How you can use Blank’s Levels of Questioning

Marion Blank created four levels of questioning:

  1. Matching Perception – Reporting and responding to salient information.
    The objects being discussed are in front of the child or have just been removed. The statements are directly related to the material just seen and the questions may need only a very short or non-verbal response such as pointing.
  2. Selective Analysis of Perception – Reporting and responding to details and less salient cues.
    The objects or events being discussed are still in front of the child (here and now), but the child has to look at the material more selectively in order to understand the questions. These questions will ask about the different features or aspects of the object eg its function, attributes or qualities. This level encourages a child to classify and group. These questions will ask about the different features or aspects of the object eg its function, attributes or qualities. This level encourages a child to classify and group.
  3. Reordering Perception – Using language to restructure the perception of materials and rejecting the properties or actions which the child would be more likely to attend to.
    The child must deal with questions that are more complex and subtle. Now the child is not dealing with immediate experiences. The objects may or may not be present. The child must use language to restructure and reorder their experiences. They must attend to less prominent information to achieve the correct response. The child will also be required to use language to talk about language.
  4. Reasoning about Perception – Using language to predict, reason and problem solve.
    The child must reason what may, might, could or would happen to objects, people or events in response to questions and statements. This is an abstract task beyond the ‘here and now’. This is the beginning of problem solving and reasoning as the child must go beyond what he can perceive directly. He/she needs to see the relationships between objects and events and will be required to explain verbally the reasons and logic behind those relationships.

Typically children with delayed language or those who are experiencing language difficulties tend to be asked many more questions than a child with normally developing language skills. Therefore, when looking at books, playing or working through an activity with a child, it is important for the adult to make more comments or provide more descriptions than they would ask questions. A good ‘rule of thumb’ is for a parent or teacher to visualise a hand. The fingers of the hand represent the comments or descriptions and the thumb represents the question. In this way you are keeping the ratio of questions at 4:1.Asking and Answering Questions

An example of how you can use this method using the book ‘Where’s Spot?” by Eric Hill.  Look together at the page with Sally (the mother dog) and the monkey in the wardrobe.
1. Sally’s looking in the wardrobe.
2. This wardrobe is green.
3. There’s a monkey in the wardrobe.
4. The monkey is eating bananas.

Now, you would ask one question.  I have provided some examples of questions for each level. You would use only one question per page and this question should be appropriate for your child’s level of understanding:


Level 1
(Point at the wardrobe.) What’s this called?
What’s the monkey doing?

Level 2

Where is the monkey?
What colour are the bananas?

Level 3

Tell me something that we can eat, but is not a banana.
What will happen next?

Level 4 Why don’t we eat the skin of a banana?

How to Improve a Child’s Understanding – Comprehension

  • It is essential that you should be able to recognise a child’s level of understanding.
  • You will need to keep the discourse (conversation) largely within the child’s level of understanding.
  • You will need to simplify your questions to the level where the child can understand.
  • Simpler questions (from a lower level of understanding) can be used to focus the child on the relevant information which was previously implicit.
  • You should practise questions at the appropriate level for a child as this will ensure that the child learns to make generalisations and always learns from the interaction.
  • You should endeavour to create situations where the child understands most of what is said to him.
  • You should restate information but vary it slightly so that the child is given greater opportunities to understand and process the information that is heard.
  • You should talk more, rather than less, about the material or experiences. Comments are vital to expand a child’s understanding.
  • You should make the implicit explicit. This is achieved by asking and answering simple, concrete questions about the materials and then moving back up to a more complex, abstract level. Make sure that the child understands each question and statement before you make your question more abstract.