Question Dissection: Breaking It Down

Teacher with a group of high school students in the classroom:

“Discuss three ways Roosevelt’s New Deal changed the role of the federal government in America.”

“Should George have taken Lenny’s life at the end of the book? Justify your answer by citing specific material from Of Mice and Men.”

“Identify the various stages of the water cycle and describe what happens at each of these stages.”

The dreaded essay question! That looming empty space on the test page, waiting malevolently for evidence that you can actually talk about what you have learned.

Some students will take a quick glance at what the question seems to be about, and then quickly and incoherently unload whatever stray facts come to mind. Others will ponder painfully, start, stop, and start again.

Activities that help them analyze questions and understand how to approach writing essay answers will give them a better handle on succeeding on these test items.

See also this video:

Teaching/Learning Activities

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Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) Strategy

My students are getting ready for the Regents exams. We are using the official website and also some new resources that help us add diversity to our teaching.  “I can’t find the answer to this question!” The irritated tone of voice signals a growing frustration from one of our students struggling to complete an assignment. Indeed, from a student viewpoint, finding answers to questions seems to occupy the lion’s share of what education is about. Regents are not the simplest exams and there are not so many diverse sources so we take everything what possible to make Regents prep more complete.

Recently I started to use a new website that uses a concept of microlearning and it helps me to explain to my Regents students many things, like the content of the TASC exam. For example, understanding how questions work is a critical component of learning. Many students are unaware of the different levels of thinking that questions may elicit. As a result they follow a “literal” approach of seeking direct statements from the text to answer questions, and feel betrayed or even give up when this strategy does not work.

Other students pay only cursory attention to their reading, instead relying almost solely on what they already know to get their answers, regardless of what the text might say. For them, answering questions becomes an exercise in “common sense” rather than a thoughtful consideration of new information encountered in print.

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Is Interdisciplinary Curriculum Important to Students?

ONLINE LEARNING:  BALANCING TIME AND LEARNING WITH QUALITY

Project Accelerate is a consortium of New York State school districts, organizations and BOCES that collaborate to write, develop and promote online staff development courses.  Come learn the challenges and successes of online learning as well as beginning steps toward developing your own.  Participants will also have the opportunity to use a program called Dreamweaver (a product of Macromedia) to begin designing an online learning experience.

TECHNOLOGY AND CURRICULUM MAPPING:  ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS FOR SUCCESS

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KWL (Know/Want To Learn/Learned) and SMART

KWL (Know/Want To Learn/Learned) and SMART

KWL- A persistent challenge for teachers is to encourage students to be active thinkers while they read. Active readers make predictions about what they will be reading. Before they start, active readers consider what they already know about the story or topic. Then as they read, they confirm whether or not their predictions were on target. Active readers have an idea of what to look for, and when they are done, they evaluate what they have learned or experienced.

Many of our students are not active readers, and they are confused about what they should be thinking about as they read. KWL Plus (Carr and Ogle, 1987) is a technique that helps students take stock of what they know before they dive into a reading assignment.

Using KWL Plus with students will help them make predictions about what they will be reading by generating questions they would like to have answered. KWL Plus also helps students to organize what they have learned when they are finished reading.

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Math Keys: Making Math Make Sense

Math Keys: Making Math Make Sense

Tactics help kids understand math language

“An angle is the union of two rays that have the same endpoint. The sides of angles are the two rays; the vertex is the common endpoint of the rays. Angles may be formed by segments, as in polygons, but the sides of the angle are still considered to be rays.”

Um . . . let’s see here. You get an angle when two rays (straight lines) come together and touch. The parts of the angle are the sides (the rays) and the vertex (point where they touch). Figures like polygons (a square for example) have angles because lines (segments) touch here too. I know that segments and rays are both straight lines, but why does the author say that segments (lines with beginnings and ends) are the same as rays (lines which keep on going)?

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Charts: Inspiration for Writing

Charts: Inspiration for Writing

The Etruscans invaded Italy about 600 BC. They settled in an area by the Tiber River they called Rome. The Etruscans were farmers and they also traded with cities like Carthage. They built roads and cultivated the land. The Gauls defeated the Etruscans in 390 BC. and sacked Rome.

And so on. And on . . . and on. Teachers will have no trouble spotting the generic, aimless, encyclopedia-derived report unfolding in the example above. Unfortunately, much of student “research” results in this uninspired litany-of-fact writing.

But what about the interesting stuff? What questions might we have about ancient peoples like the Etruscans that our information could answer? What was life like in an Etruscan community? What did they believe? And what impact did these people have on the succeeding Roman civilization?

Teaching/Learning Activities:

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Reading Comprehension Strategy 2: Questioning

Reading Comprehension Strategy 2: Questioning

Who? What? Where? When? Why? Asking questions is a normal procedure for finding out about the world, and proficient readers carry a questioning attitude into their reading.

The strategy of questioning involves an almost constant generation of questions that a reader raises internally while engaged in understanding a text. Some questions target important information; these questions help a reader to identify significant details, to follow the elements of a plot in a story, to get the facts.

Other questions help a reader take stock of the reading process; they monitor comprehension.
– Did this passage make sense to me?
– What should I be on the lookout for in this next passage?
And some questions are directed toward the writer of a text.
– What does this author seem to think is most important?
– Why is the author telling me this now?

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