Charles: Focusing on Literacy Skills [Questioning]

Questions lead us to consider the DEEPER MEANING of a text.  Both ANSWERING and ASKING questions we enhance our understanding while developing new perspectives from which to interact with a selected text.


Charles: A Focus on Literacy Skills

Charles is a short story written by Shirley Jackson in 1948.  A full copy of the text can be READ HERE.  This SERIES will focus on all TEN KEY LITERACY SKILLS.  The lessons are arranged in SEQUENTIAL ORDER which builds a strong foundation before moving on to the next skill.

This series is an excellent way to BEGIN your class’s semester, ensuring everyone has a strong understanding of BASIC LITERACY SKILLS before you gradually release responsibility, asking them to put those skills into practice.

Explore other SHORT STORY LITERACY SKILLS ASSIGNMENTS for more ways to instruct your students.






There are three main types of questions – Literal, Inferential, and Evaluative. INFERENTIAL questions require one to use personal knowledge, combined with knowledge from the text to answer them. EVALUATIVE questions ask for personal opinions, which must still be supported by specific examples from one’s life. LITERAL questions require one to restate, in full sentences, information that has been directly stated in the text.

What’s the Point of Questions?

The point of questions is to better understand a text.  By ANSWERING a question, it is hoped that you are led to a DEEPER understanding of the text as the answer will HIGHLIGHT key pieces of information.

What Makes a Strong Question?

A strong question is one that FORCES the reader to consider KEY PIECES of information.  A strong question should:

  • HIGHLIGHT important details
  • Offer new PERSPECTIVES on an event
  • Provide INSIGHT into a character’s thoughts or actions
  • Demand a BIG answer, not a simple yes or no.


Answer each of the questions below.  Write one sentence explaining the INSIGHT each question HIGHLIGHTS for the reader.

Who did Laurie walk to school with on his first day?


How did Laurie manage to convince his parents that he was well behaved at school?



Would you welcome Laurie as your class helper if you were his teacher?



Big Questions versus Small Questions

BIG questions are those that require a large answer.  These are also called OPEN questions because the questions are open to a variety of different answers.  SMALL questions are also called CLOSED questions because they have a very limited number of correct responses.

Asking BIG questions provides a far greater insight into a text, as well as offering readers more opportunity for self-expression.

How do I Ask BIG Questions?

The very first word in a question can be the difference between a small CLOSED question, and a large OPEN question.  Consider the following:


  • Do you like the story Charles?
    • Note that this is an EVALUATIVE question, but it’s one that can be answered with one word – yes or no.
  • Who did Laurie walk to school with on his first day?
    • This question is a LITERAL question, and while it requires students to show some understanding of the text, it is answered by simply restating information that was already presented to them.


  • Why did Laurie tell his parents about Charles’s actions each day?
    • This is an INFERENTIAL question that demands the reader consider what they know about the text, while also using information from their own personal experiences.
  • How did Laurie manage to convince his parents that he was well behaved at school?
    • By asking “how” readers must consider numerous pieces of information to construct their responses
  • Should Laurie’s parents have been more worried about what Charles was doing in class than what Laurie was doing?
    • When one is asked if something “should” happen, they are required to consider a number of pieces of information, while also coming to and supporting their conclusion/
  • Would you welcome Laurie as your class helper if you were his teacher?
    • By answering “would” questions the reader is allowed to express their open opinion while relating it directly to the text.



Asking Questions

Use the space below to ask one INFERENTIAL, one EVALUATIVE, and one LITERAL question.  Be sure to explain what INSIGHT you expect the answering of each question to provide.

Inferential Question:


Evaluative Question:


Literal Questions:





What’s Next

Having familiarized yourself with QUESTIONS you will have noticed that a number of BIG questions demand that the reader makes connections between the text and their own experiences.  This will be further developed in the next lesson where we look at CONNECTING.




Charles – WhatBinderDotCom Literacy Skills – Questioning.PDF





Charles: Literacy Skills Series












X: A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills Review

Whether you’ve arrived here as part of the larger Gender Representation Unit, or while searching for a strong short story to use with your students, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould is perfect for your classroom.  A copy of the story can be purchased online or downloaded from The Gender Centre (currently the fourth link from the top at the time of posting).


What’s the Story About?

This is the story of a baby named X.  The game is raised Gender Neutral; the parents refuse to tell anyone the sex of the child.  While this causes problems for X when X goes to school, other children soon see the benefit in being more like X.  As, is often the case, it is the parents who worry.

While this story is a work of fiction, it connects to many real-life examples, some of which were inspired by this piece.


A Focus on Literacy Skills

This story will refresh student’s knowledge when it comes to writing Point Evidence Evaluation paragraphs.  It will also focus on the following Literacy Skills:


Students will be asked to make and support inferences about the parents in the story, as well as the other community members.  They will be challenged to use the information presented to them in the text, as well as their own person knowledge, to make a strong educated guess about motivation.


Students will identify question types, focusing on both Literal and Evaluative.  They will then have to write a response in P.E.E. format, explaining if they would want to raise a baby X of their own.


Students are offered limited room to summarize a large amount of information.  This will help demonstrate the need to only add specific details while avoiding all unnecessary information.


Students are asked to recreate a part of the story, paying attention to how all five senses are activated during that moment.  Students will create a stronger understanding of the characters when considering what taste they might be experiencing, and what sounds would stand out to them.


Students will be asked to make Text to Text, Text to World, and Text to Self-connections with the story.  By doing so, they will work to create meaning, and develop a strong foundation for future discussions.



Related Articles

Parent’s Keep Child’s Gender Secret – Toronto Star, May 21, 2011

Baby Storm Five Years Later – Toronto Star, July 11, 2016




X – A Fabulous Child’s Story – Literacy Skills – 2018.pdf

X: A Fabulous Child’s Story (from The Gender Centre) – Direct Link