Collaborative Questioning

Kathryn Gregory
Multiple Subject Teacher

Students will read a teacher selected, standards-based science or history text. Students will then develop questions based on Costa’s levels of questioning to encourage collaborative discussion of the reading.

Grade Level: 3 - 5th

Subject: English/Language Arts

Length of Time: About 60 - 90 Minutes

Common Core Alignment

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Objectives & Outcomes

Students will be able to engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly. Students will come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. Students will follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. Students will pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others. Students will review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

Materials Needed

  • An article or text on a standards-based science or social studies topic
  • Questioning worksheet (attached)
  • Costa’s level of questioning poster/overhead (attached)
  • Pencil


Opening to Lesson

  • Teacher will ask the students what they have been discussing at recess together.
    • For example, baseball, a popular singer, a scandal at school, etc…
  • Ask students to briefly describe what it is like when they discuss something with their friends.
  • Post a copy of the “Critical Thinking: Levels of Questioning” worksheet for students to see.
  • Explain that in every day discussions, you ask questions based on a variety of levels of critical thinking.
    • For example: What is the name of the Giant’s pitcher (Level 1)? Are the Giant’s going to win the World Series again (Level 3)? What are some obstacles they may have (Level 2/3)? What is your opinion (Level 3)?
  • Explain that we are going to generate and answer questions to generate one-on-one discussions about a topic in class.

Body of Lesson

  • The teacher will select a text. The text should be standards based in Science or History. It could be from the text book.
  • Students can read the text in pairs or aloud as a class.


  • Have the “Critical Thinking: Levels of Questioning” worksheet posted for reference.
  • Explain to the students that when we discuss something, there are various levels of discussion, and that the discussion begins with questions.
  • Explain that In Level 1 questions, you simply need to identify an answer.
    • For example: How many hours does it take for the earth to make a full rotation?
  • Showing the chart, explain that in level 2 questions, you need to explain and analyze facts. For example: Why does Earth rotate at a different speed than Jupiter?
  • Explain that in Level 3 questions, you can evaluate facts or make opinions based on facts: Do you believe it would be better to live on a planet that spins at a different speed?
  • Give students about 10 minutes to re-read the text you independently.  Instruct them to think of questions that they could ask a partner and write their questions on the worksheet according to Costa’s levels, using the guide words to create the questions.
  • After 10-15 minutes, if students are struggling to come up with questions, let them work with partners to create more questions.
  • Now, use a pairing method to partner students.
  • Give each pair 5 minutes to answer 2 of each other’s questions and discuss the answers.
  • After 5 minutes, have students partner with a new student and answer another 2 questions.
  • Repeat until all questions are answered.


When students have returned to their seats ask the class who they think had the most interesting question. Use equity cards to choose a student and have them explain their favorite question (for example, would you rather live on a planet that rotated at a different speed). Lead a class discussion based on this students question.  Repeat as time allows.

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Assessment & Evaluation

Students will complete the worksheet attached and teacher will monitor discussions as they are taking place around the classroom.

Modification & Differentiation

The teacher can work in with students in small groups for those who need extra assistance.

Download Attachments

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