Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Using Questions to Set a Purpose for Reading and Writing

By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger

Asking questions is a critical part of helping students make meaning while they read and write, and it's important to remember this during lesson planning. This is true not only in language arts, but also in other important content areas. Students who possess the ability to make inquiries as they read and write become good readers and writers.

You can pair fiction books with informational texts during your guided reading lessons to facilitate content-area literacy. Paired texts are also helpful for struggling readers who need to develop real-world connections. In order to do so, you can ask questions, which sets a purpose for reading and writing.

In today's post, I'll list questions you can ask students while reading paired narrative and nonfiction books for kids. Then I'll provide questions that you can ask yourself to assess your effectiveness with helping students develop this important reading comprehension strategy.

Using a Fable to Teach Questioning Skills

You can introduce The Goose and the Golden Eggs by providing context about this story that tells the tale of the greed of a man and a woman who have a goose that they learn lays golden eggs. As the couple wants more eggs from the goose, the goose teaches a valuable lesson about being greedy. For each of the following standards in reading, writing, and social studies listed below, you can use questions that will help students make meaning and think critically about this narrative text.

  • Recounting stories, including fables and folktales, and determining their central message.
    • What is a fable? Is this story a fable? Why?
  • Determining central ideas or themes of a text and analyzing their development; summarizing key supporting details.
    • What are some ways that the man and woman responded to the goose? Can you point to the page that showed you this?
    • Why do you think the goose flew away with the basket of eggs?
    • What did you learn about the goose? What did you learn about the man and woman?
  • Writing opinion pieces and supplying reasons that support the opinion.
    • What is one thing that you really like? Do you ever want more of it?  This is a good writing prompt to help students make real-world connections about greed and to make inferences about how to prevent such a feeling. You could ask kids to illustrate their writing, and then you could collect their work to make a hand-made book for your classroom library.
  • Identifying actions of a good citizen.
    • Are the man and woman in The Goose and the Golden Eggs good citizens? This is a good way to help students use their prior knowledge to compare and contrast people who are greedy and people who share. You can also use this question to improve vocabulary that pertains to your social studies unit.  

Connecting an Informational Text to a Fable

All About Gold is one of three nonfiction books for kids that correspond with The Goose and the Golden Eggs . This leveled reader has great nonfiction text features that help students make real-world connections to the fable, and it is an excellent supplement for content-area literacy within a science unit on matter. Try using the following steps and questions to set a purpose for reading this nonfiction leveled book.

  • Understanding various text features to locate key facts in a text.
    • Questions to ask with pages 2–3: What is gold? Who uses gold?
    • Questions to ask with pages 4–7: Where can you find gold? How do you know?
  • Comprehending the science concept of matter.
    • Matter must have density, color, and malleability, so to help students distinguish different states of matter, bring a piece of chalk, sheet of paper, and something made of gold. In front of students, weigh each item and help students see the different colors of each piece.
    • Questions to ask with pages 8–10: Does gold have a shape? How does it change? Can you find examples in the book? Is this different from the way chalk and paper can have their shapes change?
  • Writing about a topic and using facts and definitions to develop points.
    • Use the following writing prompt to help students use All About Gold to support their inferences about the man and woman in the fable: Where did the man and woman think gold comes from? Were they correct? How do you know?

Questions to Assess Your Effectiveness with Writing

While it's important to use questions to help students set a purpose for reading and writing, there are many questions that you can ask yourself to assess the effectiveness of your lessons and resources in the classroom.

  • Do my students see the importance of writing? Am I modeling behavior that shows respect for writing? Do students respect their peers' writing? Am I providing enough time during lessons for students to share their writing with others?
  • Are there enough materials displayed in my classroom that encourage writing, such as a word bank or student work? Is a writing journal available for each of my students? Do I allocate enough time for students to actively use their journals?
  • Do I understand the strengths and areas of need among my students? Do I give opportunities for students to write independently, in pairs, or in groups?
  • Is there vocabulary that needs to be introduced before I ask students to use new words in their writing?
  • Are writing activities planned only during language arts? How can I plan writing activities that align with other content areas?

There's an abundance of ways that you can use national standards to plan and students with integrated curriculum and guided reading books. The more you explore standards and broaden your classroom library collection, the easier it will be to ask students purposeful questions for reading comprehension practice. Don't forget to return to our blog soon for more ways to achieve your teaching goals.

Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog .