February 23, 2016
Questioning That Deepens Comprehension
As we continue to create classrooms in which students read, write, think and discuss every day, the role of questioning becomes even more essential. We use questioning in the guided instruction phase to check for understanding as well as to prompt and offer scaffolds. Questioning reveals student thinking and provides insight into how they process a task.
Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility author Douglas Fisher, proposes four essential questions to pose to students as they encounter complex text. Whether the text is literary, textbook, instruction manual, historical primary source, scientific research or functional text, these guiding questions will assist students in navigating the source.
“What does the text say?
The questions in this category require students to think literally about the text. These questions focus on the big ideas or general understandings as well as key details. We believe that understanding the text at the literal level is important in order for students to eventually understand a text at deeper levels. In fact, we think it's impossible for students to make logical inferences about a text that they don't understand literally.”
“How does the text work?
When students have a grasp of the text at the literal level, we move to the structural level. These questions focus on vocabulary and word choice, text structures, author's craft (such as genre, narration, and literary devices), and author's purpose. Structural analysis requires that students think about the moves of this particular author and also about why writers make specific choices. Again, we linger as long as necessary at this phase, yet we try to move on as soon as possible. Understanding the internal structures of the text helps students think more deeply about the information contained within the text.”
“What does the text mean?
The third level focuses on inferential analysis, and includes the logical inferences that students can make about a text. In addition, at this phase, students compare texts and the ideas in several texts as they come to understand the targeted text more deeply. In doing so, they form opinions and arguments about texts or related ideas. As we have noted, inferential analysis is predicated on students first understanding the text at the literal and structural levels. It's really hard for students to respond to these types of questions if they have no idea what the text says literally or how the author constructed the text.”
“What does the text inspire you to do?
When students deeply understand a given text, they want to take action. They want to do something with the information that they've gained or the perspectives they've developed. This is when we know that students comprehend the text. Importantly, not every student will be inspired in the same way. Sometimes, students want to write about texts. Other times, they want to engage in research or further investigation. Some students may want to present their ideas and understandings, while others may choose to participate in a debate or Socratic seminar. And this is where the learning gets exciting. Students want to take action, based on a text they read and understood deeply, because now they are personally invested. In doing so, they become stewards of their own learning, and teachers can provide guidance about the types of products that can demonstrate deep understanding. Of course, teachers should provide examples of quality work so that students will know what's expected of them for each of these acts of inspiration.”
For tips and examples of each type of question, please read the full article here.