I mustache you a question: Have you ever had an interaction similar to this?
Teacher: Before we get on the bus to leave for our field trip to the science center, does anyone have any questions?
Student: My mommy gave my cat to the neighbor because she said it didn’t smell good.
These types of responses always make me laugh. They also remind me that being able to understand what a question is, and how to ask one, are important skills that I need to teach to my students.
Asking questions can be difficult for some students. Some are shy. Very young students may not even be sure how to do it. Mustache Mondays is an activity I created to teach my students about questions while providing a fun activity to help open up the more reserved children.
On a family trip to Atlanta, Ga., a few years ago, I saw a coffee mug that had a picture of the earth with a large mustache underneath it and the words, “I mustache you to conserve.” I thought that was so clever and never forgot it. Since then, mustaches have become omnipresent. They are everywhere and I’m happy about that because it makes finding supplies for my Mustache Mondays easier.
We have Mustache Monday once a month. The lessons only take about 15 memorable minutes, but they give you an anchor to revisit every day. Here are some of the things we cover in our fun days of learning about questions:
We read Moosetache by Margie Palatini and illustrated by the fantastic Henry Cole to introduce mustaches in a fun way.
We talk about what a question is and list some simple question words such as who, when, where, and how.
We discover more words that can begin questions (can, will, what, do, is) and give examples of how these are used to ask questions.
We discuss how question words are different. Some examples include:
If someone asks you “Who?” then the answer will be a person.
If you hear someone ask “How many?” then they usually want a number.
Discuss what a question mark is and how it’s the signal that you’ve just read a question.
We begin reading and copying some simple questions and writing short answers such as: Can my dad lift a cab? Will you let me win?
We talk about how to read a question and then practice making our voices go up when we read them.
It doesn't seem like much to cover in a full year, but by taking it slowly and reinforcing each month's knowledge, my students leave me more confident in their ability to ask questions.
There are temporary mustache finger tattoos (often called fingerstaches) that you can order. Each child has the option of having one applied each Mustache Monday. Not everyone wants to wear a tattoo under their nose but many of these students are willing to put it on their finger. The students who only want the fingerstache (my students love that word) the first couple of Mustache Mondays will often ask for it under their nose before long.
I have a special sign that I put outside my door on Mustache Mondays to remind the students as they enter the room that it's a special day .
There are also great student books out there that talk about different types of mustaches. This links directly to our science curriculum vocabulary as one of our objectives is to have our students understand the idea of variety (different type of dogs, apples, penguins and, of course, mustaches).
After just a Mustache Monday or two, seeing a mustache reminds students about what they have learned. Having mustaches around will keep the information fresh in their minds.
When I have a question for the class, I will occasionally begin with, “I mustache you a question,” to remind them about what we have learned about questions on Mustache Mondays.
We have a few Share Days (a.k.a. Show and Tell). This gives my kids a chance to ask and answer questions with each other. I divide the students up and assign each student a day of the week to bring a special item from home. I may have four students assigned to Monday and five each to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. After the first couple days I have noticed that even the shy students are raising their hands to ask the presenter a question. These Share Days only last for two or three weeks, but provide great practice for asking questions in a way that students want to be involved.
I found some great mustache awards on Teacher Pay Teacher that I use for our Parent Presentation at the end of the year. This year my awesome wife bought some mustache molds so that we could make a chocolate mustache on a stick for all my students!
I hope that you will try having a Mustache Monday in your classroom and let me know how it goes.
I can’t wait to see you next week.