|ECC's Spacious Hall|
Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan, a professor, author, and reading expert, spoke about the academic need for students to focus more on the text that they are reading. Why? She explains thus:
Text-based questioning is an essential skill set for teachers...since it is through text-based questioning that we level the playing field so that all students can be successful and gain both knowledge and skills. When we ask robust questions that require reasoning based on evidence in the text, we ensure that even those students who may not have privileged experience outside school can be successful in meeting the high [academic] standards.Dr. Loh-Hagan advocates against the traditional teaching method of accepting the "right" answer of a student and then quickly moving on because this practice "leaves many students behind." Instead, teachers should engage all students "by conducting a whole-group instructional read-aloud, with discussion along the way - and not waiting until the end."
Further, questions that ask for personal responses should be avoided because they "draw students away from the actual text and [favor] personal stories which cannot be opposed or argued against." In lieu of the usual text-to-person-connection-type of questions, better ones invite the students "to examine their otherwise unchallenged assumptions" and guide them to go back to the text to form opinions that are text-based arguments.
As well, we should push for higher-order thinking skills in our questions. A question like "Who are the main characters?" is not on par with one that asks for a comparison or contrast between an important character in a text and another character in another text.
Dr. Loh-Hagan's insightful criteria for text-based questioning and practical examples were greeted with a big round of applause.
Perhaps not coincidentally, questioning was also one of Richard Weinroth's most favorite methods for teaching writing. In his ESL class, Mr. Weinroth delivers his prompts by dictation, but he adds his own clever twist. His prompts are in the form of questions, and when his students follow his questions, their writing becomes so much easier to manage. The questions also facilitate peer interviews when the assignment requires writing about another student.
The moral of the story here? Good questions generate good answers.