pole, metal, field, and compass). Here's the vocabulary review that I put on the board.
  • "We'll be reading more in an informational text."


Common starting point

  • "Look at the informational text features that we've learned so far!  There are so many!!" Refer to the features on the board and review as necessary. This is how it looked as I reviewed the text features.
  • "Our story has several of these features, including 'bold print', 'diagrams' and 'illustrations'."
  • "How do text features help us?"  find information, understand the text better, see the information in a different way


If you have not taught lessons about questioning text, I encourage you to look at some of the earlier lessons so your students get some practice with writing and answering questions. See the other lessons included in this unit for more!

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "Let's take a minute and review how questions help with comprehension." Take ideas - be 'active readers', interact with the text, understand the text better....
  • "Look at the 'question word charts' that we developed in the past few lessons. What are the different kinds of questions?"  (inferential, literal, and evaluative)


Introduce and model the strategy 

  • "How do we find information that answers questions."
    • "For literal questions, we check the words and illustrations. They start with these words (refer to chart)."
    • "For inferential questions, we use background knowledge-what we know. The words and illustrations often help us find answers." Those questions also start with these words (refer to chart)."
    • "Evaluative questions are opinion questions based on something in the text. They have questions that start with these words (refer to chart). There are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers for these questions and you may have different answers."
  • "I'm going to read the first paragraph of this text and write a question on the whiteboard."  Read the first paragraph.  "What metal is a magnet?"
  • "I'll check the text -iron- the answer is in the text. That means it's a literal question.  I'll use the answer in the text as evidence."  Here's a demonstration of how to find answers to informational text. 


Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Let's try one together. I'll write an inferential question using my question starter chart.  'Will the north pole and south pole attract?' What's the evidence? We have seen these poles attract before and there's a picture in the book about opposite magnets, so I'll say 'yes'. I used what I know and information from the book to answer that inferential question."
  • "Let's write an evaluative question (Read the 2nd paragraph)- I'll look at my question words chart and use a word - 'How would you know which is the north pole?"  Take ideas.  Here's how I demonstrated how to answer evaluative questions, using evidence.
  • This is what the whiteboard with questions and answers looked like after our discussion.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

I left the last 3 paragraphs for the students because they have a few text features and are shorter.

  • "There are some illustrations and text features that can provide evidence to answer the questions."
  • "Your job is to read each paragraph and write the kind of question - one for each part of the paragraph. Remember the question needs to help you understand.  Questions like 'Do you like magnets?' or 'Are the magnets pretty?' don't really help us learn more." This is how I guided students toward independent work.
  • "Fold your paper into thirds (demonstrate this) and use the top, middle, and bottom for each question. Try to write 3 good questions that are unique and make us use the illustration, inference or text to figure out."
  • Here's how I guided the students through one more example of questioning.
  • This is an example of one student's questions.


Students work - formative assessment

  • Remind students about rules for ipad use.
  • Walk around, prompting as necessary and looking to see if students are using different question words and unique questions. Remind them to write a question about an illustration, as well.
  • As students finish, I also ask them to be introspective about reading online text. This was one student's opinion about using online text.


As students learn and use various text features to locate key facts in the text efficiently, they are able to analyze the structure of texts, including how specific parts relate to each other and the text as a whole (RI.2.5) . Students become more introspective close readers, analyzing the text features as they read and integrating the knowledge gained from them into the text.

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Share what you know

  • "We have talked about magnets and read some text. We can deepen our understanding further by answering and sharing the questions. - I saw some good ones as I walked around."
  • "I'm going to pass out the magnets and let you try out some of the ideas that we read about. Some of you have evaluative questions to answer with the magnets."
  • This gives the students the chance to use the vocabulary and test out what they've read. The students are testing the ideas of what they've read. It was enlightening for them and a great opportunity to use the test out the concepts of the informational text. 
  • Here's an example of some of my students answering their questions - student answering an evaluative question and another student reading and answering an evaluative question.


Using informational text to ask questions that can be verified with text, illustrations, and background knowledge is a great way for students to better comprehend what they read. As they use close reading strategies to question ideas and concepts (RI.2.1), they are forming inferences and ultimately opinions by using evaluative questions. Allowing them to test their theories and opinions by using manipulatives (magnets), encourages them to again test and verify what they think with hard evidence.


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

Students with academic challenges should work with the teacher in a small group or use question prompts given on a white board. Writing questions is often hard for students who struggle academically, but they can really benefit from the modeling and guided practice. Here is student demonstrating understanding with the magnets - he struggles, but still is learning. His questions are not written well, but he continues to make good progress with questioning and understanding the informational text.

For students with greater ability, I would challenge them to use those 'question chart words' that don't get used often (does, are....).