Question-Answer Relationship (QAR)

The question-answer relationship (QAR) comprehension strategy teaches students how to ask key questions about their reading, and then how to find the answers to their questions — whether it means locating a specific fact, drawing an inference, or connecting the reading to their own experience.

When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

What is the question-answer relationship strategy?

The question-answer relationship (QAR) strategy helps students understand the different types of questions. By learning that the answers to some questions are “Right There” in the text, that some answers require a reader to “Think and Search,” and that some answers can only be answered “On My Own,” students recognize that they must first consider the question before developing an answer.

Why use the question-answer relationship strategy?

  • It can improve students’ reading comprehension.
  • It teaches students how to ask questions about their reading, a cognitive strategy skilled readers use.
  • It helps them find the answers to their questions, whether it means locating a specific fact, drawing an inference, or connecting the reading to their own experience.
  • It inspires students to think creatively and work cooperatively while challenging them to use higher-level thinking skills.

How to use the question-answer relationship strategy

1. Explain to students that there are many questions readers can ask about their reading and that one way to find the answer is to think about what kind of question it is. Define the four types of questions and give an example.

  • Right There Questions: These are literal questions whose answers can be found in the text. Often the words used in the question are the same words found in the text.
  • Think and Search Questions: These ask readers to collect information from more than one part of the text and put it together to answer the question.
  • Author and You: These questions are based on information found in the text but ask the reader to relate the question to their own experience. Although the answer does not lie directly in the text, the student must have read it in order to answer the question.
  • On My Own: These questions do not require the students to have read the passage. Readers rely on their background or prior knowledge to answer the question.

2. Read a short passage aloud to your students.

3. Have questions of different types prepared to ask about the passage. When you have finished reading, read each question aloud and model how you decide which type of question you have been asked to answer.

4. Show students how find information to answer the question (e.g., in the text or from your own experiences).

Watch a classroom example: question-answer relationship

The teacher introduces 5th grade students to the QAR strategy. The teacher guides students through the process of deciding where and how they found the answer to a series of questions. At the end of the lesson, the teacher summarizes the four types of questions and sets them up for doing this again with their teacher. (See aligned lesson from CORE)

Watch a classroom example: reading strategy instruction — question-answer relationship (grades 5–6, whole-class)

The teacher introduces the QAR strategy and explains the four question types, distinguishing between using prior knowledge and using information from the text, and guides the students through determining question types.

Watch a classroom example: reading strategy instruction — question-answer relationship (whole-class)

In this variation of QAR, the students generate questions about Smoky Night, a whole-class read-aloud. The teacher guides them through determining where and how they found the answer using a graphic organizer.

Differentiate instruction

  • Have students work in pairs or small groups to form questions about the text, find the answers, categorize their questions, and share with the whole class.
  • Do a whole-class QAR activity and have the students write down the questions and answers on their own QAR templates as you write them on the board.
  • Use a big book or projector to enlarge the text and annotate it so the students can follow along as you think aloud about the reading. 

Extend the learning

Language Arts

In this lesson plan, students use the QAR strategy for a study of the book Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles.

See this QAR template for the study of Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Math

In this comprehension lesson, students apply the question–answer relationship strategy to word problems that refer to data displayed in a table.

See the research that supports this strategy

Fordham, N. W. (2006). Crafting questions that address comprehension strategies in content reading. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49, 390-396.

Liang, L. A., Watkins, N. M., Graves, M. F., & Hosp, J. (2010). Postreading questioning and middle school students’ understanding of literature. Reading Psychology, 31, 347-364.

Raphael, T.E., & Au, K.H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59, 206-221.

Wilson, N. S., & Smetana, L. (2011). Questioning as thinking: A metacognitive framework to improve comprehension of expository text. Literacy, 45, 84-90.

Children's books to use with this strategy

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference

By: Kate Smith Milway
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This fictionalized story of Kojo, a boy from Ghana, who changes his world with a small loan and one hen, is based on a real person. Kwabena Darko lives in West Africa and started a system of micro-loans in villages that would not otherwise have access. Additional resources and sources for further information allow readers to find out more.

How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken Wing

By: Bob Graham
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Children often see what adults miss, and so it is when Will finds a pigeon with a broken wing on the sidewalk of a busy city. Will and his parents, help the bird recover over time then release it. Limited text and well paced and placed illustrations tell the affecting story.

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City

By: Janet Schulman
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Stunning watercolors evoke the height and breadth of New York City while a dramatic text relates the true story of a now-famous feathered resident, a hawk named Pale Male. The tension between the lifestyle of Pale Male and human residents as well as the fate of Pale Male's mates and offspring create riveting reading.

Comments

These questions are based on information provided in the text but the student is required to relate it to their own experience. Although the answer does not lie directly in the text, the student must have read it in order to answer the question.

It seems that the common core is trying to balance out the preponderance of text-to-self connections.

Great article. I have used this a bit with the students I work with, but not as intensive. I can see how more questions would be helpful for building their skills in reading.

QAR can provide a framework for all other thinking about text. It might help to think of QAR as simplified language so that young students can understand how to answer and ask text questions leading to deep thinking about text.

I think that's true for everyone—we are, after all, the ones hearing the text in our heads when we read and think about it.

It seems that the Common Core is trying to balance out the preponderance of text-to-self connections with "Hey, Look! There's a Text! And an Author! And Skill used by the Author! Let's take a look at what that is!"—because, truly, kids don't need a teacher to help them identify text-to-self connections—most of them are pretty clear on what they're thinking. They DO, however, need teachers to help them with the harder stuff.

My MA Thesis was an examination of American Lit textbooks from the late 80s to 2000 and the decline in post-text questioning was appalling. It all went from challenging, thoughtful analysis in 1989 to, "If you were a Puritan..." from about 1996 onward.

So.

Agree that we all have personal connections to texts that need to be acknowledged and respected. Also Agree that CCSS is trying to rebalance a long-out-of-whack pedagogical table which has left kids unable to do much OTHER than identify how everything connects to them.

Agreed! I know this is an old comment, but I just stumbled upon it. I'm concerned at the growing prevalence of "Connect to your life!" questions. Seems to encourage narcissism, something that this current generation of students certainly doesn't need help developing.

This description should be revised to take into account the perspective in Common Core that skillful reading is not only about relatiing to one's experience, but to author's craft, structure of the discipline andd the content of the reading pieces.

The Common Core isn't the "end all." Yes, we need to pay attention to text first, yet I as an avid reader rarely leave behind my schema when reading.

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