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Friday, October 18, 2013

The Perfect Book to Teach Asking Questions!

Okay, I have a new favorite reading lesson-- my asking questions lesson!

Teaching Students to Ask Questions Before, During, and After Reading with This Is Not My Hat

When I got a chance to work with Scholastic last spring, they gave us a bag of swag that any teacher would love, and it included the book This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, which is perfect for teaching a reading lesson about asking questions! (I’ve linked it to Amazon here, but I also highly recommend finding it through Scholastic Reading Club :)


On my CRAFT board, we list "Ask questions before, during, and after reading" as a reading comprehension skill (although some of my kids think it belongs under Response to Text, so we concluded that it could go as either!). This is a really important skill for some of my struggling readers, because some of them never question what they read. They are just reading to get it over with! (oops- took this picture before we added it!)


  • Asking questions before reading gives them a purpose for reading and gets them engaged. When they are looking for the answer, students read more intently.
  • Asking questions during reading makes sure they are thinking about what they read.
  • Asking questions after reading causes them to be reflective about the author's choices and sometimes helps them draw a personal opinion about the text.
  • Asking questions is a great place to start students’ thinking while reading!

I love teaching questioning towards the beginning of the year, because this is a gateway skill to deeper comprehension. Asking questions about the text isn't too hard to do (especially with a well-chosen text!), so it helps to build the habit of thinking as they read. It's also a great way to get students started in their reading response journals because it's a pretty clear-cut type of response that most of my students feel confident trying.


I used this book with my 2nd grade group and all the way up to my 5th grade group. It's great for teaching this skill because the title and cover instantly intrigue them. Kids wonder, "Whose hat is it?" and "Why is a fish wearing a hat?" I tell them we are going to look for the answers to our questions as we read, and we start the read-aloud.

As we read, I stop every few pages and ask the students to whisper to their partner something they are wondering about the story. Then, I choose a few students to tell their questions out loud. (I get 100% participation this way, and more confident kids who are willing to share!)

We keep track of our questions on a chart like this- both adding new questions, and putting check marks next to our questions that get answered. (My markers are dying—ugh!)

Asking Questions anchor chart from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

Of course, the chart I made for my partner turned out even better. (Isn't that always how it works?) She actually laminated it so she can use it again sometime (which is such a great idea, especially for us as reading specialists who might teach a version of this lesson to each grade level!).

Asking Questions anchor chart from Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

This book also makes a great review for "the three ways to read a book," or using the pictures as readers to help us understand. (Actually, you could use this book to teach that lesson, too, but I just used it as a review.) The book is being told from the little fish's point of view, and so the text only tells us so much. If students don't read the pictures, they won't know the entire plot- and they won't enjoy the book nearly as much!

(Here, the text tells us that little fish doesn't think the crab will tell anyone where he went... but the illustration tells us that the crab does tell!) The younger kids, especially, love "catching" the discrepancies between the text and the pictures.

This Is Not My Hat preview, art (C) Jon Klassen

At the end of the book, the text stops and we just see illustrations. Some kids are always shocked by this! And, immediately, they all have opinions about what happened to the little fish. Some think he was eaten, some think he just gave the hat back, and some think he ran away. The ending of the book is left open and never actually tells us what happens, and so my students are always left with questions about the book after we finish it! (See why I think This Is Not My Hat is such a perfect picture book to teach questioning?)

With the older students, we went a little deeper and discussed the author's choice to leave the story open-ended, and debated whether or not we liked it as readers. (Reviews were very polar in my group-- most kids either loved it or hated it!)


The next day during another mini-lesson, I read aloud a different book (usually tailored more towards the group's grade level) and let students practice asking their own questions along the way in their reader's response journals. Eve Bunting's books tend to work really well for Asking Questions lessons (like The Wednesday Surprise), but I also love The Lotus Seed and Chicken Sunday for teaching asking questions. And don't forget to throw in a non-fiction book-- sometimes these are the most important ones in which students need to use the comprehension strategy of "ask questions!"

Once we've practiced as a whole group and shared with our reading partners, I'm able to look through their notebooks and make sure they seem like they're getting it.  (Glancing through their reading notebooks- even if you don't take a grade yet- is so important, because this is the perfect time to lead a strategy group for those students who need some extra support).


From here, I like to let students use Post-It notes to practice this strategy in whatever they're reading independently.

I also try to fit in a little time at the computer lab (or at a computer center) using the amazing site Into The Book. If you haven't used this free site, you are missing out!

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For each reading comprehension skill, there are videos, a song, and an in practice activity. Usually, there are at least two, so you can do one together (especially if you have a SmartBoard or something similar) and have students complete the other independently. Their questioning lesson is a great way to guide student practice of using this strategy to actually help them comprehend.



Share your tips in the comments below or on my Facebook page here! I would love to know your favorite books for teaching kids to ask questions and what other strategies you use.


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  1. Love this post! I am teaching the asking questions in the next two weeks and I love your book suggestion! I am also going to have to check out that website too. Thanks for all the ideas!

  2. Love, love, love what you're doing with this skill!

  3. Oh Jenny, I love this lesson! You posted it just at the perfect time for me. I'll be using your ideas in this week's lessons! Thanks!

    Read With Me ABC

  4. Thank you Jenny for posting the information about the Into the Book website. Awesome website!

  5. I did this lesson this morning with a grade 3 and then a grade 5 class and it was fantastic! This is Not My Hat is so perfect for asking questions. Thanks Jenny!

  6. Cool, I'll definitely be sharing this on my website. Thanks for sharing.


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