5 Powerful Questions

imgresby Rebecca Alber

My first year teaching a literacy coach came to observe my classroom. After the students left, she commented on how I asked the whole class a question, would wait just a few seconds, and then answer it myself. “It’s cute,” she added. Um, I don’t think she thought it was so cute. I think she was treading lightly on the ever-so shaky ego of a brand-new teacher while still giving me some very necessary feedback.

So that day, I learned about wait/think time. And also, over the years, I learned to ask better and better questions.

Many would agree that for inquiry to be alive and well in a classroom that, amongst other things, the teacher needs to be expert at asking strategic questions, and not only asking well-designed ones, but ones that will also lead students to questions of their own.

Keeping It Simple

I also learned over the years that asking straightforward, simply-worded questions can be just as effective as those intricate ones. With that in mind, if you are a new teacher or perhaps not so new but know that question-asking is an area where you’d like to grow, start tomorrow with these five …


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“We believe in the transformative power of a great text, a great question, and a great teacher. That’s why we collect texts that students love to discuss.Teachers know their students best. That’s why we created a flexible resource that works with whatever you’re already teaching. CommonLit is building a reading resource by teachers, for teachers, from the ground up. We depend on you to connect with us and suggest content.”

COMMONLIT.org is a collection of poems, short stories, news articles, historical documents, and literature for classrooms.

  1. Choose a theme
  2. Choose a discussion question
  3. Choose a text
  4. Ready for Tomorrow!


  • Teachers identify texts that students love to discuss;
  • We negotiate with the copyright holders;
  • We identify the Lexile reading level;
  • We organize the texts by theme so teachers can use them in their lessons;
  • We put everything online for free.

College success starts in middle school – the best predictor of college readiness is eighth grade literacy. Students learn best when texts are differentiated by reading level. Grouping texts by theme helps students relate what they read to their lives, and motivates them to keep reading outside of school. All students perform better and learn more when they discuss what they read, form opinions, and defend their claims. The effect is greater for struggling readers, English language learners, and students from low-income families.

 CLICK: CommonLit.org

Guys Read

imagesResearch shows that boys are having trouble reading, and that boys are getting worse at reading. No one is quite sure why. Some of the reasons are biological. Some of the reasons are sociological. But the good news is that research also shows that boys will read – if they are given reading that interests them.

So the biggest part of this site is the collection of book titles below. These are books that guys have told us they like. Our idea is to help guys become readers by helping them find texts they want to read.

Get in there and start looking around. There is a little something for everyone. And please help guys out by recommending more of your guy-favorites. – Jon Scieszka

CLICK: GuysRead.com