Asking the Right Questions with Mason-Dixon Memory

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SWBAT to understand why we ask high level questions by answering them in order to understand character.

Big Idea

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge. -Thomas Berger

Lesson Opener

5 minutes

In my lesson openers I always have a "connect" in which I connect students' thinking about yesterday's lesson to today's lesson. I then have a "teach" in which I model for students the lesson of the day and also have them try it out. When I think about my modeling I use three categories; skill, strategy and process. I model by stating the skill to the students, then giving them a strategy in which to use the skill, followed by the process to try out the strategy.

Connect: We have finished a draft of our literary essay on Song of the Trees, today we are going to go deeper into analyzing the theme of a story by comparing Song of the Trees to another story. 

Teach: I will say, “Today we are going to practice the skill asking meaningful questions. You are going to practice the strategy of annotating the text, by asking questions as you read.

The process we will use is:

1) Keep the theme of Song of the Trees in mind as I read

2) Ask myself: What questions do I have about what I am reading?

3) Jot down my best questions as annotations

4) Jot down a possible theme every two pages that connects to Song of the Trees

Before the students read, I am going to give them a quick overview of the Mason/Dixon line (attached power point). I am going to point out where the family from Song of the Trees lived (Mississippi) and have them infer how the plot of Song of the Trees was shaped by the Mason Dixon line.

Active Engagement

30 minutes

Whole Class Read

I will then have the students read the text as a whole class. When I do a whole class read, I choose from, "I go, you go," in which I read one paragraph and a student volunteer reads one paragraph or I just read the whole thing, also if you have access to the audio book, there is one (I just could not find it on the web). I never do "popcorn" reading or force the students to read out loud. This is very uncomfortable for the students who do not like to read and can really get in the way of comprehension. 

I am doing a whole class read so that we can discus the story, but partner reading or independent reading is also an option depending on the reading stamina of the class. 

As we are reading I will direct students to stop and jot two questions every two pages. After two pages we will stop and jot a theme we can infer that stems from our question. Every two pages we will have a brief discussion about the following:

  • First stop (after two pages): What level of questions are we asking? How can we make our level of questioning higher?
  • Second stop (after two pages): What questions do you have about characters so far? If not, jot down questions you have about the characters.
  • Third stop: What is the best question you have so far? Followed by a brief discussion of the answers to the question
  • Fourth stop: What questions do you have about theme? If not, stop and jot a question about the theme of the story. Students can use the theme poster or Universal Themes Resource Sheet.docx to help think of a universal theme.



10 minutes

I believe that the end of the lesson should be an assessment of the days’ learning; therefore it should be independent work. I always end class with an “exit ticket” in which students write down the response to a question.

I will have them complete a “write long” (using thought prompts) by asking them the question;

“What do you infer the theme of Mason-Dixon memory is so far? How does the theme compare to the theme of Song of the Trees? How are the characters in Mason Dixon memory showing theme?