Formulating Level 2 and Level 3 Questions

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SWBAT apply knowledge of Costa's Levels of Questioning by working in collaboration to formulate questions about a text.

Big Idea

Putting four heads together helps produce strong questions.

Lesson Overview

In the previous lesson, students were introduced to Costa's Levels of Questioning. They also had an opportunity to apply this new knowledge to a children's literature book, "Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type." The focus yesterday was on level 1 questions. Today, they will formulate level 2 and level 3 questions for the same children's story.

Introduce Level 2 Questions

10 minutes

Students already have a paper with the definition of the three levels of questions. I ask students to have that paper in front of them and, together, we review the highlighted words in the definition of a level 2 question. I tell students that today they will be working in small groups to formulate level 2 and level 3 questions for ''Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type," but that we have to practice together first. Because level 2 questions require more thinking, students need easy access to the entire story. You will need a few copies for students to share, or do what I did. I scanned the pages of the story and printed the story in the form of PowerPoint slides on two double sided pages and made enough copies for students to share.

We begin with level 2 questions. Like in the previous lesson, I ask students to suggest questions that may qualify as level 2 questions. Here, I expect more mistakes because level 2 questions are more difficult. Specifically, I expect students to suggest a question that is actually level 1. To address this, I make sure that the first question suggested, whether it qualifies as level 2 or not, gets put through a test. Sure enough, one of my students asks if Farmer Brown has a wife, and this is the first question we put through the test. I ask the student who asked the question what a possible answer may be. If the answer provided is right on the text, such is the case with this question, I will point it out and students will realize this is a level 1 question, not level 2. If the student who suggested the question does not have an answer in mind, that is ok. I did tell them that we are focusing on asking questions, not answering them. Still, we need to explore answers in order to see if the question qualifies as level 2, so I ask for someone else to offer an answer to the question and we use this answer to test the question. I am only interested in the whole class coming up with one good level 2 question. This takes a few tries. In this particular group, we hear three level 1 questions before getting to a level 2. The level 2 question is "Why is duck a neutral party?"

Once we hear this level 2 question, I ask the student who formulated the question to give us a possible answer. The student suggests that the ducks did not have opportunities to be influenced by the cows. I then ask the same student, "How do you know that? Is there evidence in the story to support your answer?" The student points to the fact that the cows are pictured living in the barn with the chickens whereas the ducks are pictured outside. I say, "Great! You can definitely make that argument." I then ask for someone else to offer another possible answer to this level 2 question. Another student offers an answer and I ask the same thing, to provide textual evidence. If the student provides it, I say that this answer can also be supported. I do this a third time, even a fourth if the answers are coming fast enough. I do this to illustrate the point that unlike level 1 questions, which only have one possible answer, level 2 questions can have multiple answers. I explain that this is because when we are engaging with a text at a level 2, and level 3 as they will later see, we are interpreting and interpretations can vary depending on who is interpreting and the lens they use to interpret. We are now ready to write this question as an example on the page with the definitions. I do not take any more suggestions because I want students to come up with more level 2 questions in small groups. 

In this manner, I am giving students a taste of the type of work they will be doing in this class this year in order to access the Common Core. Specifically, students are looking closely in the text and making conclusions supported by evidence, important skills in CCSS RL.11-12.1.

Apply Knowledge of Level 2 Questions

10 minutes

I tell students that they are now going to work in small groups of four and collaborate to formulate two strong level 2 questions for "Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type." They now have a copy of the story in front of them for reference. I give them the following steps and guidelines:

  • One group member will need to record the suggested questions on scratch paper. 
  • The group will need to evaluate them by suggesting possible answers and making sure the answer is not right on the text.
  • They will select their best two questions and write them on a white paper with colored markers to be posted on the wall. 

I give students about 10 minutes to work on this.

Here, students are applying the information I present in this lesson. They are also getting an initial experience working in groups and talking to make sense of class material together, important aspects of CCSS SL.11-12.1.

Introduce Level 3 Questions and Apply

10 minutes

Some groups may have two level 2 questions at this point, but many will not. I interrupt their work to explain Level 3 questions. Level 3 questions are difficult for students to wrap their brain around because they are abstract. I introduce them today and challenge students to formulate at least 1 with their group. 

I explain that level 3 questions go beyond the text. When we ask a level 3 question, we take an idea addressed in the text and ask how it applies to other things in the world. For level 3 questions, I suggest an example. I tell students that an idea addressed in "Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type" has to do with a power struggle. The level 3 question I suggest is, "Why do some choose a neutral position in the middle of a power struggle?" Students can write this as an example of a level 3 question. 

I then ask students to get back to their group work, finish formulating at least two level 2 questions and push themselves to formulate one level 3 question. I ask students to send a group member to pick up a white sheet of paper and a marker. They use this to write their level 2 and level 3 questions. I let them know that these will be shared and eventually posted on the wall. 

Gallery Walk to See the Questions Classmates Formulated

5 minutes

Once all questions are written in marker on the white sheets of paper, I ask groups to leave the paper in the middle of a table and ask all students to take a gallery walk. I instruct them to read all questions and to make a mental note of any good ones that may have impressed them. This only takes a few minutes. Once students are back in their seats, I ask them to share any questions from other groups they found impressive. After students share a few, I also point out the ones I feel are very strong. I also take this opportunity to give praise to any group that was able to formulate level 3 questions. In this video, I discuss a few student samples.


10 minutes

I instruct students to select a level 2 or level 3 question they felt was strong and to write it on a sheet of paper. I ask students to write a short response to that question making references to the story for support. I consider this a quick writing assignment. I do not give them detailed instructions on how to draft their written response. I am mainly interested in having them make immediate use of the questions they formulated today. 

Any student who did not finish may finish for homework.