Instructional Routines & Practices Instructional Routines & Practices

Questioning Techniques



All TDQ’s are labeled in the lessons to aid in strategic choices about what to emphasize and what to de-emphasize or delete if pacing necessitates. Following are suggested guidelines for prioritizing TDQ’s:

  • WHOLE LESSON: Questions tagged with the Lesson Objective and tinted orange.
  • READING FOR GIST, Prioritize in this order:
    • For the first reading of a text or excerpt, prioritize the Gist question, “What is this text mostly about?”
    • Any questions in this section which create a foundation for the Lesson Objective (for example, if students are drawing inferences about a character’s motivations, examine any literal questions about the character to determine if they are important for supporting later TDQ’s that demand inferences.)
    • The first GR question, “What do you notice about this text?” (to support active reading.)
    • The CONNECT question to support students in having personal connection to the text (especially important for difficult texts)
  • READING FOR DEEPER MEANING, Prioritize in this order:
    • Practice Reading Skill questions (because these questions target the Lesson Objective)
    • Any C (Conceptual) questions (to promote holistic understanding of the text)
    • Third GR question, “What did you learn about this text by reading it with today’s skill in mind?” (to promote active reading through metacognition)
    • Fourth GR question, “What are you thinking about our topic/focus question now?” (to support Evaluative/beyond the text thinking.)
    • CONNECT question (to support personal meaning-making while reading.)


The most effective questions require students to consolidate learning and use higher-order critical thinking skills. Teacher can support these goals in various ways.

  • Frequently elicit students’ questions. These will often lead to interesting inquiry and new understanding for all students.
  • Listen to student questions, and allow for student-led inquiry, even if it takes class time. Sometimes the most important learning is not about the intended topic.
  • Answer student questions with new questions, such as about how to find an answer. This questioning allows inquiry to continue rather than ending with an answer you provide. Help students find their own answer.
  • Use open-ended questions without “correct” answers, and be willing to use questions you will work with students to answer. This questions show students that inquiry is ongoing and should be encouraged.
  • Build new questions from students’ answers, prior knowledge, or shared experiences.
  • Encourage students to answer each other’s questions and to be each other’s teachers.
  • Ask follow-up questions to extend discussion, encourage analytical thinking, and promote active learning.
  • Use Wait Time to encourage and support critical thinking. Read about Wait Time here.

Practice these strategies with the question stems below, which can be shaped in many ways to your students and their needs. Remember, effective questioning targets critical thinking, extends discussion, and promotes active student learning.

Effective Questioning Table


Defuse frustration

  • What do you need to find out? Why?

  • What have you tried so far?

  • What could you do next?

  • Why didn’t that work?

  • What seems to be hard/missing? Why?

  • What do you already know about _____?

  • Have you tried _______ approach? Why didn’t it work? What other approaches have you tried?

  • Would you use _______ approach?

  • Which method is easier/hardest/simpler/harder for you?

  • We didn’t understand what you mean. Can you say it another way? (Clarity; promote discussion)

Keep the Conversation Going

  • Tell us a little more about that . . .

  • Do we agree that ______?

  • Who can add to that?

  • How do you know?

  • What did you mean by ______?

  • Can you explain what you mean?

  • Can you tell me more about _____?

  • Can you give an example?

  • What do you think he/she meant?

Encourage Elaboration

  • What comes next? What would happen if ______?

  • Which part/fact/question/element is most important?

  • What is the best example?

  • Can you give an example or explain more?

  • What would happen if ______?

  • What might happen if you _______?

  • Are there any other possible ways we could _____?

  • Is there another way you could write or say that?

Confirm Understanding

  • Are you sure? How can we prove or confirm your thinking?

  • What is the evidence for your argument? Do you think ______ and ______ make sense together?

  • What is the difference between _______ and _______?

  • What is this all about?

  • What does this represent?

  • Is there a way to combine any of the steps?

  • Does that answer seem reasonable? Can you estimate about how much it would be?

Invite and Extend Students’ Ideas

  • What other perspective on this issue can you imagine?

  • How can we look at the issue from that viewpoint?

  • Do you agree with the text/the author/your classmate/the view stated? Why or why not?

  • Do you agree with what ________ said? Why or why not?

  • Did anyone see it a different way?

Read more about Effective Questioning


Use this routine to guide questioning. Provide a piece of chalk or small toy. Pass it to a student, who must answer a provided question. The student passes to another student, who also answers the same or a new question, as you direct. Continue to produce quick question answers as time allows.


Option: Retrieve the chalk after each question and select the next student yourself. This method allows you to determine who must answer—everyone, specific students, etc.—and reduces the required time for the interactive questioning approach.


This is a teacher training explanation of the four phases of close reading and how to support them in the classroom. This routine is not a student behavior routine.


