Reading a book with your class should be an engaging and immersive experience. One storybook strategy we often draw attention to is questioning, since it is something that should occur before, during and after reading activities. Traditional questions are often aimed at retrieval of information from a text, whereas the focus of querying is to “crack open a text’s meaning” (Beck & McKeown, 2006). Close-ended questions are “testing” questions that check recall, while open-ended questions are “teaching” questions that help students build connections, develop deeper understanding, and use verbal reasoning skills. It is recommended that at least 80% of the questions you ask your students should be open-ended, teaching questions.
Consider the following questions and how a student might answer each. Which is more likely to give us a better understanding of what a student knows? Is it a testing or a teaching question?
Questions educators generate to address the Virginia Essentialized Standards of Learning (VESOL) are important, but helping students make those deeper connections to text maximizes learning for all of our students. This can be achieved through intentional planning which considers a variety of differentiated questions. In our Storybook Strategies: Increase Engagement and Foster a Love of Reading, we include a Question Matrix template for teaching a broad range of academic and critical thinking skills on page 8. On page 9, you will find a color-coded version of the matrix. The boxes with darker colors denote opportunities for deeper questions. A completed Question Matrix aligns with the prescribed 80:20 ratio of teaching to testing questions. Use this tool to create some great teaching questions for your class!
Bloom’s Taxonomy also utilizes a hierarchy to give us a way to think about our teaching and, therefore, the learning of our students. Our Bloom’s Taxonomy Questions Planning Powerpoint is another valuable tool for encouraging students to use critical thinking and providing differentiation during instruction. This powerpoint contains example questions and common key words for each of the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Notice how at the base is Remember which includes recall of facts, basic concepts, terms, and answers, which is similar to what we are calling testing questions. Furthermore, the rest of the pyramid moves us beyond the use of “testing” questions into the use of “teaching” questions by stimulating higher level thinking to increase the cognitive engagement of students.
Storybooks from our library (with accompanying resources):
Complimentary VESOL Lesson: Download The Snowy Day Lesson Plan