Facilitator Notes for PLC – Asking Questions


The Clemson Virtual Professional Development Library (VPDL) for South Carolina Classroom Teachers was designed to support Professional Learning Communities. As we know, powerful learning can occur when we view teaching and student learning and analyze it together with colleagues! For this reason, the possible responses to the questions that accompany each clip are not only hyperlinked to the questions, but are also given here under “Facilitator Notes.” In this way, the Facilitator of a PLC can more easily prepare to lead a session using one of the modules.

While the modules do not need to be viewed in order, we do recommend that teachers are familiar with the ideas in  “Classroom Environment: Engagement and Independence” and “Lesson Structure” before working through the Sample Lesson Modules for specific reading strategies.   The “Classroom Environment” module is the same one used in the Guided Reading modules on this website.

There are six modules that each focus on a specific reading comprehension strategy. In each of these modules, videotaped excerpts of a sample lesson are provided. The sample lesson for each strategy is taught by a South Carolina teacher in either a kindergarten, first, or second grade classroom. In the final reflection section after the lesson, there is a discussion of how the lesson might be adapted for different grade levels. See Introduction to Asking Questions and Suggested Readings for suggestions for additional lessons that will support students in understanding how to use the specific strategy.

To lead a Reading Comprehension Strategy module, we suggest that facilitators do the following:

Before the Session:

  • Read the Introduction to Asking Questions and Asking Questions Sample Lesson.
  • View all the clips from the lesson. There is about an hour of video, divided into 2-7 minute segments, including both the lesson itself and the teacher’s commentary about the lesson. There is no lesson video for Analyzing Student Work. Instead, you will be examining examples of work produced by the children during the lesson and discussing implications for instruction. Decide how you want to break up the module for viewing and discussion over PLC sessions.
  • Read ” Purpose” and “Procedures” and the “Question(s) to Consider Before Viewing” before watching each clip.
  • After viewing the clip, decide on your own responses, and anticipate other possible responses from colleagues. Then review the suggested responses in the “Facilitator Notes.” These are hyperlinked to the questions. Think about additions or clarifications that would be appropriate depending on the needs of teachers. Please note that the responses given are suggestions only. In many cases, the questions and ideas from the participants or your own insights as you view the segments may shape the most meaningful discussion relevant to the issues confronting your particular group.
  • Teacher Commentary video clips accompany most of the lesson clips. In this Commentary, the teacher of the lesson provides her own insights into the segment of the lesson. We recommend viewing the Commentary after the discussion of each lesson segment.
  • You may want to download and copy some of the Supporting Documents, especially the lesson plan, book summary (if you do not have copies of the book), student work, and any other charts provided for use during the session. There is also a transcript available for each lesson, and a chart of “The Lesson in Real Time” to show how long each part of the lesson actually took as it was taught.

During the Session:

  • Be sure that teachers have read the Introduction to Asking Questions, preferably before attending the session. Depending on teachers’ familiarity with teaching comprehension strategies in general and the current strategy in particular, you may want to incorporate some initial discussion about the Introduction into your PLC session. We have recommended returning to this introduction in the Final Reflection segment as well.
  • Before viewing any of the clips, teachers should read the Introduction to the Sample Lesson. They should also read the book pages being used in the lesson (or book summary) and lesson plan, both found in Supporting Documents.
  • Give teachers time to read and discuss the “Purpose” and “Procedures” related to each segment of the lesson, and address any questions. Then pose the question given before each clip.
  • View the video clip. Encourage teachers to take notes related to the focus question but also about their own questions, ideas, and thoughts as they view the lesson segment.
  • Have teachers turn and talk with colleagues after the clip about what they noticed, their questions and other reflections. Circulate to support and identify responses that will engage the whole group in deeper discussion. Then lead a whole group reflection about the segment.
  • If there is a Teacher Commentary about the lesson segment, view it and provide time for discussion about it.
  • You may want teachers to read the hyperlinked possible responses to the questions or just incorporate them into the overall discussion.
  • There are many examples of useful procedures and routines employed by the teacher throughout the lesson. In addition to the question(s) posed in the module, you may want to ask teachers to jot down procedures they notice as they watch each segment. Note and discuss these after each lesson segment and add them to an ongoing chart. We recommend adding to this chart throughout your study of all the strategy modules.
  • You may also want to keep a chart of “teaching language.” As with procedures, ask teachers to note language the teacher uses to build a respectful, collaborative community. Again, note and discuss this language and add ideas to an ongoing chart.

