Question and Answer Books--From Genre Study to Report Writing

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Eight 50-minute sessions
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


This lesson looks at question and answer books as a genre study. Through read-alouds and independent reading, students explore the content and format of these books, establish how they are different from and similar to other nonfiction texts, and discuss their possible uses for doing and presenting research. After a read-aloud of question and answer books, students use a Venn diagram to compare the genre with other genres they have read. Students then work with a partner to explore several examples of the genre, identifying common characteristics. Next, students compare a question and answer book to a narrative nonfiction book on the same topic. Finally, students brainstorm questions to research, conduct research, and publish their findings using a question and answer format. This lesson is a springboard to research activities that can help students learn to present information in an organized and interesting way.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In her 2000 article for School Talk, Stephanie Harvey asserts that "Nonfiction, more than any genre, lets us explore the real world, ask questions, and find out compelling information." A great deal of the reading we do throughout our lives is nonfiction: newspaper articles and editorials, shopping lists, directions, instructions, magazines, e-mails and letters from acquaintances, road signs, billboards, and a variety of other informational sources. Yet, Lucy McCormick Calkins reminds us that "the curriculum in our schools focuses on the texts and skills of reading fiction." As the importance of teaching reading strategies for informational text becomes more widely recognized, we can begin to look at the individual criteria of a variety of nonfiction subgenres.

Question and answer books are a popular format for communicating information on a variety of topics. Taking an analytical look at this genre can give students ideas for research strategies as well as reporting formats as they learn to do research and report on their findings.

Further Reading

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.

State Standards

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

  • A collection of books in question and answer format (see Booklist), on a variety of topics and in a variety of levels.

  • A collection of nonfiction books in regular, narrative format, with similar content as some of the question and answer books.

  • Chart paper or board, and markers

  • A collection of nonfiction books on a class-selected topic to be used for research

  • Completed flip book or blank flip book as an example




  • Gather an assortment of question and answer books about a variety of topics, in a variety of reading levels, including books appropriate for reading aloud. Include picture books, almanac-type books, and other books with a variety of short bits of information. Refer to the booklist for suggested titles.

  • For comparison purposes, also collect several nonfiction texts in narrative format that match the content of several of the question and answer books.

  • Make appropriate copies of handouts and questions: Exploration Question and Answer Books handout, Question and Answer Books: Useful for..., Notetaking form, and Question and Answer Flip Book Rubric.

  • Plan student partnerships—students will be working with partners to explore question and answer books, to conduct research, and to create their own flip book in question and answer format.

  • Bookmark any Web resources to be used.

  • Test the Flip Book Student Interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

  • Create a flip book as an example, or provide a blank one, so the students can see the layout and format.

  • Students should have previous experience with taking notes and citing sources.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • listen to and respond to a variety of question and answer book read-alouds.

  • independently explore a variety of question and answer books.

  • analyze the structure, content, and purpose of a variety of question and answer books.

  • conduct research on a selected topic.

  • use the question and answer format to report on a topic of research.

Session One

  1. Post a blank sheet of chart paper, or clear an area of the board.

  2. Read aloud two question and answer books that are different in content to students.

  3. As you read, alternate reading directly from the book, with using the questions as riddles for students to try to answer. Also, show students the format of the pages.

  4. When you have finished reading the books, ask students the following questions, and record their responses on the board or on chart paper:

    • What did you notice about these books?

    • How are these books similar to other books you have read?

    • How are these books different from other books you have read?
  5. Invite students to complete a Venn Diagram either with two circles or with three circles, comparing question and answer books with other types of texts that they are familiar with. They can use their answers to the questions listed above to fill in the Venn Diagram.

  6. Keep the charts and/or the Venn Diagrams posted for the following session.

Session Two

  1. Review the charts and diagrams from the previous sessions. Answer any questions that the students may have or allow time for feedback or comments.

  2. Display an array of question and answer books for students to peruse and examine.

  3. Explain to students that they will be working with partners to explore books in question and answer format. While examining this genre of books, students will record their feedback using the Exploring Question and Answer Books handout. The questions they will consider are:

    • What topics do the books cover?

    • How are these books unique?

    • What kind of language do these books use?
  4. Provide 20 minutes or so for the pairs of students to explore the books.

  5. Stress that students don't need to read books as they would for a literature group assignment, but that they are looking for how the books communicate information, the language they use, and other characteristics.

  6. After the exploration time, gather students to respond to the Exploration Question and Answer Books handout.

  7. Add students' responses to the chart(s) from Session One.

  8. After all responses are shared, ask students what similarities they see among all of the books, regardless of the topics presented in them.

  9. Highlight any key words on the charts that will lead to later focus on nonfiction reading.

  10. The charts will be used again for the following session.

Session Three

  1. Before this session, bundle pairs of books with similar content: one book in question and answer format and one in narrative format. For example, you could bundle I Wonder Why Zippers Have Teeth: And Other Questions About Inventions (I Wonder Why) by Barbara Taylor (Kingfisher, 2003) with Invention (DK Eyewitness Books) by Lionel Bender (DK CHILDREN, 2005).

  2. With help from the students, review the charts and diagrams from the previous sessions.

  3. Invite the students to explore bundled pairs of books, asking them to pay particular attention to comparing format, ease of gathering information, content, language use, and illustrations.