This chart describes the basic progress of instruction within close reading. Each phase describes the central understandings towards which instruction should aim. A single lesson might incorporate more than one phase, and a single phase might stretch out over multiple lessons. Use the information below, and in the right column particularly, to help you implement close reading in the classroom.


*Although this chart represents the general progression of understanding, there is interplay amongst the various phases of understanding throughout the reading process. For instance, a reader may need to infer (analytical phase) as s/he develops literal understanding, or a reader’s understanding of a text’s overall meaning (conceptual) may lead them to go back and do a deeper analysis.

IR Effective Questioning Table 2



Focus: Part and whole

  • What kind of text is this?

  • What does the text sound like?

  • What does the text say?

  • Mentally vocalize, read aloud, listen to fluent reading

  • Retell, paraphrase, note gist

  • Describe the text (What kind of text is this? How is it organized?)

  • Provide oral support for fluent reading (especially with new text, very complex text, poems and speeches and/or for early readers)

  • Ask who, what, where, when questions

  • Provide opportunities to retell or annotate for gist

  • Make sure literal understanding is clear before moving to next phase

  • Integrate standards 1, 5, 7 (and 2)


Focus: Part

  • How does the text express itself?

  • What is implied?

  • What do sections mean?

  • Analyze author’s craft: structure, rhetoric and/or literary devices

  • Analyze the interrelationships and details of informational content.

  • Determine implicit meaning of key phrases and sections of text

  • Provide opportunities for annotation and accountable talk

  • Go deeper into chunks of text

  • Ask how and why questions

  • Integrate standards 1-8


Focus: Whole

  • What does the whole text mean?

  • What is the text’s overall message?

  • Synthesize key understandings to determine main ideas or themes and how they interrelate.

  • Determine author’s purpose, point of view

  • Provide a wider lens to look at the text as a whole

  • Provide opportunities for in-depth discussion and writing (Socratic seminar, e.g.)

  • Integrate standards 2 and 8



Focus: Whole

  • What is the significance of the text?

  • Why does this text matter?

  • Connect understandings of the text to a larger body of knowledge or to other texts

  • Provide an even wider lens to look at the text for its meaning within a broader inquiry

  • Connect to essential questions and enduring understandings

  • Integrate standard 9

*Note: In primary grades, teachers often ask students to retell a story or create a story map to demonstrate their literal understanding. 


Use familiar routines such as Turn and Talk, Stop and Jot to facilitate text-dependent question discussion and other activities. Wheatley proposes these routines strategically, by favoring individual or whole class work during literal reading and collaboration during deeper meaning or other activities. This approach recognizes that students can build literal understanding from a classmate’s correct answer but they need to participate in the analysis level to internalize. In addition, lessons allow less time for answering literal questions in order to prioritize deeper analysis. You may vary routines within the TDQs of a lesson, in order to maximize engagement. Use the routines specified in the lesson or exchange for another from those in Annotation and Response, Direct Instruction, Collaborative Work and Discussions, or Effective Questioning.



  • Turn and Talk: Have students turn to a neighbor and discuss a specific designated question or prompt.
  • Stop and Jot: Have students independently pause in reading or discussion to quickly respond in writing to a designated question or prompt. This is not complex writing, just quick jotting.
  • Think-Pair-Share: Have students think individually about a question, then discuss with a partner, and finally share with the glass or a larger group.


Some TDQs are structured as selected response questions, in order to provide students with practice in supporting their ideas with textual evidence. Use of these questions is discussed in Assessment Routines.


Wait time is an important teacher behavior practice for supporting students. When appropriate or pertinent, KIPP Wheatley lessons may suggest wait time, e.g. Pause for 30 seconds, before providing the correct answer to allow students time to think and respond. This routine is commonly associated with Socratic seminars but teachers may also use it elsewhere as desired, when students could particularly benefit from deeper analysis. Look for the tag WAIT TIME or incorporate in your instruction as you see fit.


Research pioneered by Dr. Mary Budd Rowe and advanced by Robert J. Stahl shows that teachers often provide the correct answer too quickly because everyone is uncomfortable with classroom silence. In fact, students often will reach for the correct answerand possibly find itif given time to think and formulate an answer. Try waiting 3-5 seconds before you offer an answer. You may find students offering higher quality responses and therefore internalizing learning more fully. You may also find increased participation as more students volunteer and guess, as well as improved student confidence as students discover that they can be right and that it’s okay to be wrong.


After students answer, try waiting another 3-5 second before you respond to confirm or revise. Students may elaborate and add to their ideas. Other students may also find that a classmate’s ideas have prompted thinking they want to share. Allowing a second wait time gives this discussion a chance to develop.


When lesson time is short and the lesson plan is long, it’s hard to create the space for wait time. However, research shows that the time “lost” is gained several fold in student learning and engagement. Wait time favors student questioning and discussion over teacher-led instruction and therefore helps support student accountability for learning.


To read more about wait time, see: