Questions Readers Ask Other Readers

In my school, reading intervention for 4th and 5th graders very much resembles a book club. There are a) lots of books that the readers are interested in, b) not a lot of tests or assignments, and c) lots of time to read. In fact, we call it “Howe Book Club”. The word “intervention” is not in the students’ lexicon. It takes place both during the school day in the afternoon and after school twice a week. It was designed this year based on a post from the Stenhouse blog.

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Now in full swing, we are tweaking things here and there to keep the kids reading. Example: Students were becoming less engaged in the paperbacks we had purchased for them. In response, we allocated some funds to purchased eReaders and allowed the students to choose the digital books to be downloaded on the devices.

Another area identified for growth is to encourage better conversations between the students about what they are reading. In her book The Reading Zone (2007), Nancie Atwell provides some excellent openers kids can respond to as well as questions they can ask each other. On page 83 in Chapter 7 (One-to-One), she suggests some of the following prompts:

I liked the way the author…

This book remind me of…

I’d say a theme of this book is…

I couldn’t understand…

Why did…?

She also shares many questions she asks her students as she “roams among readers” (92). I think many of these would be just as applicable when students talk to their peers about what they are reading:

What page are you on?

What do you think so far?

How is it so far, compared to his or her other books?

What genre is this one?

Why did you decide to read this one?

Where did you find this book?

Is this one worthy of a book talk?

What are you planning to read next?

The plan is to put some of these questions and prompts on a handy reference card and on a poster in our library where the intervention takes place. This skill will first need to be modeled by the interventionists, which consist of current and retired teachers. They could do this at the beginning of each session, where time is set aside for the adult to read aloud a favorite book to the group.

Once the students get the hang of speaking like readers, they can facilitate conversations both in person and online. There is time built in for each student to share something that resonated with them from what they are reading in their small group. We will also have them set up in a class on Edmodo. This will allow students to continue their conversations beyond the official intervention time.

These activities we are facilitating for our students are authentic and engaging. They are doing what real readers do – read books, write and share about what they read, listen to others talk about their experiences, and then find more books to read.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

6 thoughts on “Questions Readers Ask Other Readers”

  1. Matt,
    The first set of questions here is a great reminder for my students, and I’m printing them out. I’ve just started connecting my IL 7th graders to others in IA and GA via Google Hangout. They didn’t really know what to say to each other when they discussed books. We’d (the teachers) given them some questions to use if they couldn’t think of any, but yours are more about the books, and should help them along a bit more. I’ve read Donalyn Miller’s book, but didnt have these written down, Thank you for this timely post!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Joy. Your students are fortunate to have a reflective teacher like you. Donalyn’s book is another great resource, agreed. I did not include all of the questions from Nancie Atwell’s book; I highly recommend this resource.

      Another idea: Maybe have the kids generate questions themselves, after sharing some of these good examples. Create a “question bank” that can constantly be added to and revised. Asking important questions is just as important as knowing how and where to find the answers.

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  2. What a breath of fresh air – providing opportunities for struggling readers to “read like real readers”. A book club environment is authentic, motivating and safe. Providing reader response possibilities and question prompt ideas allow all readers to enter the conversation. Sadly, too many of our struggling readers have not had these rich reader talks… Nicely done!

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    1. Thank you Sue. Both the staff and students enjoy participating in this intervention. In fact, we had staff members assigned through March once we announced the program back in the fall. If the adults want to be there as much as the kids, lots of enjoyment must be happening.

      Speaking of enjoyment, I had fun helping the students pick out their eBooks last Friday on my computer in my office. Check out the 4th and 5th graders’ choices here. (Names have been changed to protect the students’ privacy.)

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  3. Great post! Have you read Conferring by Patrick Allen? I bet you would enjoy it and be able to use it with the book clubs.

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