pic-for-DonaDo you know how to ask a good question? After reading a selection of fiction text, many teachers find themselves asking their students this question: What is the setting of the story? When the book tells us this information, we are only checking to see who paid attention or read the material. Perhaps there is some redemption in that. But what if we asked this question instead: Why is the setting important to this story? Students still have to know and explain the setting, but now we are asking our students to examine the author’s intention. This second question is a deeper question, one that requires higher-order thinking as opposed to the first question, which does not.

Anchoring to the Anchor Standards

The anchor standards for reading, found in the CCSS, require that students think deeply about text. So, for states that have adopted the CCSS, doesn’t it make sense to use the anchor standards for reading as a framework for asking good questions, ones that require higher-order thinking? To do this, use the first nine anchor standards for reading as a guide to writing these questions: Key Ideas and Details (standards 1,2,3), Craft and Structure (standards 4,5,6), and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (standards 7,8,9).
The following question examples show how a teacher can align questions to meet these standards using the book Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. Pay close attention to how each question supports the standard.

Conklin_HOTS questioning (2)

Every Teacher Can Do It

Given the proper tools, every teacher can learn to write questions that challenge students to use higher-order thinking. My experience so far has taught me that teachers often benefit from sentence stems that align to these standards. Use the examples above as a starting point for creating your own sentence stems. There are many frameworks to help teachers write higher-order questions, but I prefer the anchor standards for reading found in the CCSS.  And one last thought: Keep in mind that while the example here demonstrates this strategy with fiction, it can easily be applied to informational texts as well.