Asking Questions

This week we are working on asking questions before, during, and after reading. In the past, I've had a great deal of difficulty with getting my first graders to ask a question rather than state a comment or prediction. With this class, I wanted to try something different- something that would engage them and help them realize the satisfaction they can get from asking themselves questions and looking for answers while reading.

Before beginning, I felt it was important to remind the students that questions are sentences that ask. We brainstormed a list of "question words" and put them on the board for easy reference. This was key in helping my students get their ideas into question form.

Question Words


Next, we went over our Asking Questions anchor chart, original idea courtesy of the fabulous Abby Mullins at The Inspired Apple

Asking Questions Anchor Chart

After going over the reasons why good readers ask themselves questions, I introduced the book we would be using: The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg.


 Just a few words about this book choice- I've had it in my collection for years since I had read it was great for asking questions and making inferences. This was my first time using it, however, so I did not really know what to expect going in.

Normally, I have my students take a picture walk and make predictions, but I skipped it this time because since we were working on asking questions, I wanted to keep them on the edge of their seats. We went straight into asking questions- and oh my goodness  did they have questions! It was like something out of a dream- they were asking all the right questions!!!

Who is the stranger?
How did he get into the house?
Why is the woman okay with him being there?
Why does he look so surprised?

It was BEautiful. I jotted each question on a post it and stuck it to the chart to keep the momentum going. I told the kids to keep those questions in mind and raise their hand when one was answered, or if they had a new question.

Needless to say, their hands were up CONSTANTLY. I couldn't even keep up. I couldn't even call on all of them. I had to tell some of them to keep their questions in their heads and see if they were answered. Following some of the pages were gasps, exchanged glances, mouths dropping, and my personal favorite:

That's a robot. It must be! How come he doesn't sweat?!? Everyone does!

 It took us FORTY FIVE minutes to finish the book. I knew it was taking much longer than it should have, but they were loving it. Each one of them was sitting so still, holding their breath. Even those two little sweethearts who can never seem to sit still were listening through the entire story with their eyes wide.

After the story was over, there were still many questions. I had to do a bit of explaining to try and help them understand who the stranger actually was. While this book is great for asking questions in first grade, I would save it for making inferences with much older children since it was so challenging to understand for some of my sweeties. 

You know a lesson was successful when you pick the kids up from lunch and they are still TALKING ABOUT THE BOOK. Yes, you read right. They actually talked about the book at lunch and during indoor recess. Such a great book- such a great lesson!