Adriana writes, “What if jailbird
Wes had gone to a military school?
Would he have turned out better?”
I write back to her, “I’m not sure. I
think it affected him, but we’ll need
to keep reading to see.” Now she can
think about this question as she continues reading.
Angelica, a firm believer that nature
can’t be changed, loves this topic and
the book. She wonders where author
Wes’s mom got the money to pay for
military school. This question propels
her to keep reading. Angelica then
asks, “Does the mom really believe
Wes can change? Was his mom a bad
kid that went to this school? Does this
school eventually help him?” Angel-
ica’s questions tell me that she doesn’t
have a lot of knowledge about military
schools. I can quickly let her know
the next day that there were typically
no girls at these schools when Wes’s
mom was young. I could also tell
her what Wes’s mom was like, but I
won’t. Instead, I will redirect her to the
sections at the beginning of the book
that describe author Wes’s mom.
I’m humbled by my students’ questions. Often, they are better than mine.
I’m also thankful for their questions
because they give me insight on how
to differentiate instruction. If students
were all answering the same teacher-generated question, I wouldn’t be able
to tell who got it and who copied.
What Questions Should
My students’ questions matter most
because they give me insight into what
the students know and need. However,
that doesn’t mean I never get to ask
any questions. With the help of my
instructional coach, Samantha Bennett,
I’ve discovered a pattern in the questions I tend to ask. Usually, my questions fall under one of two categories:
questions that create awareness and
questions that inform my instruction.
Questions That Create Awareness
When my friend Marci says, “Did you
notice how many biblical references
there are in Toni Morrison’s Beloved?
What do you think that’s all about?”
I don’t have a quick answer. But that
evening when I’m reading the novel,
I pay attention. And in the next book
I pick up, I look for allusions and ask
myself about those as well.
When I ask students these kinds
I’m humbled by my
of questions, I don’t expect one right
answer. My goal is to spark a conver-
sation that will expand the way stu-
dents examine text. Here are a few of
n What are you noticing about
how the author is using time? Is he
jumping forward, flashing back, or
moving through events chronologi-
cally? What purpose do you think it
n What background knowledge
do you have about the book, topic,
author, or characters?
n What are you wondering about the
book, topic, author, or characters?
n Did you notice the title? Any ideas
how it connects to the piece?
n What weird or unusual text struc-
tures are you noticing? Why do think
the author structured the chapter that
n What predictions are you making?
n What questions do you have?
Which ones do you care most about?
n Which character’s perspective are
you connecting to most?
n Are there any objects or colors that
keep popping up?
Often, they are
better than mine.