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Question-Answer Relationships

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What Is It?

Question-Answer Relationships, or QAR, is a reading comprehension strategy developed to "clarify how students approach the tasks of reading texts and answering questions" (Raphael 1986). It encourages students to be active, strategic readers of texts. QAR outlines where information can be found "In the Text" or "In my Head." It then breaks down the actual question-answer relationships into four types: Right There, Think and Search, Author and Me, and On My Own.

For example, these are questions at each level:

In the Text

  1. Right There: Who is the main character?

  2. Think and Search: How did the character return home?

In My Head

  1. Author and Me: Would you have made the same choice the character made?

  2. On My Own: Do you know what it's like to feel jealousy?

Why Is It Important?

  • Students often follow an extremely literal or "in their head" approach when answering questions about what they have read. Understanding question-answer relationships helps students learn the kind of thinking that different types of questions require, as well as where to go for answers in the text. It encourages students to be more efficient and strategic readers.

  • Teaching students about question-answer relationships can help them to ask effective questions as they read and respond to the text.

  • Teachers use questioning strategies to guide and monitor student learning and to promote higher-level thinking in their students. Teaching students the QAR strategy encourages teachers to be aware of, and, it is hoped, improve the types of thinking they are requiring of their students.

  • Understanding how the question-answer relationship works is an important component of comprehending text. According to research cited by the National Institute for Literacy, teaching about question-answer relationships is an effective strategy for improving comprehension when used as part of a multiple-strategy model (2001).

How Can You Make It Happen?

The levels and types of comprehension questions are described below.

  1. In the Text

    The answers are right there in the text. These types of questions are literal.

    • Right There

      The answer is in one sentence of the text; the question and answer usually have the same wording. Answers usually are one-word or short-phrase responses. There is usually only one right answer to Right There questions.

      Some examples of phrases used for Right There questions:

      Who is....?
      Where is...?
      What is...?
      When is...?
      How many...?
      When did...?

    • Think and Search

      The answer is found in several parts of the text. The question and answer have different wordings. Answers are usually short answers.

      Some examples of phrases used for Think and Search questions:

      For what reason...?
      How did...?
      Why was...?
      What caused...?

  2. In My Head

    Students must use their prior knowledge to answer these types of questions.

    • Author and Me

      The answer to the question comes from both clues in the text and students' prior knowledge. Students must synthesize the text to fully understand the question.

      Some examples of phrases used for Author and Me questions:

      Would you...?
      Which character...?
      Did you agree with...?
      What did you think of...?

    • On My Own

      The answer comes entirely from students' prior knowledge. These questions require inferential and evaluative thinking. Answers do not require information from the text but do require that students make some type of judgment about or relate to the topic of the text.

      Some examples of phrases used for On My Own questions:

      Do you know...?
      Have you ever...?
      Would you ever...?

Taffy Raphael, who developed QAR, suggested the following lesson progression for teaching the strategy (1982).

  • When introducing QAR, start with short, narrative reading texts. Ensure that students are able to identify and write questions. Introduce the two levels of questions, In the Text and In My Head, and explain that they tell where students can find the answers to questions. Next, introduce the two types of questions at each level. Model an example of each type of question, thinking out loud so students can "see" your thought process as you determine the relationships.

  • Then, generate one of each of the four types of questions and provide the answer to the questions. Have students categorize the question-answer relationships and explain their thought processes. This part of the process can be easier for students if they begin by working in cooperative groups and then transition to working independently after they show a thorough understanding of this strategy. In cooperative groups, have students read a short passage (50-75 words) and give them one of each type of question. Have each group answer the questions and categorize the question-answer relationships, explaining their thought processes. Provide each group with immediate feedback.

  • After students have been introduced to the QAR concepts, provide them with several 75-100 word reading passages and a question and answer for each passage. Have students, individually or in cooperative groups, read each passage, identify the question-answer relationships, and explain their thinking. Ask, "Why do the questions represent one question-answer relationship and not another?" Continue to give students immediate feedback.

  • As students become proficient with this strategy, use more expository and functional texts. Provide them with a 150-600 word reading passage divided into four sections. Give students one of each type of question for each section. Have students answer each question, identify the question-answer relationship, and justify their thinking.

  • After they have mastered this, present a longer reading passage and in small cooperative groups have students write one of each of the four types of questions. Have each group share its questions. Ask the other groups to answer the questions, categorize each question-answer relationship, and explain their thinking.

  • Finally, assign a reading passage and have students independently write four questions, one of each type. Direct students to exchange questions with a partner, answer each question, and categorize the question-answer relationships.

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