by Tricia Ebarvia
For years, whenever my students and I read a novel, I would pass out a study guide with a list of questions for each chapter. By giving students the study guide questions―questions I wrote―I could make sure that students wouldn’t miss anything in their reading. Too often, students would read too quickly and miss details. Requiring students to answer study guide questions was my way of getting them to slow down to notice what they were reading. To get them to see the dots that they could later connect together.
After we finished the novel, the next step would be a writing assignment. On that day, I would pass out a list of essay questions. I often included questions of varying difficulty in order to better differentiate instruction, and students could happily chose whichever essay question was most accessible (or least terrifying). In case none of the questions interested students, I always gave them the option of creating their own essay question (just so long as they reviewed it with me first).
Of course, rarely did students ever take me up on that option. After all, by creating essay questions for them, I had already sent the message that it was the teacher’s questions that mattered, not theirs. And while some students were more than happy to answer my questions―in fact, I think some of them preferred to―what I’ve come to realize that what I needed to focus on was getting students to answer their own questions about the text. Read more