In their book Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading (2012), Kylene Beers and Robert Probst suggest giving students an opportunity to create their own questions during a close reading of a text. Often during close readings, teachers craft the questions in order to lead students to a deeper understanding of a passage. With this approach, students may come to depend on teachers to ask the questions. Follow the protocol below to help your students make their own questions and collaborate about possible answers while giving you the opportunity to lead without taking the responsibility entirely out of the hands of students. When students create their own text-based questions, their engagement in the text becomes more authentic.
Follow these steps:
- Choose a short text (poem, short story, passage from a book) that you think will present a challenge to your students. During this activity, you can push students to read more complex text than they would independently.
- Students read the text on their own and mark the spots where they were confused, had a question, or wondered about something. You can also read the text aloud to them, but give them a chance to try it on their own first.
- Next, the students should reread the section and pause at each mark they made to write a question about the text or a comment about the confusion they felt at that point.
- Once they’ve finished generating questions, pull the class together and collect, on the board, their questions that have been generated.
- In pairs or small groups, have students look over the questions they thought were most interesting or important, discuss them, and make notes about their thoughts. This step encourages students to return to the text for more re-readings.
- Pull the class back together and work through some of the most interesting questions, asking for ideas produced by the groups, and expanding or refining them with contributions from others.
- At this point, you can determine the next step. You may want them to continue answering the questions they generated. You could have them choose one question to answer in an essay. You could also pull together a small group of students who seem to be struggling with the passage. You choose what happens next based on the needs of your students.