The "To Understand List" is a forum for discussing Ellin Keene's latest book To Understand: New Horizons in Reading Comprehension. The discussion is progressing chapter by chapter with approximately two weeks for each chapter.
Choose a book for this lesson that is appropriate for your students, but that is also one that you had lots of questions about when you first read it. The Strangerby Chris Van Allsburg is especially good for this, but many of his books are great for this lesson.
Before reading the book aloud to students make a list of the questions you had after reading the book the first time. Just list these on a piece of paper for yourself at this point. For The Stranger my list might look like this. Who is the stranger? Is he a real person? Where did he come from at the beginning of the book and where did he go at the end? Why did so many mysterious things happen on the farm while the stranger was there? Why doesn't the stranger sweat? How didÂ the thermometer the doctor used on the stranger get broken?
Read the book aloud to the students without stopping. After you are finished reading tell the students that the first time you read the story there were things that you didn't understand and that you had lots of questions. Write down one of your key questions on a piece of chart paper. For The Stranger I would write, "Who is the stranger?" Tell the students that good readers ask questions in their heads as they are reading about things they do not understand or things they are unsure of. Record several more of your own questions. Ask students if they have questions to add.
Go back and read the story again. If any of the questions asked become clearer to you or the students share the thinking (yours and ideas from students) about the questions as you read.
After you have read the book a second time and discussed the questions perhaps you will have answered some of them. There will probably be some questions left unanswered. Make sure that students understand that this is okay. Good authors will always leave us with some unanswered questions and some things to think about.
Lesson: Some Questions are Answered and Others Are Not
Choose a book to read aloud that causes you as a reader to ask questions that are answered and unanswered in the text. Big Al by Andrew Clements is one I like. Write questions that you have before during and after the book. I do this on post-its.
Show students the book you are about to read aloud. Read the title and author. Share several of your before questions and record them on chart paper. Let several students share their questions too and record them on the chart.
Read the book aloud stopping 4-5 times to record your own or the students questions.
After you finish reading record one or two of your own "after" questions and several of the students' questions.
Tell the students that some of the questions that are on the chart (especially those asked before the book was read) are answered in the story. Go back and read the story aloud again and put an "A" for answered whenever you find the answer to one of the questions in the story. Students will probably be able to do this without you modeling.
Go back and look at the list. What was answered and what was not answered? Remind students that authors often leave us with some things to wonder about. But asking questions, even if they are not answered by the author makes us better readers, because they help us THINK about what we are reading.