Using active questioning to promote understanding
Using questions to elicit responses and encourage higher order thinking skills is an important way to establish deeper comprehension of texts. Here are some tips for making this an effective and central part of learning:
- Try to avoid closed questions that have a right or wrong answer. This in itself will encourage children to think more deeply.
- Model good responding, as well as good questioning. Make sure that you demonstrate good vocabulary and thoughtful responses yourself – as some children may need help with this.
- Encourage children to ask questions of you and of each other too. This ensures that it is a classroom discussion, rather than simply a question and answer session.
- Remember that children should ‘read’ the pictures as well as the words. The pictures inform their opinions about what is happening and how the characters are feeling.
- Consider mixed-ability groups for questioning activities. Mixed-ability groups may be more appropriate in order to encourage a level of challenge and to allow those children who may have limited oral language skills to benefit from listening and responding to wider vocabulary.
- Use talk partners. Pairs can then swap roles so each person has a turn of questioning and responding.
- Remember that it is not just about what is in the text, but about what the text suggests. Encourage the children to deduce, infer and predict what might happen next.
- You can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you focus your questioning. There are different forms of the taxonomy available as it is has been adapted over time for many uses. Here are some suggested questions based on the levels within the taxonomy.