Concluding the Session:Be sure teachers leave ready to implement new learning from the session. You might conclude with some of the following:

  • Provide time for teachers to jot down their most significant insights from the session and any lingering questions, and then share with colleagues.
  • Review the charts created on “procedures and routines” and “teacher language.”
  • Discuss how teachers plan to implement new approaches from the session.
  • Discuss the importance of students learning to flexibly use the strategy of asking their own questions, and discuss how to incorporate the strategy into ongoing instruction.
  • Have teachers bring text they would use for an interactive read-aloud with their students to teach a “From Questions to Answers” lesson, or another lesson on Asking Questions. Provide time for them to identify appropriate places where they might think aloud, and what they might say and write or draw. Share and discuss.
  • Arrange for teachers to plan lessons collaboratively based on what they viewed and discussed in the session. If possible, teachers could watch each other’s lessons and provide feedback, or have everyone come together again to reflect on the lessons they taught.
  • Plan to teach a demonstration lesson based on the session for additional support.
  • Hold a follow-up session in which teachers bring their own student work from teaching a similar lesson and analyze it collaboratively.

The VPDL is also meant to be used flexibly by teachers on their own schedules. Teachers might find the Library useful as a reference to review on their own:

  • As a guide to teaching procedures for reading strategy instruction that they have not yet tried;
  • As a refresher for teaching reading strategies;
  • To promote reflective teaching as they analyze the teaching language and teaching moves of the teachers in the videos and listen to the interviews with those teachers;
  • To support using formative assessment as a guide to instruction (See Analyzing Student Work segment.)

Discussions from Video Clips:

Possible responses are given below to the “Questions To Consider While Viewing” from “From Questions to Answers” Lesson Video Clips. These are provided to stimulate thinking and discussion, not as complete or definitive answers.


Connect and Engage

What does the teacher do to set students up to be successful and engaged with the lesson?

  • She links the lesson to previous learning about asking questions, including cueing the children to a chart of question words posted in the room that they can refer to independently as needed;
  • She links the lesson to the ongoing study of different animals, and encourages anticipation about which animal they will read about today;
  • She encourages the students to formulate their own thoughts and questions about the topic from the cover of the book, immediately empowering them as active contributors to the lesson.
  • She circulates among the children to support, encourage, assess and then share out some of their questions with the group;
  • She clearly establishes the purpose of the lesson – to ask questions and to learn ways to find answers to our questions. She builds from the children’s curiosity to motivate their interest in findings answers.

Note that the teacher does not go over specific vocabulary words, or provide the children with background information about whales. She is setting up the lesson so that children will raise their own questions about words and new information they read. In this way, self-questioning provides a powerful vehicle for children to take responsibility to notice for themselves what they know and don’t know, and to take action to clarify understanding. It also allows precious time to be used more beneficially.

What are your thoughts about the role of turning and talking?

(For more on establishing procedures for turn and talk, see Monitor Your Thinking Connect and Engage classroom video and teacher commentary, and Facilitator Notes. For exploring the purposes of turn and talk, see Monitor Your Thinking Guided Practice 2 classroom video and teacher commentary, and Facilitator Notes.

