Not all questions are created equal, be careful when measuring comprehension



A common therapy goal is for a child to increase comprehension skills as measured by their ability to answer questions. It is important, however, to consider the type of question that is being asked. There is a difference between ” Who broke the chair in the Three Bears ?” from ” Why do you think Goldilocks went into the Bear’s home ?”  If you measure these two questions, in the same way, you will have an inaccurate measurement.  A child might be able to do all the concrete questions and not be able to answer the inference questions.

Know that asking students questions during passage reading has proven effectiveness in improving the comprehension of students. These are not the same as asking a student questions after you have finished reading the story.

Refer to Blooms Taxonomy to determine your question type 

Another way to look at it is:

Memory Questions (who, what, when, where)

Convergent Thinking Questions (why, how, in what ways)

Divergent Thinking Questions (imagine, suppose, predict if/then)

Evaluative Thinking Questions (defend, judge, justify, what do you think)

Another way you will see Common Types of Comprehension Questions classified is:


These are the easiest to score as the answers are clearly and explicitly stated in the passage.

Question: What was the name of the little girl in the story Three Bears?.


Such questions generally begin with the word “Why”. Children have to read the passage clearly to find either the cause or the effect.


Question: Why did Goldilocks not eat the Papa Bears porridge? (effect)
Answer: It was too hot. (cause)

Question: Why were the villagers running everywhere? (effect)
Answer: The hurricane was approaching their village. (cause)

Cause and Effect questions can also appear in other forms. Sometimes, children need to find the effect of the cause.


Question: What would happen when the giant was angry? (cause)
Answer: He would eat one of the villagers whenever he was angry. (effect)


This is the type of questions that are generally more challenging for most students. The answers are not clearly stated in the passage but are usually implied by the author. Children need to learn to draw conclusions from what they have read in the passage in order to answer such questions.

Let’s use the familiar story of The Three Little Pigs to illustrate this point.


The first pig built a house of straw while the second pig built his house with sticks. They wanted to build their houses very quickly so that they could go out and party. They sang, danced and ate all day because they were lazy. The third little pig worked hard all day and built his house with bricks.

Question: Why do you think the third pig built his house with bricks?

If the answer is not explicitly stated in the passage, children would then need to rely on subtle phrases or clues found in the passage to find the correct answer.

In this case, the clue to the answer would be that the third little pig worked hard all day. This implies that he was a hardworking pig.

So, a correct answer would be:
He was a hardworking pig.

Many children would probably answer by simply copying the entire sentence from the passage:
The third little pig worked hard all day and built his house with bricks.

That answer would be marked wrong because it does not show whether they have understood the question, which is an inferential one.

Children need to be given ample practice with inferential questions in order to develop the skills to answer them. Teachers need to spend time teaching kids such skills.


This type of question requires the child to understand the meaning of a word or phrase, using contextual clues.

Blooms Taxonomy questions

List of measurable verbs from Clinton Community College

25 Question Stems Framed Around Bloom’s Taxonomy


Tips for asking questions:

  • Provide wait time: pausing allows a student time to process the question and formulate an answer. You want to have all students thinking of the answer and not just the student that can quickly respond.
  • Dignify responses: Give credit for the correct aspects of an incorrect response including the thought process.
  • Restate the question: 
  • Rephrase the question: Sometimes the wording of the question may be what is confusing a student.
  • Provide guidance: Give enough hints and clues so that the student will eventually determine the correct answer.

I love it when comments give additional information. Rachael, a graduate student at Providence College, shared this great graphic that she has displayed on her desk in her classroom.

Reflect on your own use of questioning. What changes given this information might you incorporate into your classroom/therapy?


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28 comments on “Not all questions are created equal, be careful when measuring comprehension
  1. This is great when considering how to evaluate for reading comprehension, especially for a child who is more low functioning – a question is not just a question!

  2. Read – But I will definitely be using these guides for sure when I move to a new grade this year. I’ll be making a lot of new comprehension worksheets and activities for my new class so this will come in handy!

