How to Implement the Levels of Questions Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom
The levels of questions method helps learners comprehend and interpret a text by requiring them to answer three types of questions about it: factual, inferential, and universal. This scaffolded approach provides an opportunity for learners to master the basic ideas of the content so that they can apply this comprehension and “evidence” to conversations about more profound abstract concepts or complex historical events. Because you can focus learners’ attention on the level of questions most appropriate to their reading capacity, this method can meet the needs of different learners. You can also utilize the levels of questions method to prepare learners for a class discussion or activity or as an assessment tool.
- Prepare Questions: This method can be used with any content—historical documents, literature, newspaper articles, films, artwork, photographs, etc. Prepare questions that learners will answer. We recommend writing two or three questions for each of the following categories: Factual questions (first level) can be responded to plainly by facts contained in the content. Inferential questions (second level) can be answered through the analysis of specific parts of the content. Universal questions (third level) are open-ended questions that are provoked by concepts in the content. They are meant to provoke a discussion of an idea or issue.
- Learners Practice Active Reading: Have learners watch or read the content silently or aloud. As they read (or watch), ask learners to underline or record keywords and phrases.
- Learners Answer Questions: Learners can answer questions themselves or in small groups.
- Review and Discuss: Review responses to level-one and level-two questions to make sure everyone understands the content. As you go over level-two questions, encourage learners to share different interpretations of the content, and use evidence to explain their answers. The universal questions make useful prompts for a broader class discussion.
- Learner-Generated Questions: After utilizing this method a few times, have learners generate their questions in each of the categories. In small groups, they can write questions. Then groups can trade questions and respond to these as a way to assess their comprehension of the content.
- For Heterogeneous Classrooms: You can have struggling readers focus on level-one questions, average readers focus on level-one and level-two questions, and advanced readers be responsible for addressing all three levels of questions. As a learner’s reading capacity improves, they can be asked to discuss the next level of questions.