Questioning the Author

by Katie Hamlin

Which grades benefit most?

Grades 3 - 8

What areas of instruction does it address?

  • Oral Language (It involves quite a bit of discussion!)
  • Comprehension (Lots of higher-order thinking and processing)
  • Content Areas (Encourages deeper analysis of a variety of text types)

How do I do it?

1. Prepare your text. Identify big ideas from the selection that students should focus on and break it up into digestible pieces.


2. Develop queries. Queries are questions to pose to students about author motives and strategies that cause them to think deeply and facilitate discussion.


3. Read the text. Students read the first segment.


4. Ask your queries. After asking, facilitate student discussion using the tools I describe more in detail below.


5. Keep on going. Another segment, more queries.


6. Discuss the text as a whole. To bring closure, help students examine accuracy and viewpoint, make connections, and compare and contrast to other works on the same topic or by the same author.

Why am I using this strategy?

First of all, this strategy introduces the idea that authors are fallible. This means that they can make mistakes or explain things in an unclear or biased way. Students need practice with using queries to examine information critically in the context of who wrote the text. It also helps students build meaning by examining the key viewpoints of the author.

What are some examples of queries?

What is the author implying in this sentence?


How does this connect to the idea in the first segment?


Why do you think the author uses such strong language here?


How could the author have adapted this to a different audience?

After asking these, how can I facilitate discussion?

Marking The teacher highlights an idea expressed by students.

"A lot of people said something about ___, so let's dig deeper into that."


Turning-back The teacher returns responsibility to students.

"If you were to ask the author about that instead of me, what do you think she would say?"


Revoicing The teacher rephrases student ideas to clarify.

"So what you're saying is that the author feels threatened by BOTH of these things equally?"


Recapping The teacher summarizes before moving ahead.

"Now that we know why the author has a fear of rat poison, let's read the next section on how she responds to the new building policy."


Modeling The teacher models thoughts on a point students might have missed.

"As I'm reading this, I have to wonder how the incident with the janitor affected the author's view on the issue."


Annotating Teachers provide information during a discussion.

"I'm glad you brought that up, because the author actually did publish a research study on household toxins in 2011."

How would Katie use it?

  • Discuss in large and small groups
  • Incorporate writing or journals to express ideas
  • Role-play or mock debates taking the identity of the author

Bring in the Standards

Any that require students to:


Read grade-appropriate stories and nonfiction texts.

Explain what a text says explicitly and draw inferences.

Examine how authors support their viewpoints.


For example:


RI.6.6 – Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.


RI.5.2 – Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

5th graders questioning the author...
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