Group Size: Any

Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Learning Objectives: Students will be able to ask questions that deepen their understanding of the text


  • Student Worksheet 1 (attached)
  • Overhead of graphic organizer (attached)
  • Syllabus and calendar (attached)
  • Post-it notes (so that students can code their novels)
Do Now: Students (S) will begin by completing the Do Now, which appears on the student notes. It is, "If you could be any age, what age would you choose to be? Explain." The teacher (T) can then pair/share or whole-class share student responses.

Connection: T will say: Today we're beginning a new unit. Let's take a look at our syllabus and calendar for this unit. (T should distribute syllabi and calendars.) We'll be reading "coming of age" stories, which means we'll have an easy time making text-to-self connections, and we'll be focusing on studying characterization and theme as well as the reading strategies of making inferences and asking questions. Please take five minutes to read the syllabus and calendar silently and to jot important dates, such as test and quiz dates, in your agenda or calendar. (Allow time.)

Direct Instruction / Guided Practice: Who can remind us what today’s objective is? (S volunteer reads from board.) Thank you. Asking questions is not only an important reading skill but also an important life skill. If we want to be thoughtful critics not only of books but of ideas, of society, if we want to push each others’ thinking and challenge the status quo, we need to be skillful questioners.

Asking questions is an important reading strategy because it helps us to be critical thinkers. By questioning the ideas, opinions and actions of the characters in our novels and by questioning the decisions made by the author, we are sharpening our minds, preparing to ask questions about the ideas, opinions and actions of the very real people in our lives. Let me show you what I mean…

First, it can be very helpful to ask a question or two before reading. Usually, when I do this, I preview the text first—I take a look at the title, chapter breaks, any non-fiction text characteristics if it’s a non-fiction text, the standard stuff. Then I use the information I see to ask a question before I really get started. This helps me to set a purpose for reading and to read with greater awareness.

(Note to the Instructor: This presumes that students are familiar with previewing texts. If students have not been explicitly taught to preview a text, you may wish to devote a mini-lesson to previewing texts prior to embarking upon this unit.)

The title of today’s book is What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows. It’s a work of fiction, and the first page is labeled “My journal."

Before I even really start reading, I’m wondering about this title. It seems as though there are two ways I could interpret it. First, I could understand the title very literally; there is a real secret, and the narrator doesn't know it. Or, second, I could interpret the title to be indicative of how the narrator feels. Other girls don't know any more than she does, but she feels as though they do. I'm wondering which of these two possibilities is closest to the narrator's meaning, so I will ask the question, “Should I take this title literally?" (T should write this on graphic organizer on the overhead, S in notes.)

I ask questions as I read as well. Like this… (Begin to read the passage. Pause after paragraph one.) I’m thinking: Wow. The journals I kept as a girl were all about boys. This girl is really precocious. That means bright and mature beyond your years. She is actually making a list of things she thinks she needs to know in order to become a woman. Can you even imagine such a thing? The question I’m asking here is, “Why is she rushing to become an adult?” I, for one, was plenty happy to be a kid. (T should write this on graphic organizer on the overhead, S in notes.)

Okay, let’s wrap it up. (Finish reading.) Sometimes as you read, you find the answers to your questions. If you find the answers, you should write them into this second column, here (indicate). If you don’t, you should guess where you might find the answers and write that into the third column, here (indicate). Did we find the answer to our first question about how to interpret the title? (Target: no.) Where could we look for the answer? (Target: read on.) (T on overhead, S in notes.) How about our second question? Did we find out why our narrator is rushing to grow up? (Target: no.) Where could we look for the answer? (Target: read on.) (T on overhead, S in notes.)

The last thing I do when I’m done reading is come up with an after-reading question. I’m wondering if there is a book out there that actually tells girls what they need to know to become women. I don’t mean “the facts of life;” that’s what Health class is for. I’m thinking of something different. An advice book, kind of. I’m going to add that as my after-reading question. (T on overhead, S in notes.) Once I’ve written that, there’s one more thing I need to do. I either need to think about how to answer my own question and explain it here (indicate) in the second column, or I need to decide where I could look for an answer, and write that here (indicate) in the third column. I can’t really think of how to answer my question, but I can think of where to go to answer it. I would probably visit the library or go to a book store. I’m going to write that into the third column. (T on overhead, S in notes.)

Any questions?

I want you to practice this same exercise either by yourself or with your table partner using the next passage from Double Act. Go ahead and begin. (Allow time. Then review possible questions together.)

Link: Now it’s your turn. As you read today, what will you be doing? (Have students read through the directions in the “Link” section of the notes.)

Independent Practice: (S read silently and complete graphic organizers. T works with students to form literature circle groups for this unit, collects packets of organized notes, and circulates to check for understanding.

Note to the Instructor: In addition to reading pleasure reading novels of their choice on any topic, my students work within literature circles to select, read and discuss a novel that relates to our unit theme.

At the beginning of the unit, I spend a few days working with students to help them form groups and select novels. Groups are generally between 4 and 6 students in size and may be homogenously leveled, heterogeneously leveled, single-sex, interest-based, friendship-inspired, you name it. Because my class culture is strong, I rarely run into difficulty ensuring that all students are comfortable and happy in their groups.

The groups themselves are also quite flexible; typically, when two groups conclude novel study within a few days of each other, members of the first group may choose to delay selection of their next book so that groups can intermingle and shift based upon interest.

Once groups have selected their first books of the unit, the process is entirely student-run. Groups meet weekly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in the classroom library during the Do Now and Word Study based upon a rotating schedule. Students follow a loose meeting agenda that appears in the library for their reference and includes (1) Checking up on pages, plot comprehension, etc. (2) Discussing thoughts and ideas with the support of your weekly role sheet (3) Deciding upon next week’s pages and roles and selecting new role sheets (4) Completing the reflection on the reverse side of this week’s role sheets and (5) Collecting and submitting this week’s role sheets to the teacher. One representative of the group is responsible for submitting each group member’s weekly role sheet to me at the conclusion of the meeting.

For more information on how to make literature circles work for you, try Harvey Daniels’ Literature Circles.)

Closing: (Note to the Instructor: At the conclusion of each class period, we play a class-versus-class game called “Million Dollar Question.” I create four questions each day. The first question is based upon the day’s objective. The second question addresses a topic relevant to the unit. The third question is pulled from any topic discussed during the year. The fourth question is the “Essential Question,” which stays in the mix all week long and often requires students to defend their response to one of our unit study essential questions. I read the question twice without calling on a student to ensure that all students are still thinking about a possible answer. I then choose a student’s name randomly using popsicle sticks. That student has the opportunity to respond to the question. If that students answers correctly, the class gets a point. If not, the question is open to the entire class; however, a point is not awarded. I generally pick a set number of points—ie: 50 points—and the first class to make it to that benchmark receives an extrinsic reward, ie: reading outside the next Friday, popcorn during independent reading time, etc.)

I hope you found today’s lesson on asking questions interesting. Remember, asking questions helps you to think critically and to question the ideas and actions of others. Asking questions as you read is great practice for being an active, informed, influential young adult!

It’s time for million dollar question!

1. When do we ask questions? (Before, during and after reading)

2. What idea or theme ties together the novels we'll be studying in unit for? (Coming of age)

3. (Note to the Instructor: Insert your own question here based upon objectives your students mastered up until this point in the year.)

4. Why do we ask questions? (To help us become more thoughtful critics, to push our own thinking and the thinking of our peers, etc.)


Novels are differentiated by reading level and by choice. Pair/Share following the Do Now. Active reading strategy: coding the text. Graphic organizer.

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