Creating Question and Answer Books through Guided Research
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This lesson focuses on a “learn by doing” series of reading and writing activities designed to teach research strategies. The activity uses KWL charts and interactive writing as key components of organizing information. As a class, students list what they know about insects, prompted by examining pictures in an insect book. Students them pose questions they have about insects, again using picture books as a visual prompt. Students then search for answers to the questions they have posed, using Websites, read-alouds, and easy readers. Periodic reviews of gathered information become the backdrop to ongoing inquiry, discussion, reporting, and confirming information. The lesson culminates with the publishing of a collaborative question and answer book which reports on information about the chosen topic, with each student contributing one page to the book.
From Theory to Practice
In the Introduction to the January 2000 School Talk focusing on "Using Nonfiction Literature," Stephanie Harvey tells us, "The real world is rich, fascinating, and compelling. Primary kids know this. They burst through the kindergarten door brimming with questions about the real world. . . . Nonfiction, more than any genre, lets us explore the real world, ask questions, and find out compelling information." In the classroom, our job as teachers is to tap the natural curiosity and inquiry methods students bring through the classroom door to provide scaffolding for the research activities we undertake as part of the curriculum. By focusing on the questioning strategy that comes so naturally to students, this lesson plan invites students to explore nonfiction books to find their own answers. The result is a student-centered inquiry project that takes advantage of the skills that students bring to any research project to guide the unit.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Gather an assortment of nonfiction picture books about insects or any other topic. Also collect sample question and answer books to use as models for the writing activity. See the Insect Book List and Question and Answer Book List for suggestions.
- Find and bookmark Websites for quick and easy access.
- Create a list of ten questions about insects (or the topic that you've chosen for your inquiry project). The questions should be keyed to the information available in the sample Question and Answer Books that you've chosen to share in Session Four.
- Test the Anatomy of a Hive, Anatomy of a Worker Honey Bee, Changing Cicadas Slide Show, and/or Dances with Bees interactives on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- use nonfiction texts and the Internet to gather information, generate questions, and find the answers to questions.
- explore the genre of Question and Answer Books in print and online.
- contribute information and illustrations to create a class book in question and answer format.
Session One: Introducing the Topic---What Do We Know?
- Post chart paper on the board.
- Gather students together and write at the top of the chart, "What Do We Know About Insects?"
- Ask students to tell you what they know about insects, and chart their responses.
- Write the students' names (small) at the end of their responses.
- When students have run out of information, do a picture walk through a book about insects to model getting information from pictures. Use a book with large, clear photographs and minimal text, so that you can read to the students while focusing on the pictures. Seethe Insect Book List for suggestions.
- After reading aloud and doing the picture walk, have students tell what they found out from the pictures.
- Explain to students that they will be reading pictures with a partner and that we will all come together after a little while to tell some things we found out.
- Pair students off and give them about fifteen or twenty minutes to explore.
- Allow them to change books if they want, but make sure they are really looking at the pictures together and talking about what they see.
- Circulate among the students to ask questions about what they see.
- Regroup and have students tell some things they found out from the pictures.
Session Two: Expanding the Topic---Asking Questions
- Post a new chart paper next to the first one. On this chart, write "What Questions Do We Have About Insects?"
- Choose another insect book for reading aloud. As you read, identify information that is presented and model asking additional questions.
- Write one of your questions on the chart.
- Ask students if they have any additional questions, post them on the chart, and add their names.
- Have students work with partners to explore more picture books. Make sure they know that they will be bringing questions back to the group.
- As students read together, circulate and ask them what they are finding out, and what else they would like to know. Model questioning if necessary.
- After about fifteen minutes, bring students back together in a circle, with partners sitting together with the book (or books) they read together.
- Give students a minute or two to clarify with their partners one question they would like to add to the chart. Then, go around the circle and ask each set of partners, "What else do you want to know?"
- Post the questions on the chart, using a different color marker for each question. Put students' names with their questions.
- Keep the charts posted for the next session.
Session Three (and ongoing): Gathering Information---What Are We Learning?
- Post a new chart paper to the right of the question chart. At the top, write "Answers We Found."
- Choose a book for reading aloud which has the answer to the question you posted on the question chart in Session Two.
- Gather students together. Review your question with the students then read aloud the section of the book that answers the question.
- Have students tell the answer to the question.
- Explain that students will explore picture books and easy reading books each day for a few days and will also explore insect sites on the Internet to gather information.
- Before reading/exploring each day, have the whole group review the list of questions.
