Guide Students to Answers According to Question Type: The Question-Answer Relationship

Teacher calling on student

By teaching the Question-Answer Relationship strategy, teachers can help students answer questions about a text through identifying the question type and knowing where the answer can be found.

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Posted on: September 5, 2017

Often times, when students have trouble answering questions about a text, it is assumed that they did not read the text or were not paying close enough attention while reading. For many students, however, this is not the case. They did read or listen, they are just unsure of how to locate information within the text to help them answer the question posed. Students need to be explicitly taught how to recognize the questions being asked and how to locate the information to help them answer.

One approach that can help students do this is the Question-Answer Relationship (QAR) strategy (Raphael, 1982, 1984). This strategy teaches students how to distinguish the types of questions they are being asked and how to find the answers to those questions. According to Raphael and Au (2005), the QAR framework provides a clear language for readers to use when talking about the reading. QAR empowers students to build an understanding of the text while using literal and higher-level thinking skills.

The Four Types of Questions in the QAR Strategy

  • Right There: A literal one-answer question with information clearly provided in the text. Readers are prompted to look within the text for key words or phrases used in the question to find the answers. The answers provided will be very similar as there is often one best answer.
  • Think and Search: This type of question can be answered using information from within the text, but it is not clearly located in one spot. Readers need to think and search several sections of the text to find pieces of information and then piece them together to come up with an answer.
  • Author and Me: Answers to these questions are not found solely in the text. Using information from the text and their own background and experiences, readers will make inferences to help answer the question. While the answer is not clearly in the text, the reader does need to read it to fit it all together. The answers will be more varied, as readers are using their own experiences to build their ideas.
  • On My Own: The answer is not found in the text. This type of question requires readers to use their background or prior knowledge and own ideas to answer the question. The answers provided will be less dependent on the text and more dependent on the reader’s experiences and knowledge. There will be a great deal of variance between answers.

How Do I Teach the QAR Strategy to My Students?

With minor adjustments, Question-Answer Relationship instruction can be implemented with all grade levels and across content areas. In early elementary classrooms, teachers may focus on questions provided by the text, the “Right There” and “Think and Search” questions. Instruction may contain strategies in identifying if the question is found in one place in the text, or if the student has to search a variety of locations to identify the answer. As students progress and learn to identify the “Right There” and “Think and Search” questions, teachers may introduce strategies to identify “Author and Me” and “On Your Own” questions during the intermediate grades. Students are taught to identify how to determine if the answer is in the book, or if they need to draw on their own experiences and opinions to answer. Teachers also will spend time teaching key identifiers to determine from where the answer will come, thus increasing students’ understanding of how questions are written and where the answer can be located.

Researchers agree that explicit instruction is an effective practice and can help all students, especially those struggling with comprehension, develop the necessary set of skills to tackle a variety of texts (Archer & Hughes, 2011; Fielding, Kerr, & Rosier, 2007; Stevens, Van Meter, Garner, & Warcholak, 2008; Torgesen, 2004). Ripley, Blair, and Nichols (2009) state that “explicitly teaching reading means imparting new information to students through meaningful teacher-student interactions and teacher guidance of student learning” (p. 126). For the QAR strategy to be effective and become a part of students’ comprehension strategies, teachers must provide immediate feedback on identifying the type of question being asked, how to find information, and how to answer the question, using Duke and Pearson’s (2002) explicit teaching model (see Figure 1 below). Let us look in detail at how to apply the explicit teaching model to the QAR strategy.

Figure 1. Explicit Teaching Model

Figure 1 Explicit Teaching Model
This figure summarizes the explicit teaching model as described by Duke & Pearson (2002).

An Explicit Description of the Strategy

Using age-appropriate language, explain the QAR strategy, including the four different types of questions and when and how to identify and answer each type when reading. Introduce each question type individually in a short explicit lesson. While learning each question type, students should only be responsible for identifying the type(s) they have learned.

Modeling the Strategy in Action by Both the Teacher and Students

Select a short passage, identify a set of questions for each question type, and write down both the questions and answers (see guide below under “Supplemental Materials for Teachers”). These questions will be used during your short lessons that focus on each question type. After reading the passage to the students, model how you would identify the type of question and provide an answer. Make your thought process visible to the students as you walk them through the process of deciding how to identify the correct type of question.

