Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Topic: Questions

10-second review: Author realized that the questions from the literature text and her own questions about what students were reading had very little interest or meaning to the students. So she set about teaching students how to ask questions, i.e., levels of questions and defining real questions, questions to which they really wanted answers

Title: “Using Comprehension Strategies as a Springboard for Student Talk.” SL Lloyd. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy (October 2004), 114-124. A publication of the International Reading Association (Ira).

Comment: The issue is how to engage as many in the class in the discussion as possible. I found a technique that worked. We want to avoid the scene in “Peggy Sue Got Married” in which the instructor engages in a one-on-one “discussion” with a single student while the other students sit bored and uninterested.

How did I elicit the students’ questions? Let’s begin with a novel. Students read near the beginning for 10 minutes. They then reported what they had read, which I recorded with key words on the board. Then I asked them if they had any questions about the novel. They did. After just 10 minutes of reading.

Second, the students read for ten minutes in the middle of the book. Once again, they reported what they had learned and raised questions about the novel to which they wanted the answer.

Third, students read for ten minutes three-fourths through the novel. Again they reported what they had learned and raised questions to which they wanted the answers.

Finally, students read for ten minutes near the end of the novel, reported what they had learned and raised questions to which they wanted answers.

We would then sort the questions into questions of fact that could be answered in the text; questions of interpretation, usually beginning with the word “Why?” And finally, questions of criticism, concerning the author’s style, plot, setting, theme, etc. The students then read to answer the questions. .

This sampling of the novel raised questions about which they cared, gave students a reason to read and often led to additional questions. In my experience, rarely did the students overlook questions that I would have asked. Often they raised questions to which I did not have the answer. So I became a genuine party to the discussion. We would conclude with some kind of summary of professional criticism of the novel and the students could compare their questions and answers to the critics’. My final question, by the way, after all the discussion, was, “Why read it?”

I think the moral of this story is that genuine questioning and discussion begins with students’ questions which they have raised and to which they genuinely want the answers.

In my next two blogs, I will give you some more examples of how I used this student question technique to involve most students in discussion. RayS.

No comments: