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Questioning Authority: How to use questions/discussions in reading

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I will stay married to my husband for as long as we both shall live. Yes, we made altar-born promises, but what gives us the stamina is really this:  no one is as interesting or as insightful as I find him to be. He is inquisitive, and questions/seeks answers. I have learned more about the core of teaching , the heart, of Language Arts from him than just about any resource or expert. If we are watching a movie, even it’s a silly ‘no brainer’ like Point Break, we have so much fun dissecting and anaylyzing the antagonist friendship between Johnny Utah and Bodhi. We were flipping through trailers the other night, and when it came to the final two Harry Potter movies, I must admit I got a little misty–my son asked why, and I said it’s because I read the books. (He and my husband were reading those together, but time got away from them. Probably because we were watching Point Break.) Here’s where it gels: we need each other to talk about what we’re seeing, and feel safe to question/discuss our world around us. Questioning texts/media is not an adjunct to critical thinking; it is critical thinking.

One of the more successful lessons a few years back was having students write their own questions about the books they were reading. But teaching the art of ‘questioning’ comes first. It’s all part of Bloom’s, Costa’s, and a myriad of other resources. A caution: try not to dismiss the foundational ‘knowledge’ step while climbing up the taxonomic mountain. Students will adjust the pace of their critical thinking climb, but knowledge is an important step.

Knowledge:

“The main character of this novel is named Hannah.”

Comprehension:

“Okay, now you’ve defined the word — now explain it in your own words, and develop some comparing words and some contrasting words. Remember our ‘cupcake’ versus ‘brocoli’ comparison.”

Application:

“Mom, do you know how straws work?” Well, we learned in Science class about air pressure…”

Evaluation:

“Cinderella was really kind of a doormat, I mean, why did she take that kind of abuse from her stepmother and stepsisters?”

Analysis:

“A fable’s purpose is really to use personification to describe common, universal human traits, while a fairy tale really uses magic and human wishes/desires to empower children.”

Synthesis:

“Let’s combine what we heard in the newspaper story and our novel–what would our perspective be, combining these main ideas, in an original story?”

Creating:

“I really love this painting you created based on that poem; it really speaks to me.”

Questioning Resources

Finding a variety of questioning resources is as easy as stubbing your toe on a coffee table; it’s the pain afterward that’s bothersome. Students who begin to have those enlightened moments while questioning texts are the reason I teach, to stay with for the long haul, because someday they and their partners in life may be analyzing Point Break. No need for marriage counseling.

Some on-line resources:

http://utminers.utep.edu/rslindley/strategies/costas.htm

http://daretodifferentiate.wikispaces.com/file/view/NoelleCombsInquiryLesson.pdf (What I don’t like about this one is its connotation that knowledge is “basement” or “low level.” All knowledge is a good, but it is a handy chart.)

This one helps with integration of content areas:

http://www.sdcoe.net/lret/avid/Resources/costa_quiz.pdf

I have so many questioning resources: if you would like to share yours, or talk about questioning specific texts, please e-mail me! You can send a comment to this blog, too!

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