Group Size: Any

Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Learning Objectives: Students will be able to...
Ask questions that deepen their understanding of the text
Explain why asking questions is an effective and important reading strategy.


  • Student Worksheet 2 (attached)
  • Overhead of graphic organizer from Lesson #1
  • Exit Slips (attached)
  • Post-it notes (so that students can code their novels)
Do Now: (Add a Do Now to the Student Notes so that students have something to complete upon entering the room. I like to use this opportunity to spiral skills from prior lessons or to ask students to journal about a life experience that might help them to make a connection with today's lesson.)

Direct Instruction / Guided Practice: Yesterday we discussed the importance of asking questions. You will recall that it’s important to ask questions because it helps us to be critical thinkers. By questioning or challenging the ideas, opinions and actions of the characters in our books or by questioning the decisions made by the author, we are honing our skills for challenging the ideas, opinions and actions of people in real life.

Who can remind me of the three times we ask questions while we read? (Target: Before, during and after reading.)

I noticed something in your thinking yesterday that I just wanted to bring to your attention briefly. We can divide questions into two broad categories.

There are questions that are easy to answer, which we could also call “recall” questions or “thin questions” (T on board). For these questions, all you need to do is look back in the text, and the answer is right there staring at you. Then there are questions that really make you think. Those are the “thick” questions (T on board) that will help you to better understand yourself, others, the world around you, and so on. Those are the questions that might not have easy or obvious answers if they have definite answers at all.

Which kinds of questions should we be trying to ask of ourselves? (Target: Thick questions.)

It isn’t always easy to come up with thick questions, and I didn’t expect to see everyone do it yesterday. But today I want you to really focus on trying to come up with some meatier, thicker, tougher questions. Let me show you what I mean using the same graphic organizer we used yesterday.

Here is an excerpt from “Tonight is a Favor to Holly,” by Amy Hempel. My before-reading question, given the title of the story, might be: Why does the narrator owe Holly a favor? This is a lot richer than a question like, for instance, “Who is Holly?” or “When is this story taking place?” because it gets at why characters do certain things and may reveal some important information about what our characters are really like. (T on overhead, S in notes.) Let’s start reading. (Read aloud.)

A blind date is coming to pick me up, and unless my hair grows an inch by seven o’clock, I am not going to answer the door. The problem is the front. I cut the bangs myself… What I’d rather do is what we usually do—mix our rum and Cokes, and drink them on the sand while the sun goes down.

We live the beach life.

Not the one with sunscreen and resort wear. I mean, we just live at the beach. Out the front door is sand. There’s the ocean, and we see it every day of the year.

Hmmm… From the sound of it, her life is one big vacation. Relaxed, living by the beach, drinking more often than not. Interesting… I’m feeling myself start to pass judgment on this narrator, but before I say anything more, I’ll keep reading on…

The place is called Rancho La Brea. We’re renting month to month while our house is restored from the mud and water damage of the last slide.


Wow, like a mud slide, I’m guessing? If there’s mud and water damage, that must be it. So she used to live somewhere else, but she moved after this natural disaster to a beach house, where she’s living the beach life. Sounds like she really did have something to get away from there. Maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental of her lifestyle…

Four days a week I drive to La Mirada, to the travel agendcy where I have a job. It takes me fifty-five minutes to drive one way, and I wish the commute were longer. I like radio personalities, and I like to change lanes. And losing yourself on the freeway is like living at the beach—you’re not aware of lapsed time, and suddenly you're there, where it was you were going.

This passage is interesting. She likes that she loses herself while she’s driving, and she wishes the commute were longer. She already spends two hours a day in the car. That’s kind of incredible. She really seems to need a lot of escapes.

So I’ve noticed a pattern that I want to ask a question about. I noticed that our narrator drinks most evenings by the sunset. I noticed that she moved away from her old home to a home on the beach. And I noticed that she likes to lose herself when she commutes to work. What I’m wondering is, “Why does the narrator seem to need so many different escapes?” (T on overhead, S in notes.) The drinking, the other house, the commute. She describes them all as escapes. It could very well all be a result of this mudslide. But then again, maybe there’s something else going on.

My job fits right in. I do nothing, it pays nothing, but—you guessed it—it’s better than nothing.

A sense of humor helps.


Okay, time for the after-reading question. Please take some time to chat with your elbow partner or the people around you about a rich, meaty, “thick” after-reading question you could pose about this selection. (Allow time. Then share out. T on overhead, S in notes. Ensure that students are asking questions that require inferential thinking or ask “Why?”)

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.)

Share: Our time for today is up. Please take some time to finish your graphic organizers by adding an “after reading” question. (Allow time.)

Finally, please take the time to complete this exit slip. (Distribute. Allow time. Then collect.)

Now please feel free to turn to your partner and share your work for today. (Allow time.)

Closing: I hope that today’s lesson on questions, specifically the difference between “thin” easy-to-answer questions and those “thicker,” more thought-provoking questions.

It’s time for million dollar question!

1. What is the difference between a “thick” question and a “thin” question? (See above!)

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

3. Note to the Instructor: Insert your own question here based upon objectives your students have 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.)

Differentiation: Novels are differentiated by reading level and by choice. Active reading strategy: coding the text. Graphic organizer.

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