Ask the Author: A Reading Comprehension Strategy
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
We know that questioning the author is an important skill that good readers use as they read (Beck & McKeown, 2006). In this lesson, students practice generating quality questions that they'd like to ask the author if they could meet him or her. You might also combine the idea of inviting students to role-play in pairs as author and interviewer. (A fist makes a great makeshift microphone!) Research your particular author before you teach the lesson. That way, you can share background on the author with students as they ask and answer questions about the text.
1. Introduce the Strategy
Explain to students that good readers think about questions they'd ask the author if they could meet him or her. Today they will practice asking the author.
- Ask students what they already know about the strategy. Have students share with a partner the title of a favorite book and share a question they'd ask the author if he or she enteredthe classroom right now.
- Define/explain the strategy. Explain to students that good readers question the author throughout the reading process.
- Engage students. Ask students to open a familiar text and share a question that starts with "Why did you decide to . . .?" for the author. Work in pairs. You may want to use the same text you are modeling from.
Option: Briefly mention your own adult reading and times when you question the author. You might wonder about the author's ideas, characters, or writer's craft.
2. Model the Strategy Through Interactive Think Aloud
Using the mentor text you've selected, model what kinds of questions you have before, during, and after reading. Record on sticky notes and post in the text. Say something like, Before reading, I am wondering why the author selected this title and not something else. Read a page or two of the text and stop to think of a question you'd like to ask the author during reading. After the reading, model yet another question. See the question starters on page 110.
- Engage students. Students write one author question on a slate or sticky note to share. For younger students, struggling readers, or English learners you might provide a question starter such as How did you decide_______? Why did you make the character ______ so ________?
3. Support Interactive Guided Practice
Students work in pairs or table teams to write questions for the author of the mentor text or another text you are reading together.
- Option 1: Students record their questions for the author before, during, and after reading on a paper folded into thirds. Share.
- Option 2: Provide students with copies of the reproducible for Ask the Author. Because students are in teams, they might share one copy between pairs or table groups with one student serving as the recorder. Make sure teams share their questions. Invite students to take turns role-playing as the author. Turn on the overhead projector for a spotlight on the author. You may wish to use a pretend microphone.
4. Provide Independent Practice
Students fill in their Ask the Author reproducibles or record on paper their questions for the author of a text they are reading. Monitor student responses and give support where needed.
5. Wrap Up the Lesson
Ask students to discuss the following:
- How does questioning the author help us when we read?
- What are some quality questions to ask the author?
Differentiating Instruction Tip
Make "Ask the Author" an ongoing optional activity in the classroom for students who wish to respond to their reading by asking the author questions. Search the Internet and provide students with contact information to occasionally actually send questions to authors.
Try Ask the Author with short nonfiction texts in student newspapers or magazines. Ask students to think about whether the author wrote the piece to inform, persuade, or even to entertain. Ask the author questions about text features such as the table of contents, selected illustrations, and photographs.
This article is excerpted from Interactive Think-Aloud Lessons: 25 Surefire Ways to Engage Students and Improve Comprehension by Lori Oczkus.