TEACHING STRATEGY

Creating Questions to Engage Critically with Texts

Exploring Texts Through Read Alouds
Grade Level
K-2

What?
This strategy provides tools to create questions that help students engage critically with Perspectives central texts and examine them for issues of power and social inequity. The activities suggested here also encourage readers to bring their knowledge and experiences to the reading of a text.

When?

Before and after reading

Why?

Critical literacy exercises, like those provided here, give children tools and strategies to examine how discrimination (gender, ethnic, social class, language and religion) is produced and reproduced in schools and society. The Common Core stresses that, to be prepared for college or careers, students must not only comprehend what they read, but critique and question “an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises and assess the veracity of claims and the soundness of reasoning.” Likewise, they must “come to understand other perspectives and cultures.”
 

How?

This activity is a good starting point for talking about critical literacy. Move into this discussion gradually; be sure your students understand the process.

  1. Select a Perspectives central text.
  2. Read the central text aloud while students follow along.
  3. Define bias and stereotype in age-appropriate terms. Consider adding these words to your class vocabulary anchor.
  4. Ask children question such as:
    • What is the main idea of the text?
    • Who is the main character?
    • What is the main character’s gender identity (including animal characters)?
    • Who is the narrator? Are there characters that have a different point of view than the narrator? How do you know?
    • Which groups of people are represented?
    • Which groups of people are not represented?
    • What is the connection between character X and character Y? How are they similar or different?
    • How do characters X and Y respond to character Z?
    • What do you think the author is trying to tell you about a group of people or about an individual?
    • Do you agree or disagree with what the author is representing? Why or why not?
  5. Provide opportunities for children to examine read aloud texts for biases.
    • Linguistic bias: Look for culturally loaded terms (e.g., “black sheep,”“that’s so gay,” “that’s ghetto”) and sexist language (fireman instead of firefighter).
    • Stereotyping: Examine storylines and illustrations for ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, religious, ability and cultural stereotypes (e.g., “What do the families in our texts look like?”).
    • Invisibility: Examine texts to determine if there is a systematic exclusion of races, family types, socioeconomic class or cultures.
    • Imbalance: Examine textbooks and classroom materials to determine if there is a balanced presentation of different groups. (e.g., “Is only one group of people present?” or “What role are men in this text playing? What role are women playing?”)
    • Unreality: Examine texts to determine if sensitive or controversial issues (such as such as slavery, discrimination, prejudice, social movements, homelessness or immigration) are glossed over with inaccurate or incomplete information.
  6. Encourage students to create questions about the text while they read or encounter other media.
     

English language learners

This strategy is effective for English language learners because students are able to ask and answer questions based on individual understanding. Modify the strategy by allowing students to illustrate the answers to their self-generated questions about the read-aloud text.

 

Connections to anti-bias education

The ability to critically examine texts, even at a young age, creates a classroom environment that is inclusive and fosters equality. This strategy helps to raise student awareness of power and issues of fairness. In addition, it helps students develop a critical consciousness toward the texts they are exposed to, both in and out of the classroom, because they are asked to identify both what is present in the text as well as what is not present.