  4. Arrange students into small groups, and give each group a bundled pair of books.

  5. Allow the class about thirty minutes to explore the book pairs.

  6. While students are working, circulate and ask questions, listen, and make notes of any particularly helpful comments.

  7. After about thirty minutes, gather students for discussion.

  8. Post a new piece of chart paper, or use the board, and label it, "Question and Answer Books: Useful for...." Then ask the following questions (alternately, students can work in pairs to answer the questions):

    • How would you compare the question and answer books with the narrative ones?

    • Which format is easier to read?

    • Which format gives you more information?

    • What differences did you find in the illustrations used?

    • When would a question and answer book be particularly useful?

    • In what cases would the format not work?
  9. For the last two questions, record students' responses on the chart. Keep in mind that this chart can remain posted as a reminder for students as they embark on their research topics.

  10. Let the students know that they will be using their knowledge of question and answer books, as well as information from nonfiction books, to write their own question and answer books. These books will be the vehicle to transmit what they have learned from a research project.

  11. Decide on a group research topic, with or without student input, to be used for the next sessions.

Sessions Four to Six

  1. Before the fourth session begins, gather a variety of nonfiction books on the selected topic. Select a variety of reading levels and formats. Each collection should include some question and answer books. Keep the books together in labeled tubs.

  2. At the beginning of the session, introduce the project to the students: Using a given topic, students will brainstorm questions to research, conduct research, and publish their findings using a question and answer format.

  3. Share the rubric with the students so they know what is expected of them as they work on their project.

  4. Answer any questions students may have or clarify any points.

  5. To begin the research process, invite the students to pose a few essential questions about the topic, and record their questions on chart paper or the board.

  6. Ask students to brainstorm with partners for three to five minutes, to write down what they already know on the topic.

  7. With the whole class together, take turns sharing brainstormed ideas, and record the information on the board or on chart paper.

  8. Tapping the information that students already know and the initial list of questions, generate a list of related questions about the topic on chart paper or the board. Keep the chart posted for students to refer to during the rest of the research project.

  9. As they find answers, record the information on the charts. Leave a bit of space after each question.

  10. Introduce students to all research materials that have been gathered (books, magazines, Websites, and so forth).

  11. If you have bookmarked the Websites, demonstrate how to use the pull-down menu to access the information.

  12. Allow several class sessions for students to read and research on the topics, recording their information in their notebooks or on a notetaking sheet. Students can also use an online notetaking form to take notes.

  13. Each day before researching continues, have students review the list of questions. At the end of the research session, ask students to share any answers they have found, and record them directly under the question. When charting the answers, be sure to write students' names next to their own information and questions.

  14. During these research times, add any new questions that students pose to the chart.

  15. Continue this process until all of the questions have been answered. A good teachable moment is to discuss why some questions may not be able to be answered.

Sessions Seven and Eight

  1. When most or all questions on the charts have been answered, review the information and clarify or make minor revisions to any of the responses.

  2. Explain that students will publish their research in a question and answer flip book. (For more information about creating a question and answer book, visit the K-2 ReadWriteThink Lesson Creating Question and Answer Books through Guided Research.)

  3. Share a completed flip book or blank flip book to demonstrate the size of the pages and the format of the final product.

  4. Spend a few minutes discussing how to decide which answers will fit on which pages of the flip book (e.g., more detailed and complex information probably needs published on a longer sheet).

  5. Remind students of the requirements for the project, using the rubric.

  6. Demonstrate the Flip Book student interactive, so that students understand the tool and how it works before they begin composing their pages for the books.

  7. Explain the basic organization of the flip book:

    • The first page of the flip book could act as a title page, telling the topic that was researched.

    • For the rest of the flip book, the question is typed as the label.

    • Type the answers on the page, above each label, using the templates of the students' choice.
  8. Arrange students in groups of 4 or 6 each.

  9. Each pair of students will create at least one page of the question and answer book. Each book can cover up to 9 questions (allowing one page for the title page).

  10. Have groups spend 10 minutes planning the structure of their books, identifying their title, choosing which questions to place on which pages, and deciding who will write each of the pages.

  11. When groups have completed their plans, allow them to move to the computer to publish their work.

  12. When the flip book is complete, print it out, cut and assemble.

  13. Allow time for groups to share their flip books with the class.

  14. When the sharing and discussions are complete, assess students' work using the rubric. The teacher can also invite the student to help in the assessment process.


  • Explore the Question and Answer genre online. General sites, such as Yahooligans! Reference and KidsClick!, help kids find answers to their questions on almost any topic. You can also draw particular attention to the structure of the Ask Kids Website, which is essentially an Internet-based Question and Answer tool.

  • Instead of completing the research project with a partner, have students work individually to create a question and answer book on a topic their choice .

  • Have individual students investigate a subtopic of the original topic. For example, if the class does a report together on California, individual students might later research Native Americans in California, the Gold Rush, or Missions.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Observe students for their participation during the exploration and discussion of question and answer books, as well as other nonfiction texts. In class discussions and conferences, watch for evidence that students are able to describe the layout and format of question and answer books. Monitor students’ progress and process as they conduct their research and complete their question and answer books. As students present their flip books to the class, take notes and assess their work using the rubric.