QAR: another way to recycle reading

One of my colleagues (“Jana”) was telling me about how Carol Gaab introduced her to QAR. This is what she understood:

Jana says she helps kids come up with four kinds of questions:

1. Right there
2. Read and find
3. You and the author
4. On your own

“Right there” questions are those that are obvious from the text. “What is the girl’s name?” is an example. “Read and find” questions are those that require the student to read more of the text to find the answer. “How many times does the girl call her mother?” or “Where did the girl go the second time when she was looking for a costume?”  “You and the author” are questions for which there is no answer in the text, but the student would have to think. That kind of question might be, “Why did the girl decide that she didn’t need to find a costume?” or something else that isn’t explained in the text. “On your own” questions are on the same topic, but are only about the reader. “What kinds of costumes did you like when you were little?” might be an example.

There are some better examples here. And this pdf is even better.

Most of the sources I found when I googled QAR suggested having kids evaluate questions to realize that reading can be more than what’s on the page, and that they can interact with the reading. But Jana said that Carol suggested having kids come up with these questions. They have to re-read the text to create the questions. Jana is just delighted with this–she says that she can use it at all levels, and that the kids are learning to ask questions and talking about the text. Jana tells the kids they have to come up with two questions for homework: one from the first two levels (more text-based) and one from the second two levels (more personal). It brings in what a visiting OPI-based instructor was telling us to do–use higher-level questions to spur kids to higher-level speaking.

I like this idea for teaching my lower-level readers that reading can be addressed in different ways (I guess that’s why QAR has long been known as a literacy strategy), and I also like the idea for using it as just one more push to read a text, maybe given as a pairs-quiz. I wouldn’t use it every time, maybe just as a way to get a final re-read at the end of a chapter that has taken a while. No more than once a month, as with all our strategies for milking reading.

I might also keep in mind that I need to save this for when there is a text worthy of deeper questions.

In the end, this could help kids (and teachers) to get to real discussions about a piece of reading. So often we ask comprehension questions at that “right there” level. Susie has told us to teach “real life lessons” when we come to those moments in a text (her example is often the scenario in which “Poor” Anna asks an unknown man for help in the airport, explaining her whole situation…whom should you really ask for help?). Those are really either “author and me” or “on my own” questions. QAR gives us a framework to model what we do when we’re discussing books we’ve read for pleasure and interest.

18 responses to “QAR: another way to recycle reading

  1. We’ve been using this in my classes for the past few weeks, and I am loving it!! It took quite a bit of training before my kids understood the different kinds of questions (and they are still a bit confused about ‘Think and Search’, oddly enough…), but I am so glad to now have this tool in my toolbox. I started out with a Keynote presentation that I made ( and then had short readings (like four sentences long) as bellwork for the next several days with the task being to write one of each question type for that reading. Kids shared the questions that they wrote, and we discussed why they were or were not the kind of question that the student meant for them to be. I used it recently as an adaption of your having-kids-write-the-questions for a test. I had them work in pairs to read a text and then write two questions at each level for it, then I collected the questions and used them to create a reading assessment. The kids accessed the text multiple times, and didn’t hate the assessment because the questions were self-generated. Carol has the best ideas ever!!!!


    • Yes, and even as I was writing this, I knew I’d read about it better somewhere else. Should have looked through your pages again!!

      Thanks…as soon as I get to school again, I’ll look at the keynote. My home copy isn’t up-to-date enough. Bummer.

      Do you talk about this in Spanish? I’m trying to come up with the most logical labels for the questions in Russian. If we end up using it a lot, I want them to be able to ask in Russian.


      • Hi MJ,

        I have had reading groups work on these ideas but I only work in English. First the students wrote a bunch of questions each. They took turns to nominate a question they’d like the group to answer. Then as a group we decided if the questions were either literal – here on the page or inferential – they’d need other knowledge to solve. My strongest group decided some questions fell in the middle of these categories but didn’t have a name for this category. Then of course they had to find answers and with a short chapter book they were searching all over the text to find answers. Really authentic reading for a purpose and many times better than reading round a circle. I thought this was one of my better lessons all year but we have not done it in a while.

        I’ve seen various versions of this kind of thing over the years. One way for getting kids to think about comprehension is the 3 Hs

        Is it Here? (literal)
        Is it Hidden? (do we have to connect some information to find answer)
        Or it is in your head? ( do we need other knowledge.

        To be honest I don’t force this one anymore.

        Better is the 3 level guide. Are you familiar with this? I think it would be great to get kids coming up the statements for the guide to be debated by themselves or another group. In a 3 level guide the students must decide if statements are true or false and justify from the text. At the first level the statments are literal – in the text. At the 2nd level the statements are about implied knowledge and at the third level the students debate the wider meanings of the text ( the moral of the story would fit in here). Google 3 level guide to get some more ideas about this if interested or if you email me I will send you one of Misty’s that she hands out to students.


      • I explained it in English. It was confusing enough in L1! I didn’t translate the question types into Spanish, but that is a good idea. At this point, we are doing everything in L2 except for the type labels, so it would make much more sense to develop them!!


  2. More – though I know that working in first language is different to what you are doing.

    One good thing about students generating their own questions (for later use as above) is that this is something that can happen while I work with another group. I find many activities don’t work successfully when students are required to do them independently – though this one is ok.


  3. Megan, I learned about 3-level guides about 30 years ago, and remember how my host teacher was completely impressed that I could lead such good discussions. After that, it seemed like it took too much work to set them up! Now that I have been teaching a while, I’ve occasionally suggested to others that they learn about the three-level guides, but haven’t used them with my own kids…just didn’t think about it. Since you mention it, I think maybe I’ll try having kids develop T/F statements on those levels as yet another reading strategy. I can see that either of these would be very good for recycling reading. Having kids get the T/F statements would be a great way to encourage re-reading and working out negation (or putting in wrong cues). When kids have to make up questions, they have to rearrange language in a different way. I think the QAR strategy is a higher-level linguistic task, but both can require higher-level literacy and thinking skills.

