Questioning the reading

I’m getting my students ready for my final right now, which has a substantial reading component to it.  I take excerpts from the readings we have generated over the course of the quarter and then ask two or three questions per paragraph (with the questions in German).

When I did this on my midterm I noticed that some students struggled understanding the questions, so the past few days in conjunction with my readings I’ve listed the question words along the top of my board: What? How? Why? Where? When? Who?  After reading about half of the selection, I assign one question word to each group and have them write a question using that word on the board that deals with what we just read. I have to help some groups phrase their questions (a lot of people want to say the “do you” part of “do you go” that doesn’t exist in German), but several can do it on their own.

I did this initially to give people more attentive practice using the words, but the nice benefit of this is that my students ask pretty good questions. Some people play it safe and ask easy questions, while others extrapolate beyond the reading and ask why characters do certain things, etc.  Basically some of my students are just walking up the Bloom’s taxonomy order without my prompting, and we’re getting some great discussions going based on this. Actually, I think I’ll actually teach my III/IV group about Bloom’s Taxonomy and practice asking different questions of each level so as to accelerate this process a bit.

File this under varying the routine, but I enjoy being able to turn the questioning of the novel over to my students.  That’s supposed to be my job, right?  Not really.  I’m looking forward to extending this a bit with my upper level students and having them write questions about the text on the board without the stiff categories of “covering all the words.”  I’m noticing that my upper level classes are taking ownership of the questions, and as a result we get better discussions.

Call it the law of unintended consequences, but sometimes the best techniques just develop organically.


6 responses to “Questioning the reading

  1. Thanks Nathan, another awesome idea from you. I will do this today with my level 2s. We’re reading “Die Reise seines Lebens” and I will use your idea in a QAR format. I envision assigning different questions words to pairs of students and they then have to come up with one question for each QAR level. We’ll see how it goes.


    • Oooh. I like combining that with the QAR–that gives it some sort of progression that makes more sense than “How can I get a ‘when’ question into this paragraph?” I’ll have to try that out.


  2. I’m totally with you on the techniques that develop “as a result of” or “in progress of” an activity. Often, I tweak my lesson for the afternoon group because something happened in my morning class that took it to a different direction and it made more sense than my original plan.

    You’re right about students having issues with writing questions. I have the same problem with “do you” in French on top of already somewhat complicated system: you can ask the same question in three different ways. I’ll steal your idea and try to concentrate on one type of questions at a time or may be have them write one type of questions then we all can “convert” them into a different version once they are on the board. It’s a great end of the week activity considering summery weather here in WI. Thanks for the idea.


    • Two things I agree with: one question at a time makes WAY more sense than using all of them. Some reading segments lend themselves better to some questions than others: I can get a “What” or a “Why” working almost anywhere, but the other questions are more context dependent. If you have three different ways to ask a question in French, you could focus on one structure for the entire class and encourage some of your superstar students to impress you with the alternate forms.

      And the second point of agreement? I’m looking out my window right now in Nekoosa, Wisconsin and noticing that the temperature is sitting at 77 degrees. I think I’ll take my prep outside today.


      • These are such great ideas…a French teacher at our school has kids figure out QAR questions for everything they do in groups, level by level. The kids evidently love it.


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