  • Children are clearly comfortable with the procedures of turning and talking.
  • Turning and talking allows all of the children to participate immediately.
  • The children have support from peers to generate questions. Notice how they do not ask one question and stop; they continue to think about new questions.
  • The teacher is provided with an opportunity to assess both what the children know about whales and also their skill at developing questions. This information helps her to calibrate her lesson to the students’ actual needs.
  • The teacher is provided with the opportunity to support children individually right from the beginning of the lesson, maximizing their potential for confidence and success;
  • The teacher is able to gather authentic questions from the children to use as the lesson develops.

After viewing the lesson segment, watch the Teacher Commentary for Connect and Engage, and discuss.



What is accomplished by each example modeled?

#1: Noting new learning from the text

  • Draws students into the text by stopping and thinking about interesting information;
  • Shows the procedures to be used of jotting information on sticky notes and using drawing as well as writing;
  • Models that even though the focus of the lesson is on asking and answering questions, proficient readers notice and respond to new learning whether they have a question about it or not. This encourages flexibility with strategies. We want to be very careful that children recognize that the goal of strategy instruction is not knowing names of strategies or how to use one on demand, but rather to help readers more fully understand what we are reading.

#2: Creating a question from a heading and reading for the answer

  • Shows children that headings may spark a question they want answered and how to formulate such a question;
  • Supports children in reading to find an answer to the question;
  • Models how to record answers found to questions
  • Draws attention to how new questions develop from answers to old ones (“What is baleen?”)

After viewing the lesson segment, watch the Teacher Commentary and discuss.


Guided Practice – Part 1

What methods do students explore for answering their questions?

  • Locating relevant information in the text
  • Consulting other sources
  • Using visuals to understand
  • Using background knowledge (the teacher’s knowledge of straining spaghetti)
  • Inferring (the teacher’s inference that the process of getting food through baleen was similar to straining spaghetti)


Guided Practice – Part 2

Why is it important for children to learn a variety of ways to look for answers to their questions?

  • Students build flexibility and independent thinking about what to do to answer their questions.
  • Students learn that questions can be addressed in the current text without the reader really understanding the concept. By continuing to explore the idea of baleen, the teacher showed that a proficient reader and thinker isn’t satisfied with a surface answer; our goal is to truly understand.
  • Answers to authentic questions aren’t always found in the current text. We don’t want the children to feel frustrated when they can’t find answers, but rather to take other actions to expand their search.

After viewing the lesson segments, watch the Teacher Commentary and discuss.


Independent or Collaborative Practice

How does the teacher prepare the students to work on their own?

  • She posts and reviews a chart with the students of the various ways they could find answers to their questions;
  • She reviews procedures for choosing a “just right” book;
  • She posts and delineates with students the steps for them to take in asking questions and looking for answers in their books;
  • She models developing a question from the book cover;
  • She has a list of possible questions about animals ready for children who might need it (will be seen in next clip).

In addition to explaining what students will do, these charts provide a scaffold for students while they are working. Students can refer to them if they have questions, instead of asking the teacher, who is concentrating on conferring with children. Student independence is once again reinforced.

Sample responses:

Behavior Examples, Teacher/Student Language
Part 1 Part 2
Students asking authentic questions
  • What do they play?
  • What do they eat?
  • How do they move?
  • Why do they hunt by themselves?
  • Where do bats live?
  • What do lions eat?
  • Do lions eat people?
  • What do tigers eat?
  • Why do they eat pigs?
Methods students use to answer questions
  • Inferring –( hunting by themselves)
  • Using headings to find page with the appropriate information
  • Reading information from the text


  • Finding information in the text
  • Using Table of Contents to locate information


How teacher supports student use of strategies
  • Rephrases response to clarify it (hunting by themselves)
  • Models asking a question for clarification (what is prey?)
  • Reminds about using headings


  • Asks student to infer (Do you think lions eat people?)
  • Did you look back in the text? Can you find it for me?
  • Reinforces use of Table of Contents; credits another child for teaching me a trick about using TC
  • Cues student I think you just found your answer
  • We can probably make an inference with this one
How teacher supports mechanics of organizing questions/ answers and recording responses
  • Use of chart with sample questions – guiding child to find the word
  • Reminding about using question marks
  • Where are you going to put it, which side?
  • Are you going to draw a picture or write it?


