Introduction | Explicit Explanation | Strategy Instruction

Comprehension Instruction: Guidelines for Questioning

Many studies have shown that questioning during reading is primarily evaluative rather than instructional. Students receive little to no guidance on how to answer questions. For example, how are questions that are text explicit (i.e., information is explicitly stated in the text) different from questions that are text implicit (i.e., information is located in text but requires the assimilation of pertinent textual material)? Students are not typically taught how to ask questions about the author or the text as they read.

There are several ways one can identify and categorize types of questions. One of the most widely used is Bloom's Taxonomy. This taxonomy was not originally developed to be used by teachers. However, teachers have long seen its use in the classroom as a tool for reflecting on their questioning patterns. The taxonomy includes 7 levels of questions: (1) knowledge; (2) translation; (3) interpretation; (4) application; (5) analysis; (6) synthesis; and (7) evaluation. Another way to categorize questions (which can incorporate Bloom's) is Raphael's Question-Answer Relationships (QARs) provide practical definitions that make it easy for students to become more involved in becoming metacognitively aware of their responses to text.

Questions can occur at three stages in the reading process: before reading, during reading, and after reading. Before reading, questions can assist your students in purpose making and focusing their attention on what they are about to learn. During reading, questions can help students become active participants and encourage them to monitor their understanding. After reading, questions can support your students in their review of what was read and relate what they learned to what they already know.

This section will walk you through an activity called Question-Answer Relationships (QARs). Although QARs were developed to assist students in effectively answering questions, it can be expanded to helping students ask their own questions of the texts that they are reading. Generating questions allows students to become aware of whether they understand what they are reading. Students must learn to ask themselves questions that require them to integrate information from different parts of the text.

Question-Answer Relationships (QARs)

QARs give students a systematic means for considering the demands of various question probes. Raphael charts out four principles of instruction to assist readers in their consideration of question demands: (1) give immediate feedback; (2) progress from shorter to longer texts; (3) begin with questions for which the task demand is more straightforward and go on to questions that require the use of multiple sources; and (4) develop independence by beginning with group learning experiences and progressing to individual and independent activities. These principles will guide you through explicit instruction of questioning.

Types of Questions

The foundation of QARs is to have your students identify the demands of various questions. Armed with this information, they will be more likely to come up with an appropriate answer. Raphael has identified four types of questions:

  • Right There
  • Think and Search
  • Author and You
  • On My Own
A Right There question involves answers that are explicitly stated in the text and are usually easy to find. Generally, the words that make up the question and the words that make up the answer are right there in the text. To answer a Think and Search question, the reader must consider different parts of the story to find the answer. The answer is in the story but is not found in one sentence. Rather, the answer is found in different parts of the text. An Author and You question requires readers to think about what they already know, what the author is telling them, and how it all fits together. The answers are not found within the text. An On My Own question does not have an answer that is found in the text. The answers to these questions require readers to think about their own experiences. These questions can even be answered without having read the story. These four strategies can be divided into In the Book QARs (i.e., Right There and Think and Search) and In My Head QARs (i.e., Author and You and On My Own).

PIX..........coming soon....


Raphael suggests a week of intensive instruction with practice in order to introduce the question types. She first suggests discussing the difference between text-based (In the Book QARs) and knowledge-based (In My Head QARs) rather than discussing the differences between two text-based types, for example. She further suggests practice in three stages: (1) Give your students a short passage of 2 to 3 sentences in length with the QAR types and discuss the type of QAR for each question (without answering); (2) give your students another short passage of 2 to 3 sentences and have them discuss the type of QAR for each question in groups (without answering); and (3) give your students another short passage of 2 to 3 sentences and have them determine the QAR type and respond with answers. See the following example.

When lighting a match, it is important to follow these steps carefully. First, tear one match out of the matchbook. Second, close the matchbook cover. Third, strike the match against the rough strip on the outside of the matchbook. Finally, after the match has been used, blow it out carefully, and be sure it is cool before you throw it away.

What are the first two steps to correctly light and use a match?

Right There _____

Think and Search _____

Author and You _____

On My Own _____

(taken from Reading Strategies and Practices: A Compendium)

Next, you should provide additional guided practice as they read slightly longer passages. Raphael suggests moving to passages of 75 to 150 words. As your students continue with subsequent passages, you should provide necessary feedback and have them provide justifications to their answers and their choice of question type. Your feedback should explain why the answer is acceptable as well as why the question type is correct.

After providing your students with this level of explicit instruction and guided practice, Raphael suggests using a passage approximately the length of a short story selection. Further, she suggests dividing the passage into sections and generating approximately 2 questions for each of the question types. Your students should now be able to handle authentic material from the classroom as a single unit with questions representing each question type.

Expansion of QARs

QARs can be expanded to assist your students in being more metacognitive while reading. Students can use this information to help them engage in their own questioning while reading in order to better understand text.

Pictorial Case Study: Comprehension

Introduction | Explicit Explanation | Strategy Instruction

Top of the page

Contact Reading First in Virginia

Copyright 2003-2010 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. The University is an equal opportunity educator and employer. This information is subject to change without notice. For questions or comments on the content contact Reading First in Virginia. For questions or comments on the site itself contact the Webmaster.