You will need to teach each type of question and how to find the answers for your students. You may also need to model several examples of the same types of questions and answers as you slowly have students participate in helping you determine question type and possible answers.

In order to provide examples, we will use The Three Little Pigs as the example text. After reading the story on your own and coming up with your example questions, take each question type one at a time and think aloud with students through the questions and answers as you read the story aloud with the students (teacher dialogues is in italics below).

Right There Example Question

A “Right There” question will have words that are both in the question and the answer. With this type of question, we know that we need to look right in the text for the answer. I can skim the text I just read to find key words included in the question that will help me find the answer. The answer is in one place. I can find it and point to it. A “Right There” question is one that will be found in the book. Now that we know what a “Right There” question is, let us try and answer one.

“What did the wolf do at the first pig’s house?” I am going to use the clue words “What did the wolf do …” to help me answer my question. Now, I am going to skim the text and look for key words about the wolf and the first pig’s house. I can see in the text where the wolf “huffed and puffed and blew the first pig’s house down.” That answers my question about what the wolf did at the first pig’s house. He huffed and puffed and blew it down. This is a “Right There” question because I can find the answer right in the text.

Think and Search Example Question

A “Think and Search” question is a lot like a “Right There” question, except I cannot find my answer in one spot. I need to think about what is being asked and search the text to put together my answer from different parts of the text. Though I will have to search through the different parts of the text to find my answer, there will be key words from the question in the text that will help me answer the question. A “Think and Search” question is one that will be found in the book. Now that we know what a “Think and Search” question is, let us try and answer one.

"What type of house did each pig build?” There are some clues that help me know this is a “Think and Search” question and not a “Right There” question. I know that the question is asking me to think about the house that each pig built, so I know I will need to search the text in several places to find the answer. I will not find the answer in one spot like a “Right There” question. This “Think and Search” question requires me to skim multiple parts of the book to find the answer. I am going to search for each pig and see if I can find what kind of house they built. After searching, I found that the first pig builds a house of straw. The second pig a house of sticks, and the third pig a house of bricks. I had to search and find my answer in the text.

Author and Me Example Question

An “Author and Me” question is a question that cannot be answered by looking only in the text. An “Author and Me” question involves an answer that will be found in your head. To answer this type of question, you need to use what you read in the text (the author) and what you already know (me). When you use the text and what you already know, you start to fit ideas together to come up with an answer. You need to read the text and understand it to make connections to what you already know to answer “Author and Me” questions. Now that we know what an “Author and Me” question is, let us try and answer one.

“Do you think it is okay for the first two pigs to move in with the third pig after their houses were blown down by the wolf? Why or why not?” After reading this question, I know that there is not one right answer that can be found in the text. The words “why or why not” help me know that this question is asking about my own ideas. I know from reading the text that the two pigs moved in with the third pig after their houses were blown down, but it did not tell me if it was okay for the pigs to do that. To answer this question, I need to use my own experiences or ideas to decide if that is okay or not. I cannot find that answer only in the text. It is more in my head. I am going to have to use clues from the text and my own ideas to come up with an answer. I remember reading about the momma pig telling her sons to work hard and not take the easy way out. I think the third pig was the only one to listen to his mom and so his house was the safest. I do not think it was fair for the other two pigs to just go to his house and expect him to let them in when they did not try their best. To answer this question, I had to use clues from the story and my own ideas to come up with an answer.

On My Own Example Question

An “On My Own” question is a question that cannot be answered by looking in the text. The question involves an answer that will be found in your head. “On My Own” questions can be answered using my own ideas and experiences. I do not have to be familiar with the text to answer this type of question. Now that we know what an “On My Own” question is, let us try and answer one.

