Question Answer Relationships
Another questioning framework that assists comprehension is Question Answer Relationships (QAR). It also provides a lovely segue from using Blank’s level of questions in the early years (subject of previous blog).
QAR was developed by Taffy Raphael whom I had the pleasure of listening to a few years ago. QAR demystifies the questioning process, provides a common language within and across year levels and across learning areas and logically organises comprehension strategies It inspires students to think about the text they are reading and beyond it. They can work cooperatively and are challenged to use literal and higher-order thinking skills.
It is important to model the use of QAR. Once again, I would recommend using the gradual release of responsibility – I do it, we do it, you do it together and you do it alone. It is also an opportunity to promote discussion and debate around responses to questions and how they worked them out.
There are four levels of questioning:
- Right there (literal) – readers focus on and retrieve explicitly stated information. Often the answer will be a single sentence or place in the text, and the words used to create the question are often also in the same place. Who climbed up the water spout?
- Think and search (simple inference) – readers make inferences. The answer is in the text, but the reader may have to look in several different sentences to find it. It is broken up or scattered or requires a grasp of multiple ideas across paragraphs or pages. How many times did the spider climb the spout?
- Author and me (higher order inference) – readers interpret and integrate ideas and information. The answer is not in the text, but the reader still needs that information combined with what they know to respond to this type of question. Why do you think the spider decided to climb back up the spout?
- On my own (analysis/evaluation) – readers examine and evaluate and respond to the content, language and textual elements. The answer is not in the text. Have you ever tried and failed at something the first time, and yet had the courage to come back and try again?
Using QAR to Develop Self Questioning
from Kay Rankin The teaching of reading 2009
QAR is perfect for developing self questioning.
Teacher think aloud: “As I read the text, I picture what is happening here. I think about the text more deeply, generate (make up) questions, and formulate (work out) answers to my questions.”
At the junction with the main road, Red Dog tugged at the sleeve of the driver, and kicked up a fuss until he stopped. He alighted there and went to wait for a car that he recognised.
Shortly he detected the noise from Patsy’s engine. It had loose tappets and a small hole in the exhaust. As soon as it appeared, he ran out in front of it, and Patsy skidded to a halt.
‘You nearly gave me a heart attack,’ she said as she reached over to the passenger door to let him in. Red Dog leaped in and make strange motions with his head, which Patsy
interpreted as a request to open the window on his side. They drove off together, he with his head out of the window to catch the breeze, and she recovering her equanimity after such a sudden halt. ‘One day,’ she said to Red Dog, ‘You’re going to get munched by a car.’
from Red Dog written by Loui de Bernieres
- What did Red Dog do to make the bus driver stop? Right there
- How did Red Dog recognise Patsy’s car? Think and search
- How could Patsy accuse Red Dog of causing her to have a heart attack? Author and me
- Should drivers be stopping for Red Dog when he runs out in front of cars or is this just encouraging his dangerous behaviour? On my own
Before, During and After Reading
QAR can be used at three stages of reading.
On my own: From the title and front cover, what do you already know that can connect you to the story/text?
Author and me: From the book cover, what do you think the story might be about?
Author and me: What do you think will happen next?
Think and search: What is the problem and how is it resolved?
Right there: Who is the main character?
Author and me: What is the author’s message?
Think and search: Find evidence in the text to support the argument that Boris is a caring pirate.
QAR and Comprehension Strategies
QAR can also be linked to specific comprehension strategies. Taffy Raphael makes a number of connections in her powerpoint Question Answer Relationships (QAR): A Framework for Improving Literacy Teaching and Learning.
I believe that QAR is powerful because it creates a common language to discuss text. It also unlocks some of the mystery around answering comprehension questions and navigating text. I have used it from years 2 to year 7 and for any text (including song lyrics and non-fiction text). When introducing it to younger students, I have begun with the two simple categories of In the book and In my head. QAR is brilliant for building self questioning and encouraging discussion and respectful debate around responses.
Featured Image from Rankin, K. The teaching of reading 2009