Tag Archives: cause and effect

Question-Answer Relationships in Science

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What are QARs?

Has this happened to you, as a teacher?

Student B (age 9, 12 or 18… it doesn’t matter) sits with a scientific editorial, and an essay assignment. The prompt asks him, “Does the author believe that nuclear power is a benefit to society, or a danger? Use evidence from the editorial to answer your question.” At the end of class, the student turns in a blank paper: “I don’t know what to write — it didn’t say.” Sigh.

Researchers developed the concept of QARs, or Question-Answer Relationships, to help students understand that there is a relationship between the type of question asked, and the place the student goes to find the information to answer the question. By quickly determining the type of question, the student is better able to figure out how to answer the question.

Types of Questions

Reading response questions fall into four categories, based on where the reader must go to find the answer:

  1. “Right There” Questions
  2. “Search and Find Out” Questions
  3. “Author and Me” Questions
  4. “On My Own” Questions

If students can learn to identify the hallmarks of each type of question, then they can more quickly determine what they have to do in order to craft the appropriate response. Here is a general overview of the categories of questions:

Right There Questions

  • assess literal comprehension: there is little need to think beyond the text in order to answer
  • the answer is readily identifiable directly in the text (e.g., a definition, a specific fact, a quote)
  • tend to be lower Bloom’s levels (because the reader merely has to identify or locate the answer)
  • are text dependent: the reader cannot answer the question without reading the text
  • may include the words, “according to the text”
  • may include the question words, “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” or “how.”
  • may contain words in bold print
  • Example: “What is an igneous rock?

(c) gregw66, 2011 via Creative Commons

Search and find out questions

  • assess literal comprehension
  • the answer is identifiable in the text, but the reader must read through a more extended portion of the text to find all the parts (e.g., several reasons, multiple steps)
  • involve more summary and extrapolation, so are higher than “Right There” questions, but still lower level questions
  • are text dependent
  • may also include the words, “according to the text” and the question words “who-what-where-when-how”
  • Example: “What are the three major kinds of rocks? Explain how each is formed.

(c) gregw66 (2011), Jonathan Wilkens and Ken Lund (2010) via Creative Commons

Author and me questions

  • assess inferential comprehension
  • are text-dependent (the reader must have read the text in order to answer), but cannot be answered with the text, alone
  • involve interpretation and reflection, so are higher order
  • may include the words, “why,” “in your opinion,” “you,” or “use evidence from the text to explain your thinking.”
  • Example: “Find five rocks outside. Use the table on page 5 to classify them as igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary, and explain what characteristics helped you decide.”

(c) 2008, Gwen and James Anderson via Creative Commons

On my own questions

  • are not text-dependent: the reader does not have to have read the text at all to answer the question
  • involve connections to personal experiences
  • can vary in Bloom’s level, depending on the question
  • may include the words, “you/your,” “think of a time,” “when have you,” or “have you ever.”
  • Example: “List ten things in your school or schoolyard that are made from rock.”

(c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011

The Reading Lady has an excellent overview of QARs in .pdf form. It’s thirteen pages long, and includes planning sheets for teachers to plan different levels of questions for a lesson, or to classify the kinds of questions at the end of the chapter (so you can add others that are lacking). It also includes organizers for students to classify or create their own questions for each level — a very powerful task for student learning.

QARs in Science

The above examples show how QARs can be used to help students make sense of science texts. The Tantasqua School District (Massachusetts) has developed examples of how QARs can be used in other content areas – very useful for supporting literacy across content areas.

But can we use the same levels of thinking in non-text-based tasks? What would that look like?

Let’s go back to the original levels, and what they stand for:

  1. Level 1 (Right There): just reporting the proper information
  2. Level 2 (Search and Find Out): the information is there, but you have to work to get it
  3. Level 3 (Author & Me): you process the information based on your own thought and experiences
  4. Level 4 (On My Own): only your experiences are needed

Here is a suggestion for encouraging these four levels of thinking, even when text is not used. This is helpful thinking, for working with struggling readers who are not struggling thinkers, for making grade-level content accessible to students with disabilities, for making input comprehensible to students who are second language learners, and for ensuring overall rigor of thinking for all students.

