Asking THICK Questions

As the year gets underway, and we have all of our classroom routines in place, it's time to begin learning! The first "Active REEEEEAAADDDING" strategy I start with is asking THICK questions while reading. I teach this strategy using the method, I do, we do, you do.

Lesson One:

To generate student engagement and interest, I hang pictures from the Chris Van Allsburg book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick  around the room. Before the lesson even starts, their questions are popping up. They take sticky notes and walk around the room to different pictures and ask questions about them, placing the sticky notes on the pictures. Some of the pictures as the students say are "creepy and scary"


After getting up and moving, we come together as a group and sort the questions they generated between "plus questions and minus questions." Once I have sorted a few myself, modelling my thinking, I pose the question, "What do you think is the difference between the two types of questions?" They are usually on the right track differentiating between the types of questions. I then let them try to sort some of their questions, always having them explain if they think it's a plus question or minus question. After we sort, I ask them if they know the "official" name of these types of questions.

Lesson Two:

We review the terms thick and thin questions and some of thinking stems that go with each type of question. I then read to them The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg, and I model asking thick questions as we read. The students are also working on their thick questions, and can "pause" me with their "remote control" as I read to share their thick questions. This story is amazing for asking questions because it leaves you wondering about the stranger even when the story is finished.

Lesson Three:

It's time for the students to practice their "Active REEEEAAADDDING" prowess and demonstrate their ability to ask thick questions. To do this, we read one of my all time favorite stories by Patricia Polacco, Thank You, Mr. Falker. I begin reading the story, and as the students are listening they are showing their knowledge and writing at least three THICK questions and three THIN questions on an exit slip. I normally wouldn't have them write their thin questions down because they don't help us deepen our comprehension and understanding of the characters and the story, but I want to SEE that they know the difference. I will then collect these questions to see if we are ready to move onto the
next strategy.

Lesson Four:

After collecting their questions, I realized, yup, we need some more practice!  I realized that many of the questions started with a thick question words such as why, how, what if, but they didn't help us understand the story any better. So, I typed up all the thick and thin questions they came up with and cut them out into little strips of paper. Each table pod was given the questions and they had to sort them between the following categories: thin questions, thick questions, irrelevant questions, an questions that don't deepen our comprehension. Before the sort, I reminded them that in order to be a thick question, it MUST help us deepen our comprehension. After the sort, we had a great discussion of what questions landed in each category, and they did a MUCH better job of asking relevant thick questions when we read our favorite read aloud, Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea.

*There were of course some students who did not need to do the sort because they had a great grip of Thick questions, so they were doing a quick questioning enrichment activity!*

It was a long week of questioning, but finally, finally, I think they got it! This week coming up, we are working on the strategy, Making Connections! Wish us luck!