Ask and Answer Questions, 5 Secrets for Turning Your Students into Active Learners

Teaching students how to ask and answer questions while reading is an essential comprehension skills for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. This necessary ability helps shift passive learners into active, engaged readers! Equally as importantly, it helps to promote critical thinking skills. In this post I will capture 5 key strategies for implementing the skill of asking and answering questions for any Genre. We will examine ask and answer anchor charts, worksheets and graphic organizers – all terrific resources for success!

For students, generating their own questions marks the beginning of bridging their understanding gaps and unraveling confusion. The act of questioning enables them to express what they already grasp about a subject, to make connections with other concepts, and to recognize areas where they may need further clarification.

1. Promote Ask and Answer Questions with the use of Photographs!

Ask and Answer Questions
Spark Engagement with Photos!

Using photos to generate questions is a safe space for a more open discussion, one where your students don’t have to worry about a right or wrong answer. They can bring their personal experiences into the classroom and value is placed on their thinking as a process. It shifts the power dynamic between students and teachers, and helps develop empowerment.

Suggestion: A Carousal of Learning experience is a perfect way to spark student engagement. I’ve used this strategy many times with my 3rd graders. I number each photo, and place them around the room. With students in groups of 2 or 3, I provide them with my Asking Questions Bookmark or Graphic Organizer.

I then have them circulate around the room to generate a few questions for each photo. I give time at the end, to discuss their questions and possible answers either whole class or with a peer. This is how I begin each of my units of study. Check out my 5 Spring Passages Solve a Mystery Unit with this exact strategy.

2. Use Ask and Answer Graphic Organizers

Graphic Organizers

Using a graphic organizer or bookmark as pictured above, allows your students to organize their thoughts and helps to store large amount of information that is easily accessible. I used to use sticky notes and found that they were scattered everywhere and most students could never find what they needed.

Using these during independent reading or the first reading of a text SETS THE PURPOSE FOR READING AND DIRECTLY IMPROVES ENGAGEMENT!

My organizers above provide sentence starters for struggling students. They also teach students how to code their own questions (See below.) – This allows them to determine which questions are answered in the text, which may require more research, or may need clarification, and which allows them to go beyond the Author’s Words by Making InferencesGREAT WAY TO TEACH INFERENCING!!

3. Provide Time For Students to Answer their own questions

When students have time to answer their own questions, I passionately believe that is when true learning occurs! It promotes active learning and deepens their understanding of the material. By grappling with their inquiries, students become more engaged in the learning process, develop critical thinking skills, and gain confidence in their abilities to navigate and comprehend complex topics.

Equally as important, it fosters a sense of ownership, empowering them to take charge of their learning and in the long run, become more independent learners.

The coding system I use with my graphic organizers and bookmarks helps students determine what type of question they are asking and how they should respond:

  • A=Answered in the Text
  • C= I am Confused
  • I = I need to Infer
  • R= More research is needed

With this coding system students can gather a substantial amount of information for both the teacher and student. For you, the educator, it is also a great way to teach the skill of inferencing. It also allows students to further research a topic that is connected to the content focus.

Suggestion: Create a Research Center where students can further investigate their topic and then present it to the class. This can be done for early finishers, during center rotation or during a designated block where all students can hone in on their research skills.

4. Ask and Answer Questions with Partner collaboration

Ask and Answer Questions
Collaboration is a Great Avenue to Share Questions

This is my new favorite resource! When students have an active audience and can collaborate with their peers, active engagement is catapulted! I created this Making Inferences with a Partner sheet to allow time for partner collaboration. Students have the opportunity to take turns (which is a huge social skill) asking and answers each other’s questions.

Students select questions from their organizers that are coded, I for infer and generate possible inferences with a partner. This is a great indication of whether students are at a literal or inferential level – It would be a perfect snippet of evidence for Parent/Teacher conferencing, report cards and meetings with additional support staff!!

5. model and Practice Ask and Answer questions with short passages

Students don’t come equipped with the necessary skills for asking and answering questions. We must teach them this vital reading comprehension skill. The nonfiction passages above, in my Spring Unit are a great way to introduce this skill. It is also high engaging as a Solve the Spring Mystery Game is included.

I would select one passage and model the process of asking questions at during beginning, middle and end of a text. I love to chart these questions so that students can practice coding and answering them once the reading is complete.

Once students have a solid understanding of the skill, I would turn the process to them. I would allow time for students to share their questions as the passages are not long. Again, I would chart their questions and place their name next to it. This is a powerful way to have class discussions about the content discussed, ACROSS THE CURRICULUM!


I truly hope this post has provided you with valuable information about students ability to Ask and Answer Questions, a very important reading comprehension skill. If you have any questions or would like to share your ideas, please reach out to me at sgambatodebbi@gmail.com.

Don’t Miss out on the Freebie

Freebie Ask and Answer Questions GO

Want to get a feel for these Ask and Answer Questions Graphic Organizers? Try out the Freebie pictured above OR Explore it here.


Other blog posts you may be interested in:

ULTIMATE THEME GUIDE: 4 ENGAGING STRATEGIES FOR DETERMINING THEME IN 3RD, 4TH, & 5TH GRADE

7 POWERFUL BACK TO SCHOOL ACTIVITIES ELEMENTARY FOR BUILDING COMMUNITY IN THE CLASSROOM

I know that you’re not told this enough, but YOU ARE AN AMAZING TEACHER!!

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