Level 1 (Right There) questions

  • Involve direct observation using the five senses

Some data can be directly observed, using the 5 senses. (c)  lara604, 2011 via Creative Commons

Level 2 (Search and find out) questions

  • Involve indirect observation
  • Involve using text resources, simple tests and simple tools to gather additional data not directly observable
  • Involve knowing that some data cannot be directly observed

Simple tools and tests can be used to gather more information. (c) 2012, Kim M. Bennett

Level 3 (Author & Me) Questions

  • Involve extending beyond the observations to possible causes and effects
  • Involve applying prior learning and knowledge to new observations
  • Involve prediction based on knowledge and present data

Level 4 (On My Own) questions

  • Involve generalizing to the real world
  • Involve establishing relevancy and real-life connection

Comparing the new with the known, the student generalizes to similar observations and experiences. (c) Alastros Oistros, 2005 via Creative Commons

Fostering Thinking…

To help organize students’ thinking at these four levels, I created a simple reporting sheet that can be used with many types of science tasks, from experiments, to outdoor observations, to science centers. I also made a companion sheet for using QARs with text-based tasks, in science or any other content area. Click on the image to download a copy.

QARs for Science: an Organizer for Download

QARs: an Organizer for Download

For More Information…

For more information on strategies to help foster literacy in science, see 50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy. From some of the best-known authors in the field comes a book that provides all middle and high school teachers with practical information about improving students’ reading, writing, and oral language development. Every teacher needs to use instructional routines that allow students to engage in all of these literacy processes. Classroom examples from science, social studies, English, math, visual and performing arts, and core electives ensure that all middle and high school teachers can effectively integrate literacy instruction into their lesson delivery. Click on the link (above) or the image (below) for ordering information.

50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy, $27.60 from Barnes & Noble.

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The October Simple Science Strategies Newsletter is Ready!

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Download the October Newsletter today!

As promised, here is the next edition of the Simple Science Strategies Newsletter for 2012.

In this edition, we explore Stability and Change through nature studies of fruit and seed development, migration, fall color change and the arrival of autumn weather. In the process, we will learn more about the role of questioning in scientific thinking, and learn ways to help students explore cause and effect. Right click on the text or photo link, below, and save on your computer wherever you choose. Print out or view online (note: the document contains hyperlinks to important resources).

October 2012 Edition of

The Simple Science Strategies Newsletter

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Indirect Measurement: Color and Bird Feeding

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Learning Focus:

Essential Questions —

  • What is the relationship between color and bird feeding behavior?
  • How do you quantify something that you can’t measure yourself?

Enduring Understandings —

  • Treatment effects can be measured using both direct and indirect means.

Focus for This Task:

  • Focus Strategy: Indirect Measurement
  • Targeted Skill: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Key Concepts: Cause and Effect
  • Core Ideas: Biological Evolution

The Learning Task:

Designing the Investigation:

  • Problem Statement: Does the color of a bird feeder affect bird feeding behavior?
  • Null Hypothesis: The color of the bird feeder has no effect on bird feeding behavior.
  • Alternative Hypothesis: The color of the bird feeder does affect bird feeding behavior.

 Do you think that the birds will eat from one color feeder more than the other? Why or why not? Which color, if either, do you think will attract birds the most? How will you know?

Materials Used:

  • two identical pie pans
  • construction paper (one sheet of green, one sheet of red) [You can use more than two colors with older students; make sure one of them is red.]
  • scissors
  • mixed bird seed (or seed of your choice)
  • 1-cup measuring cup

Procedure:

  1. Trace the bottom of the pie pan onto each sheet of construction paper; cut out the two construction paper circles.
  2. Place one circle inside the bottom of each pie pan.
  3. Measure one cup of mixed bird seed into each pie pan, making sure to push the seeds to one side to expose the color at the bottom of the pie pan.
  4. Place the pie pans on the ground in a place where birds frequently come to visit and feed.
  5. After 2 days, bring the pie pans inside. Measure the seed in each pan using a measuring cup.

