I absolutely love watching students engage with books, and really enjoy the experience. I find it so amazing to watch the natural curiosity come out of my students when they are encouraged to wonder about the book. This week, my students began working on the reading comprehension strategy of asking questions before, during and after reading.
As I read books to my students this week, they were encouraged to share their questions with the class. We discussed the idea that powerful questions rely on students' asking questions that relate to the main ideas and supporting details in the story. Many students noted that the words and illustrations in the story helped them form their questions. For some, their initial thought was to make a prediction rather than create a question. It became great practice in analyzing parts of questions, and determining how to ask appropriate questions which relate to the topic. (Student questions were recorded on chart paper under three different sections labeled before, during and after.)
After I recorded the questions the students posed before, during and after reading, we went back into the story to determine if we could answer any of the questions. It was at this point that some of my students realized that the author continued to provide hints toward the answers, but the reader was required to turn the pages to read more in order to accurately answer the question. A few of my students compared this experience to popular TV shows which delay telling the winner until after the commercial break. I thought this was a great perspective to take on how books can be engaging to students, and a great example for students to help with their own writing.
Many of the questions posed by the students were easily answered by finding the details written directly in the story. However, there were other questions which required the students to connect the details, use their schema and infer the answers. This served to be even more interesting to my students who enjoy problem solving and critical thinking. It was great to see and hear the students piece together the details and then build upon their peers' answers to come up with a detailed and well defined answer. (On the chart, we would code the questions with an "A" if the answer was directly stated in the story, or an "I" if we had to infer the answer.)
After we were done modeling this strategy for the whole class, the students were encouraged to try asking questions during their independent or partner reading. It was great to see the enjoyment the students had while asking their own questions and critically thinking about what was happening in the story.
Below is sampling of books I typically use during my mini lessons on asking questions before, during and after reading:
The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg
Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland and Tatsuro Kiuchi
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman