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The levels of reading comprehension literal, inferential, and evaluative get used in the creation of reading comprehension assessments and learning activities


Long before TTQA, Turn the Question Around, we taught students to answer three types of reading comprehension questions for assessments:

  • Literal
  • Inferential
  • Evaluative

In 1974 Barret proposed a taxonomy of reading comprehension skills on five levels:

  1. Literal Comprehension
  2. Reorganizing
  3. Inferential Comprehension
  4. Evaluation
  5. Appreciation

From the period of 1974 into the early 80's these measurement techniques got reduced down to three levels with literal questions being answered with explicit information and inferential and evaluative questions requiring implied information pulled in from pieces.(Pearson and Johnson, 1978).

The work on levels of reading comprehension has had a massive impact on the field. Durkin (1978) showed Basal provided an overwhelming amount of the reading curriculum and at the time over 75% of the questions are literal (Banton, 1977) and Hawkins (1982) found 50% of literal questions.

This work impacted the classroom. Hansen (1981) found that you can ask inferential questions and students do well on literal question assessments. When the concept of Bruner's scaffolding was added to these questioning techniques much of the modern classroom discourse was born.

Three Levels

Level One Literal

Literal questions get answered with explicit, which means identifiable in the text, details. These questions often focus on the who, what, when, and where. Questions with a declarative answer drawn from the text.

  • Identify the setting
  • Identify the main idea
  • List the characters
  • Organize event

Level Two Inferential

Inferential questions require students to combine information in a text, either explicitly or implied, and combine this with prior knowledge or another source. These questions focus on the why, how, or ask readers to make predictions.

  • Predict the end
  • State reasons for events

Level Three Evaluative

Evaluative questions ask you to combine implicit information with an opinion and may focus on why and how to fill is missing details.

  • Make judgment
  • Compare characters
  • Create alternative endings
  • Evaluate the reasons for events

In the Classroom

As a classroom teacher you should plan your literary discussions to model asking and answering the the three types of questions.

Students need the opportunity to ask and answer the questions of each other. Create a question stem starter for small group discussions. Encourage students to build off of each other's inferential and evaluative responses.

When modeling the skills:

  • Model answering literal questions with younger students and then increase and change the interval of your think aloud.
  • When modeling literal questions with older students demonstrate how text structure and features provide you clues (hint: answer to first question is probably he first bolded word in the chapter)
  • Design questions that explicitly state details without direct quotes.
  • Model how to respond to inferential and evaluative questions
  • Make it apparent what details come from the text and what is your opinion or prior knowledge
  • Use graphic organizers as a model

Foundation of Reading Test Prep Learning Activity:

  • Choose a narrative text.
  • Choose an informational text.
  • Write three questions at each levels for both books.
levels_of_reading_comprehension.txt · Last modified: 2021/02/19 00:02 by jgmac1106