The Concept Question Board: Part 1

The Open Court Newsletter

The Concept Question Board Introduction

Many teachers, myself included, have struggled with integrating the Concept Question Board meaningfully into the Open Court Curriculum. Even those who have beautiful looking Concept Question Boards often put it up on the first day of the unit and leave it there as the best wallpaper you have ever seen.

Here are some tips I have discovered in making the Concept Question Board a living breathing entity to compliment my teaching of the Open Court units.

1. Involve parents. Solicit artifacts.

Simply asking students to bring in artifacts is not enough. You need to communicate information to parents in writing about your unit and asking for students to bring in artifacts. There are parent letters in the OCR Home-School Connection manual but I have found these to be too wordy for my parents many of whom are learning English themselves. Make your letter visual so it stands out; include a picture related to the unit.

For second grade I wrote parent letters for almost all of the units explaining briefly:

  • what the unit is
  • what the unit is about (do not assume parents know)
  • suggestions of artifacts to bring in

Here’s a sample letter for Fossils unit.

Allow students to think outside the box. Students may bring in things that do not seem to relate to the unit but with your assistance can find ways of relating those items to the theme. If students have nothing I allow them to draw a picture of an artifact they’d like to bring in so it is expected that everyone brings in something.

2. Use the Concept Question Board for Oral Language Development

If you just put it on the wall without talking about it you are missing terrific opportunities for oral language development. I have my students share what they have brought with the class, relating it to the theme, then allowing the class to ask two questions of the person sharing, again giving students an opportunity to practice questioning. A template on the wall for how to speak about your artifact helps English Language Learners to speak successfully about their artifacts (see photo above).

3. Write About It

Using the same linguistic frame (seen above) all students can write about their item with success. For some students, I assign a partner to assist them with their writing. I have students write about their objects first thing in the morning, while we are wrapping up morning business and other students are sharing. If they do not finish in those five or so minutes they finish their writing during Independent Work Time.

4. Contribute your own artifacts.

If you expect students to come up with artifacts to fit the theme you need to have some of your own. Sometimes this is harder than you think. Don’t just stick it up on the wall, model for your students how you share the artifact and write about it in the way you want students to.

Go to Part Two: Questions

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Sample Concept Question Boards:

above sample from Mr. Needleman’s 2nd Grade Classroom

above sample from Mrs. Kirk’s 5th Grade Classroom


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15 Responses to “The Concept Question Board: Part 1”

  1. Barbara Macedo Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing all of the wonderful resources you and others have created. This is my first year with Open Court and as I fumble my way through, it’s so helpful to see how others have made it more kid friendly and fun.
    Barbara Macedo
    Brentwood School
    Brentwood, Ca

  2. Erin Dryburgh Says:

    Thanks so much for the tips. I had to laugh, because “many teachers” sounds just like me. I have the best intentions, try to get the kids excited, and then grumble to myself when they don’t follow through. Then I kind of forget about it myself until the next unit begins. I’ll certainly give this idea a try in my classroom. It sounds great!

  3. Christine Says:

    Hello Mr. Needleman,

    I just had to write to thank you for this website. I am a new teacher to a wild and wooley bunch of 1st and 2nd graders(really new, just started Nov.27) and have not yet been to OCR training. My peers here are absolutely wonderful, but I don’t always want to impose on them because I have a zillion questions. I happened upon your website as I was surfing the web and, WOW! And the pictures of the C/Q board and unit openers, etc. are so helpful! Please keep it coming and I hope one day to be able to contribute!

    Thank you again,


  4. Mrs. D Says:

    Thank you! This is a great example of how to meaningfully use the Concept/Question board. It gave me many ideas for my next unit! Something else to do to keep using the C/Q board is once a week, have students do an oral homework by asking their parents or relatives a question relating to the unit and then sharing it the next day, in writing and orally.

  5. Susan Says:

    I like the pictures of concept question boards. The fossils board is cute.

  6. Karen Says:

    Great suggestions on the use of the Concept Question Board. How do you refer to the board during your daily lessons?

  7. Connie O Says:

    Another way to keep using the CQ boards is: at the beginning of Independent Work Time, I randomly grab about 5 questions off the Question side, and read each one. Then I ask if anyone would like to write an answer for it. I give that person the question; they write their answer, and then post both question & answer on the concepts side.

    It has improved the quality of the questions written (because students know it’s going to be read aloud with their name attached).

  8. opencourt Says:

    Also see part two for the second part of this article…

  9. Mrs. Lowe Says:

    I have a child , my own, who is in 6th grade and decoding on grade level but comprehending on a lower level- 3/4th grade because of his language display. How does one work around this difference, especially if he is suppose to read at the grade level? He has an IEP.

  10. Mathew Says:

    Mrs. Lowe, I would not worry about where your son is supposed to be but work with him on whatever level he is and try to take him to the next level.

    I would start by making sure he understands simple things that are going on in a story but generally speaking, students with trouble comprehending need help with inferencing, that is making connections to understand what is implied but not explicitly stated in text.

    A great way to do this is by using graphic organizers to map out what you are reading with your child. The Concept/Question Board, while maybe not entirely suited to home use, is a sort of life-sized graphic organizer.

  11. Creating Lifelong Learners » Blog Archive » The Concept Question Board Part 2: Questions Says:

    […] the first step, Part One: Soliciting Artifacts may not be easy at first, it can be a piece of cake compared to soliciting meaningful questions […]

  12. Creating Lifelong Learners » Blog Archive » Activating (and Reactivating) Your Concept/Question Board Says:

    […] have previously written about starting the Concept Question Board Part 1 | Part […]

  13. Jrivera Says:

    This is a great help for me as a new teacher.
    Thank you!!!!

  14. Debbie Panoke Says:

    Has anyone aligned the Open Court Resources for Second Grade Units 1-6 to the Common Core State Standards?

  15. Mathew Says:

    Not that I know of.

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