questioning - National Literacy & Numeracy Week in NSW

Questioning strategies Years 3-6
Presented by Therese Corben, Literacy Consultant, Sydney Region
and Brooke Smith, Year 3/4 classroom teacher, Daceyville Public School
Corben (interview): In the lesson today, when we were planning the lesson, Brooke
and I, we decided that we wanted to focus on the questioning strategy in
comprehension, however ... so therefore, we were planning on introducing a text to
the children – it’s a text that the children haven’t seen before and they haven’t seen
the vocab(ulary) – it’s quite a challenging text for young students, but we felt that
they students have a good enough understanding of the strategies of comprehension
and therefore that they would be able to cope with the text using the strategy of
So what we wanted them to do was look at the vocab they didn’t understand and
then use the ‘I wonder’ questions and during the reading of the text they would be
then thinking about and questioning and clarifying the vocab that they didn’t
understand, but also concentrating on the questions, the ‘I wonder’ questions that
they had formulated in their pairs with their thinking partners and working out
whether or not those ‘I wonder’ questions were answered in the text.
Corben (to class): Okay, I’ll give you a little minute to think about what this is going
to be about.
(Silence: students in pairs are thinking quietly.)
Corben (to class): Now I want you to turn to your thinking partner and I want you to
tell each other what you think it might be going to be about. Have a look at the title.
There’s one word in the title that’s really important.
Corben (to one student: What do you think, Ellen? What do you think it’s going to
be about?
(Students discuss in pairs.)
Corben (to class): (Knocking sound of Mrs Smith writing ‘I wonder’ questions on the
interactive whiteboard.)
Let’s see if your predications were correct. Now, you know how sometimes when we
read a text, while we are reading it, so that we understand what we’re reading it, we
ask ourselves questions.
I’m going to ask a question and Miss Smith, Mrs Smith is going to write ... oh, Mrs
Smith’s already written one of her questions. She wonders if it’s about poisonous
animals. Can I put one up too? I’m going to wonder ... I wonder why some animals
might have to hide. That’s what I wonder. Don’t tell me the answer! All right, turn to
your partner and see if you can just come up with one ‘I wonder’ question.
Corben (to one student: What do you wonder, Dylan?
(Students discuss in pairs.)
Corben (to one student: You have a think and I’ll come back. Yes. Yes.
(Students discuss in pairs.)
Corben (to class): Excellent! I heard some wonderful questions there, Mrs Smith.
Smith: I did too.
Corben (to class): I think you’re going to have some very long questions to put up.
We may not fit them all. Don’t be sad because when you finish and when we’ve read
the text, when you write about ‘I discovered’, you’ll be able to see if we answered
your question.
All right, let’s see. Who had a really good question? Claire, you can tell us what you
Claire: How did they hide from their predators?
Corben (to class): How did they hide? So I wonder how they hide. Good girl, I like
that question! Isabella, what did you and Carina think?
Isabella: I wondered if they had trouble surviving in the rainforest.
Corben (to class): Okay. You know what’s really good? Hands down for one
minute. See how the title says Survival in the Rainforest, you know what I thought? I
thought that you might all just look at ‘rainforest’ and ask questions about rainforest.
But because you’ve used the visuals and you’ve thought about the title, you are
asking really good questions about how the animals survive.
Corben (interview): The focus strategy that we used today was questioning.
However, you’ll find, when you watch the footage, you’ll see that the children also
employ lots of other strategies of comprehension, particularly the prediction strategy
and also the making connections strategy.
A lot of the children, you can see, took information that they didn’t know about the
animals in the rainforest but they were able to relate it to what they did know from
information that they’d got in National Geographic shows or books or on the Internet.
And so it’s a really good skill that these children have learned in how to make
connections and it makes it so relevant to them. It actually makes what they’re
seeing and doing in the world relevant to what they’re doing in the classroom. So I
think that’s really important for them.
Corben (to class): So now you know with Mrs Smith how easy it is to work out what
words that you don’t know and how to work out what they mean.
Who thinks they know what ‘predator’ means? Henry, what did you and your partner
Henry: I think ‘predator’ is one of the animals that eats the animals.
Corben (to class): So what does a predator do? What does it do, Isabella?
Isabella: It catches other animals.
Corben (to class): It catches other animals. Well done! Is a predator a nice thing?
Students: No!
Corben (to class): Have a think and see if you can make some connections and tell
what animals you know that are predators. What animals ... you think of what movies
you’ve seen or pictures you’ve looked at. What kind of animals are ...
Mrs Smith: Books.
Corben (to class): Books. Kyle?
Kyle: A bear.
Corben (to class): A bear is a predator. Good boy! Excellent! Hands down.
Who knows what ‘camouflage’ means? Yes, what did you think with your partner?
Jessie, you can have a go darling. You haven’t had a turn.
Jessie: I think that camouflage means ...
Corben (correcting a distracted student): Listening.
Jessie (continues): that if you’re at, like a tree, and you try to blend in with and try
to change colour like that. (Pointing to picture on board.)
Corben (to class): And that’s what means ‘blend in’ means, doesn’t it? It means
make yourself the ... (waits for response from students who say ‘same’) .. same.
Look the same. Good girl! It means make yourself look the same. That’s what .. Yes,
Deana: They can also ... that picture down there ...
Corben: Yes.