- After about 20 minutes or so of picture exploration, bring the group together and ask if anyone found any answers to any of the questions on the list.
- As answers are given to the questions, write the answers on the answer chart directly across from the question, using the same color marker that was used for the question (see example), so that each question and answer are adjacent. When charting, be sure to write students' names next to their own information and questions.
- During these exploration times, add any new questions to the chart that students ask, and continue to look for answers.
- Also during this time, have an adult volunteer bring small groups of students to the computer to type in questions at the Ask Kids Website, or read information from selected Websites to find the information they are looking for. The Websites listed at Insects For Kids can provide a good starting point. Answers that are difficult to find can be gleaned from selected read alouds and from the Internet.
- As pertinent for the questions that students are exploring, share one or more of the following interactives with your class or with small groups of students:
- Anatomy of a Hive
Explore bee hives and the various roles of the bees who live in them in this PBS resource.
- Anatomy of Worker Honey Bee
Mouse over the bee drawing to see the name and the function of the various parts of the insect's body. More information about the body parts is provided below the image.
- Changing Cicadas Slide Show
This Science NetLinks interactive slide show features photographs of every stage of a cicada's development.
- Dances with Bees
Share small QuickTime videos of bees from the NOVA Website to explore how bees interact.
- Anatomy of a Hive
- When all questions have been answered on the charts, prepare for making the question and answer book.
Session Four: Exploring the Genre---How Can We Share What We Learned?
- Post ten questions about insects with a copy of the Table of Contents from a Question and Answer book in a study skills learning center. Key the questions to the information available in the book.
- Ask students to use the index page to determine where they will most likely find the answer to each question. They can write the page number(s) on their answer sheets.
- Once students have had a chance to forecast where they'll find the answers to their questions, share the Question and Answer book with the class, noting where the answers are found in the book and the relationship of the answers to the index or table of contents.
- After reading the book, ask students to point out what they notice about the way that the book was put together.
- If someone does not volunteer the observation, ask students how the structure of the book relates to the information on the KWL charts. Draw particular attention to the questions and answers on the chart and the question and answer structure of the book.
- Explain that during the next class session, you'll publish the information from your KWL chart in a class Question and Answer book.
- As class time allows, students can explore additional Question and Answer books.
- Before the next session, prepare the questions as necessary for the class book. For instance, for younger students, you can use a word processor to type out all questions and answers in large font, spaced so that they can be cut apart and distributed to students for easy copying.
- If there are fewer questions and answers than students, plan to make more than one copy of the book, so that each student will make one page.
- Pass out the materials for the book.
- If you've prepared a handout of the questions for your students, pass that information out as well. Older students can copy the questions and answers directly from the charts; however, younger students may need a large print copy of a single question.
- Ask each student to write the question on a sheet of white photocopy paper. Trim the extra white space, and glue their writing onto the middle of a sheet of 9x12 construction paper.
- Repeat the process for the answer to the question. The question and answer are glued on reverse sides of the same sheet of construction paper (make sure they are both right side up).
- When all pages have been completed, invite students to provide illustrations in color. Students can draw on directly on the construction paper or work on white photocopy paper, which is trimmed and glued into place. Alternatively, have students print out and color insect images from Fun Stuff Coloring Book.
- If desired, trace over all student writing with a colored fine-point marker. You might also laminate all pages.
- Bind the book so that the question page is seen first, and page will be turned to read the answer (see example).
- When the book has been bound, read it aloud to the class and add it to the classroom library.
- Once the students are comfortable with genre of Question and Answer books, challenge them to write Question and Answer books on their own. Students might investigate a subtopic of the original topic. For example, if the original topic was "Insects" (in general) a subtopic could be bees, ants, or ladybugs. Question and Answer books can relate to any school subject; science is a natural, but so are social studies and other curriculum areas. How about a Q&A book about life in a historical time period? Or a far off land? Or one about the lives of famous inventors? Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups to delve into a topic of interest.
- Explore the Question and Answer genre online. General sites, such as Yahoo Kids Ask Earl, allow users to post questions about any topic. More focused sites, such as Kids Money Q&A, focus on questions about a specific topic. You might also draw particular attention to the structure of the Ask Jeeves for Kids search engine, which is essentially an Internet-based Question and Answer tool.
- Follow this inquiry project with a related ReadWriteThink lesson plan:
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Use kidwatching and anecdotal records during the students’ independent work process to gauge student engagement, reading comprehension, and collaboration skills. The finished book product will serve as an overall assessment of the publishing process.
- Have students assess their own work using the Partner Reading Checklist.