Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Write Text Based Questions...and Why We Need To Start Doing This Now!

Shifting.   There is a lot of shifting going on in education - shifting content, shifting funding, shifting expectations, shifting responsibilities, shifting blame, shifting accountability.   The most important shift, the one that each of us actually has some control over, is the shift in thinking about how we teach our students.  The authors of the  Common Core Curriculum have identified 12 shifts in thinking that must occur if the true intent of the depth of understanding and rigorous learning embedded in the Common Core are to be realized.  Many teachers are waiting to see what the "new assessments" will look like.  They are also waiting to see the final model curriculum or the finalized standards.   The message from the ODE is DON'T WAIT...start changing the way you teach now and your students will be prepared for the new assessments.

For the next few weeks I will focus on some of these shifts, beginning with the ELA focus on Text Based Questions and Close Reading Skills.   Starting in elementary school, students need to be given opportunities to read literary and content based materials.  The shift is in how, as teachers, we "tee up" this reading experience for our students.  Instead of giving students a summary of the reading before they read it, we should instead offer up some "essential questions" to help guide their reading. This allows students to struggle with the reading to begin to build their own understanding of the content.  Instead of asking students to "take notes" on the reading, we should model how to identify patterns in the text, question what the author intended by including a passage or word in the text, and make inferences based on prior knowledge.  This is a shift from the teacher as interpreter to the teacher as moderator in the discussion between the author and the student.  The kinds of questions that we ask about the text also needs to shift away from questions that encourage students to draw on their own opinion or personal experience without making any direct connection to the text to questions that require students to go back into the text to support their answer.  I chose the HS sample to include in the blog because almost everyone is familiar with the Gettysburg Address.  In the resource links that follow, you will find similar examples for elementary and middle school classrooms as well.

The Gettysburg Address - Sample HS Lesson Using Text Based Questions and Close Reading 
Text Specific Essential Question - To Guide the Teacher 

  • What did those who fought at Gettysburg do that those who have gathered cannot?

Text Based Student Question - to Guide the Student

  • What does Lincoln describe as the impact of those who fought at Gettysburg?

Non-text Specific Essential Question - Requires NO knowledge of the Gettysburg Address, focus is on individual opinion and student experience.  The second question doesn't even really go with the theme of the Gettysburg address.

  • Lincoln says that the nation is dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” 
  • Did Lincoln think that the North was going to “pass the test” that the civil war posed?

Non-text Specific Student Question - Does not require the student to go back into the passage to answer this. Student doesn't even have to know about the Gettysburg Address.

  • Why is equality an important value to promote?


1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the links and discussion topics in this post. Teaching reading is a craft that benefits from constant modeling of text that not only the students possess in class, but also of text that the teacher is reading for their own pleasure. Students need to see that teachers are reading outside of the classroom for their own personal growth.

    At Troy Intermediate we are going to begin a voluntary book club with students, parents and teachers. We have been encouraged to use the Socratic Method when discussing text/chapters with our students. The groups will occur twice a week and students are allowed to choose the text that they are reading thanks to our Technology Specialists Mrs. Carlin. I look forward to implementing some of the resources that you have suggested with my group as we read A Long Way Gone.


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