We know that our students are FULL of questions but focusing that energy on asking clarifying questions can be tricky. It can be even trickier to reach the comprehension level necessary to answer questions about a text. Successfully asking and answering questions is a skill that our students will develop over years but it begins with us! So, let’s break down this skill and set the groundwork for mastery.
Why Is This Skill Important?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been reading a book and realized that you have no idea what’s going on and have to go back and re-read the last few pages. I know I have! As our students make the shift from learning to read to reading to learn, comprehension becomes the focus. Questioning creates active readers with a better comprehension of what they read. If students are asking and answering questions while they read they are less likely to go on autopilot. It also gives them time to check in with the material and digest what they just read before continuing on.
Model Asking and Answering Questions
The best thing about asking and answering questions is that it’s an easy skill to model for your students. It’s a practice I incorporate into every single read-aloud. Beginning this skill with read-alouds also gives students who are still learning to decode an opportunity to practice. Start with the book’s cover. Ask questions and make predictions based on the cover art. While you read the book, stop every few pages and ask questions. We are all doing it all the time. Just give those questions in your head a voice! If this is a consistent practice for you, it will become one for your students as well.
Asking and Answering Questions With The 5 W’s
A great place to start when asking and answering questions is with the 5 Ws. If you’ve already introduced these using fictional text then you’re golden, but if you haven’t had the opportunity, now’s the time! Often, I introduce this standard with a helpful video. These videos are engaging and can be useful if your students are distance learning. The video below is a really great example!
Once my students have watched the video above, it’s whole class anchor chart time! Grab any nonfiction book you’d like and have students look at the cover. Write the 5Ws on the anchor chart and start writing down questions you and your class have. If you’d like each student to have their own personal anchor chart you can use a graphic organizer like the one in the Lucky Little Toolkit. Any nonfiction text will work and if you’re teaching remotely streaming a digital book from Epic is super simple!
If you’re interested in more information about using the 5Ws to improve reading comprehension check out the posts below:
Use Nonfiction Text Passages
Once your students have had some practice as a group you can ask them to read short nonfiction text passages independently, with a partner, or in small groups depending on their abilities and needs. We’ve created a whole bundle of Reading Comprehension & Fluency Passages that target specific skills or try a small sampling with the Nonfiction Text Structure Passages. These passages are a fantastic way to work smarter, not harder. The best part? Each passage has 6 questions that are differentiated to meet your students right where they are.
Asking and answering questions is a skill that your students will continue to develop as the school year progresses and as they enter grades where high-stakes state tests become ever more important. Additionally, the ability to ask and answer questions while reading is absolutely necessary if we want our students to become critical thinkers.