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Into the Book: Questioning
This 15-minute instructional television program is meant for use in K-3 classrooms. The video clips and teaching suggestions in this interactive teacher guide can help you preview the program and plan your lessons.

Program Synopsis
Mrs. Pingel uses a National Geographic magazine to model the questioning strategy. During a science lesson, Kamilah's own questions pull her into her Ranger Rick article about otters, where the otters themselves help her answer her questions. She later uses her new questioning skills to help a frantic zookeeper.

Featured text:
"Sea Otters— Staying Afloat?" by Debora Churchman from the June 2005 issue of Ranger Rick® magazine
(Available on BadgerLink through EbscoHost's Kid Search.)

Other texts mentioned:
Article from National Geographic magazine
Variety of non-fiction trade books at different reading levels, encyclopedias, web sites

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Think about how you want to use this program. How does it fit into your teaching plan?
    1. Use it to introduce the strategy of questioning.
    2. As an intervention for students who are having a hard time coming up with their own questions.
    3. As a follow-up or review.

Before viewing:

  • Set a purpose for watching the video. Explain that students will be trying the strategy themselves after they watch the video.
  • Ask students to watch for something specific in the program, for example:
    1. Watch for who goes "into the book" and why.
    2. Look for the difference between a 'thin question' and a "thick question."
    3. Watch the students working together. How do you think it helps them?
    4. Which do you think is more important — the questions or the answers?

During viewing:

  • Pause the video during teachable moments. For example:
    1. After students state their questions about animals.
      Have your students come up with some questions about a topic you are studying. If you are showing this project as part of an inquiry project, students can come up with questions about their own topic.
    2. When Julia asks, "What would I look like if I had as much hair as otters do?"
      What kind of a question is this? Will she find the answer to her question in the article? Why is it a good question anyway? What other strategy is she using together with questioning?
    3. During the epilogue, after Kamilah suggests that they may be able to help the zookeeper by asking questions.
      Ask students how they think asking questions might help? Relate to how it helps with reading (focus your attention — make you concentrate — be on the lookout for answers).

After viewing:

  • Discuss students' answers to the questions you asked before the video.
  • Develop a list of questions Mrs. Pingel's students asked in the video about their animals. (You may wish to play the classroom scene again and ask students to take notes.) Then have your students sort them into "thick" and "thin" or "in my head" and "right there" questions. List of questions
  • Before your next small group inquiry project or book discussion, replay the segment in which the three girls are discussing the otter article. Discuss how using Questioning helps the students focus and makes a book discussion livelier.
  • Read the "Otters Afloat" article and find out which of the questions the girls asked in the video can be answered from the article.
  • During your next individual or small group reading time, ask students to generate questions as they read and put them on sticky notes in the text as the students in the video did. Discuss afterwards. (How did your questions help you? Which questions were thin/thick or were the answers in the book/in your head?
  • Have students do the Questioning activity in the student area of the Web site. Follow up by comparing students' questions. Discuss the point system: why do you think you get more points for a question you can't answer?
  • Use the questioning strategy during content area reading in science and social studies to help students focus and learn more from text.
  • Model the questioning strategy during your read-aloud time. Be sure to ask both thick and thin questions.
  • Try some of the lesson plans on this site.
  • Listen to the Questioning song.

Preview Clips

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Notice the excellent discussion these students are having independently. Good modeling and plenty of practice makes this possible.
Try it yourself:
Show this segment again to students and then give them a similar task. Provide sticky notes for recording their questions, and encourage students to work together.
Notice how the learning strategies often work together; Julia, Malaika and Kamilah are using visualizing, prior knowledge and connections to help them answer their questions.

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Notice how Mrs. Pingel encourages Emmet and Lizzy to work together when she sees that they are not coming up with any questions. Good social interaction drives learning, and students need to work together to get the most out of their reading. Also notice how the teacher did not intervene as long as students were on task.
Try it yourself:
Be sure to provide plenty of opportunities for partner and small group reading.
Notice how Mrs. Pingel differentiates instruction. In this scene students are doing the same activity, but using texts of widely varying difficulty. One group is using a great big book and basing their questions mainly on the pictures, while others are using magazine articles, easy animal books or Web sites.
Try it yourself:
Introduce strategies during your read aloud, and then ask students to practice the strategies using texts with an appropriate reading level for each student. Books on tape or wordless picture books can also be used for strategy practice.

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Notice that students don't always find answers to their questions. It is important for students to know that a "good" question does not necessarily mean one that can be answered easily by the text.
Notice that the class had sorted their questions into "thin" and "thick" questions (you might call these "in the text" or "in your head questions"). This happened off-screen, and we see the resulting chart. For a model lesson on thick and thin questions, see the Behind the Lesson: Questioning teacher program.
Try it yourself:
Assign students to ask questions as they are reading, and record them on sticky notes. Then have students sort the questions as they did in the video. Thick and Thin Questions

A production of Wisconsin Media Labs: wimedialab.org