Sarah, Plain and Tall Comprehension Questions

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Students reading the novel Sarah, Plain and Tall will enjoy the simple, straightforward story. Use these questions to check their comprehension of story elements like plot, setting, and characters on varying levels.

Why Ask Questions?

Students read for many reasons, such as to be entertained or to learn something, to name a few. The book Sarah, Plain and Tall allows them to do both at the same time. Teachers can use this book as they teach about Westward Expansion, or life on the prairie in the 1800s. With engaging characters and a plot that keeps moving, students are likely to gain a closer understanding of concepts without even knowing it.

But it's important to check in on their comprehension too. Students this age are reading to learn, and these newly emerging skills should be monitored closely. As teachers, we need to determine if they're using important comprehension skills, like asking questions and self-correcting when things seem ''off.'' We can do this by asking questions, both as they read, and at the end of reading. This formative and summative assessment model allows you, as the teacher, to take students' pulses and determine where they struggle and where they thrive. Take a look.

Questions for Characters

The novel Sarah, Plain and Tall has a wide variety of characters, enough to make just about everyone happy and easily connect to, and find, a favorite. Ask these questions to further analysis of characters and their traits, which show how their behaviors and actions define them.

  • Who is the narrator in Sarah, Plain and Tall? What is this style of writing referred to?
  • How does the way the story is told help you understand what's happening? Do you prefer this method? Explain.
  • Describe Anna as a character. What is she like? Use rich adjectives and cite evidence from the text to support your answer.
  • Who else lives with Anna? Describe the family unit and Anna's feelings about these people.
  • Why doesn't Anna tell Caleb the full story of his birth? What do you think would happen if she did? Do you agree with her decision? Explain.
  • Anna states that she wishes her Papa would sing again. Why doesn't he? What do you think would make him sing again?
  • Why does Papa (Jacob) place an ad for a woman? Who responds to the add Jacob places?
  • Sarah and Jacob initially correspond through mail. Why do they write letters to one another?
  • Sarah describes herself as ''plain and tall.'' Are these good characteristics? Why or why not?
  • How would you describe yourself? Use two adjectives and explain.
  • How do Anna and Caleb feel about their father writing to Sarah? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

Questions for Setting

One great thing about using this novel is the wide variety of ways teachers can include cross-curricular content. The setting of the novel is a farm on the prairie in the 1800s. Remember, setting is where and when a story takes place. Use these questions to guide students back in time to another way of life.

  • The author uses rich descriptive language to describe the setting in the novel. Find one example in your text. Describe the images you see as you read the story. Draw them and tell how they help you understand the book more deeply.
  • How do Anna and Caleb describe their home and life to Sarah in the letters?
  • Where is the prairie located in relation to where Sarah lives? Use a map to find these areas and compare/contrast the two locations.
  • Anna describes each season to Sarah in her letters. Which one sounds the best to you? Why? Look back in the text to find these descriptions and write about the same season in your area. Are they the same or different? Explain.
  • How does Sarah describe where she lives? Explain how the author uses colors to help Sarah and Caleb imagine life in Maine.

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