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.
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.