Blank’s Levels of Questioning

Blank’s Levels of Questioning

hungry caterpillarIn my last blog, I looked at Konza’s sixth component of teaching reading: comprehension.  Konza mentioned the importance of questioning as a comprehension strategy. One of the questioning frameworks that I have used quite successfully is Blank’s levels of questions.

It was devised by Marion Blank, an American developmental psychologist who specialised in language and learning. She studied a number of year one students to find levels of comprehension that equated to success in the classroom.

Blank found four different levels of questions. Levels 1 and 2 ask for simple concrete information and levels 3 and 4 ask for more abstract information. Both receptive and expressive language skills are required.

Level 1 – language is applied to what is seen in the everyday world. Information is directly in front of the reader or recently removed. Responses are short or nonverbal (eg pointing).

Hungry caterpillar 2

Level 1 – Show me the sun.

Scanning for a matching object – Find one like this.

Identifying an object by sound – Show me what you heard.

Identifying an object by touch – Show me what you touched.

Naming an object heard – What did you hear?

Naming an object touched – What did you touch?

Naming an object seen – What is this?

Imitating a simple sentence – Say this…..

Remembering pictured objects – What did you see?

Remembering incidental information – What did you see?

Level 2 – information is supplied but it is not directly apparent. Reader has to select what to attend to – size, colour etc

Hungry caterpillar 4

Find fruit that is red and spotty.

Scanning for an object defined by its function – Find one that can…

Describing a scene – What is happening?

Recalling items named in a statement – What things…?

Recalling information from a statement – Who? What? Where?

Completing a sentence – Finish this….

Concepts: Naming characteristics and functions of objects – Tell me its …..

Concepts: Attending to two characteristics – Find one that is … and ….

Concepts: Identifying differences – How are these different?

Concepts: Citing an example within a category – Name something that is a ….

Level 3 – language does not directly relate to what is seen or heard and reader must think about and reorder the given information. Consideration and evaluation of certain basic facts are considered before a response.

Hungry caterpillar 3

How did the caterpillar feel when he had finished?

Scanning for an object by integrating verbal and visual information – Find one to use with this.

Describing events subsequent to a scene – What will happen next?

Assuming the role of another person – What could he say?

Following a set of directions – Do this, then this.

Arranging pictures in a sequence – Make these into …

Formulating a set of directions – Tell me how to…

Formulating a generalisation about a set of events – What happened to all of these?

Formulating a statement to unify a sequence of pictures – Tell this story.

Concepts: Identifying similarities – Find the ones that are not…

Concepts: Selecting an object by exclusion – Find things that are not …

Concepts: Selecting a set of objects by exclusion – Name something that can… but is not a ….

Concepts: Citing an example by excluding a specific object – Name something that is not a ….

Concepts: Citing an example by excluding a class of objects – What is a ….?

Concepts: Defining words – Say this……

Unusual imitations

Level 4 – reader has to reason beyond what is seen, heard or said. Reader has to draw on past experience, make parallels, look at causes and likely effects and justify decisions.

Hungry caterpillar 5

Why can’t he eat anything else?

Predicting: Changes in position – Where will ….?

Predicting: Changes in structure – What will happen if …?

Justifying a prediction – Why will…?

Justifying a decision: Essential characteristics – Why wouldn’t it?

Justifying a decision: Non-essential characteristics – Why would it?

Identifying the causes of an event – What made it happen?

Formulating a solution – What could you do?

Formulating a solution from another perspective – What could she do?

Selecting the means to a goal – What could we use?

Explaining the means to a goal – Why should we use that?

Explaining the construction of objects – Why is …. made of that?

Explaining an inference drawn from an observation – How can we tell?

Explaining the logic of compound words – Why is this called …?

Explaining the obstacles to an action – Why can’t we …?

Reference: Blank, M., Rose, S., & Berlin, L. (1978). The language of learning: The preschool years.

These levels of questions help develop comprehension but also develop oral language using rich text. Although the example of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is for younger students, the levels of questions can be applied to any text and any year level.

NB If you are a teacher in the Queensland State School system, the Metropolitan EAL/D Prep Program edStudio can be accessed through the Learning Place (S712114786). This edStudio houses a number of rich texts that can be used with Blank’s levels of questions.