Beverly Cleary is a beloved author of novels for young readers, and one favorite of many children is Socks. In the novel, Socks the cat is the narrator and learns what happens to a family when a baby is born. Improve comprehension with this book and ask questions using ideas from Bloom's taxonomy.
Socks by Beverly Cleary is a book about what happens to a family when a new addition, a baby!, is added to it. This is a problem many students in your class will deal with, and Cleary has approached the problem with a slight twist--putting it from the perspective of the cat. After Socks gets into all sorts of trouble once the baby is born and he is practically banished from the family, he learns that the baby isn't so bad after all, and there is a place for him, too.
You can either read this book aloud to students, or you can use it in a literature group. No matter how you choose to share this story, it is important to create comprehension questions for Socks by Beverly Cleary that cover all the levels of Bloom's taxonomy from knowledge to evaluation
The First Three Levels
Knowledge is the first level of questioning. It refers to those questions that require a simple, factual answer. Here are some knowledge questions:
Who are the main characters in Socks? What is one characteristic of each character?
- Can you recall one way Socks gets into trouble once Charles William is born?
- Why did Socks have to go to the garage?
- Where do the Brickers find Socks and claim him as their new pet at the beginning of the story?
The next level of questioning is comprehension. With comprehension questions, you will give students a chance to show they understand the story with more than just a simple recall of the events or the characters. Comprehension questions require students to organize information, compare events or characters, or even interpret story events. Here are some examples:
- Can you explain how Socks is feeling when Charles William is born?
- How would you summarize the beginning of the cat's life, once the Brickers bring him home (before the baby is born)?
- Describe in your own words what happens with Socks and Nana's wig.
- Contrast how Socks feels about Charles William when he is first born and then at the end of the novel.
The third level of questioning is application. When you ask questions from this level, you want students to apply information they've already learned (or read in the book) to answer questions. It is an important skill for children to work on and master. Here are some application questions:
- What examples from the novel can you find to support that Socks is feeling left out and maybe even jealous once Charles William is born?
- How would you solve the problem of a pet feeling left out when a new baby is born? What could you learn from the Brickers' experience?
- What would happen if the Brickers had a second child? Do you think they would make Socks feel special this time?
The Next Three Levels
The last three levels of questioning require higher level thinking skills, which are important for your students' development of reading comprehension skills. You can use any novel to work on these skills, but here are some specific comprehension questions for Socks by Beverly Cleary.The fourth level of questioning is analysis. In this level, students are required to examine information and break it into parts.
- What inference can you make about Socks's behavior once the baby is brought home?
- What evidence can you find that the cat is not acting like himself throughout the middle of the book?
- What conclusions can you draw about the Brickers based on how they treat Socks at the beginning of the novel? How does it change in the middle of the book? How about the end?
The fifth level of questioning is synthesis. Synthesis is when you want students to take information and use it in a different way, such as to come up with different ways to solve a problem in a story. Here are some synthesis questions:
- What are some different ways that Socks can solve his problem of feeling left out once the baby is born?
- Make a prediction about what will happen if the Brickers have another child. What will Socks do? What will the Brickers do? What will Charles William do? Explain your answer for each.
- What would happen if Socks got into another fight with the tomcat? (Do you think Socks will ever fight like that again?)Explain why or why not.
Finally, the last level of questioning is evaluation. When you ask students questions from this level, you are asking them to state opinions and explain themselves based on facts. You are also asking them to decide whether or not ideas are valid and information is true. Here are some examples.
- Why is it better for Charles William and Socks to be friends than to be rivals or jealous of each other?
- What choice would you have made if you were the Brickers when Socks started to misbehave after Charles William was born?
- What is your opinion of this book? Would you recommend it to your best friend? Why or why not? Be specific about whether or not your best friend would like this book.
Build on What Students Know
This Beverly Cleary book is about a common childhood problem and a typical family problem for pets when a baby is born. Many of your students will understand the feelings and motivations of the characters. Use this understanding and build on this background knowledge, so students can also practice their comprehension and higher level thinking skills.
Mr. Coley Questioning Packet: http://www.mrcoley.com/pdfs/LC_Questioning_Packet.pdf
Author's experience: 16 years of teaching preschool through fifth grade
Cleary, Beverly. Socks. Harper Collins, 1990.
The G Marie Group http://gmariegroup.com/GMarie_Tool.pdf