Restating the Question Lesson

Am I the only one who adds restate the question to her plans ASAP for the new school year? As. Soon. As. Possible. It's crucial, and it's one of those skills that kids tend to resist a little bit because they don't understand WHY it's so important.

Anchor charts and practice activities that teach students to restate the question, PQA, or Put the Question in the Answer.

Restate the Question Anchor Chart and Lesson

We start with a lesson about how to restate the question using PQA! Put the Question in the Answer.  This can still be tricky for some kids, so we make an anchor chart together that shows them exactly how to do it.

anchor chart for restate the question, PQA, or Put the Question in the Answer

First, I explain that they need to identify WHAT it is asking them to find out, and most often, the easiest way to do that is by looking for one of the 5Ws– Who, What, Where, When, Why, and of course, How.  They underline what the question is asking in RED because they don't need to include those words in their answer.  This prevents students from answering questions awkwardly.  For instance, without taking this step, they might say, “How long it takes to get to the mall is 20 minutes.”  When they eliminate that question word, it sounds more natural.  

Then, they underline the keywords that they are going to use in their answer in green.  You can see all of this in answer chart above.

When we first start this skill, I have them use red and green to write their answers.  The green part matches the words that they underlined in the question.  The red part is their answer to whatever question is being asked.  So, for the first question, they underlined “How long,” and they write “20 minutes” in red to show their answer.  This really helped my students to see how to format their questions.  Eventually, it becomes natural, but at first, this is a great way to scaffold the skill!

Group Practice

Next, we do some group work to show WHY it's so important to restate the question and to also see some of the incorrect ways that students sometimes write their answers.  

I wrote six different answers to questions on a piece of chart paper.  Each group of students came up with the QUESTION that was being answered.  For this first one, the answers were ALL OVER THE BOARD! The answers had almost none of the question in them, so it was nearly impossible for the students to figure out what question it was answering.  It was fun to read some of the questions the kids came up with because they were all different.  We went through and talked about what made it a “bad” answer.  Then, I gave them the actual questions that were being answered, and they loved it!

restate the question, PQA, or Put the Question in the Answer lesson

Question 1: Why didn't you eat your bacon for breakfast?

Question 2: Why did mom burn the cupcakes?

Question 3: What time does the stadium open for the game?

Question 4: Why are you still sitting on the dock?

Question 5: Why did the family move to California?

Question 6: Why didn't Jack use his blankets?

Then, I gave them the same task, but with excellent answers! (Side note– you can really do this activity in any order.  There are merits to both ways.) Almost every question they wrote was identical, because the questions HAD been restated in the answer.  They completely understood WHY it was important to restate the question!

restate the question, PQA, or Put the Question in the Answer lesson

Update: I've taught this lesson many times now! Now I have students compare their answers and figure out how that impacted the questions they wrote.  It was a great discussion starter!

restate the question, PQA, or Put the Question in the Answer lesson

Partner Practice

The next day, I had them do the same task with a partner to reinforce the idea.  They each got two GREAT answers and two terrible answers.  They wrote the questions, and then I gave them the sheets with the actual questions and they could compare what they wrote to what the actual question was.  You can download this free lesson below!

free restate the question lesson for upper elementary

Finally, I had the students work through some scaffolded restate the question task cards to start applying the skill to reading passages.  The cards on the left (pink) have the key words in the question underlined AND the answer underlined in the passage.  They don't have to think too hard about the answer, but they can focus on writing the answer correctly.  I had them do 8 of these.  Then, I had them do 8 of the blue cards, which don't give them any clues.

After this task, it was time to start applying it to their literature– the whole point of learning the concept.  They all had a solid understanding of how (and WHY) to put the question in the answer.  I hope your students do, too!

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