  • Question marks – help the reader know you’re asking a question
  • Draw it or write it?
  • If you need help (with writing the answer) where can you look? – in the text
  • Reorganizing post-its in appropriate columns
  • Cues student to where to write answers
  • Write what you hear and praises approximation of spelling hungry
Student independence and partner support
  • Come on, let’s get to reading
  • We need to find the answer
  • Reading together
  • Writing and drawing
  • Writing and drawing
  • Using text to find answers
  • Using text to help with spelling



Sharing and Closure

What is accomplished in the sharing segment?

  • Children consolidate their understanding of asking their own questions and finding answers by sharing what they did and listening to peers;
  • Children find out new and interesting information about animals, and compare various animals’ habits (“Lions are cats too!”). Authentic interest is maintained in the topic.
  • Students learn from each other and further develop a learning community. They spontaneously ask each other questions or respond.
  • Students develop skills in speaking to an audience and sharing information (e.g., showing the picture of where they got their information.)
  • The teacher has another vehicle for assessing what children gained from the lesson.
  • The teacher reinforces that all questions aren’t answered and that’s fine; there are more sources to explore.

What alternative procedures for sharing might also be effective?

  • Choose a few children to share who have excellent examples that the class will learn from. Work with these children during independent practice so that over time every child shares in the circle, not just the more vocal ones.
  • Provide a turn and talk at the end of the sharing so everyone gets a final share opportunity with a partner if not with the whole class.
  • Teach the children to invite one another to share. (See Determining Importance Module, Sharing Clip and Teacher Commentary)
  • Develop standard procedures for students to respond to what other children have shared. (See Inferring ModuleSharing Clip and Teacher Commentary)

After viewing the lesson segment, watch the Teacher Commentary and discuss.


Analyzing Student Work

What we can deduce from the children’s work is of course limited by not having had conversations with them about it, and by not knowing how this work fits into the trajectory of their work overall. However, examining their work helps us think about how we might celebrate their strengths and nudge them forward – our most important role in teaching them.

  • Brainstorm questions you would ask in order to analyze the student work from this lesson (See possible list in Supporting Documents)
  • Analyze the student work samples provided under “Supporting Documents” using the questions you developed. (You may want to divide the student samples among colleagues.)
  • Discuss implications and possible next steps for the class, small groups, or individual students.

Possible Questions and Analysis of Student Work

The questions in the chart below reflect the overall goals of the lesson. They develop from simpler to more complex. First we note whether children are able to ask their own questions, possibly from general interest or from using the headings on the text pages. Then we note whether some of their questions arise from probing further into the reading. For example, the child who asks, “Why do they hunt by themselves?” is responding to information learned in the text and exploring it further. We also analyzed students’ answers at two levels: first did they accurately find information when it was available in the text; and then were they able to infer answers, especially to their “why” questions, when the information was not specifically spelled out, or synthesize information from more than one page or line of text to put together a more comprehensive answer.

Question: Did the child… Student
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Generate authentic questions about the topic?


3/3 3/3 3/3 3/3 3/3 2/3?* 1/3? 3/3
Generate questions from what was read or information in the pictures (as opposed to general questions before reading or questions from headings)? ?1/3 2/3 3/3 2/3 ? 1/3? 1/3? 3/3
Generate accurate answers to questions by finding information in the text?


1/2 0 1/1 0/1 3/3 2/2 1/? 0
Generate plausible answers to questions by inferring (combining background knowledge with text clues) or synthesizing (putting together information from different parts of the text)? 0 1 (& 1 verbally) 1/2 0 3/3



0 1? 1



After analyzing the student work, watch the Teacher Commentary. Then discuss implications and next steps based on all the information available (student work samples, conferring examples from the Independent Practice video clips, and Teacher Commentary.)

