This post first appeared on the BPS Keys to Literacy Blog
Without a doubt, question generation is my favorite Keys to Literacy Comprehension Strategy. While this can partially be attributed to my natural inclination to ask too many unanswerable questions, the deeper reason I enjoy question generation is the enthusiasm it elicits from students.
Recently my English co-teacher and fellow KTL coach, Emily, and I decided to reintroduce the question generation technique to our 9th grade College Prep classes. After spending a generous amount of time during quarters one and two implementing main idea and summary writing as a means of assessing reading comprehension, we decided it was time to mix things up for To Kill A Mockingbird. We began by reviewing each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a large group discussion and asked students to generate questions for each level using the object of a smartphone. Students were then encouraged to share their questions. This process was a very beneficial one, as it preempted students to examine how and why questions fit a particular level. Once we felt students had a decent grasp on the different levels, we assigned students in groups of 3-4 and had them generate 2 questions per level about a character from the novel. Questions were focused on whether or not this character is a good person. For the first part of this exercise, we asked students to only generate questions, not answer them. During this activity, students were engaged and lively. I have found this to be the case when the pressure of needing to find a “correct” answer is removed. Students seem to feel freer to ask questions and discuss them when they know they are not being formally assessed.
Since this lesson, we have used question generation as a method of assessing students’ reading comprehension after each chapter. In response to the quality of their questions, we have chosen for some chapters to require only Analyzing and Evaluating question generation. With others we, (as the teachers) have asked students to answer pre-generated Remembering and Understanding questions, then in groups asked them to generate questions for Applying and Creating and swap with other groups to answer the questions. There is a lot of freedom and flexibility with question generation. Incorporating this strategy into our instruction in this capacity has been a fun, energizing way to assess our students’ reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.