 See the photo gallery, below, for questions to ask while conducting this investigation.

Results:

  • Record your results using a data table.

How would you set up your data table? What would be the column headers? What would be the row labels? What data would you put in the body of the table? How might you order the data? Why?

Key Vocabulary:

  • dependent, independent variable
  • direct, indirect measurement
  • scientific method
  • experiment
  • data
  • measurement
  • observation

Follow-up:

  • Did you use direct measurement or indirect measurement to determine the effects of color on bird feeding behavior? Explain.
  • What would be other direct ways of measuring your treatment effect? What would be other indirect methods?
  • What other factors might have influenced the results of your experiment? How could you change the experiment to eliminate these factors?
  • Could you change your procedure to more accurately measure your treament affect? How?

Grade-Level Considerations:

Pre-K/K:

Students who are very young are learning that objects have properties, some which can be observed directly, using their senses, others which can be determined using simple tools and tests. The focus for them is on honing their observational skills, and exploring measurement.

When conducting this experiment with little ones, ask them questions, like the ones below.

  • Which color do you think will attract more birds? Why?
  • What did you notice about the birds feeding?
  • Which feeder has more seed? How can we figure it out?
  • Why do we measure things?
  • If you were a bird, which feeder would you go to? Why?
  • What do you think would happen if we changed the color of the feeders? Why?

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Grades 1/2:

As students enter the primary grades, they are learning that all living things have basic needs, in order to survive. They  begin to notice and can explain the connection between the behaviors of living things and their need for food and water. They are becoming more adept at the use of tools to investigate their world, and are learning to select the appropriate measurement tool for a given situation.

Simple experiments give primary grade students an opportunity to design and carry out fair tests to to investigate their world, and to practice recording their observations in various ways. As they work , ask students questions like the ones below:

  • Which color attracted birds more? Why might this be?
  • How could you figure out which feeder the birds preferred? What measurement tool would you need? Is there another way you could measure this?
  • If you wanted to find out if different colors attracted different birds, how would you change this experiment? Work with a partner to design this new experiment.
  • Use pictures, words and numbers to show the results of your experiment.

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Grades 3/4:

Children who are moving through the elementary grades are exploring the relationships between and interdependence of living and non-living things in the environment. They are beginning to understand that some behaviors of living things make them better adapted for their living conditions — that there is an underlying purpose behind the way that plants and animals respond to their environment. They are also moving beyond concrete to representational, and are using symbols and visuals to show ideas.

If this investigation is conducted with elementary grade students, ask them questions like the ones, below:

  • If this were a different environment (city, desert, beach), would you expect different results? Why or why not?
  • What other factors (environment, human activities, etc.) might have influenced the results of this experiment? Explain.
  • Draw a diagram showing the way you set up your experiment. Include a caption, and clearly label important parts of the feeding station.
  • Re-design this experiment, including a direct method of measuring the effects of color on bird feeding behaviors, in place of the method in this activity.

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Grades 5/6:

Students in the middle grades are honing their skills as scientists, and learning to evaluate the validity of experimental methods and claims. Their experiments should focus on evaluating and selecting from among various experimental methods. They can be expected to produce more sophisticated arguments and presentations, based on data and resources.

When conducting this experiment with older elementary students, consider the following adaptations:

  • Measure the effects of color on bird feeding behaviors using the following measurement methods: weight of seeds before and after feeding period; number of feeding visits per feeder, during feeding period; average length of feeding visit per bird, during feeding time.
  • Which measurement method most accurately measured the effect of color on bird feeding behavior? Support your claim using results from your experiment.
  • Find an article online that discusses color and bird feeding. Summarize your findings in your report.

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Suggested Resources:

 

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