Teaching reading is one of my greatest passions, as you probably already know if you’ve been reading along. But as much as I love reading with and to my students… as much as I loved listening to discussions… I wasn’t really sure how to balance writing good chapter questions.
In the beginning I struggled with the urge to ask questions to check on my students because I had some sort of lack of trust that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
When I entered the classroom as a full time teacher it was super important to me that I was asking questions to get my students thinking and talking… not just for holding them accountable. One of my favorite novel study questions I’ve ever created and used was for the book The Chocolate Touch. I feel like this was the very first time that I really dug into a book and thought about how the interesting questions I could ask would give my students something to think and talk about. Rather than being purely a “check up” they would be the kinds of questions that would spark new ideas and thoughts and great discussions.
For this reason, when I design chapter question resources or journal responses for students I like to include 4 main components:
These are our “right there” questions. These types of questions are great for getting our students to look into the text. It’s a great precursor to finding relevant text evidence when they go on to write more complicated responses. This is also a way to set our students up for success, especially our struggling learners. There is usually very little guesswork to the answer to these types of questions. These types of questions often start with the words “Who”, “Where”, and “What”. An example of one of these questions in my Chocolate touch resource is “What did John find on the road”.
2. Inferential Questions
These are our “dig deeper” types of questions that ask students to really think about what’s happening in the story. Many times these questions don’t have a “correct answer” per se, but a few answers that, if supported by evidence, could be valid. These are often times our “Why” questions. They are also questions that ask students to predict based on what they’ve read or evaluate and connect to the text. I don’t usually include loosely related connection questions, but instead “Do you think…” questions about what the characters are doing. This type of questioning requires the student to think about what they know… what is happening… and draw a conclusion, either about a character or event. An example of this type of question is: “Do you think John should have told his mother about the chocolate?”
3.Vocabulary and language connections-
Here is where it might look like I am asking for looser connections from students for the purpose of having them use vocabulary words from the text in a meaningful way so that they can connect back to the behaviors and feelings of the characters in the story. Here’s an example about one of these type of questions: “Mrs. Midas was puzzled when John didn’t want the dime. When have you been puzzled?”
4. Discussion/ Thematic launch Question
This type of question I call my Find, Mark, Discuss question. It is often an overarching question. Sometimes it changes chapter by chapter, but often it is the type of question that we continue to explore throughout the book. For example, in The Chocolate Touch, most of the chapters have the question “Find parts that describe the changes that have happened to John. Are the changes good or bad?” For these questions, I don’t have students write anything except page numbers. I often have them mark their texts with sticky notes. This is their discussion launch question. All of this discussion leads up to a great end of book question, which requires students to look back in the text and use evidence… “Do you think having the chocolate touch was a good thing or a bad thing?”
Here’s an example of how I put it all together for each chapter!
Using this approach to writing chapter questions has helped my students to engage, be focused, and have really great discussions and deeper comprehension!
If you’re interested in the chapter questions I discussed in this post, you can find them here!
My second favorite book companion is for Stone Fox!
You can find that one here!