No matter how long you have been a teacher, sometimes it is tempting to assume students know how to perform a task. For me, this often happens when I ask my students to answer literal comprehension questions. Y’know…those “right there” questions that seem so easy to answer? Yeah, not so much! It’s worth taking the time to teach your students a simple strategy for answering those “easy” questions and I have just the strategy – time to RAP it out!
An Easy Strategy for Success
There are many strategies for teaching students how to answer literal comprehension questions all with a similar approach – RACE, REST, STAR, etc. They are all excellent, but what I like to use with my 4th graders is less complex – RAP. This acronym stands for:
- R – Restate the Question
- A – Answer the Question
- P – Proof in the Text
Restate the Question
First, teach your students how to restate the question to begin their own answer. Focus just on this part of the strategy in isolation until your students can easily turn a question into the beginning of their answer. Literal comprehension questions often begin with a W-word such as who, what, where, when, or why. I teach my students to cross out the question word, skip the second words, and begin with the word that follows. Be prepared to discuss the following considerations – having to change the verb to match the tense and reading the answer to check that it makes sense. While this “formula” is a good starting point, especially for students who really struggle, it will not work with every question. Students need to be aware of that and have a back-up plan to use by re-reading their answer to check that it makes sense.
Another tip for teaching this step of the strategy is by reverse engineering the process. Instead of giving students the question and having them turn it around into an answer, do the opposite. Give students a simple declarative sentence and have them turn it into a question. Here are some examples:
- My favorite color is pink.
- I have a German Shepherd dog.
- We usually eat tacos for dinner once a week.
- If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be Alaska.
- My parents gave me $20 for my birthday.
Here’s a quick YouTube video to show your students that emphasizes what restating the question is and (perhaps more importantly) what it is not.
Need more information about how to teach your students to restate the question? Check out these blog posts – they were a huge help to me!
Answer the Question
Next, teach students how to annotate the text to find the “right there” answer. This could lead to a discussion about the different types of questions students could face – literal or inferential. While teaching students how to answer inferential questions would come at a later time, it could be helpful for students to know at this point that not every question will have an easy-to-find answer in the text. Sometimes the restating of the question will naturally lead to using the word “because” to connect the restatement to the answer. Sometimes the answer will need its own sentence. Either way, emphasize to students that they must find the answer in the text and not rely on their own background knowledge. Have students underline or highlight the parts of the text that answer the question. They will use this for the next step of the strategy. You can read more about how I like to have my students annotate a piece of text in this blog post – Close Reading of Text.
Proof in the Text
Finally, it’s time to have students cite their text evidence – those words in the passage that prove their answer is correct. I like to give my students a set of sentence starters they can refer to when citing text evidence. By using one of the sentence starters combined with their annotated text, students can complete the third and final step of the strategy. Show your students this short video so they can see an example of how to answer literal comprehension questions.
Literal Comprehension Questions Freebie
Click on the link below and grab my FREE reading graphic organizer for literal comprehension questions. I like to embed a passage within the graphic organizer for my content area lessons so this one focuses on the three branches of government at the federal level. Let me know how you teach your students to answer literal comprehension questions in the comments below. Happy Teaching! ~ Sally