Implications and Next Steps:

  • On the whole, students seem comfortable with generating their own questions. We can’t decipher Student 7’s first 2 questions, and wonder if Student 6 asked “What is a lion?” simply because another student had asked, “What is a mudskipper?” in the modeling before independent practice, or if the child was truly wondering what type of animal a lion is considered. They also did very well with generating questions from headings on the pages of the books, many of which had very clear headings such as “Homes,” “Food,” etc.
  • Several children generated questions after reading some of the text or looking carefully at the photographs, such as “Why do they sleep during the day?” These showed that they are stopping to think about the text as they read, and coming up with more questions that take their thinking further. We would highlight some of these types of questions for the class as a whole, to encourage this practice.
  • Of the 8 students whose work is shown, only 1 found answers to all 3 of her questions. (We aren’t sure about Student 7). The children worked for about 25 minutes, so we assume that figuring out how to find answers to their questions was still challenging to most of them. We would want to commend students for their questions and continue working on finding answers. We could simply do a short mini-lesson using some of their questions and working together on finding answers, and then send them off to work on their remaining questions, perhaps in partners. The teacher might meet with a small group needing more support.
  • We would also want to confer with the Crocodile group (students 3 and 4) about how they found their incorrect answer to “What are reptiles?” They appear to have used the strategy of reading on, but incorrectly assumed that the next sentence in the text, after “Crocodiles are reptiles” explained what a reptile is. This is a common problem among early readers and we would want to help the children notice when reading on doesn’t actually produce an answer. We might help them use another source to find out what a reptile is, and then have them share how they did this with the group.
  • Several children asked “why” questions, and some were able to infer answers that are not directly stated in the text. Of course inferring that tigers eat pigs because they are hungry is not exactly an inference packed with information, but it’s fine for starters. A stronger example was the discussion about why the tiger hunts alone. The teacher supported the child’s attempt to explain his thinking by restating his idea in clearer terms, and then showing him that one question often leads to another by asking, “What is prey? Let’s see if we can find that.”
  • Student 8 demonstrated a very strong example of inferring and synthesizing to find an answer to her question. She figured out that kittens don’t have their eyes open when they are born by reading and looking at the pictures on both pages and putting together the progression of events. Student 5 also demonstrated synthesizing information across pages. She read about polar bears eating seals on one page, and eating reindeer, walrus, and berries on the other, and was able to put these together to make a more complete answer. She also paraphrased to answer her last question. The teacher could share these examples to encourage students to understand how to infer and synthesize to come up with answers to their questions.


Final Reflections

How might you adapt this lesson for your own students or for children at different grade levels?

  • With kindergarten children, we might choose to ask and answer questions from nonfiction big books with mainly illustrations and very short text. We might only introduce one way of answering a question –e.g., finding information from the picture – in the initial lesson, and add other methods, such as reading the caption or text, in subsequent lessons. We could also create an ongoing anchor chart to record the different ways we find answers as we teach the students about them.
  • With second graders, it will be helpful to assess the ways they already know to answer their own questions in order to decide what they need to learn. Students could be asked to brainstorm ways to answer their own questions and create an anchor chart from their responses. Shorter mini-lessons and small group sessions could focus on where they most need instruction and support. We would also place more emphasis on inferring answers and synthesizing to find answers across different parts of a text.

Revisit the Introduction to Asking Questions, particularly the last section, “How do we teach the strategy of questioning?” Which lessons in asking their own questions do your students need? How do you or will you continue to develop their proficiency with asking and answering their questions?

  • These responses will reflect the specifics of the teachers in the session.  Consider how the strategy supports different units of study in your curriculum, when would be most appropriate to introduce the strategy, and how it could be strengthened and applied across the year.