  3. As a school, the educational staff was provided with professional development from the “Right Question Technique”, a program that assisted teachers in a training around the key elements to asking questions. In my classroom, I have a poster detailing bloom’s taxonomy. We have used it for various assignments, a main piece being when the students are writing or updating their resumes. Through various lessons, the students seem to have a strong idea of how the poster works, understanding that as they move up the ladder, the words become more descriptive and hold more value. I feel as though I have done done a great job asking my students different types of questions. In our social studies block,I feel like I am asking them primarily cause and effect questions. A lot of those answers are really open, causing the students to also work on their critical thinking skills. The “Right Question Technique” did teach me about ample wait time and supporting the students through reasking the question, sometimes rewording it as well.

    Coming from a project based learning school, the students create a lot of their project work with the help and guidance of a mentor. When we are first brainstorming project ideas, we look under the top two tiers of bloom’s taxonomy for language and ideas related to their project work. Examples of this being utilized are when a student sees the value to measuring, creating and designing rather than telling, listing or summarizing involved in their project work. As much as I feel confident in how I work with my students and asking the right questions and the the process that goes along with it, this was a healthy refresher that I will want to go over again before going back to school in the fall.

  4. I use questioning in my classroom a lot. I like to get my students talking and thinking when we are doing a lesson. I like to use KWL charts in history class when we start new units. I ask them prior knowledge questions and also let them ask some questions of each other.

    I also use questioning while we read in my skills reading class. We read books out loud together and they have reading journal where after we read they fill out their reading journal and answer three questions. 1.) Comprehension: What I know happened in the chapter? 2.) Synthesis: How did this chapter make we feel? Why? 3.) Prediction: What do I think will happen next? We do this for the whole book, even the last chapter. At the last chapter, I tell them for the prediction to write as if they were continuing the story.

    I also use questioning in the classroom to check their understanding. I feel like questions can be great tools to use to get your students thinking and communicating with each other and yourself.

    We do Close Reading too in class, I have hanging on my wall questions the students can ask themselves as they read. We do “Do I understand all the vocabulary in that paragraph?”, “Do I understand the main idea of the paragraph?” and “What questions do I have on what I just read” and I stop and do think-alouds with the students as we read to address the main idea question and answer any of their questions. For the vocabulary question, they write the words they don’t know in their reading journal to look up in the dictionary on their own.

    This reading made think about the questioning I do and the reason I have behind the question. It was neat to learn the labels that go to the questions. Most times I don’t even realize I am using certain questioning techniques in my classroom. So as I was reading this, I was like “I use that kind of questioning” a lot. I will definitely be able to know incorporate questioning even better now that I have more types of questioning I can look to.

    I feel like overall, this reading is a great resource to use for teachers. It definitely made me think more about questioning my students and more aware of the reason behind questioning them. It makes me ask myself why am I asking that question, which I think will help me determine which questions are important and which are just filler questions. I think it’s important to know why you are questioning the students and this reading helps you categorize your questioning so you can see why you are doing it.

    I also loved the tips for questioning and will definitely be references those as I continue to teach. I do some of them, for example, I already provide wait time and try my best to pause with enough time to allow a student time to process the question and formulate an answer. I agree when it stated that you want to have all students thinking of the answer and not just the student that always answers quickly. But sometimes I forget do some these. One thing I definitely need to remember to do from the tips is the dignify responses tip. Sometimes don’t give credit for the correct aspects of an incorrect answer. I sometimes forget to consider the thought process more. So I copy and pasted the tips onto my computer and plan to print them out as a reference to tape on my desk to remind myself.

  5. For my student teaching experience at URI this past spring (2017), part of my evaluation was my use of Bloom’s Taxonomy questioning in the classroom during the lessons. At the end of the semester, I had to turn in 20 written out lesson plans and activities/ worksheets with questions using Bloom’s Taxonomy on those assignments. Because of this, I feel comfortable using Bloom’s Taxonomy questioning, and I always use Bloom’s Taxonomy when creating questions revolving around a lesson in the classroom. Along with this, creating different options for response rather than just question and answer material was very helpful in reaching all students abilities. Personally, when creating these lessons, I will use an image of blooms taxonomy as well as images of questioning words to help create questions using Blooms. In the future, I will definitely incorporate a poster with Bloom’s Taxonomy for all students to see. This visual may help students formulate their own ideas or ways to answer questions about the lesson we just completed as a class. I always found it interesting when getting to the higher up questions such as creating, evaluating, or analyzing. Students were able to formulate ideas that were so creative and different but efficient and effective ways of showing their knowledge of the topic. By giving a picture of blooms taxonomy, students may be able to visualize the importance of higher up thinking and want to think outside the box and be different when answering the questions rather than doing the same answers others are doing.

