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This critical thinking lesson teaches readers to “question the author” for deeper understanding


Art, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies  


7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Question the Author / Writing to Learn
By – Wendy Tarbox
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects – Math, Science, Social Studies, Music, Art, Language Arts
Grade Level – 7-12

Colorado State Reading and Writing Standards and Benchmarks:

  • Standard 1: students use comprehension skills such as previewing, predicting, inferring, comparing and contrasting, rereading and self-monitoring, summarizing, identifying the author’s purpose, determining the author’s purpose, determining the main idea, and applying knowledge; make connections between their reading and what they already know, and identify what they need to know about a topic before reading about it; adjust reading strategies for different purposes such as reading carefully, idea by idea, skimming and scanning, fitting materials into an organizational pattern, finding information to support particular ideas, finding the sequence of steps to a technical publication.
  • Standard 4: students apply thinking skills to their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing by making predictions, analyzing, drawing conclusions, discriminating between fact and opinion; recognize, express, and defend points of view orally and in writing; identify the purpose, perspective, and historical and cultural influences of a speaker, author, or director.


  • Upon completion of the lesson, students will be able to:
    • Examine the reasons the author structures text in a certain order (Analysis, Evaluation)
    • Question the author and oneself about the topic (Comprehension)
    • Respond in writing to positions posed by the author (Comprehension, Synthesis)

Resources and Materials:

  • Science text or article pertinent to current classroom topics at appropriate grade level.
  • Inquiry journal – 1 per student
  • Pencil or pen – 1 per student


  • Some students may need to be given a graphic organizer for required information.

Preparing Students for the Lesson:

  • Expected Behaviors
    • Students should be put into cooperative groups of three or four making sure the groups consist of mixed abilities.
    • Students are expected to treat each other in a respectful manner.
    • During the lesson, students are expected to focus on the goals and objectives.
    • Group conversation and responses need to be recorded in inquiry journal in legible handwriting.

Teaching the Lesson:

  • Preparation:
    • Pick a small text or portion of text that is both interesting and can inspire a good conversation.
    • Choose meaningful stopping places where you think your students need to go deeper for greater understanding.
    • Create questions to encourage critical thinking for each stopping point.
      • Ex: What is the author saying?
      • Ex: Why do you think the author used the following phrase?
      • Ex: Does this make sense to you?
  • Introduction/Modeling/Guided Practice:
    • Display a salient, controversial, or potentially problematic passage from the article or text along with one or two questions you have written ahead of time on the board, computer projector, or overhead.
    • Model for your students how you (as an expert reader) think through the questions.
  • Procedure/Independent Practice:
    • Invite small groups to read and work through the questions you have prepared. Let them record their discussions in their logs.
    • When students ask questions that go unanswered, restate them and encourage students to work together to determine the answer.
  • Closure:
    • Have representatives from each group share questions and have whole class continue to discuss as a group and record in their logs.


  • Quality of discussion and written responses as well as the engagement in depth with the topic at hand will indicate whether the lesson helped students comprehend the text at a deeper level than mere cursory reading.

E-Mail Wendy Tarbox !

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