I’ve written (on this blog and in my books) and shared a lot of ideas about how I and others try to strengthen our students’ question-asking skills (see The Best Posts & Articles About Asking Good Questions — Help Me Find More).
Here are three activities I did last week with my ELL World and U.S. History class which, though are not extraordinary, worked well:
* I had students review the last three chapters we had studied, review the questions they had written about them as part of their use of reading strategies, and choose the three higher-level questions they were most interested in learning about (we have spent a lot of time learning about interpretative versus literal questions). They then completed this form. Here’s part of what it looks like if you don’t want to download it:
WHY I AM INTERESTED IN LEARNING THE ANSWER:
ANSWER IN MY OWN WORDS:
The next day, students researched their questions online and completed the form.
* On the following day, I met with a few students at the beginning of class while others were doing their silent reading, and reviewed these instructions for small group work to review the questions and answers students had developed. Two students then joined me in the front to role-play good behavior in the small group and then bad behavior (which was a lot of fun).
The small group discussions went very well, and the leaders took their responsibilities very seriously.
* Then, the next day, to reinforce what we’ve been learning about asking questions, I did an activity that I’ve been reading a lot about online lately — the idea of giving students the answers and having them come up with questions.
I made sure to include simple literal answers like “imperialism” and “John D. Rockefeller” as well as “anger,” “filled with hope” and “frustration.” Here are my two tests.
After a little confusion, students got the idea and did quite well. It was a particularly good exercise for English Language Learners to refine their writing skills.
What kinds of variations on this theme of question-asking have you tried in your classroom, and what are your ideas on how I can make these activities better?