Teaching Questioning Skills with The Days the Crayons Quit

When I am selecting a mentor text, I often look for books with the teaching points I want to address, but also books that carry a deeper meaning. The Day the Crayons Quit is one of those books. The book uses analogy and personification to teach the importance of valuing others and friendship. In fact, not only could this book work with questioning, teachers may find it works well for teaching theme too.

Today, I'd like to explore the importance of questioning with this book. Questioning begins in the primary grades with the Virginia standards, but each year, students are expected to do more and respond more deeply. Questioning drives our instruction in all subject areas, and the depth of questions teachers use makes a big difference in engagement and in the dialogue within our classrooms.

Looking at Standards

Virginia is not a common core state, but questioning skills begin in first grade with the Common Core as well as in the VA Standards of Learning. For the primary grades, teaching question words and how to form questions is the place to start. [THIS ORGANIZER] is part of a larger bundle of comprehension checks for the primary grades. Before reading The Day the Crayons Quit, creating questions with the question words during a picture walk is a great way to get your kids into the book and thinking. I love Think, Pair, Share for this part just to get the kids thinking beforehand.

Discussion Points During Reading

Once your students have had a chance to brainstorm their own questions, it's time to start reading, pausing for questions, and discussion. The nice thing about this book is that there are natural stopping points and conflict which gives great points for questions. Here is a list just in case you'd like to have some ready. Just copy/paste the questions below and keep them with your book.
What do you think this book is about?
Why would crayons want to quit working?
How do you think the ________ crayon was feeling when it wrote this letter? How can you tell? 
How are the crayons like people you know? 
Do people ever feel like quitting?
What do you think the crayons should do? 
How should Duncan solve this problem?
What lessons can we learn from the crayons?
Do you think that there is a color that is more important than others? Why or why not?

The Next Step

As our readers build skills in asking and answering questions, we need to move them to interact with the text and back up their thinking with text evidence. In Virginia, that starts in second grade where our students locate text information to respond to questions. Even though this is not required prior to second, it is really important that we model how readers use text information as they think in group discussion.

Skill Based Comprehension Checks

The questioning page that I shared today is part of a larger set, Skill Based Comprehension Checks for the Primary Grades. It includes materials for both fiction and nonfiction standards. They can be used with any text. Skills included within this set are:
  • Making Predictions
  • Retellings
  • Beginning, Middle, End
  • Characterization
  • Setting
  • Problem and Solution
  • Drawing Conclusions
  • Using Pictures
  • Nonfiction Text Features
  • Questions and Answers
  • Facts
  • Question Words
  • Finding Text Evidence
  • Main Idea
When I am introducing a new skill, I often combine these with anchor charts for modeling with a mentor text. Think aloud has been proven to be the most effective way to support struggling readers.

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