Although asking and answering questions seems like a simple skill to teach and learn, it is actually a standard that will take intentional instruction and explicit modeling. Students should begin learning to ask and answer questions in Kindergarten. Students will develop the ability to infer and draw conclusions from this standard, as well. This is the most important skill for students’ critical thinking habits. So, they will use this skill every single time they read, for the rest of their lives. Because modeling is going to be your best instructional tool, mentor texts are essential. Yes, any book will work for this, but I have chosen an excellent set of 10 read alouds for the Ask and Answer standard.
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First, let’s talk about Why? This is honestly such a perfect book for teaching the ask and answer standard, that the title says why. Jack wants to know everything. He asks why he can’t have a tail, why food that is good for you always tastes bad, why it doesn’t hurt when you cut your hair. Throughout this funny story, Jack continuously asks every kids favorite question. It is a great intro book to teaching the ask and answer standard. Not only, will your students be thinking about why questions, but is is a good opportunity for you to model the use of different types of questioning. Students will be able to look for questions that fit all of the Ws: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and the H: How?
If you have younger readers, Poppleton is a great choice for teaching ask and answer! Cynthia Rylant has a way of telling a story that readers can understand, but that allows space for critical thinking. In this funny story, Poppleton the pig is new in town. Through a series of events, Poppleton makes a friend, reads a library book about adventure, and helps a sick friend get better. Each of the events in the plot is open for thoughtful questions. For example, students may wonder if his new friend, Cherry Sue, likes to cook, after she invites Poppleton over multiple times for different meals. They may ask why Poppleton needs lip balm at the library, or figure out what kind of character he is from his extreme preparedness. This simple story can do wonders for your younger students as they are learning the ask and answer standard.
Now, for The Raft by Jim LaMarche. This beautiful story is about a boy spending his summer in the woods and learning to appreciate what, and who, is in his life. Nicky is used to living in the city and wasn’t too happy about spending his entire summer in Wisconsin with his grandma. He has to do chores and go fishing, which are high on his list of favorite things to do. However, after some time, Nicky finds a raft on the river that opens his eyes to a whole new world. With some exploration and the help of subtle magic, Nicky begins to enjoy the wonders all around him: the woods, the river, animals, his grandmother’s wisdom and wit and even his own renewed talent.
LaMarche drew upon some of his own life experiences to write this story, which you can see through the perspective in the stunning illustrations. This is important, because when students are learning to ask and answer questions, it is helpful for them to connect to the text. The more familiar the experiences, characters, setting, etc, the easier it will be for them to pick up on subtle hints for crititcal thinking. This book is an excellent kick off to learning the ask and answer standard.
First Day Jitters
Most of us know and love First Day Jitters. This is an adorable story that has quite an unexpected twist at the end. It takes the main character through all the fears and hesitations about the first day of school. And when we get to the end of the story, we find that the main character isn’t who we were expecting at all. This funny story is likely to stem connections from all of your students, as they have each experienced a first day of school. So, students will pick up on subtle details for questions and will be able to access schema to help them draw conclusions.
Next, we have another humorous story about a haircut that went awry! This is the story of Josh, who decided that he wanted to wear a paper bag over his head all day. Not everybody liked his idea, including his mom, his bus driver, teacher and his coach. However, Josh didn’t seem to want to take his paper bag off. It turns out, Josh was hiding his haircut, that he had attempted to do himself! This mentor text will have kids thinking, and laughing. It is a great mentor text for teaching the ask and answer standard!
Fly Away Home
Unlike the other stories, this beautiful text is not quite silly. Eve Bunting writes the story of a father and son who have nowhere to go. The homeless boy and his father move around the airport, from terminal to terminal, so that they don’t get noticed. Although the story is serious, and can be sad, there is a theme of hope. The young boy is given hope when he sees a trapped bird find his way out to freedom. Your students will have many, many questions for this text. It is superbly set for teacher talk and modeling, with great follow up discussions and spots for inferencing! Just a few reasons why it is another fantastic read aloud for the ask and answer standard.
Hello, Goodbye Dog
Pet lovers, unite! Hello, Goodbye Dog is about a young girl and her dog, Moose. Moose loves Zara so much that she always wants to be with her. So, when Zara goes to school, Moose escapes and shows up by her side. Hello, Moose! However, we all know that we can’t bring our pets to school, so Moose has to go back home. Goodbye, Moose! The giggles will ensue as Moose decides she can be held back and spends the entire story in escaping escapades, always trying to find her way back to her favorite girl, Zara. This leaves them with no choice, but to train Moose and find a way for them to be together all day long. Your students will want to know anything and everything about this story. And, they will draw their own conclusions, too. So, ask and answer is a great standard to use when reading this book aloud!
Jabari is trying to convince himself that his is absolutely, definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He has taken swim lessons and passed his test. Jabari has watched other kids take the leap. He says it looks easy, he just needs to stretch, he needs to decide which jump to do, he needs to let a friend go first. Your students will relate to Jabari as he overcomes his fears and gains courage. Like with a few of the previous books, students’ connections to the text will help them build their ask and answer skills. Students may be able to relate to Jabari being afraid, to his determination, to his patient and encourage father, etc. Yet another excellent read aloud for the ask and answer standard.
Last Stop on Market Street
How can you not love this precious story of CJ and his grandmother? Each Sunday, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town after church. One day, like many children do, CJ begins to question why things are the way they are. How come do they ride the bus, instead of owning a car? Why do they always get out in the dirty part of town? Why doesn’t he have what the other kids have? But, each time he asks a question, his grandmother answers with encouragement and care. She helps CJ see that perspective is all you need to find the beauty and fun in your everyday life. Not only is the story already set up with fantastic question examples for teacher talks and think alouds, but it is also a good time to practice inferences!
Stella Brings the Family
Lastly, I absolutely love this story of Stella and her family. If you are looking for an excellent book to have meaningful question and answer sessions with, this is your book. Stella doesn’t have a “mother” to bring to her class’s Mother’s Day celebration. But, she isn’t without. Stella isn’t without a homework helper. She doesn’t miss out on being tucked into bed every night. Stella eats wonderful meals and loves spending time with her family. Only, Stella has two dads! She also has a whole lot of wonderful people in her life who make her feel special. She just doesn’t have someone titled “mom.” In this story about the true meaning of family, Stella is able to find a unique solution to her “problem,” and along the way, we learn more about love and acceptance. This book was made for the ask and answer strategy. It allows for such open thinking that students will be able to look past straight-forward, simple questioning. Be prepared for thoughtful questions and important answers with this sweet story!