Home > Our Design Lab > Learning Activities > Heading Guiding Questions

Heading Guiding Questions


This activity helps students to use a text feature of many textbooks and other nonfiction texts to aid comprehension.  Students identify headings and subheadings, and convert each into a guiding question that can focus their attention and inquiry as they read. 


Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Predicting
  • Questioning

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


Identify the text you would like to focus on.  This activity is intended for texts that contain headings and subheadings, and so is usually most applicable to nonfiction texts.  Textbooks are often a good choice. 

Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher introduces or review the terms “heading” and “subheading,” and leads students in brief discussion about the role of these text features. Teacher shows some examples of headings and subheadings in different texts.

    If students are already familiar with this text feature and this activity, this review can be very brief.

  2. Teacher displays a text, and models converting headings/subheadings to guiding questions.
    Reinforce the idea that when you convert a heading to a guiding question, you do not need to be creating.  The most effective guiding questions are usually the most straightforward conversion of a label to a question.  For example, if a section has the heading “Causes of the Civil War,” an appropriate guiding question is, “What are the causes of the Civil War?”  If the heading is “Mitosis and Meiosis,” an appropriate set of guiding questions is “What is mitosis?  What is meiosis?” 
    Usually a heading/subheading will convert to a single guiding question, but occasionally (as with mitosis/meiosis above) they convert most simply to a set of questions.
  3. Teacher distributes text. Students prepare to work alone or in pairs.

    It can be nice to photocopy book pages so that students are able to write directly on the pages.


  4. Students look at each heading and subheading in the text, and convert each to a guiding question. Students write the guiding questions in the margin, or on a sticky note stuck next to the heading/subheading.
    Circulate as students are working, asking them about their thinking and helping to clarify any confusion.
    As you circulate, you may need to model reframing headings as questions. 
  5. Students prepare to read, alone or in groups. Before reading each section of the text, students read the appropriate guiding question. As they read that section, they highlight information that helps to answer that guiding question.

    This step can also be saved for a subsequent class if you want to focus on writing guiding questions exclusively for a given class.


  6. In pairs, students read back over each guiding question. They attempt to answer each question, using the information they highlighted.

    You can also complete this step as a whole group, particularly with a short text.

  7. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.
    Students should respond to questions including:
    • Why do some authors include headings and subheadings?
    • How can you use headings and subheadings to support your comprehension and learning
    • How do guiding questions affect your comprehension?
    • When might this activity be most useful for you?
Downloadable Resources 
Login to See More