Standard Lesson

Guided Comprehension: Self-Questioning Using Question-Answer Relationships

3 - 6
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 60-minute sessions on consecutive days
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A majority of students in grades 3 to 6 are beyond decoding instruction. Strategic reading allows students to monitor their own thinking and make connections between texts and their own experiences. Based on the Guided Comprehension Model developed by Maureen McLaughlin and Mary Beth Allen, this lesson introduces students to the comprehension strategy of self-questioning. Students learn the types of question-answer relationships (QARs), identify where and how answers can be found, and demonstrate their understanding of the strategy as they analyze The Story of Ruby Bridges and generate new questions about the text. They go on to practice the strategy in small groups, applying it to texts chosen from the Suggested Booklist for Civil Rights provided. The components of the QAR strategy are reinforced through activities in three student-facilitated comprehension centers.

Note: This lesson is intended as an introduction to the QAR technique. With continued practice, students should be able to apply the self-questioning strategy independently to other texts.

From Theory to Practice

  • Guided Comprehension is a context in which students learn comprehension strategies in a variety of settings using multiple levels and types of text. It is a three-stage process focused on direct instruction, application, and reflection.

  • The Guided Comprehension Model progresses from explicit teaching to independent practice and transfer.

  • Self-questioning involves generating questions to guide thinking while reading. The ability to generate questions is a skill that underpins, not only this strategy, but also many of the dimensions of transacting with text.

  • Current studies demonstrate that when students experience explicit instruction of comprehension strategies, it improves their comprehension of new texts and topics (Hiebert et al., 1998).

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Several copies of The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (Scholastic, 1995)

  • Three instructional-level texts (see Suggested Booklist for Civil Rights)




1. Read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles to gain an understanding of Ruby Bridges and her life. You may also want to browse for information about her online at The Ruby Bridges Foundation.

2. Use Question-Answer Relationships as well as the printouts listed in Other Resources to find more information about the question-answer relationship (QAR) technique. Another recommended resource is the book Guided Comprehension: A Teaching Model for Grades 3-8 by Maureen McLaughlin and Mary Beth Allen.

3. Print the QAR posters, Right There, Author and Me, On My Own, Think and Search, and either post them in your classroom or copy them onto transparencies to present to students.

4. Gather three instructional-level texts that match the needs of three levels of reading in your class (see Suggested Booklist for Civil Rights). In preparation for the teacher-guided small-group instruction (see Stage 2), create a comprehension sheet for each of the texts that you select reflecting all of the QAR types.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Define and understand the types of QARs

  • Answer literal and inferential questions and identify how and where the answers were found

  • Work in pairs and small groups using a text and the self-questioning strategy to identify types of questions and find answers

  • Generate questions that demonstrate an understanding of each QAR

Day 1, Stage 1: Teacher-directed whole-group instruction (40 minutes)

1. Explain the strategy. Explain to students that there are essentially two kinds of information:

  • In the book: the answer can be found in the text

  • In my head: the answer cannot be found in the text and must come from the readers' own experiences and knowledge
For each kind of information, there are two types of questions. Use the QAR posters to highlight and discuss each question type.

  • In the book
(1) Right There: the answer is clearly stated in the text

(2) Think and Search: the answer is in the text, but the reader has to look for it and synthesize several pieces of information
  • In my head
(1) On My Own: the answer can be found by synthesizing information that the reader already possesses

(2) Author and Me: the answer is inferred in the text, but the reader must use a combination of information in the text and his or her own knowledge
2. Demonstrate the strategy. Distribute the Comprehension Sheet: The Story of Ruby Bridges and read the book aloud to students. Beginning with the first question, which is an example of In the book--Right There, demonstrate how you determine the question type. Then show students how you find the answer to the question in the text and fill in the answer on the comprehension sheet. Do the same with the second question, which is an example of In my head—Author and Me, and demonstrate your thought process. Fill in the answer to the second question on the comprehension sheet.

While demonstrating the strategy, show students how to generate new questions for each QAR. For example, generate a new question for In my head—On My Own and add it to the back of the comprehension sheet.

3. Guide students to apply the strategy. As a class, complete questions three and four on the comprehension sheet. Have students decide the QAR for each question and explain their reasoning. Generate several new questions as a class that reflect the different types of QARs and add them to the back of the comprehension sheet.

4. Practice individually or in small groups. Divide students into groups of three and have them complete the rest of the comprehension sheet together. Students should identify the QAR for each question and then fill in the answer. Ask students to also generate two new questions and identify the QAR.

