Red Light, Green Light Questions
Students will be able to ask and differentiate between recall questions and inferential questions while they read.
Introduction (2 minutes)
- Tell students that strong readers ask themselves questions as they read (e.g. “We are all exercising our reading muscles and today we are going to practice asking questions while we read”).
- Explain that we ask questions for many reasons. Some questions help us choose a book to read. Some help us think about a book we’ve finished reading. We ask questions when we are curious or confused. Asking questions can help us make predictions, discover cause and effect, or make inferences. Today we are going to explore two types of questions.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (15 minutes)
- Introduce the idea of two types of questions: red light questions (factual or recall questions) and green light questions (inferential questions).
- Describe red light questions as ones whose answer can be found in the text or can be proven. Usually red light questions can be answered with a few words or short sentences. We can judge the answer as correct or incorrect. (e.g. “After we answer a red light question, we STOP thinking.”)
- Describe green light questions as ones that make a reader think deeply because the answer is coming from their head instead of straight from the book. The answer to a green light question is open to disagreement, but can be supported by evidence from the text and one’s own reasoning. (e.g. “In order to answer a green light question, we must START thinking.”)
- On chart paper, make a T-chart labeled Red Light Question / Green Light Question.
- Develop a red light question based on a book or story that your students are familiar with, ideally one that you’ve read recently. For example, if you’ve read Frindle by Andrew Clements, you might ask the question: What did Nick do to annoy his dictionary-loving teacher? (He called a pen "frindle"). Write the question (not the answer) in the red light column on the T-chart.
- Ask students to explain why this is a red light question (the answer is in the book).
- Have students turn and talk to a partner to come up with more red light questions based on the same book.
- Call on two or three students to share their questions and record them on the T-chart. When students share their questions, ask them to justify why their questions are red light questions.
- Remind students that some red light questions have only one answer, but others might have more than one answer (e.g. what color is the sky? Blue. What types of clouds do we see in the sky? Stratus, cirrus, cumulus, etc.).
- Next, model a green light question from the same book and record it on the T-chart in the green light column (e.g. Why did Nick like pulling pranks at school? He wanted to get attention/he wanted to make people laugh/he was bored).
- Explain that in order to answer this question, the reader must think and form an opinion for themselves. The answer isn’t in the book, but a reader could make a good guess based on what they know about Nick. Remind students that a good guess that is supported by the text is called an inference.
- Have students turn and talk to a partner to come up with more green light questions.
- Call on volunteers to share their green light questions and give justification for their categorization. Record the shared questions on the T-chart.
- Support students as needed. At this stage, some students may need help turning a red light question into a green light question (e.g. What did Mrs. Granger say in her letter to Nick? → Why did Mrs. Granger choose to be the “villain” in Nick’s life story?).
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (20 minutes)
- Hand out two sticky notes per student.
- Tell students that you will be showing a short video that tells a story. After watching, students will write down one red light question and one green light question based on the video. Each question should be written on a separate sticky note.
- Show students the video clip for the short film "Presto."
- When the video is over, reiterate the task (on separate sticky notes, write down one red light question and one green light question based on the video).
- After students have written their questions, invite them to come place their sticky notes on the T-chart in the appropriate columns.
- Read the student generated questions aloud from the red light column (stack notes that have duplicate questions to avoid repetition). Then, read the questions from the green light column.
- As you read the questions aloud, call on volunteers to answer the questions and explain how they know they are red light or green light questions. With student input, move any questions that have been placed in the wrong column. (It is not necessary to answer all the questions; the focus should be on question development and categorization.)
Independent Working Time (15 minutes)
- Explain that students will now read a story on their own. As they read, they should focus on asking themselves questions. They can use the displayed T-chart for examples of red light and green light questions.
- Hand out the worksheet.
- Circulate the room as students work and offer support as needed.
- When students are finished, invite a few students to share their questions with the class. Ask the class to categorize the shared questions as red light or green light questions (e.g. “hold up a red marker if you think it is a red light question, hold up a green marker if you think it is a green light question”).
- For students who need more scaffolding, read the story verbally to them during independent practice or have them work with a partner or small group to generate questions.
- For an extra challenge, have students generate multiple answers to each of their green light questions and cite evidence from the text to support their answers.
Assessment (5 minutes)
- Exit ticket: Hand out one sticky note per student. Tell students to write their names on their sticky notes. Then, give students a general topic (e.g. dogs) and tell them to write one red light question and one green light question about the topic (e.g. What do dogs eat? Does my dog really understand everything I say to him?)
- Collect exit tickets as students finish and use them to check for understanding.
- Use observations from guided and independent practice to identify students who will need additional support.
- Post-lesson: check finished worksheet for understanding.
Review and Closing (3 minutes)
- Ask: “What is the difference between a red light question and a green light question?”
- Give students one minute to discuss with a partner.
- Call on volunteers to share their responses with the class.
- Explain that both red light questions and green light questions can be useful when we read. However, we are going to challenge ourselves to ask more green light questions to get our thinking going!