    Thanks for reminding me of this powerful technique! Wow…the good stuff sticks around, doesn’t it!


  4. This was so valuable to us today as we met to completely revamp our midterm exam!! We had to design exams that explicitly demonstrated where students stood in terms of each skill. Speaking and Writing rubrics were no problem, but this gave us a great way to demonstrate a scaffolded approach to evaluating reading!!

    with love,


  5. Okay Laurie…as usual, you take whatever’s here and leap over mountains with it. I didn’t even see the mountains.

    Could you explain your last sentence in a little more detail?


  6. Yes please do tell. I’d like details as well.


  7. Ok…for our midterm exam we took a single paragraph and asked 4-5 “leveled” questions about it. Here is an example…our kids created individual flags and wrote about them so we wrote a “fake” one.
    (reading in Spanish)
    My name is Natalia and this is my flag. It is my favorite color: purple. There are many different colored circles on my flag. The yellow circles represent my favorite activities. All my favorite activities are outside in the fresh air and the yellow stands for the sun. On one circle is a flower to represent my garden. There is another yellow circle with a helmet to represent the time I spend riding my bike. You can also see a yellow circle with ocean waves and another with a fish. I love that I can do my favorite activities all year long.

    (these questions are in English)

    1. In 5 words or less, what is this paragraph about? (we want to see if the student can identify the main idea/focus)
    2. What do we learn about Natalia from the information on the yellow circles? (specific info)
    3. What can you guess about the climate in Natalia’s town? (infer from reading)

    (these questions are in Spanish)
    4. In your opinion, what could the fish (or waves) represent? (could be fishing, pet fish, swimming, diving, boating, whatever the student has acquired)
    5. What is your favorite color and why?

    Does this help? I think that we will be able to tell how students do on the different types of questions if students have several paragraphs to read/answer questions about. I’ll let you know (in Feb lol)how it goes!

    with love,


  8. Love it. I really appreciate this–especially the way you worded it helps the kids know when the information might not directly be in the text.

    Very interesting. I had quite a time testing this out with my English kids this morning. They ended up deciding that the highest level questions were the most interesting ones, the ones they might discuss if they were reading a book with friends who were enjoying the book.


    • :o) Which is why students abhor those fill in the blank packets they receive to go along with literature. Thanks so much for trying it!!!!!

      with love,


      • This is really cool. Only one thing from my experience with reluctant readers bothers me, if you want that first question to be level 1: finding the main idea can be almost impossible for them. It’s not an easy question at all. They could easily say something like, “This paragraph is about Natalie’s flag.” If that’s acceptable, it’s okay. But otherwise, it’s a higher level question because it requires them to read the whole thing and analyze.


  9. Very nice. This system is a lot more intuitive than Bloom’s taxonomy and as a result would be much simpler to implement. I’m going to try this out starting with my advanced class, and once they get the hang of it see what types of questions that they would generate for each level. Something like that could lend itself to one of Laurie’s sliding scale quizzes (i.e. German IIs need to generate level 1 questions, German IIIs generate level 1 and level 2 questions, German IIVs generate all levels).


    • Both of you have made me understand even better how strong this strategy is. I wonder whether, when we are writing embedded readings, whether we can use the ideas to make sure that we’re doing the “topic sentence” construction at some point in the readings, with details for them so that we’re providing support for the “think and search” questions.

      Example: Anna was spoiled. She expected her brother to find her books, her mother to pick up her clothes, and her father to give her money.

      “How do we know Anna was spoiled?”

      I’m going to have to go looking at my embedded readings to see whether I already do that, or whether, as in Laurie’s explanation on yahoo groups, we could even use those kinds of questions as predictors for what’s coming in the next level of embedded readings.


      • Oksana just sent me the way to correctly say these things in Russian, so non-Russian speakers, please excuse this comment while I save it in a place I can find it again:

        the category names:
        1. could be “прямо здесь”
        2. почитай и найди I would say “прочитай и найди”
        3. ты и писатель
        4. ты сам – хорошо=)

        Whenever there’s something I know I’m going to repeat a lot, I run it by a native speaker. I don’t want kids internalizing incorrect information. Here I was seriously off by only one letter. I said “read for a bit” instead of “read this now.” At some moment in the future, that could mess up a kid! I know that because one of my TA’s in college used to say “No problem” incorrectly, I still say it wrong every time, or at least think it wrong and then have to correct before it comes out of my mouth.

        BUT!!! I also have to tell you that my first-year babies are all getting good at verbs. Yesterday I asked them how to say something a la Susie’s contrastive grammar, and because someone had just asked for a worksheet, I laid out what they had accomplished: correct form of the pronoun “I,” correct first-person form of the irregular verb “to want,” correct infinitive form following the verb, correct accusative-case form of the object of the infinitive verb. This was a no brainer, because we’ve said this kind of construction a lot, but they have no clue that it’s something to cheer!

        Yeah. That was a tangent. In case I don’t get to a post today, go check out Daniel Coyle’s blog for his post on a bill of rights for kids.

        Once there, follow the comment link to Wired. Interesting stuff! If you get that far, find the comment from the teacher at the Glasser School. It will make you want to go teach there.


  10. Pingback: Susan Van Zant | Lesson Plans for CI/TPRS Classrooms

  11. Pingback: Susan Van Zant | The Data-Driven Language Classroom

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