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:
1. LITERAL QUESTIONS
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?.
2. CAUSE AND EFFECT QUESTIONS
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)
3. INFERENTIAL QUESTIONS
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.
4. VOCABULARY QUESTIONS
This type of question requires the child to understand the meaning of a word or phrase, using contextual clues.
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?