    Another aspect I will add to the classroom is using Bloom’s Taxonomy higher order thinking options to create an assignment where students are able to use their strengths to create, design, criticize, or organize materials in their own ways. In doing so, students are able to choose their assignment making (them more motivated to complete the assignment), as well as think outside the box about the lesson facts and concepts learned show what they learned in their own creative piece. For example, after a lesson about dropping the first atomic bomb during WWII, students may be given the option to either create a newspaper article title and 5 bullet points about the bombing in both Japan and the US, or read a document about the arguments for and against dropping the bomb and criticize decisions made. This not only gives the students in the classroom options, but still has the students analyzing the lesson/ information learned to critically compare and contrast the information they learned at a higher order thinking level.

    Finally, I will use the tip of giving more guidance on questions rather than answering part of the question for students. This tip is very important for students to learn, instead of answering part of the question and having students use process of elimination to answer the question. As a teacher I find that I will sometimes hurry up the question by giving part of the answer, when in reality I am not helping the student learn. In the future I will do my best to give more guidance rather than answering the question so that they student will still be learning.

    This information made me question the questions I have been giving out in class. Although I try to use Bloom’s Taxonomy for every lesson, I will re-analyze the questions I have been using to make sure they have meaning, rather than just using questions that are only to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom. By creating relevant, higher order thinking questions about a topic or lesson, students will be engaged and creative in thinking of critical responses.

    • Love the idea about displaying the Bloom’s Hierarchy visual and encouraging more out of the box thinking for your students.

  6. When I first began teaching, I quickly realized that using various questioning techniques in the classroom was difficult but extremely important. I remember my first evaluation and how my principal told me that I needed to work on my questioning techniques. I just graduated from Salve that year, so I realized I needed to go back to my education binders where I had the wheel of Bloom’s Taxonomy in one of my folders.

    I then used the vocabulary wheel to help me create questions. The first evaluation, I received a “2” on Questioning. The next evaluation, I received a “3” and my final evaluation, I received a “4”! I was extremely happy in myself to reflect on my practices and improve them using the resources I was already given. Sometimes, the amount of resources in college that are given to you in an education class are overwhelming. I never thought there could be too many strategies or resources, however, sometimes it can be hard to determine which ones to use.

    I like the way this article laid out the different questions into categories:
    1. Literal Questions
    2. Cause and Effect Questions
    3. Inferential Questions
    4. Vocabulary Questions

    I also think the colorful “critical thinking skills” organizer is extremely useful. I like the sentence starters and it can really assist a teacher in scaffolding a student’s learning. I believe we have to begin at the knowledge questions and teach students how to eventually answer the evaluation questions. The higher we go up on the “questioning ladder,” I believe their reading comprehension will also increase. I will use these sentence starters to create my questions for the read aloud lesson plan.

    We want to try to get all kids to answer the evaluation questions, therefore, for each lesson plan, we should have at least 1 of each type of question. Therefore, we are differentiating to each student’s needs but also providing other students the opportunity to increase their reading comprehension by providing various levels of questioning.

    Before I read this blog, I personally used this resource:

    I hang this copy next to my desk and use it when I create my lessons

  7. Up until now, I have not spend a large amount of time forming different levels of questions for a read aloud. This is largely due to being a math teacher so I do not spend time planning ELA for my students. However, when I have done read alouds I have thought of questions on the spot, instead of ahead of time. This means that I usually asked remembering and understanding questions from Bloom’s Taxonomy. In designing the lesson plan for this class I was able to go through the book page by page to think of questions to ask throughout the book and then once the read aloud was complete. Doing this ahead of time meant that I could make sure I would ask questions from all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
    In the future when I teach literacy I will take the time to think of a question from each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy to see what kinds of questions my students are able to answer and which levels they need more practice with. I will also have question starters for each level of Bloom’s visible in my classroom to continue incorporating each level when I am unable to plan out questions ahead of time. I know that my cohort last year struggled the most with inferential questions so I would also want to have question starters that give practice in answering inferential questions. I know how important wait time is after asking a question, especially for ELL learners, so I will begin getting in the habit of counting to “6 Mississipi” after asking a question before I rephrase or give a hint.

