Ask Questions and Cube Up the Answers

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SWBAT ask and answer questions about informational text using words and text features to verify answers.

Big Idea

Put answers from text features on the 'BioCube'!



  •  2nd grade informational texts (I used our Houghton Mifflin Social Studies text (the sections about explorers). You could use a set of short biography readers at the 2nd grade level
  • 'Cube It Up' student worksheet
  • Computers/Ipad for students to create cube -  with printer capabilities  or 
    • BioCube website: (try it out before you teach the lesson, make a template cube with the questions you can answer from the text - make sure you can save a template and print from it)
  • Printable Biocube template (if the students don't use the website) for students to fill out-print this on card stock
  • Set up the whiteboard so it looks like the worksheet
  • Students needs scissors, pencils, colored pencils/crayons
  • 6 strips of tape to put on the side of each students' desk
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: questioning, biography, informational text, text features, names of the text features you will use– preview your books to see features they have – I used map, photo, pictures, caption, heading


Reading texts in social studies and science helps the students build a foundation of knowledge in these areas to make them better readers in other content areas. The cross disciplinary focus with the Common Core State Standards encourages teachers to use texts from other subjects in reading lessons, which ultimately benefits the students as they are exposed to vocabulary and concepts and generalize them throughout the day. The focus on answering questions using text evidence (RI.2.1) to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text in this lesson represents a shift in the Common Core State Standards to encourage students to read closely. Students are shown how to determine what the text says explicitly and make logical inferences from it. The ability to cite specific textual evidence to support conclusions (when writing) makes their answers more powerful and arguments more convincing.

Let's Get Excited

10 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.


Introduction to the lesson (a review from yesterday, so keep it short)

  • "Yesterday we read about world explorers in our informational text. Some of these men explored America. Let's look at our timeline to see when all of this happened."
    • "How does the time period of these explorers compare to the time period of the Native Americans?"  (The context of time can be so difficult so the timeline really helps me with these ideas.)
    • "Let's take a peek at our class map. What were some of the countries that the explorers came from and went to?"  (Again the visual is paramount to giving the kids context)
  • "Here's a quick video of some explorers. (The video is a song with pictures that's an overview of American explorers. The voice is not good, but my kids REALLY liked it.)
    • "Wow there were LOTS of explorers in that video."
    • "Did you recognize any of them?"
    • "What did you think about their clothing?"
    • "Why they were going to America?"
  • "Let's write a few vocabulary words on the board that are related to exploration that we might need later for our work."  (explorer, journey, voyage, discover, adventure)


Although I don't like to 'front load' lessons with a lot of information (I want to keep the focus on the text), I wanted to spend a few moments reviewing the ideas of explorers since there was SO much information in this section (names, dates, countries....). We have been talking about early World Exploration and we read the HM sections the day before, but it was worth spending a few moments on vocabulary and names, which went a long way toward allowing the kids to have an overall picture before they start answering specific questions about the topic. Anytime we have new information in a text that's loaded with text features, I tend to spend 2 days on thinformation. On the first day, we get an overall picture and I teach the vocabulary and concepts. The second day we go back, relook at the text features and get specific information.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Explain the task

  • "Today, you'll be working in groups to find more about a specific explorer. We are going to use questioning to find information about him and then make a 'biocube' - which is a cube that shows information that you'd put in a biography."
  • "Most of the information about these explorers is in the text features of the book - the maps, charts, timelines, etc."
  • "Take a quick look at our some of our informational text features vocabulary that we've been using. (reference the words that you put on the whiteboard) "What's a map for? Where do we find a caption? How does the heading help us?....."


Modeling (I chose Columbus because he's the most familiar)

  • Read the first section about Christopher Columbus and look at text features, writing information on the whiteboard organizer. "I'll keep my answers short because I'll be typing them later into the website."
    • “I'm going to choose 'Christopher Columbus' to find details about. His name is in the heading. I'll write 'Who is the explorer?' and his name next the first question."
    • “For the next question I'll write 'Where did he go?' There's a map that shows he went to North America.”  (Write that on the board)
    • "The next question I'll write is 'How did he change people's thinking?'  The caption says that they learned about America so I'll write that."
    • "For the next question, 'What was made after his trip?'. There's an picture that shows the maps that were made when he returned."
    • "For the 'why' question, I'll write 'Why did he go there?'  The diagram shows that he went there to find America, so I'll write that."
  • "Now I'll pull up the website and type my questions and answers onto the website."
  • This is what the whiteboard looked like when we were done.


