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Recipes for Effective Literacy Instruction


The questions we ask determine how much students have to think.  The questions THEY ask drive their learning even more.  As you can see from the Comprehension Process Staircase (explained in more detail on the TLC Comprehension 101 page and in The Literacy Cookbook), good readers ask questions RELENTLESSLY.  This section features information on how to ask critical thinking questions, plus handouts you can use with readings to engage students in higher-level thinking. 

How much attention do YOU actually pay to questions?  Check out this BRIEF QUIZ from Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner (New York: Dell, 1969).  It's a great tool to use with students, too.

Some say questioning is a science.  Dennis Palmer Wolf says it's an art.  Check out her piece, "The Art of Questioning."  Here's another helpful article: "Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions" by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana.

For a sample lesson plan on "thick vs. thin" questions, check out 6th Reading Lesson Plan-Thick vs. Thin Questions (Thanks to Justin Pigeon of TeacherU!).

***SOCRATIC QUESTIONS:  The Changing Minds Website provides examples of the six types of questions that Socrates was known to ask.  For info on how to run Socratic Seminars, go to the TLC "Socratic Seminars" page.

What does a rigorous/higher-order thinking question look like?  Check these out: 

Lemov, Doug.  Teach Like a Champion: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2015.

Zwiers, Jeff.  Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.  PS--He also has a very handy Website!

When READING, use these handouts (in the Download Zone) to engage students in higher-level thinking....

For annotation:

Focusing on characters?

Reading short stories?


Trying to teach MAIN IDEA through a novel?

Looking for an alternative to “questions about the chapter”?

Trying to prepare students for standardized TESTS?

Are you a HISTORY teacher looking for ideas?

IN THE DOWNLOAD ZONE for Questioning:


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