Establishing Questioning, Koko's Kitten

Grade Levels: K - 3

Objective

This lesson is designed to establish primary students' skills in asking questions before, during, and after they listen to a story. You can help students learn to become better readers by modeling how and when you ask questions while reading aloud the true story, Koko's Kitten, by Dr. Francine Patterson. This is the second lesson in a set of questioning lessons designed for primary grades. (See Questioning, The Mitten for the first lesson in this set.)

Materials

  • Koko's Kitten, by Dr. Francine Patterson

  • Chart paper

Procedure

  1. Planning and Dianostics

    Asking questions before, during and after reading is a strategy that primary students can use to become better readers. Students need to be able to answer questions about a story to participate in this lesson.

  2. Hook/Engagement

    Ask students for examples of questions they ask their parents during a typical day, such as "What is for dinner?" "What story will you read to me?" or "Why can't I stay up later tonight?" Ask students why they ask their parents these questions. Lead them to explain that it is because they want answers. Many times, these answers will tell them something new, explain something to them, or make them think about something they didn't think about before. Explain that good readers ask questions about what they're reading because they are curious and want answers to help them understand the story better.

    Ask students to name a favorite story that you read to them in class or that a family member reads to them at home. Then, ask them several questions about that story, such as, "What is the story about?" "Who is the main character?" "Is it a real or imaginary story?" Explain that after they have read the story, they can answer many questions about it, which helps them to understand the story better. They can also ask questions before and during reading to help them think about and understand what they are reading.

  3. Vocabulary

    • Preface: where the author explains or introduces something that he or she is going to write about.

    • Epilogue: the ending part of a story that explains more about the story after the story is finished.

  4. Measurable Objectives

    Explain to students that you are going to read Koko's Kitten aloud to them and you want them to help you make a list of questions to ask before, during, and after reading. Then, you'll ask them to answer those questions with you. Explain that asking questions before, during, and after they read a story will help them to really understand the story.

  5. Focused Instruction

    1. Write on the blackboard or on three pieces of chart paper the headings: "Before Reading Questions," "During Reading Questions," and "After Reading Questions." You may want to use these framework questions while teaching or print them for students to reference when using this strategy. Show the cover of Koko's Kitten to students. Explain that you are going to read the story aloud to them. Tell them that you often ask questions before you read by looking at the cover of the book you are about to read. Model by thinking aloud several questions that you would ask before you read Koko's Kitten, such as:

      • "Who is Koko?"

      • "What do I know about gorillas?"

      • "Why is a gorilla holding a kitten?"

      • "Do gorillas like kittens?"

      • "Are kittens afraid of gorillas?"

    2. Write your questions on the blackboard or chart paper under the heading "Before Reading Questions." Explain that these are questions that you are asking yourself before you have begun to read Koko's Kitten. Next, open the book and read the "Preface" to students. Explain that many books don't have a preface, but this one does. Explain that the preface is not part of the story. Point out how you can already answer some of the questions that you asked yourself now that you've read the preface. Think aloud several of the answers. "Koko is a gorilla. She is holding All Ball, her kitten. It seems like she likes kittens. Answering these questions has already helped me understand a little bit about what the story is about." Then think aloud some questions you would ask after reading the preface:

      • "How does the author teach Koko sign language?"

      • "How does Koko treat All Ball?"

      • "Do gorillas really have feelings?"

    3. Explain that you are asking these questions before reading because you haven't started the story. Write these questions on the blackboard or chart paper under the heading "Before Reading Questions." Explain to students that they will be able to answer these questions as you're reading.

  6. Guided Practice

    1. Begin reading the story. You may choose to write all of these questions or only some of the questions on the blackboard or chart paper under the heading "During Reading Questions." As you are reading the first three pages of text, think aloud one question that you would ask yourself while you're reading these pages: "Will Koko will like her Christmas presents?"

    2. Read the next three pages of text aloud to students. Think aloud several questions that you ask yourself while you're reading these pages:
      "Why does Koko want a pet?"
      "Why does Koko choose the tailless tabby kitten?"

    3. Read the next three pages of text aloud to students. Think aloud several questions that you ask yourself while you're reading these pages:
      "Will All Ball like Koko?"
      "Will All Ball and Koko live together and get along?"
      "Koko is good to All Ball, even though All Ball bites her. Do most people think of gorillas as mean and violent?"

    4. Read the next three pages of text aloud to students. Think aloud several questions that you ask yourself while you're reading these pages:
      "Why does Koko like All Ball so much?"
      "Why does Janet want Koko to tell her about All Ball?"

    5. Stop at this point and explain to students that you are asking yourself these questions to make predictions about what will happen next in the story and to help you connect to and understand the story. Explain that these are the questions that you are asking, but students might come up with other questions. And, students may answer some of the nonfactual questions differently, which is fine. Show how you can answer your questions as you continue to read, and develop new questions, too.

  7. Independent Practice

    Read the final four pages aloud to students and ask them to think about some questions they have as you are reading. Once you have finished reading, call on volunteers to think aloud some of the questions they asked themselves as you were reading. Some sample questions could be:

    • "How will Koko act when he hears that All Ball is dead?"

    • "What does Koko mean when she signs 'Blind'?"

    • "Will Koko get another kitten?"

    Next, read the Epilogue and then think aloud several questions that you have after you have read the book:

    • "Why did Dr. Patterson want to tell this true story?"

    • "What have I learned about gorillas that I didn't know? Has it changed the way I feel about kittens and gorillas?"

    • "How would this book make other people feel about gorillas?"

    Then, ask students to think aloud several questions they have after reading Koko's Kitten and write some of the questions on the blackboard or on chart paper under the heading "After Reading Questions."

  8. Assessment

    To assess whether students have mastered the importance of asking questions before, during, and after reading, go through the questions for Koko's Kitten together and see if they can answer the questions. Then, select another book from a unit you are studying. Ask students to come up with several questions before you begin the book. Then, read the book aloud to students. Call on volunteers to ask questions as you are reading the book. Then, have students come up with some questions after you have read the story to them. Ask them how their questions helped them think about the story. Ask them how the questions that they ask before, during, and after reading are different. Try to identify students who appear to be having difficulty asking questions before, during, or after reading.

  9. Reflection and Planning

    Determine which students understand how to ask good questions before, during, and after reading by listening to the questions they ask for the Assessment activity and how they answer those questions. If a small number of students are struggling, form a small group to work with these students more intensively. In the future, encourage all students to ask questions before, during, and after reading any type of fiction or nonfiction in class.

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