Last spring, I was cleaning out my anchor charts and posted a picture on my blog of a questioning chart I use with my first graders. It generated interest and people started asking me questions about how I begin teaching this reading behavior to early readers in the fall.
For me, the "big picture" for successfully showing young readers how to ask questions is to know that it is an ongoing, consistent way of thinking in our classroom. We ask all questions all day long, especially since we work within an inquiry-based model... "How do readers figure out tricky words?" "Why do writers use details?" "What kinds of notes do scientists jot down?"
At the beginning of the year though, I'm really intentional about modeling curiosity and a sense of wonder. I want the kids to constantly be thinking, "What if? and Why? and How?" I have a few books that introduce questions, but one of my favorites to share is Questions, Questions by Marcus Pfister.
I also came up with the idea of using stuffed animals (because ALL young kids still love stuffed animals) and some catchy tunes to introduce different kinds of question words right from the start, week one. (This is a pretty significant focus in my standards and is a hallmark of good readers, so there's no time to waste.)
I use a different stuffed animal for each question word... one that rhymes so the question word is easy to remember. For example:
Then, we learn a fun little song to help reinforce the question word. Here's the one that goes with our hen for the question word when:
I use this next poster to help me teach the purpose of the question word... "Why would a reader ask this question?"
And then, we add our little hen to our ongoing anchor chart of question words, like this...
The characters, songs, and teaching charts for each question word help to bring the instruction to life and make it more memorable. I want these question words to become part of their academic vocabulary and way of thinking because this sense of inquiry is the fuel for their growth and achievement.
After this introduction during the first few weeks of school, everyone settles in and this talk becomes more and more a part of our daily conversations... leading us to big discoveries across each day.
It's not hard to find stuffed animals to match each questioning character. I found many of these in my own children's collection and lucked upon a few of them at yard sales. The actual stuffed toy makes the learning more fun. The children are eager to hold the questioning characters and I keep them displayed and accessible throughout the year as a visual and tactile reminder of this important reading behavior.
All the characters, songs, and posters can be found in this set. If interested, click on the link below the picture to preview the materials.
Your Turn: Do you have a go-to idea for teaching children how to ask questions?