Your Reading Comprehension Toolkit: Asking Questions

Young minds love to question everything. Why is the sky blue? Why don’t fish have feet? What would happen if every person in the world jumped at the same time?

Image showing a teacher talking to her students
Because children have such a natural propensity to question EVERYTHING harnessing thier curiosity and using it to help them ask questions as they read makes a lot of sense.

Here are some suggestions to help students question :
  • Choose Your Own Adventure - Start by previewing the title, cover art, and blurb on the back cover. Then have students make a list of questions the book might answer and what they will look for as they read. What are they curious about? What do they hope to learn?

  • Pause and Ponder - As you read, challenge students to find answers to their questions. Also encourage them to stop and ask new questions, especially if something is confusing. Questions during reading are a great way to figure out who’s following along and understanding the text.

  • Tie It All Up - Asking and answering questions after reading will help you decide whether or not your students understood the book. And of course, it’s the natural time to go back and answer any questions students had before reading.

Books and Paired Lesson Plans to Help You Teach Students to Ask Questions

To help your students become expert questioners, you can use the lesson plans and activites to pair with the following read alouds. Or, if you're looking for ideas to pair with any text, sroll down - we've got five easy activities you can use to help students using questioning to better comprehend any text.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

The cover for the book Snowmen at Night

Why do snowmen look crooked and droopy the day after you build them? What do they do at night? This imaginative story about the secret nightlife of snowmen will delight early readers as they discover the magical mischief snowmen make at night.

The whimsical premise of Snowmen at Night makes it a great fit for a lesson on asking questions. Early readers will naturally feel compelled to ask relevant questions that will help them distinguish between fantasy and reality in this story.

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr.

The cover for the book Knots on a Counting Rope
Knots on a Counting Rope is the poignant story of a young Navajo boy and his beloved grandfather. The grandfather tells the story of the boy's birth and the ways the boy has learned to "see" things even though he is blind.

In Knots on a Counting Rope, the author intentionally holds back the fact that the boy is blind. This intentional omission will engage readers, encouraging them to look for clues in the text and illustrations to make inferences about the story.

The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg

The cover for the book The Stranger

After accidentally hitting a stranger with his truck, Farmer Bailey brings the stranger back to his home to recuperate. The man has temporarily lost his memory and can't remember who he is. When mysterious activity around the farm seems to originate with the stranger, everybody becomes curious about who he might be.

The mystery in Chris Van Allsburg's The Stranger makes it a natural choice for a lesson plan focused on asking questions. Reader will ask questions throughout the text in order to discover the man's identity and whether he can be to blame for the odd activity going on around the farm.

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco

The cover for the book Pink and Say

Pink and Say is Patricia Polacco's semi-biographical story of a young union soldier named Sheldon, or Say, is injured in a fierce battle and left for dead. Pinkus, another young union soldier, rescues him from a Georgia field and takes him to his mother's home in Confederate territory to heal.

Pink and Say is a historical fiction book set during the Civil War. Your students will naturally ask questions about this time in our nation's history. The seemingly impossible friendship depicted in this story between two young soldiers will also spark your students' natural curiosity.

The Van Gogh Café by Cynthia Rylant

The cover for the book The Van Gogh Café

The Van Gogh Cafe is a magical story set in the charming town of Flower, Kansas. The story revolves around a quaint cafe owned by Clara and her father. At the Van Gogh Cafe, the extraordinary happens - wishes come true, ghosts find peace, and dreams take flight. Throughout the book, various characters, including a painter and a young girl, experience remarkable transformations, with the cafe playing a pivotal role in their journeys.

Cynthia Rylant introduces a new mystery with every chapter, making this an engaging way to support readers as they ask questions about the cafe and try to solve the mystery of what makes the cafe so magical.

Five Questioning Activities to Pair with Any Text

Keep Students Engaged with a Question Scavenger Hunt

For this activity, read the story twice. First, read the whole story as a class. Then give each student a question card that has a specific question about the story. (You could come up with the questions yourself, or they could be questions the class had before reading.) Then re-read the story a second time. Have students raise their hand when they hear the answer to their question. This is a great way to keep every student engaged and attentive.

Leave a Trail of Questioning Bread Crumbs

During a read-aloud, it’s easy to get lost in the story. So before the lesson, make a list of stopping points where you will stop to answer or ask questions. Then mark those different parts of the book with small sticky notes as reminders. If you want to turn this into more of a challenge, make fun markers (such as little Thinker statues or thought bubbles). Place them throughout the read-aloud book. Then challenge students to spot the question markers, and figure out what question was just answered in each place.

Make a Giant Question Chart

No two readers will ask the same question for the same reason. And chances are, any time you let students practice asking questions, you'll end up with more questions than you you can answer. So to keep track of them, try using a chart to record the class’s questions. Not only will this help you keep track of everything your students want to know, it also gives you a chance to model and talk about the difference between asking meaningful questions and questions that aren't as helpful to deepening comprehension.

Use Question Cards

Sometimes students need a little prompting to come up with a question. Try using laminated question cards with common question words if students need prompting (e.g., Who…What…When…Which one…Why…Where…How many…How much…).

If you'd like a more challenging set of questions to use, check out the Asking Questions Task Cards that are available in the Teacher Tools.

Bring in a Guest Speaker

Invite a parent or community member into your classroom to talk about a topic they know well. Before the guest speakers come, have the class brainstorm different questions they want to ask. After the guest leaves, see how many of the questions were answered. This is one of the best ways for students to practice asking questions outside of the pages of a book. Plus, students will love having special guests in their classroom!

Content and Downloadable content Copyright ©2010-2023 Thinking Tree Enterprises, LLC. All other trademarks, service marks and trade names referenced on this site are the property of their respective owners. Please see our Terms of Use.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.
© 2010 - 2023

Get instant access to this resource plus thousands more when you join today.

  • Teach with the best books
  • Always have access to new resources (published every month!)
  • Get full access to Digital Classroom
  • Finally have time to "fit it all in" with super efficient lesson plans
  • Enjoy fast planning tools and stay organized with your personal file cabinet and dashboard