Questions About Inventors

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SWBAT ask questions about key details in an informational text.

Big Idea

What should we try to find out about George Washing Carver? About Alexander Bell? Or about Patricia Bath? Students will learn how to ask great questions about informational topics in today's lesson.


17 minutes

Summary and Context

In this unit, my students are engaged in learning about inventors with informational text. Today, they are asking questions about these inventors.

To do so, they will choose an inventor. Then, they will preview the text, including the text features, to write questions. They will write six questions using the words: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

My students benefit from learning how to ask good questions because good questions help them hone in on important details. I am giving them the opportunity to practice this important skill today.

I will model the process of asking questions. The purpose of the questions is to help us obtain information about the inventor, their life, and their invention. They will do this individually and then pair-share their questions. I don’t expect my students to ask and answer questions in the same seating. At this juncture of the year, it is too much for them. It will overwhelm them, so we just focus on questions today.

Lesson Opening:

I start with students on the carpet, and I will share the objective. 

Then, I draw a rectangle on chart paper and divide into into six sections. One phrase I like to use with my students is, “Watch what I do because you will be doing the same.” I write the question words: who, what, when, where, why, and how in the sections.

I review how we need both thin and thick questions and review again which questions words are thin and which ones are thick (we have covered this in previous lessons so this review is quick). Students tell me that thin questions are questions that are fairly easy to answer and that thick questions require deeper thinking and can include how and why.

After that, I show my students how to formulate a question for each question word using an informational text on an example inventor, Garrett Augustus Morgan. The text I am using comes from I invite you to use the source that best meets the needs of your students. I am using this sheet to show my students that information can be gathered from different sourcesUnder the question word, who, I write "Who is Garrett Morgan?" I make sure to highlight the question mark I use to end the sentence.

This is the beginning of the year and my students need much practice with formulating questions. For some of them some questions will be easier to develop than others. For others, this task will be a challenge so they will need me to keep reminding them of the process.

Choosing An Inventor

5 minutes

I bring my students to their tables. It's good to keep students moving. Here I ask them to turn to their partner and ask, "What inventor are you going to choose?" Before asking, I ask them to choose Partner A and Partner B. I ask Partner B to ask first. My students benefit from different opportunities for academic talk.

Then, I tell my students that they can choose an inventor from their anthology: African-American Inventors or from our classroom library, which offers them more choices. I believe in giving my students choices whenever I can. I feel that it helps them feel empowered about what they are learning and motivates them.

Next, we move on to the actual choosing. I ask them to raise their hands if they are going to choose an inventor from their anthology. I ask those students to take their anthology out of their desks and find their inventor in their table of contents. Then they are to proceed to the page and browse. This will keep them busy so that I can give direction to the other students who are choosing from our classroom library.

I dismiss students from each table (I have four tables), and I ask them to count 5 seconds at the bookcase that houses our selections. I follow this procedure for all those choosing from our classroom library. Back at their table they can browse their selection as they wait. Once everyone has their selection, I call for their attention and proceed with the next part of the lesson.

*Please note: To prepare for this lesson, I gave my students the opportunity to browse their anthology and the other selections on inventors yesterday after lunch, so they had already spent 15 minutes perusing the selections to get an idea of what to choose today. At this point of the year, my students benefit from shorter lessons. I invite you to organize the length of lesson according to the needs of your classroom.

Independent Work

30 minutes

I pass out a blank piece of paper to everyone. I ask them write the date. In asking them to write the date, I am establishing a particular routine of how I manage the work they do. I refer to their work during parent conferences to show their writing growth and the date is a good marker for parents to see that growth. I invite you to think about the skills you want your students to internalize. 

Then, I draw the graphic organizer on the white board they will be drawing to ask questions about the inventors. As they draw their own graphic organizer, I walk around the room and give support. Some students will need me to help them draw it. Others will need to be reminded of where to write the question words. Still others will need support as to where the name of the inventor goes.

As students get into their selections and start generating questions, I will need to support some in helping them to think about the questions they can ask. Given this is the first semester of the year, I don't expect them to be quick in doing this task; I do, however, expect them to try their best and to ask for support. I feel fine with offering an example of a question for their inventor, but that is it. In this case, I feel it is good for them to struggle some in generating these questions. This is part of the learning for them.

I do have 4 students who need more support in this area, and so I am providing them with more examples of questions. Otherwise they will not be successful with the task enough to learn from it. It is important to know our students.

Finally, in generating these questions, I expect them use proper punctuation marks. I remind them as needed.

Here are some examples of their work:

Closure: Pair-Share/Share Whole Group

5 minutes

I bring the students back to the rug. I group them in pairs so that they are able to share their work. In sharing, I give them the opportunity to validate their knowledge. This also makes a strong connection between the listening, speaking, reading, and writing parts of their task. Once they are done sharing, I have a few share with the whole group and we close the lesson.