For this lesson, the focus was answering questions and identifying text features. You'll notice that the questions on the whiteboard are different that those on the worksheet. After I modeled a few question, the kids chimed in with other question ideas and I realized that allowing them to ask questions, although a good skill, would not require them to necessarily look at the text features. Some of their ideas for questions couldn't be answered by the text features (which was the focus of the lesson) or by the text at all (Was he married? or How many kids did he have?).  I changed it up and decided to give them a worksheet with the questions already written for them. I demonstrated how to write very short, but accurate, answers since they’ll be typing. 

Students Take a Turn Reading & Questioning

20 minutes

Explain the task

  • "Now you'll be working in groups to find out more about an explorer from the text. In the book, there is information and LOTS of text features about each one."
  • Put the kids in groups. I always give a quick review of the Rules for Good Group Work on our group rules poster..
  • "I'll list the group and the explorer for you to work on. Each group gets one worksheet. Find the information and make sure you have support from the text. Is there a caption or picture that tells you the answer? Keep your answers short. I may come by and ask you how you got your answers - where is the evidence from the text features."


Kids answer questions in groups

  • Students read their text (walk around and ask what text features they are using – “How does that graph help you?” “What does that map show?”)
  • Students fill out worksheets with questions (encourage them to use 1-2 of the target vocabulary that you used in their questions)
  • Here's an example of one of my student's completed worksheets.


Kids enter information for the cube

  • Students type the information into the website or write on a blank template (if you're not using the computer/ipad)
  • I again had to remind them to take turns typing information - they love to use the computer/ipad.
  • This was really engaging for the kids. Here's a video of a student using the 'cube' website.


Students are practicing the skill of gaining information from text and text features and then writing answers based on the evidence that they read. They are answering questions based mostly on the text features, which are often overlooked. The students read the text and move on, ignoring the captions, illustrations, lists, diagrams, graphs, etc., which carry SO much information.  My goal is that they know and use various text features to locate key facts or information efficiently. (RI.2.5) As they work, I ask them about their evidence. Are they reading closely to determine what the text says explicitly and are they able to cite specific textual evidence to answer and answer the questions? (RI.2.1) Ultimately, they are learning how to cite evidence to answer questions, as well as acquire and utilize academic vocabulary, both of which are captured in one of the key shifts in the ELA Common Core Standards.

Show What You've Learned

20 minutes

Finish the cube

  • "Cut out the cube and get ready to draw." This is what the cube cut out looked like.
  • "Now you can add illustrations to their cube. How do you know what the explorer looked like? Check the illustrations! What was the name of the country? Look in the text. Remember to always have ‘text evidence’ to support your answers!"
  • "When you're done illustrating, fold and tape together the cube.  (Here is a step-by-step visual of the  ’steps to making the cube’)
  • This is what one of my student's cubes looked like.


Reflect on what you have learned

  • Students share their cube with the class and you prompt with questions.
    • “Which feature helps you most?”
    • “How did you answer that question?”
    • “Did that (text feature) give you information?”
    • “How does that question help you understand what you read?”
  • Here's an example of one of my students student reflecting on her project.


Check for understanding – can they make an illustration that supports their questions? Can they share how a text feature helped them? These answers will guide your next lesson – review a certain skill, reteach the lesson, or challenge students with different objectives. When the teacher asks the questions, she can differentiate the difficulty of the question, use target vocabulary, check for class understanding and prompt as needed (“Did the bold print help you….?”)


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

Students with challenges in reading or language should be mixed into groups of various learning abilities. They may need support to answer questions because questioning is typically very difficult for these students.

Students with more ability should be able to ask deeper questions about the topic and be a model for the group. Encourage them to prompt the group to answer questions that look deeper into the text. Although they may need prompting and an example, it’s worth challenging them to use higher language and sharpen their questioning skills.