    • Excellent plan and reflection, you have also given me an idea for a new blog about questions in the math classroom. There are the same issues in that some of the questions will be the basic questions (what is the solution to the problem) while others will have the student using some higher level thinking skills and probes how the student came to the solution.

  8. Reflecting on my own practice, there is more I can do to improve upon my questioning techniques I use in the class. Currently, I mostly use memory and convergent thinking questions, occasionally using evaluation thinking questions. Some of my deeper thinking questions come in Geometry where a majority of the content is about using a proof to explain a problem or justifying your answer. I would like to incorporate more types of questioning in my classroom to have students understand the concepts beyond just the basic content. Also, I would like students to begin using these questioning techniques on each other to get them to think deeper.

    At the high school level there is always a few students who are quick to answer questions, usually the higher level students. In these classes I need to practice giving students wait time, for example 5 seconds, to be able to process the information and be able to respond so all students have the ability to respond accordingly. Another way I need to practice is restating or rephrasing questions. In math, many questions deal with vocabulary so being able to break down the vocabulary words will help students better understand the question and ultimately be able to answer the question.

    I have started to use some of this in practice in the calculus class I am teaching for student who will be taking the AP exam next year. Instead of just asking for the answer, after they do so I asked how they found the solution as other students in the class may have not arrived at the answer the same way. One drawback of this was that sometimes the students were confused because they thought they did the question wrong but I just wanted them to think deeper. Once the students got used to me questioning their technique they became more comfortable in the classroom.

  9. Comprehension is a huge part of my student’s day. With that, that staff is ALWAYS trying to develop ways to ask and answer questions to a text. We have developed multiple ways of questioning, different leveled groups, different strategies to answer questions, and devoted a lot of time to working with out students.
    This year, we found, like the article stated, that is most difficult question for our students to answer was inferential. We use a formula to help them remember what is expected of them in an inferential answer. To help them remember, there are posters around the room, and when they are writing their responses they have it written at the top of their paper, so they can check it off as they go. We use RACER. R=respond to the question, A=Answer the question, C=cite text evidence, E=explain your answer using schema, and R=restate the question. This did seem to be successful for many students of may different levels. We did find that with answering an inferential question, the area that seemed to stump most kids was using schema. I work with 6-7 year olds, so schema on certain topics, is due to the fact that they have not experienced different things in life!
    Different questioning to different students allows to see and understand a lot about a student and how they process information and how, as a teacher, you can help them to understand better!

  10. In my last teaching assignment, I often discussed with my classroom special education teacher the difficulty my students have with comprehension questions. Literal questions they had little to no problems with because they knew how to find the answer to these questions in texts. Cause and effect most students could complete without great difficulty. Many could answer vocabulary questions as well using the rest of the sentence, picture and passages to help them figure out the meaning of the word. But as third graders they struggled greatly with inferential questions. Towards the nearing of parcc testing this back year we had a big push in reading to focus on inferential questions and help teach students strategies to help them answer these kinds of reading questions.

    I would start making bloom taxonomy questions a part of my classroom teaching. To start asking more than just literal and cause and effect questions, and provide my students with strategies to answer inferential questions.

  11. I have been reflecting on my own use of questioning in the classroom. I know that some students have difficulties answering inference questions and it is easier for them to answer concrete questions with simple one word or one sentence answers. However, it is my job to try and have students work on harder, complex questions where they have to support their answer with evidence from text. I think that one way to work on questioning is to have students use the stop and think approach while reading. Stopping after a big idea, paragraph or page to ask students questions and to recap is a great way for students to use their questioning skills.

    Many of my students struggle with cause and effect or making inferences, where they have to guess what will happen next. I have a student with autism and he will shut down when asked to answer these types of questions. In class last week it was suggested to have students look at a bag of things (for example: sun screen, sun glasses, shovel, hat ect) and have the students make a guess as to where we would be going. Once students get the hang of this they can bring in a bag of their own so that we can guess. I love this strategy and I know the kids will think it is very fun.

    I love the light bulb to express higher order of thinking skills. My students start to have problems during application. When I teach a skill and we spend time working on as a whole group and then partners they do great but when asked to work independently they tend to fall apart. I am going to work on this during the upcoming school year. I also printed out the light bulb so I can use it when planning questions and questioning strategies.

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