Deana: ... that, that animal can also turn into different colours
Corben: We’re going to talk about that in a minute. Do you know what its name is?
Do you know what its name is?
Deana: Chameleon.
Corben: Chameleon. Good girl.
Now, Deana has already cleverly told us that this animal here that’s blending into the
rainforest is called a chameleon. It doesn’t look like that word. That’s a tricky word. It
looks like it should start with ‘ch’. But it’s called a chameleon and it says that
(pointing to words and reading the text): The green chameleon is suited to life in the
forest. Why do you think the green chameleon is suited to life in the forest? Why do
you think it would be good in the forest? Danny?
Danny: Because it’s green.
Corben (to class): Good girl! Because it’s green. So you can’t see it. It’s blending in.
See, if a predator came down to catch the chameleon, the chameleon – it can’t see
it, it’s blending in.
But there’s something special that Deana can tell us about the chameleon. What can
you tell us, Deana?
Deana: The chameleon can change into different colours ...
Corben: It can.
Deana: ... like red and blue.
Corben (to class): Yes, and why would it change?
Mrs Smith: Why?
Corben (to class): Why would it change?
Mrs Smith: Why?
Corben (to class): Yes. Why would it change? While it’s in the forest, it’s green.
Why would it change to red? Why do you think it would do that? Julia?
Julia: Because when it’s somewhere else and it’s a different colour it wants to match
Mrs Smith: Good girl.
Corben (to class): If it’s a bed of flowers and they were all red, what colour do you
think it would change to?
A student: Red.
Corben (to class): Red, so that it would camouflage in amongst the red flowers.
Okay, let’s have a look at our ‘I wonder’ questions. Let’s look at the first one: I
wonder ... This is Mrs Smith’s question. I wonder if it is about poisonous animals. Is it
about poisonous animals? Was it?
Students call out: Part of it.
Corben (to class): Part of it was, wasn’t it? What kind of poisonous animals? Tell
me one poisonous animal. (Pointing to a student to respond.)
Student: The dart frog.
Corben (to class): The dart frog. What else? What else did it tell you were
poisonous in it? (Pointing to a student to respond.)
Student: Poisonous butterflies.
Corben (to class): Poisonous butterflies. What else, Jessie?
Jessie: Caterpillars ...
Corben (to class): Caterpillars ...
Jessie: ... and stick insects.
Corben (to class): ... and stick insects. So there were poisonous animals in there.
How do they survive? What do they use to survive? This is our question: Surviving in
the rainforest. I wonder how they survive. What’s one way they survive, Kyle?
Kyle: The dart thing.
Corben: Yes. So what did the dart thing do? What did the dart frog do? What does
he use to survive?
Kyle: Its poison.
Corben (to class): Its poison. Who thinks that they discovered something today that
they didn’t know before? I did too. I discovered something about dart frogs and how
they survive in the rainforest. So what I’m going to ask you to do is you’re going to go
back to your tables and you’re going write three things that you discovered about
animals and insects surviving in the rainforest.
When you write your sentences, what do you have to remember? What do you have
to remember? Claire, tell me one thing.
Claire: Full stops.
Corben (to class): Full stops. What else do you have to remember? Kyle?
Kyle: Capitals.
Corben (to class): Capital letters. What else do you have to remember? Deana?
Deana: Commas.
Corben (to class): Commas, if you need to put a comma in. Absolutely! Sacha.
Sacha: Your sentence makes sense.
Corben (to class): Good girl. Make your sentence make sense. And you’re going to
start your sentence ... you’ve already got the beginning: I discovered ... Let’s see
what you can write about what you discovered today about animals surviving in the
I’m going to ask some lovely people to take these and put them on desks.
Corben (to class): You know what I really like about what you’ve done today is that
you’ve learn things, but you also thought about what you already knew and books
that you’ve read and computer programs that you’ve looked at and National
Geographic shows. All of those connections make it much easier to understand what
you’re reading.
Excellent. Kaylie, would you like to put some on your tables over there, darling? And,
Isabella, would you put some on those tables there, sweetheart, please. Let’s see if
we can walk back beautifully to your tables and start your ‘I discovered’ and we’ll
come ‘round and ask you what you discovered.
Corben (interview): What we would do now is we very rarely do the text once. It’s
very good for the children, especially as there has been quite a bit of vocabulary
learning in today’s lesson and so, what we will do is, we’ll come back and we will reread the text. We’ll just revisit those words that they were unsure of. We will share a
lot of the ‘I discovered’ because there’s great information in here.
So that is the short term because you need to do that and revisit the text. But then
we can go away and take the information that they’ve learned. They can either write
a story, they can write a narrative story, about people in the ... a lot of them picked
up that there were people in the rainforest, so they could write about people in the
It would be a really nice thing, I think, to do a short poem on the rainforest and
surviving in the rainforest because it’s really good that I thought that the children
picked up the fact that it wasn’t just ‘The Rainforest’, it was actually about ‘Surviving
in the Rainforest’. Which ... that one word in the title makes it very different and I
think that we would do a poem or maybe even some kind of ... I don’t mind a lot of
times if the children do a visual representation of what they’ve learned too because
some children are not best at writing, but they feel success ... they’ve learnt a lot
here so they can portray that in a visual representation as well.
With thanks to Therese Corben, Brooke Smith and the staff and students at
Daceyville Public School.
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