Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Reading Tests: Questioning Lessons

Earlier this week, I shared my Thinking Through Reading Tests materials, including Reading Question Sorts for Grades 3-8th based on the NC ELA Released Test. (Since the test questions are Common Core aligned, I believe the sorts will be useful to many other states as well).

What’s the purpose of having students sort questions independent of reading the text?
Allowing students to closely analyze questions helps them to make generalizations about the types of questions they can predict will be on the test and that they can expect for specific genres. Yes, you can do the sort for them and hand them a list of questions, but allowing them to come up with generalizations about the test questions takes your “test prep” from teacher-centered to student centered and considers testing a “genre” or “type of text” rather than an unpredictable “test.”

Today I wanted to share how our questioning lessons are going.
Day 1:  I had students work in partners to sort the questions into categories that made sense to them. It was interesting (and telling) to see what kind of categories students came up with on their own. I went around from group to group listening to their ideas and pushing them to reconsider some of the questions they had placed in different categories. (We completed this sort prior to the kids reading the text--based on my experience, you can decide what kind of question MOST of them are without reading the text yet.)

Day 2: I gave students a copy of my Question-Answer-Relationship handout. I went through each type of question (which was review from last year) and then had them meet with their partner again to sort the questions into these four categories. Now, not having read the text, there are a few questions that fall between two of the types of questions.
Day 3: During minilesson,  I gave each student two of the question cards and decided to start the lesson with the ones I had leftover. (Totally random, no strategic planning here). I called out one of my questions and we discussed where we would place it~"Right There/There and There," "Inferencing," "Overalls," or "Apply Prior Knowledge." Then, I asked students to raise their hands and share if they had a question like the one we had just categorized. Students read their questions one-by-one and we decided as a class if it fit the category. We continued until we had grouped and classified all questions. You can see our findings in the picture below. Each of these categories helps students tap into what skills and strategies they should use to answer the questions given. For example, if I have an overall question, I am going to pull from the beginning, middle, and end of the text (or a specific paragraph).

Here's how our questions fell into the categories:
"Right There/There and There"
* Literal Questions-We can go right back to the text and put our fingers on these.
Example: "Based on the selection, how did Roberto get to see the game?"
* Compare/Contrast Questions (need us to use information in two different places in the text)
Example: "How are butterflies and mosquitoes different?"; "Which statement shows a way some insects are similar to spiders?"

* Interpreting Figurative Language questions, using context clues for unknown words, and comprehension questions that go beyond the literal
Examples: "In paragraph 19, what is meant by 'Roberto's heart was in his stomach"?; "In the selection, what can be inferred about how the people viewed the old man?"; "What does the word shabbily mean as it is used in the text?"

* Main idea, summary, theme, generalizing, author's point of view, etc.
Examples: "Which statement summarizes the theme of the selection?"; "What main ideas are supported by the selection?"

"Apply Prior Knowledge"
***We talked about how none of the questions on our test would be true "prior knowledge" questions and that all of the questions were text-dependent. Now, when we take our SCIENCE EOG, ALLLLLLLLLLLL of the questions will fall under "prior knowledge." Interesting findings!

What are some ways I can use the questions for sorting?
• I think all sorts should be completed with partners or in small groups to encourage students to discuss what they are noticing and negotiate the categories.
• Allow students to sort the questions into any categories they see and then discuss as a group. (This would work well before you have introduced any of your Question-Answer-Relationship lessons and your “how to answer questions” lessons)
•After teaching your QAR lesson, have students re-sort the questions into the 4 categories (“Right There/There and There,” “Inferencing,” “Overall,” and “Apply Prior Knowledge.”) Within the 4 categories for QAR, see if you can come up with different types of each category. For example, “overall” questions include main idea, summarizing, theme, etc. while “inferencing” questions also include context clue questions because you use the text and your mind to infer word meaning.

My full Thinking Through Reading Questions Bulletin Board/Minilesson/Questioning Strategy Materials can be found here! 


  1. Found you on the blog hop and just started following you. Awesome tips and pictures! Will be stopping back often :) Joe and Allie Teach



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