Teachers' Use of Low-Level and Rhetorical Questions as Interactional Scaffolding in Informational Read Alouds
Rozas, Elizabeth Hale
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AbstractTeachers’ questions in informational read alouds create opportunities for young students to engage in meaningful discussions with complex texts. While research has established high-level questions as important scaffolding mechanisms in read alouds, there have been few studies that examine how low-level and rhetorical questions might also contribute to student learning and engagement. The purpose of this mixed-method study was to examine the spontaneous questions teachers asked in the context of a script-supported informational read aloud, with an in-depth focus on how low-level and rhetorical questions provide different types and levels of scaffolding for student learning and engagement.
Transcript data comes from a predetermined subsample of 34 third-grade teachers that was part of a large-scale longitudinal intervention study designed to enhance student engagement with reading during the summer months. I used discourse and content analysis to determine 14 categories that reflect specific scaffolding functions of teachers’ questions. I used correlational analysis to examine associations between the types of low-level questions teachers asked and frequency of spontaneous high-level questions as well as amount of student talk. Results reveal that low-level and rhetorical questions serve a variety of scaffolding functions for content learning, critical thinking, and motivation. There was also a strong correlation between the numbers of spontaneous low- and high-level questions teachers asked (r=0.54, p<0.005) and moderately strong associations between two of types of low-level questions and resulting student talk. While the predominance of low-level questioning patterns continues to be a challenge in many elementary classrooms, findings from this study suggest some low-level and rhetorical questions play important, complementary functions in text discussions, particularly with informational text. As such, this study presents a detailed taxonomy for viewing the multiple ways low-level and rhetorical questions can contribute to engaged content learning and critical thinking in informational read alouds.
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