Blog, Close Reading, Key Details, Picture Books

Asking and Answering Questions

I am so excited to share with you one of my favorite books to teach Asking & Answering Questions with 3rd-5th graders. I love using all Chris Van Allsburg books in my classroom. They spark interest, intrigue and most of all, cultivate rich, deep discussion and questions. With that being said, pretty much any one of his books would be great for teaching students to talk back to a text through questioning. However, I chose a unique and thought provoking book for this post; Just a Dream.
This book, Just a Dream,  follows the journey of a young man named Walter who aimlessly lives in the world, littering and not caring about the environment. Walter dreams of a life in “the future” with robots that sort his trash and and lots of machines. He doesn’t understand why his neighbor Rose loves plants and why he should have to separate his garbage or recycle.
The story causes students to think deeply about the content in this book, ask questions about the character, and make text connections. The reader faces their own feelings about the environment, as well as questions about their author’s point of view verses their own, as well as the author’s message to the reader. Formulating questions before, during and after reading this book is not hard. In fact, it’s a must as the reader connects with the text and with Walter, the main character.
Here are my visual lesson plans for a week of teaching Asking & Answering Questions with my students using the book Just a Dream. As you scroll down, I’ll briefly explain how the mini-lessons work, following the gradual release of independent learning.

(Asking Super Questions {HERE}, Ask and Answer Questions: NO PREP Center {HERE}, & Pop the Question: A Game for Fiction & Nonfiction Texts {HERE})
Mini-Lesson #1 (No longer than 15 minutes):
  • When introducing questioning techniques, students must already need to know how to make text connections and recall information.
  • For real readers, we want them to be able to ask deep questions that allow them to connect with the text.
  • Students need to ask deep questions that give them juicy answers. In order to do this, we have to ask questions that are more than “Who is the main character?” or “Where is the setting?” Although these questions are important, they aren’t meaningful in connecting with the characters, the author’s purpose/word choice, making inferences, drawing conclusions, and understanding the author’s main message to the reader.

To begin the discussion of making deep questions, show students a bag. Tell them in order to find out what is in the bag, they must ask meaningful questions.
        Example of Meaningful, DEEP Questions:

  • “Is the thing in the bag necessary for living?”
  • “Where might you find someone with the thing that is in the bag?”
  • “What is the thing in the bag’s purpose?”
  • “Why might I need what is in the bag?”
  • “Who makes what is in the bag?”
  • “How will what’s in the bag make a difference in my life?”
  • “Is the thing in the bag simple or complex? Why?”
    Examples of Non-meaningful Questions:

    • “What color is the thing in the bag?”
    • “Is the thing in the bag big?”
    • “Is the thing in the bag ugly?”
    • “Is the thing in the bag light of heavy?”
  • Explain to the students that this is how we connect with a text. It’s important to ask meaningful, deep questions to really comprehend what we are reading.


Here’s a simple anchor chart that explains to students that not only do we ask deep, meaningful questions while we read, but before and after we read as well.
Mini-Lesson #2 (No longer than 15 minutes):
  • During this mini-lesson, you will be modeling how a reader asks questions as they read.
  • Before I read the book aloud to my students, I read it and labeled my questions before-hand. This is optional, not a must for the teacher.
  • Because the mini-lesson is only 15 minutes long, I created my anchor chart (see below) before the lesson began.
  • Also, I only read the first 8 pages with my students, modeling how I formulated questions while reading. (Refer also to the illustrations to ask questions)
  • While I was reading, I wrote my question, the page I was asking the question about, and the answer to the question as I came upon it. Sometimes, I had to infer my answer (if this is not a skill your students are familiar with, this would be a great time just to introduce inferences just in conversation).
Mini-Lesson #3 (No longer than 15 minutes):
  • Today with my students, I use a collaborative teaching method with students.
  • I modeled for them yesterday and today, we will work together to formulate questions.
  • I continue using the book Just a Dream, and I give each student a Post-It note* to write down one question they have while I read aloud the book (*NOTE: If you follow a reader’s workshop model, you may have already covered how to quietly record your thinking on a Post-It note by asking only deep questions while reading. If not, this is a great time to introduce this skill).
  • first model formulating a question and writing my ? on the Post-It note and placing it on the anchor chart I would have created before the lesson.
  • Then, students put their Post-It notes on an anchor chart as you read. (My students were always at the carpet with me for mini-lessons. They simply stood up quietly, placed their Post -It, and sat down).
  • After reading a few pages, I would stop, reference the students’ questions they posted and discuss why they asked these questions. If we found the answers, together as a class, we would identify the answer.
Mini-Lesson #4 (No longer than 15 minutes):
  • Today with my students, I used a guided approach when conducting my mini-lesson.
  • I would finish reading the book Just a Dream.
  • Today, I would guide students’ thinking when having them formulate questions to ask after a reader finishes a book/passage.
  • After reading a book, students should ask:
    • “What was the author’s purpose for writing this text?” (F & NF)
    • “What is the author’s point of view of this text? How is the same or different than mine?” (F & NF)
    • “Did my opinion/point of view of this topic change or stay the same after reading this text?” (F & NF)
    • “What character in the text did I connect with the most? Why? How could I have learned from this character?” (F & NF)
    • “What is the lesson/theme/moral of this story?” (F)
    • “What was the text structure?” (NF)
  • Together with the class, create a graphic organizer on an anchor chart with these questions, and discuss them as a group.
Mini-Lesson #5 (No longer than 15 minutes):
  • Today with my students, I would use a collaborative approach with my mini-lesson. The students would be paired with a buddy at the carpet.
  • Students would be given the “Asking & Answer Questions” graphic organizer (a FREEBIE below) and a mini-passage (I just used mini-passages from reproducible books that came with our reading series).
  • With their partner, the students would read their mini-passage, then formulate questions before, during and after their reading using the graphic organizer (a FREEBIE below).
Here are some {FREEBIES} that go along with my mini-lessons for the week! Download them by clicking the picture.
Here are some other activities I would use in differentiated small groups and literacy centers to reinforce questioning skills (see my visual lesson plans above):




I’d love to hear: What books do you like to use when teaching Asking & Answering Questions?


2 thoughts on “Asking and Answering Questions”

  1. These plans are great! When i click on the freebie graphic organizers it says that the files are not available because they are in your trash. I’d love to have a copy 🙂

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