Building Questioning Skills with Winter Research

Asking and answering questions and using questions for exploration and research help students deepen understanding of material read and learned. In this post, questioning strategies are shared to help provide readers with a variety of teaching methods. Check it and all the other blog posts from a literacy team called The Reading Crew.
Kids are naturally fascinated by animals, and I can honestly say that I've never met a kid who didn't love visiting a zoo. They are always filled with questions, and of course, the scarier the animal, the more questions they have.

Asking and answering questions is an important skill no matter what grade level you teach or the subjuct you're working on. As students progress, questions deepen in complexity and purpose. Questions check comprehension and deepen understanding of material read, but questions also guide student research and exploration too. As adults, of all job related skills we need, asking and answering questions is probably at the top no matter what career path you take.

In this post, I thought I'd share questioning strategies that have worked well for my students and I as well as lesson tips using a few resources I've created.

Introducing Questioning:

Introduce questioning with a mentor text, Snowmen At Work with this print and go lesson activity. Free resources and tips for questioning lessons shared.With questioning, it's important to start with analyzing questions. If we can help kids understand that not all questions are equal and that some questions are going to be more difficult to answer than others. That some questions require us to explain with more detail than a simple response, then they will be more equipped to answer them with detail.

To help demonstrate this, I like sorting thick and thin questions as an introduction. You might use a t-chart and print questions on post it notes for sorting like the resource to the right using the book, Snowmen at Work. Having your kids work in groups to discuss whether a question is thick (answer figured out in the head) or thin (answer found in the book) helps them think about why they fit each criteria.

Teaching Kids to Question Before/During/After:

Teaching kids to ask questions and use questions to help themselves better understand what they read is not done with just one lesson or with one teaching method. There are many ways to work on questioning with your students. Here are a few more  ideas I've found helpful. You can use these strategies for fiction and nonfiction with your students.

Question Stems:

Using question stems supports primary readers and helps them use the Five W's plus H to create and answer questions during reading.
First of all, using question stems can help your kids generate questions of their own. You can put them on task cards, hole punch the corner, and add them to a ring for your kids to have as they are reading like this resource I created for first and second grade. My students created and recorded their own questions before and as they read. Then, they added their answers as they discovered the information needed to respond. These can be used with any text.


Questioning can be taught with a variety of methods. In this post, these questioning techniques are explained. Free resources included.
Directed Reading Thinking Activity is a method teachers can use to help students make and confirm predictions. Students generate questions based on the information they know and read to find the answers in sections. At the predetermined stopping points, students create new questions and repeat the process.

SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Respond, Review):

This oldy but goody strategy is very useful with informational texts. Students survey and use information from text features to generate questions. Then they read, respond to the questions, and review for accuracy and for improved memory of the information. You can download a graphic organizer I created for it [HERE]

QAR (Question Answer Relationship)

Question Answer Relationship, developed by Tanny McGregor, is the next step to Thick and Thin questions. It further breaks down questions types into four categories versus two. These include right there, think and search (both in the book questions), author and me (inference), and on my own (answered with no text information). [THIS RESOURCE] from Amber Polk is one I have used often. 

Finding Text Evidence

From early on, we MUST help students practice finding text evidence to support their thinking whether a question is thick or thin. Kids must be trained to dig into the text to find support for their thinking whether an answer is "right there" or whether story clues are needed. Giving kids "flag" sticky notes and having them "mark the spot" is a great way to work on this and oral discussion with peers helps students consider multiple points of view when students disagree with the answer. 

Using Questions to Guide Research

Questioning can be taught with a variety of methods. In this post, these questioning techniques are explained. This polar animals paper bag research book is featured within the post.
In addition to using questions to check and deepen understanding of what students read, we also use questions to drive curiosity and exploration. Student research should start with student curiosity. Generating questions about a chosen topic helps students narrow the searching and helps the student keep focus.

Using questions to drive student research is an important way to help students connect to their learning to make it more meaningful. This blog post includes information about questioning strategies and student research including this polar animal research project.
During this time of year, it is a lot of fun to research cold weather or polar animals. This paper bag book includes eight animal options, and it is organized by research topic including:
Animal Facts
Animal Habitat
Animal Diet
Animal Adaptations
Predator/Prey Relationships
Animal Threats
Summarizing My Learning
Research Note-Taking Sheet
and a Grading Rubric
Questioning skills are an important component of reading comprehension and student research. In this blog post, students ask and answer questions to deepen understanding and to work on learning about polar animals. This bundle includes a paper bag research book and five close reading sets focused on caribou, walruses, penguins, polar bears, and the arctic fox. This resource pairs well with the close reading resources in my store as well and in fact, all five close reading sets and the paper bag book are bundled in the resource to the right. The close reading sets can be used to work on questioning with nonfiction texts in small groups and help students with starting the research process. The close reading sets focus on five animals:
The Arctic Fox
Polar Bears
The Walrus
and Caribou 

Research Report Freebie:

I will close with a free resource for you. As mentioned in my post, research should start with student curiosity and student created questions. With this resource, your kids will brainstorm possible topics and guiding questions (4 topics). Then, they will use the related questions generated to start the research process. The resource has organizers set up for them to gather information and take notes as they work toward writing their report. Then, those notes become paragraphs (with tips embedded to guide them) and eventually, a completed report. You can use it for a variety of topics. 

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1 comment

  1. First of all...I love anything research! Second...I have been working to build that wonder and curiosity through questions this year. It does not come easily for some. Thanks for the link up and for including me.


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