Sunday, February 26, 2017

Student-Generated Questioning

Here's a strategy that is so easy to implement, yet will yield tremendous results for your students in the area of reading comprehension. I have been using this strategy {with great success} in my small reading groups this school year. You can use it to promote deeper thinking with any fiction reading selection.

Higher-level questioning has been an important focus with my students. We have been "thinking about thinking" so to speak. Our book talks have revolved around questions that require the reader to think beyond the basic text.

Recently, I had an epiphany about reading comprehension questions. Why do the questions always come from the teacher? Who says that it's the teacher's job to assume complete control over the book conversation? Why am I doing all the work, when my students are fully capable of asking intelligent questions about the novels we read? For me, the best ideas come out of desperation, and that is exactly where this idea came from.


Together, my students and I brainstormed a list of "question starters" that would activate thinking. We talked about the difference between low-level and high-level questions. We set a ground rule that if the answer to a question could be found right in the book, it was too basic for our type of book talk. Then, I made this very simple template to use with my students.


I made an editable {FREE} template to share with you here! Just download the PowerPoint file and then you can add your own student names. This template will work for a small group of six (or fewer) students. Make one copy for each student in the group. I like to use a different color paper for each student. Cut up the center line of each template, and then cut out on each line to create six different foldable openings. Then paste this right on top of a piece of white paper. You will need to paste around the edges, without pasting the "shutters" closed. 


Now, here is how I manage it in my classroom. After reading a section of our novel, I give each member of the reading group a folded question paper. I ask them to write one question at the top of the paper, that will challenge the rest of the group (including me) to think deeply about the reading. They refer to the question starters if needed.


Then, in carousel fashion, the students rotate around the table to each question page. Without peeking at the other responses, they lift the flap and answer the question in the space provided under his or her name. I have a special chirping bird signal that I use to manage the rotation. I try to keep it fast-paced, but still allow them enough time to write a complete thought.


Once the students have responded to every question, we complete a final rotation when all of the answers are revealed. They really enjoy this part, especially reading all the answers to their own question. It gets them excited to write another challenging question next time.


I have found that the questions keep getting better and better! My students are highly motivated to write questions for each other. Keeping all the answers under flaps adds to the suspense and requires each student to complete an individual response. The bonus is that I can easily assess comprehension of the reading for each student.

When it comes to reading comprehension in small reading groups, go ahead and tap into your greatest resource. . .the students themselves! I hope that you will find this strategy useful in your own classroom!

2 comments:

  1. I love this idea because it allows you to use any piece of kids' literature, and you're not limited to packaged curriculum. I am always trying to find ways to use interesting books that my kids actually enjoy reading.

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  2. I love this idea and definitely plan to use it when I return to teaching middle school next year.

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