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Three Types of Questions


This activity, which is a variation on the Question-Answer-Relationship activity, helps students to use questioning in a structured way, and to generate and distinguish among three different types of questions: questions whose answers are in the text, questions whose answers are in the world, and questions whose answers are in their heads.  This classification process helps students to ask a wider variety of questions, to target types of questions to different learning contexts, and to answer their own questions effectively.

Learning Strategies 

  • Metacognition
  • Questioning
Factual, Inferential and Universal Questions, Generating Questions

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Metacognition


  • Select a target text.
  • Prepare a handout or display summarizing and providing examples of the three types of questions:
  1. In The Text Questions: these questions are about the content of a text, and can be answered through close reading.
  2. In The World Questions: these questions have real and objective answers, but the student will need to access resources beyond the target text to find the answers.  The student might find an answer by talking to a teacher or parent, searching the internet, or looking in another book.
  3. In Your Head Questions: These questions have no single objective answer, and students must think about them themselves to arrive at their own conclusions.
  • Prepare a simple three-column graphic organizer with columns labeled with each question type.
  • Choose a text or portion of a text to model, and prepare the questions, in all three categories, that you will generate in your model.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher reviews the general strategy of questioning a text, and introduces the three types of questions.

    At this stage it can be helpful to find questions that students generated in a previous lesson, and to ask them to sort these questions based on the three categories. 

  2. Teacher models reading aloud a short text, generating questions, writing the questions on sticky notes, and then sorting the sticky notes into the three columns of the graphic organizer.

    You can select a very short text or the first page of a text the students will be reading.

  3. Students get into small groups. Teacher distributes text and graphic organizers.

    Students can also work individually if that seems more appropriate.

  4. Students read the text. As they read they generate questions, write each question on an index card, and then sort the index cards on their graphic organizers.

    As students are working, circulate among them, ask them what they are noticing and thinking, and help to push them to higher level thinking.

  5. Teacher leads class in a discussion of the activity. Several groups share out some of their most interesting questions and explain how they categorized them.

    Help students to explain explicitly how they decided on the category of each question.    

  6. Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.

    Students respond to questions including:

    • How can questioning help you to understand what you read?
    • How can each type of question help you to understand what you read?
    • When might each type of question be most useful to you?
    • How is categorizing questions useful?


Downloadable Resources 
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