Ask the Author

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SWBAT listen to a read aloud and think of a question to ask the author

Big Idea

Hey, I have a question!


Way back when, when I was in my methods courses, I remember being told about the different learning modalities of students, and how these modalities affected student learning and behavior.  A popular quote by Confucius I heard at the time was “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand”.  At the time, a long time ago, this meant that students did better by seeing and doing, and it implied that listening was not an important learning tool.  Since my methods courses, we now know that students learn and remember in a variety of interactive ways.  Through Common Core, listening has gained new popularity as students prepare for higher education and future careers.  They will need to be able to actively listen in order to engage in meaningful constructive conversations.

Common Core Connection:

When I look at the common core speaking and listening standards for kindergarten and first grade, I clearly see the foundations for face to face communication are being set in place. 

First graders are pros when it comes to asking questions; however, after looking deeper into the College and Career Anchor Standards for Listening and Speaking it is clear that asking superficial or irrelevant questions are not going to cut it. Eventually, they will need to integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally (CCRA.SL.2).  It is my intent in today’s lesson to introduce my students to this through SL.1.2: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media, and through RL.1.1: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

One of my favorite aspects of common core is that it encourages reading aloud to children. This essential component of common core is important to students in the primary grades who are still learning to decode.  It is often only through read a-louds that students at this level can access rich texts with deep content that lead to teaching how to listen and ask appropriate questions.

Lesson Overview:

This week we are practicing our listening and speaking skills. In today’s lesson, my students actively listen to a read aloud and think of a question they would ask the author about the story.

Materials Needed:

Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 5: Home Sweet Home, The Mouse House (Teacher Read A-Loud)

What Fits Activity Sheet (Teacher created)


5 minutes

As my students settled on the rug I reminded them to show me their ‘good sitting and listening’, which basically means they are each sitting on their own rug square, legs crossed, hands in lap, and eyes on me.  Another listening skill we have been working on is “show me you are listening”.  Which is if I say or read something they already know, they nod their heads ‘yes’.  If they do not know what I am reading or talking about, they shake their heads ‘no’.  And if they are not sure, they show me by shrugging their shoulders.  We practiced all these motions then I introduced the day’s read-aloud from Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme  5, The Mouse House.

As I began reading I instructed my students to listen to the story and imagine if they met the author what question they would ask him/her. (SL.1.2: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media)

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I then began reading The Mouse House.  After a few paragraphs I stopped and said, “I think I heard a story similar to this, does it sound familiar to you”?  Several students were nodding their heads, and few called out “The Mitten” and “The Hat”.  “How are the stories similar”, I asked my students.  Before a student could answer I reminded my little ones to show their classmate and me that they are listening.  The student who answered stated the stories were similar because the animals all tried to squeeze into a piece of clothing that was too small.  My students showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up. (Demonstration Video: Thumb Up, Thumb Down)  At that point I modeled, “If I met the author, Jan Brett, I would ask her, ‘how do the big animals fit in the hat or mitten’”.  By asking that question, nearly all of my students wanted to share their questions too.  To give them practice asking their questions, and to save a little time, I had them all whisper their question to me on the count of three. (Demonstration Video: Whisper to Me)  Once they stated their question they were ready to hear the rest of the story.  When I finished reading I modeled, “If I met this author I would ask, ‘how did the farmer lose his sock’? I would ask this question because farmers wear shoes outside”.

As my students raised their hands to either answer my question or to state theirs, I had them stop and think about what they were going to ask the author.  Before moving on I had them share with their partner what question they would ask.  

I use partner share a lot so that all my students have an opportunity to practice speaking in a safe environment.

To check for understanding I called on two students to share their questions with the class.  As these students shared the rest of my students were directed to show a thumb up or down if they were going to ask a similar question.


Collaborative Activity

15 minutes

This activity, What Fits, can be used as an extension or small group activity.  In this small group activity the video shows the group right after they compiled their list.  The purpose of this activity is to have students work in pairs or a small group of three to discuss which animals from the story would fit in a real sock.  (SL1.1a, b: participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups)

In today’s activity my students worked in small groups to create a list of animals that would fit in the sock, however, they could not make a list and be finished, they would use this list for their journal writing.  The two samples, Basic Student Work and Proficient Student Work, show the range in student work ability.  Working in collaborative groups gives the students opportunities to work with students of their choice, however, it is important to pull them back into their differentiated leveled groups for focused re-teaching.

After they compiled their list I directed my students to each choose one animal, from their list, and after stating if it really would fit in the sock; explain why or why not to their group.  I modeled the sentence: This is a ___.  It would fit in the sock because ___.


 To help them remember the animals from the story, I displayed pictures of each animal in the story on the Promethean board.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

I use journal writing as independent practice because writing helps students analyze and evaluate information.  In this case I wanted my students to think beyond, why was the sock red- which I told them was the one question they could not ask the author.  I explained this type of question is to find out more information because something was not stated in the story, or to further understand what the author said.

In order so that I could check all their questions the prompt I wrote on the board: What question would you ask the author and why.  I had my students write their questions in their journals, as well as write why they would ask that question.  

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

To earn a sticker my students had to show me they had written a complete asking sentence in their journals and a reason why they 'asked' that question.