Are you looking for a book that shows readers how to ask compelling questions? If so, take a look at Just Because by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault. The story begins with a familiar bedtime scene. A little girl, tucked in her bed, asks her dad why the ocean is blue. Readers will infer that she’s asking such a big question because she doesn’t want to fall asleep. They may predict that the father will give a scientific answer. Instead, they’ll be delighted to turn the page where a fantastic explanation fills a double-page spread.
This story has an interesting text structure that will engage readers. It starts with a question that appears in a big circle of color. The questions have no quotation marks, but readers will understand the girl is talking. The answers on the next page float in white circles. It is understood that the father answers the questions, even though it is never stated.
Readers will also love the playful illustrations. The careful observer will notice a common color thread. The color of each circle with a question is featured on the next page. Readers will also realize that the father’s stories are inspired by toys in the bedroom.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: l.B.2 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.
Ask learners what they thought about the father’s answers. If he were visiting their school library, what resources could he use to find answers to the questions?
Invite learners to pretend the father needs their help to answer his daughter’s questions. Learners will pick one question from the book to research. They will make a plan to find the answer to the question.
Invite learners to create a zine, or a little notebook, to record their findings. They can follow the example in the book and write a question on one page and the answer on the next page.
Click here to watch a video on how to make a zine without scissors or staples. I created this video for young learners. They will need to pause the video along the way as they follow the directions.
If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.
Click here to purchase a copy of Just Because by Mac Barnett and Isabelle Arsenault from Bookshop. I am an affiliate of Bookshop; a business that gives back to local independent book stores and affiliates.
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