A loooong while ago I posted about using PQA to teach kids to restate the question in their answers and to help their responses on constructed response questions. After hearing from teachers from all over, I realized that 1) Many people don’t call restating the question PQA and 2) It’s a struggle for kids all over.
In my state, 3rd grade is the first year that kids participate in high stakes assessment. A big portion of our English/Language Arts test is reading comprehension, especially open ended questions. So, as a third grade teacher, I have always started the year, from Day 1, requiring my kids to use PQA to restate the question in their written responses. It also helps the kids to answer the ACTUAL question that’s written. You know, because sometimes they write something and you wonder where it came from. Teaching kids in an intervention setting really strengthened my hold on teaching it right from the start and practicing the entire year as I’ve seen so many students struggle with this later on. PQA is a great skill to instill in first and second grades, and can be reinforced and built upon in second and third grades as students work to write paragraph constructed responses.
A few years ago, I decided to change up the way I introduced restating the question with the kids. I thought it would help kids to see how it works by spending a bit of time focusing on using it in conversation before it was applied in writing. My Kicking off a Great Year unit was an immediate hit in my classroom, and I’ve used it every year since whether I was teaching first, second, or third grade.
I introduce it with the first set of question cards during our morning meeting at the beginning of the year. We do a round of questions each morning. The first set of cards includes both the question and the sentence starter to help students restate the question in the answer. It’s scaffolded to help guide students into understanding how to put the question in their answers. This was especially helpful for first grade, and we spent every day for weeks using these cards.
With first graders, I’d choose one card and everyone would answer that one card. That way, students could hear a complete sentence response repeatedly. With my second and third graders, though, I’d have them draw and answer questions on their own with the next sets of cards as the next sets remove the sentence starters. When I taught third grade, I used the second set of cards in small groups, so the students practiced responding with the question and built a sense of community and knowledge of each other, all while practicing a skill we’d use all year long.
After we spent a few days getting to know each other and practicing answering questions in complete sentences, I split students up into partners to interview each other. The students got to practice valuable skills they’d use all year long, while also truly getting to know a classmate. In my unit, I provided blank interview sheets as well as interview sheets with questions to help you decide how independent you want your kids to be. This helps transfer the skill over to writing.
In my experience I’ve had a lot of third graders who struggled to write in complete sentences, and who really struggled with this skill as it wasn’t instilled from the start. It always disappointed me because it’s fairly easy to teach in the primary grades, and as long as the expectation is there, the students will continue to do it. Because I looped with my kids, my second graders just always expect to write in sentences with PQA- they don’t know that others don’t do that.
I wanted my unit to work for early elementary so I included writing lines to help young learners. Some interview sheets are also provided for the very beginning of first grade, or the very end of kindergarten, where students only fill in the answer and then trace the rest. This helps students learn how to structure a sentence in PQA while also working on sound spelling and building the skills they’ll truly start using later.
You can purchase my Kicking Off a Great Year unit by clicking the image below to head to TpT.
An important aspect to consider when teaching students to restate the question is the hook that’s going to help them remember. In my area, we use the acronym PQA. It stands for Putting the Question in the Answer. I’ve also seen TTQA (Turn The Question Around) which is basically the same thing. I’ve recently come across RAPS (Restate, Answer, Prove, Sum it Up), and RACE (Restate, Answer, Cite, Edit) which I really like for older students as you’re working to build constructed response answers. Whichever acronym you prefer, I’ve created FREE posters to help you reference it in your classroom. The PQA one is at the top of the post. My Restate the Question posters can be found in my TpT store for free.