“What kind of house would you pick to live in if you had a choice?” This question does not have one right answer. It is a question that does not require me to know that much about the story “The Three Little Pigs.” Again, I can see that the question is asking about my own ideas so I know I cannot find this answer in the text. It is an “On My Own” question. I will have to use my own ideas to answer this question. Like the third pig, I want a safe house to live in, but I also want a fun house. I have seen pictures of amazing luxury or fancy tree houses. They look like they are strong and would last for a long time. Living in one of those houses would be great fun. You would be close to nature but still safe and comfortable in your fancy house. I answered the question on my own. The text did not really help me find my answer. It was my own ideas and opinions. (Editor’s Note: This type of question is not text-dependent and, therefore, is not aligned with college and career readiness standards. However, it is one of the QAR types and encourages creative thinking.)

Working Collaboratively to Use the Strategy in Action

After modeling each question type, read a new passage with the students, present them with a series of questions, work with them to identify the types of questions, and determine how to find the answers. To begin, guide students with more teacher support until eventually, they are ready to apply the strategy on their own. Slowly, begin to step back or release responsibility for learning to the students. You may ask a question, prompting students to give you the category it fits under. Then together you may come up with possible answers.

For example, as you continue to read The Three Little Pigs, you may ask students a question, help them determine the type of question, and then how to find the answer(s):

“What type of house did each pig build?” Help me decide what type of question I am asking [Provide students the question type names and have them help you decide]. This question has a few key words that help me know I can find the answer in the text, but I am going to have to search for it. What type of question do we need to look for our answer in multiple parts of the text? That’s right, a “Think and Search” question. When we have a “Think and Search” question, we know that we need to look in the text to find our answer. We may have to look in several different places. Help me look back in the book and see if we can find the different houses each pig built [Together as a class, you will search the book and come up with the correct answer of straw, sticks, and bricks].

Next, you may ask a question and have students work in small groups to decide on the question type and how to answer it. At each stage, it is important to help students develop the vocabulary to determine the type of question and provide information on how to answer it. Depending on the type of question asked, this could include comments about using key words, looking in different places for information, or using what students already know to help make a guess at what would happen next.

Independent Use of the Strategy

Once students can identify the question type and how to formulate answers, have them work with partners and eventually on their own to identify and answer questions. Students who can independently use the strategy should apply it without teacher prompts or support when asked a question or responding to a written question about a text they are reading, such as a test or workbook activity.

Developing students’ question identification skills is an effective way to move them from passive participants to active meaning makers. Students will be able to identify the questions being asked, how to locate answers in the text, and draw from their own opinions and experiences. By doing so, their overall understanding of what is being asked, and thus their comprehension, will increase. Teachers who embrace the practice of teaching students to identify what types of questions they are being asked are preparing students to engage in a lifelong journey of seeking answers and broadening understanding through reading.

Supplemental Materials for Teachers

PDF iconQAR Questions and Answers by Type:A guide to use when teaching students the QAR strategy to help teachers plan which questions to ask for the four question types and an answer that might be given.

References

Archer, A. L., & Hughes, C. A. (2011). Explicit instruction: Effective and efficient teaching. New York, NY: Guilford.

Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In A. E. Farstrup & S. J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (3rd ed., pp. 205-242). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Fielding, L., Kerr, N., & Rosier, P. (2007). Annual growth for all students: Catch-up growth for those who are behind. Washington, DC: New Foundation Press.

Raphael, T. E. (1982). Teaching children question-answering strategies. The Reading Teacher, 36(2), 186-191.

Raphael, T. E. (1984). Teaching learners about sources of information for answering comprehension questions. Journal of Reading, 27(4), 303-311.

Raphael, T. E., & Au, K. H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59(3), 206-221. doi:10.1598/RT.59.3.1

Rupley, W. H., Blair, T. R., & Nichols, W. D. (2009). Effective reading instruction for struggling readers: The role of direct/explicit teaching. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 25(2-3), 125-138. doi 10.1080/10573560802683523

Stevens, R. J., Van Meter, P. N., Garner, J., & Warcholak, N. (2008). Reading and integrated literacy strategies (RAILS): An integrated approach to early reading. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 13(4), 357-380. doi: 10.1080/10824660802427611

Torgesen, J. K. (2004). Lessons learned from research on interventions for students who have difficulty learning to read. In P. McCardle & V. Chhabra (Eds.), The voice of evidence in reading research (pp. 355-382). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.


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