Learning Plans & Activities
Developing Questions as Part of Authentic Learning

Students develop questions in anticipation of meeting with a community member as part of an authentic learning experience.


Social studies




Classroom teacher


Students will analyze available information about a local organization using a close reading strategy.

Students will develop questions based on analysis.

Students will refine questions in preparation for meeting with a representative of a local organization.


Resources related to the community organization students will be contacting. This could include books or database articles connected to the general topic, text or video information from the organization's website, or printed materials provided by the organization.


Two 30-45 minute sessions


AASL National School Library Standards

I.A.1. Formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.

I.C.3. Acting on feedback to improve.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.9. Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Instructional Procedure

These lessons should take place after students have an awareness of the authentic learning project and the community organization that they will be helping.

Begin the first session by telling students that to truly help someone it is important to know what they need. Use an example of wanting to help a friend. Through the example, demonstrate that asking the friend what they need can give you the best opportunity to help them. Transition into the lesson by sharing that this is what they will be doing with the organization: asking questions in order to understand how to help them.

Introduce materials to give students more information about the community organization. Share with students that to ask meaningful questions, they must first learn something about the community organization.

Ask students to read or view the material through a close reading lens to understand the role of the organization. Working in pairs or small groups, students should first make note of passages that help them understand the role the organization has in the community. Next, these same collaborative groups should look for patterns in the passages and group them together to organize their findings. Third, collaborative groups should give names or titles to these groupings to summarize what they are beginning to know about the organization.

Finish the session by giving collaborative groups an opportunity to share their groupings as a representation of what they now know about the community organization.

Begin the second session by revisiting some of the titles created by collaborative groups in the close reading strategy from the first session. Share with students that these titles represent what they found out about the community organization and now that they know something about the organization, they are able to ask deeper questions to understand how they can help the organization.

With the previous session's work available, ask students to begin thinking about helping the organization. Acknowledge that they may already have ideas about how they can help, but share that they probably also have questions.

As a whole class, brainstorm a few questions that students were wondering about after their work during the last session. Suggest that questions may fall into three categories: questions about the organization; questions about the organization working with the community; and, questions about assisting the organization.

After students have generated questions, reconfigure groups so that students are equally distributed amongst the three, or more, question categories.

  • Groups should finish the activity by working with the generated questions to:
  • Consolidate similar questions
  • Refine questions by asking them aloud and discussing what the answer would tell us about the organization
  • Arranging questions in order that students would want to ask them
  • Prioritizing the top three to five questions in each group

Students are now ready to connect with the organization to learn more about them and how they can help.


The first session activity of grouping and naming findings can be done as a whole-class activity for those groups of students less familiar with this variation of a close reading analysis strategy.

For younger students or striving readers, students can work with shorter teacher-selected passages, images, and video, with the teacher asking students, "what do you see?" in addition to identifying passages in the text.


Students can fill out an exit slip after the second session answering: What one question would you most like to have answered by the community organization? How could it help your understanding?

About the Author

Tom Bober is a school librarian, 2018 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, and author of the book Elementary Educator's Guide to Primary Sources: Strategies for Teaching. He is a Digital Public Library of America Community Rep, a member of the Teachers Advisory Board for the National Portrait Gallery, and a co-chair of the Education Advisory Committee of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. Tom writes about student learning on AASL's Knowledge Quest blog and publications such as School Library Connection and American Libraries and has given workshops and spoken across the country. His foundation is built on over twenty years in public education, with six years as an elementary classroom teacher, seven years as a building and district instructional technology specialist, and over eight years in school libraries. Find him at https://tombober.com/ and on Twitter @CaptainLibrary.

MLA Citation Bober, Tom. "Developing Questions as Part of Authentic Learning." School Library Connection, May 2010, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2201173?childId=2201176&topicCenterId=1955265&tab=1.

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Entry ID: 2201176

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