Teach students to take note of the different types of questions that can be created from a text or graphic. And because the question types are different, determining the answers requires different processes, too. For many students it never occurred to them that there was anything other than an obvious, right-there question to ask. Introduce the concepts of QAR (Question-Answer-Relationship).
- Right There Questions are literal questions that can be answered in one spot within the reading. These are easy questions that are answered right there in the reading. They are typically fast and easy to answer.
- Think and Search Questions sometimes are answered by putting together several snippets of information from the text and/or text features. Students won’t find the answer in one spot but will rather have to look at several chunks of information. It’s all there in the reading, but it requires students to comb through the text.
- Author and Me are inferential questions. Explain to students that these questions are not answered directly word-for-word within the reading but require them to apply what they read with their own thinking. They need to formulate a reasonable response, one that is based on the ideas presented by the author/the text. NOTE: For the math teacher, many graphs can be used to solve math problems. When students use the information from a graph (considered to be the author’s text) and have to apply their own thinking and problem solving to deduce an answer, then it’s considered an Author and Me question. These are high-level thinking questions.
When you plan your next set of assignment or assessment questions, consider a heavy dose of Author & Me inferential questions. Here are three strategies:
1. Instead of having an exact answer within the multiple choice possibilities, you might be less definitive. Standardized tests often ask what I call a “most likely” question. For example, Which of these words MOST LIKELY reflects the author’s general attitude toward life on the farm? A) tolerant B) indifferent C) fearful D) appreciative. These questions often include one, two, or three answers that are “kind of” correct, with one being more correct. This forces students to rationalize their thinking.
2. A second strategy might include adding more open-ended questions. Substitute some of the fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions with those that require students to think and respond in complete sentences. This allows you to assess content knowledge and simultaneously emphasize the power of clear writing.
When assessing their responses, consider a 5-point value for each:
- 1 point for incorporating or embedding the question within the answer.
- 1 point for writing in complete sentences.
- 1 point for defining all pronouns (omitting all “he,” “she,” “it,” “they” references).
- 2 points for the correct answer and content accuracy.
Offering points for well-constructed responses helps you balance the state assessment expectations while also scoring for understanding.
3. A third suggestion for content-area questions is to include references to multiple-meaning words. Students need to have exposure to words beyond their most-commonly-used definitions. This is often easy to do when done within multiple choice questions. For example, What does “parallel” mean in the following sentence: The characters paralleled one another in many traits. A) side by side B) not intersecting C) mirrored D) opposite. Giving students exposure to reading words in context helps determine if they really understand the broader meanings.