3 Ways to Strengthen Student Questioning While Reading

questioning anchor charts

Teaching students to question is always one of my biggest goals for each school year. With the increase of technology and with almost every answer available at our students' fingertips, learning how to ask meaningful questions is now more critical than ever. Questioning is a reading skill just like predicting and summarizing that students must master as they become proficient readers of complex texts. Read on to find out how I make my classroom an environment that welcomes and encourages students to question everything!

Model Your Own Questioning

Stephanie Harvey said it best-"Passion and wonder are contagious." Your students will benefit greatly when you share all of the questions you develop and model how to track them. To do this, I keep a spiral bound notebook on my desk and every time I have a question, I stop, share my question with my students and record my question in the notebook for students to see. I keep space between each question, so that as I gather information about each question, I can take notes. Questions may be related to a lesson, topic we are studying, or even life events! Students love hearing what I am wondering about and develop important skills as they begin to brainstorm and share different ways that I can collect information about each question that I have.

Keep Wonder Books

questioning in the upper elementary classroom
Once students have seen how you develop questions and keep track of all of your wonders, allow them the same chance. Provide students with their own wonder books. I love doing this with my students for many reasons. It allows students to be in control of their learning, provides many student selected topics that can be used for future research projects, and gives students a place to "put away" their thoughts and questions, especially ones that may become a distraction during the lesson at hand. You can use anything as a wonder notebook. You can use small notebooks from the dollar store, the back of a reading notebook, stapled line paper, or create your own with the FREE wonder book templates at the bottom of this post.

Explicitly Teach Questioning

Asking meaningful questions is a skill that must be explicitly taught, practiced, and carried out daily. What better way to provide students with opportunities to question than with each new book that they read? When teaching questioning with my students I make sure that we don't refer to responses to questions as answers. I want my students to constantly be researching the questions that they have, so we respond to our questions with the term "our thinking" instead of "our answers". It is a great way to reinforce that wondering, questioning, and learning are ongoing.  Additionally, students benefit greatly from learning about the different types of questions that can be asked. We stay away from asking questions that are yes, no, or one word responses, since those do not require much thinking or researching.  

mentor text for questioningInstead, we focus on asking more meaningful questions that require readers to infer, collaborate and discuss, or research. Before expecting students to question on their own, practice together using a class size t-chart to model questioning and collect students' questions from high-level picture books*. Two books that I love to use for this modeling whole class activity are Knots on a Counting Rope, written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault and Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine, written by Evaline Ness.  Both stories require students to infer to truly comprehend the plot. (Warning: you will all cry at the end of these books) Having students question as they read can be done with both fiction and non-fiction reading material. I have students keep track of their questions for each book on a t-chart graphic organizer. When students have finished reading the material, they go back and record their thinking on the second side of the t-chart. I love using a t-chart because students can easily make one of their own! Looking for more questioning materials, click HERE. This encourages them to question as they read in other settings besides the classroom, making it a real-life skill. Using just a blank piece of lined paper, students create a large "T" and label one side with "Questions" and the other side with "My Thinking". Hold students accountable by collecting their t-charts to monitor the types of questions that they are asking as they read. Encourage students to select their most meaningful questions that go beyond the text and add them to their wonder books!

questioning graphic organizer
Try this easy differentiation tip! Have students reread and reflect on the questions from their t-chart and select four of their deepest questions. Collect their deepest questions on a sticky mat reading organizer and confer with students about why the questions that they selected are meaningful. This extra step helps students reflect on the types of questions that they are asking and motivates them to ask good questions the next time that they read! Grab a FREE student t-chart and sticky mat reading organizer at the bottom of this post.

Teaching how to ask meaningful questions is a powerful tool that we can provide to our students. I always strive to create a classroom filled with questioning, wonder, and curiosity by following these words of wisdom from Stephanie Harvey: "Celebrate the question and learning rather than the knowing."

Questioning in upper elementary classroom

How do you elicit wonder, curiosity, and questioning in your classroom?

Check out these other great ideas for inspiring wonder and curiosity with your upper elementary students!


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