5. Reflect. Gather students as a whole class and discuss how the QAR technique helped them to better understand the text. Talk about which types of questions required the most thought and how they identified the QAR. How does understanding the QAR strategy help students comprehend information? How can they apply this strategy on their own?

Day 1, Stage 2: Teacher-guided small groups and student-facilitated independent practice (40 minutes)

Before beginning Stage 2, students must be divided into three instructional-level groups. Students with similar instructional needs should be grouped together. This does not necessarily mean that students in each group are on the same reading level. Instead, they may have similar needs for comprehension instruction (e.g., students who have trouble making inferences or students who need extra practice making connections between texts).

Students are working in three different areas during this stage:

  • Teacher-guided small-group instruction

  • Student-facilitated comprehension centers

  • Student-facilitated comprehension routines

Classroom management is at the discretion of each individual teacher. You may want to assign students to small groups and set up a rotation schedule, or you may want to allow groups of students to choose their own activities. Regardless, each group of students needs to visit the three areas at least once in the three-day period.

1. Teacher-guided small-group instruction. Choose one group to begin with you as follows:

  • Use the QAR posters to review the question types and talk about how the QAR strategy was used with The Story of Ruby Bridges.

  • Use an instructional-level text to have students practice the QAR strategy (see Suggested Booklist for Civil Rights). In advance of this activity, you will need to prepare a comprehension sheet for each text selected for each instructional-level group. Each comprehension sheet should include a variety of questions that span all of the question types.

  • Practice the strategy by having students work together to complete the comprehension sheet. Also ask students to generate an additional question for the comprehension sheet and identify the QAR.

  • Have students reflect on using the QAR strategy and how it helped them monitor their own comprehension.
2. Student-facilitated comprehension centers. Students may be assigned to centers or choose activities on their own.

  • Music/poetry center. Have students listen to the song about Ruby Bridges at The Ruby Bridges Foundation website. Working in small groups, have student write a "piggyback song" (i.e., a song that uses the tune of a known song, but with different lyrics) or a poem that will help their peers or other students learn and remember the QAR types.

  • Writing center. Have students use the interactive Letter Generator to write a letter to a peer in another classroom explaining the QAR strategy and why good readers use it.

  • Art center. Ask students to create their own posters illustrating the different types of QARs. Encourage them to be creative and think "outside of the box" when designing their posters.
3. Student-facilitated comprehension routines. Working in small groups, students engage in three different literacy strategies. Students should already be familiar with each of the strategies and have practiced them over time. For more information, review the Summary Sheet or refer to the text Guided Comprehension: A Teaching Model for Grades 3–8 by Maureen McLaughlin and Mary Beth Allen.

Days 2 and 3

For Days 2 and 3, pick up where you left off the previous day. The suggested time for each session is 60 minutes, however, since the group on the first day only had 20 minutes in small groups, you may want to meet with them for another 20 minutes and then switch groups for the last 40 minutes. The rotation should continue until all three groups have visited all three areas. On Day 3, students will spend 40 minutes in small groups, leaving 20 minutes for whole-group reflection and discussion (see Stage 3).

Day 3, Stage 3: Whole-group reflection (20 minutes)

1. Talk to students about the self-questioning comprehension strategy that they have been learning. Ask them to tell why and how the QAR strategy helps them better understand texts.

2. Give students time to share the activities they completed in the student-facilitated comprehension centers.


  • Adapt this lesson and have students practice the QAR strategy with other texts. With continued practice, students should be able to apply the self-questioning strategy independently.

  • Access and use other lessons based on the Guided Comprehension Model to teach additional comprehension strategies:
  • To extend the activities in this lesson, students may want to do further research on the life of Ruby Bridges by visiting The Ruby Bridges Foundation website.

  • Lessons and reproducible handouts for this story are available as part of the Lessons in Courage, developed by the Denver Public Schools.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • The assessment for this lesson can be done informally through anecdotal notes and observations.

  • You can also assess students' understanding of the QAR strategy using the comprehension sheets that they completed during the lesson and the activities that they worked on during the student-facilitated comprehension centers.

  • Have students write a journal entry or a short letter explaining the QAR strategy and why it is helpful for comprehending what they read.
Janice Pidgeon
K-12 Teacher
Is there a key available with possible answers/model answers for the Ruby Bridges comprehension sheet?
Janice Pidgeon
K-12 Teacher
Is there a key available with possible answers/model answers for the Ruby Bridges comprehension sheet?
Janice Pidgeon
K-12 Teacher
Is there a key available with possible answers/model answers for the Ruby Bridges comprehension sheet?

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