The 'What's and 'Where's of Literature

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SWBAT use key details from illustrations and words in a story to show how the characters develop.

Big Idea

The pictures and words help us answer questions about the characters.



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), evidencing the shift in Common Core Standards toward using text details to improve comprehension.  We are also examining how the plot changes by looking at illustrations and wording (RL.2.7). My students are fairly comfortable with asking and answering questions at this point in the year.

I chose this book, Chester the Brave, because the text is an 2nd grade level, it has excellent illustrations and great text.The character clearly develops over the course of the story.  My goal is to really focus on writing 'what' and 'where' questions to show how the character changes. This is deeper level questioning that the Common Core Standards are focusing on.  Students are typically adept at the literal 'what color...' and 'what is the name...' questions. Our focus is to use questioning to improve reading comprehension, which means that students must ask deeper level questions that lead to understanding.

* When I taught this lesson a second time, I used the 'version 2' of the worksheet. My students struggled with writing so much last time I taught this, so I felt the version with less writing involved would be better.

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)


Gain student interest and introduce the topic

  • Show the picture of 'Chester' from (or the book) The Kissing Hand and see what the kids remember about the characters in story. Let the kids tell about the characters in the story.
  • "Today we are going to look at the characters from The Kissing Hand in a new story called Chester the Brave."   
  • "When an author writes a story, the characters in the story develop or change over the course of a story. We can ask questions to figure out how the characters change and use the illustrations and words in the text to answer those questions."


If you have not taught lessons about question writing, I encourage you to look at some of the earlier lessons so your students get some practice with writing and answering questions. These lessons include The Whys and Whens of Questioning about LiteratureSo What Do You Think, Using Evaluative Questions with LiteratureEvaluative Questions-Pick Your Side and ArgueQuestions Help Us See How Characters DevelopThat Striking Language and Ask Questions About Those Illustrations.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Introduce strategy - teacher models

  • Pass out the worksheet - "Today we'll use questions to see how Chester changes during the story.  I'll read a bit of the beginning and then we'll stop and ask some questions. Then we'll continue to the middle and then the end of the story."
  • "Here's the beginning of the story" -  Read up through the page "He thought it meant he wasn't brave...."
  • "To help me understand what I read, I'll write 3 questions using 'what' and 'where' about what is happening with the character. After I ask the questions, I'll decide if the answer is in the text or the illustrations. and write that."
    • "Where is Chester's mom telling the story?  The illustration shows that they're in a cave/den.  I'll write 'I' for illustration and write that 'Chester's mom tells him a story in their cave/den."
    • "What is Chester worried about?  The words don't really say but he talks about the robin so I'll infer 'Chester is worried about being afraid' and put "I" for illustrations because of his worried face."
    • "What did Chester ask about the robin?"  The words says "He asked if he was not brave because he was too scared to fly.  I'll write 'W' for words."
  • Students copy as you write.


As we work through the book, students are learning how to describe the overall structure of the story by examining events and asking questions about the beginning, middle and end of the story. (RL.2.5) Analyzing the structure of texts and how the parts relate to the whole story helps the students gain familiarity with text structures and elements.  As I point out how the story is organized (beginning-middle-end), I am creating carefully structured situations that allow students to ask and answer questions more independently, a shift in the Common Core State Standards.

Practice strategy - guided practice

  • "Let's try asking and answering a question for the middle of the story."  I'll read first and then you can help me ask and answer the questions."
  • Read through the page that says, "He hopped up and down..."
    • "What was Chester bothered about?"  The words say 'Chester is bothered about eating worms' and there's a picture, so I'll write 'B' for both."
    • "Last one  - what question can I use with the word 'where'?    "Where did Chester get comfort when he trembled?"  Prompt with 'with his mom' and 'I' for illustrations.
  • Students finish copying on the paper.
  • Here's a demonstration of how this guided practice looks.  
  • When we were done, this is what the completed whiteboard.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

  • "Now it's your turn use 'what' or 'where' to ask about one more question from the middle and 2 more questions from the end of the chapter."
  • "Remember to write questions that focus on character development.  We're thinking about how Chester changed during the story."
  • "You'll show your evidence for the answer by writing an 'I' for illustration or 'T' for text.


Formative Assessment as students work

  • Give students time to write and help as necessary.  Here's a student completing the worksheet.
  • "Now I'll read the end of the story and give you time to write 2 more questions."
  • Read to the book to the end.  "How was Chester feeling at the end?  Did mom's story help him change his thinking?  What questions could help you understand this?"
  • "Include your evidence... how do you know the answer? Was it in the illustrations or text?"
  • I did have to redirect some students to make sure they were writing a question that they could answer.
  • This is an example of a completed worksheet.


The kids were very comfortable writing these 'who' and 'what' questions, but I did continue to reinforce that they needed to help us see how the character developed. By choosing questions that helped us describe how the characters in the story responded to major events and challenges, they are analyzing how and why the characters, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of the text. (RL.2.3)

I also reminded the students that we were not predicting ('what will happen?') or asking about the setting or problem ('what did he eat?'). This experience was very typical of many 2nd graders, I think. They can ask questions, but they are not necessarily focused on the task at hand (character development). They also needed to ask questions that could be answered by text evidence or inference. This is a critical component of the Common Core State Standards. Students need to be able to support their ideas and answers with evidence.

Show What You've Learned

15 minutes

Explain the project

  • "Let's take what we have written and find out how the character changed over the course of the text."
  • "Fold your paper into thirds and glue a 'Chester' face on each section - for the beginning, one for the middle and one for the end.  Notice there's no mouth.  You need to add a mouth to show how Chester was feeling."
  • "You should have 6 questions and answers on your worksheet. Write those 2 answers above the Chester picture for each part."   Here's what it looked like when a student was completing the project.


Class reflection with teacher prompts

  • "Who can share how he changed over the course of the story?"  This is one of the student's reflections.
  • Kids can share their projects with the class - prompt with questions - How did Chester change?  Was he thinking differently at the end of the story?  How do your raccoon faces show this?"  This is one of my student's projects.


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

Students with academic challenges typically have difficult writing questions based on what they've heard. They should work with the teacher to formulate questions as a group or the teacher can write prompts on their whiteboards.

Students with higher abilities should be challenged to use some of the more difficult vocabulary of the book, such as 'whimper', 'twitter', and 'bothered'.  As you read the text, highlight these words and then write a few on the board to prompt them to use them in the questions or answers.