- Asking questions is a strategy that educators use in daily lessons as a check for understanding.
- The key is asking the right types of questions at the right time in the lesson.
- Dr. Doug Fisher and Dr. Nancy Frey recommend four types of questions for use with students: (1) What does the text say? (2) How does the text work? (3) What does the text mean? and (4) What does the text inspire you to do?
Questioning is a way to check for understanding and measure students’ learning, but not all questions are the same and are as meaningful as others. We need to scaffold students’ thinking about complex texts by asking the right types of questions, according to Edutopia blog – Questioning that Deepens Comprehension. The authors propose four types of questions that can be used with any book that you are using.
Doug Fisher is a professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University, a teacher leader at Health Sciences High and Middle College, and a member of the California Reading Hall of Fame. He has published several articles and books including Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading (with Nancy Frey and Diane Lapp), Checking for Understanding (with Nancy Frey) and Common Core English Language Arts in a PLC at Work (with Nancy Frey).
Nancy Frey is also a professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University. She teaches courses in school improvement and literacy leadership. In 2008, she received the Early Career Achievement Award from the Literacy Research Association. She has also co-authored many books and articles with Doug Fisher.
Here are the four types of questions that can support students’ thinking of complex text and are easy to implement into any lesson.
What does the text say?
These types of questions ask the students to think literally about the text. These questions focus on key ideas and general understandings. The authors suggest that students need to understand the text at a literal level first before they are able to make logical inferences.
How does the text work?
After students understand the text at a literal level, then teachers can focus on the structural level. These structural questions would include a focus on vocabulary and word choice, text structures, author’s craft, and author’s purpose.
What does the text mean?
This is the third level of questioning. This level focuses on inferential analysis and will include the logical inferences that students can make about a text. Students can compare multiple texts to form opinions and arguments about the texts and related topics.
It is important to start first with literal questions and build up to the deeper levels of questioning. Students need to understand the text at a literal level in order to form opinions and arguments across texts and topics.
What does the text inspire you to do?
The authors point out that this is when the learning gets exciting! When students deeply understand a text, they will want to do something with the information they have gained or the opinions they have formed.
All students will be inspired to take action in different ways. Teachers can provide options for students to share their deep understanding of the topics.