January 19, 2017
By Sarah Sumnicht

Lesson plan

Red Light, Green Light Questions

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Do you need extra help for EL students? Try the Asking Deeper QuestionsPre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Do you need extra help for EL students? Try the Asking Deeper QuestionsPre-lesson.

Students will be able to ask and differentiate between recall questions and inferential questions while they read.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(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 practise 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, and we are going to rely on the text to help us create them and then answer them.
(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 FrindleBy 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. (For example: What colour 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. (For example: 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.
  • Pick some of the suggested questions and have learners work in partners to answer them, using the text to support their answers.
  • 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?").
(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, explain how they know their answer is correct, and then 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.
(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, and hold up a green marker if you think it is a green light question.").
  • Choose a few of the questions for the class to answer, and remind them to find the evidence in the text to support their answer. Discuss as a whole group, and allow students to agree or disagree with a peer's response.


  • For students who need more scaffolding, read the story verbally to them during independent practise 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.
(5 minutes)
  • Exit ticket: hand out one sticky note per student. Tell students to write their names on their sticky notes. Then, read students a short fiction text. Instruct them to write one red light question and one green light question about the story.
  • Collect exit tickets as students finish and use them to check for understanding.
  • Choose two of the student-created questions to display. Have students answer the questions by writing their answer on their whiteboards or a piece of scratch paper.
  • Use observations from guided and independent practise to identify students who will need additional support.
  • Post-lesson: check finished worksheet for understanding.
(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, and both require us to look back into the text for information and clues that will lead us to an answer. However, we are going to challenge ourselves to ask more green light questions to get our thinking going!

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