Looking at Questions

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

a reflection of Wilhelm's Chapter 5

While reading Chapter 5 of the Wilhelm text, I realized that there is a big difference between questions and questioning schemes – which is something I’d never thought about before. Questions can be simple or complex, but they are singular – one question has one answer (for the most part). Questioning schemes have more of a sequence in place. There are several types of questioning schemes, but the main concept of a scheme is to create a questioning sequence with questions that move students from a very simple “fact based” understanding toward a more complex “applied” understanding. Wilhelm describes three techniques in the chapter:

ReQuest: This is an interesting way of organizing a question series. There are three types of questions, “on the lines,” “between the lines,” and “beyond the lines” – that work together to move students from concrete thinking to more abstract thinking, which helps with the synthesis process (which is a difficult skill). I especially like that this strategy works well when the questions are used before and after reading the text, because I see a direct connection to strategies students can use on the mandated standardized tests. The “read the questions before AND after” approach shows the benefits of knowing the questions before you read (so that you can begin to think about them while you experience the text), but it is also a strategy that students can apply to the standardized tests later in the year.

QAR (Question-answer relationship): This strategy seemed very similar to the ReQuest strategy, but with different names for the questions. The organization of questions in this scheme made sense to me,
but interestingly enough, I think that most classrooms focus on the “right there” questions, which are not only the simplest of the four types, but the kind of questions that require the least thought. The “think and search” questions really appealed to me because they require the reader to look for details and think about the connection between the details. This has been difficult for my students in the past because they aren’t used to moving beyond the “right there” type of questions. They hate thinking until it starts to dawn on them that thinking actually helps the learning process!

Questioning Circle: I like the idea of moving from pure to shaded to dense questions and really pushing students to extend their thinking and make connections. I think that this would need to be practiced a lot in a classroom for it to work successfully, but since Wilhelm’s example (on pages 124-129) is fifth grade students, I believe that my 5th graders should be capable of doing this, too. I think the three circle Venn diagram really helps to organize the levels of questions, but also to show how the three pure components (text, me, and world) really do interact with each other to create the shaded (text and me, world and me, and text and world) and dense questions (text and world and me). It reminds me of the color wheels that they study in art class, so I think showing them a color wheel may help them to see the interrelated nature of the questions.

As I read the conclusion of this chapter, Wilhelm stated what I had realized, but not actually stated in my notes.
“Each of these schemes is powerful precisely because it mirrors the trajectory of the inquiry process: Moving students’ responses from the factual, through interpretative connection-making, to critical evaluations and applications that are valuable in the world. Furthermore, these schemes illuminate how the process of inquiry and design are akin to the processes of expert reading.” (p. 129)

I think using a combination of these questioning schemes in my classroom would help to increase the students’ learning in a very natural way. They may not even realize that they are developing deeper thinking skills, but the ways that the students begin to interact with their learning will improve with these strategies in place.


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