Comprehending or Cluttering

Published on by dallashollis

If you find yourself in a building that's on fire, a one-or-two-word answer is all you want to the question, "Where's the exit?" This is a step one kind of question and we're grateful for a quick answer. However, like I said before, there are other kinds of questions we need to be asking to expand and develop our student's thinking. The second kind of questions we should be asking our students are those that measure comprehension, the second step of a series of steps if you remember our analogy. Rosetta Stone Spanish Version 3 Being able to "know" and parrot back some piece of information may or may not be necessarily useful. For example, what if I asked you to answer the following question, one that appeared on a popular home school science test (The test, by the way, is from a text I have personally used and highly recommend.): "A strand of tRNA has the following nucleotide sequence: adenine, uracil, guanine. What codon in mRNA attracts this strand of tRNA?" Well, I'll bet the answer was not on the "tip of your tongue," right? But, let's say you studied the right sections of the chapter and you confidently answer, "Uracil, adenine, cytosine!" Great! An A+ answer according to the answer key. But, not so fast. What if I followed up with a couple of questions like, "Why is this the right answer," or "Explain the significance of this information?" You might become especially annoyed if I jokingly pressed a little more with, "And why doesn't spell check recognize the word uracil?"In other words, someone can have the right answer, actually three right answers if you count the words to the above question. Maybe even spell the words correctly with impeccable handwriting. But so what? If we're not careful, we can become like the ultimate anal- retentive religious leaders of Jesus' day, the Pharisees. They had memorized vast amounts of Scripture and could quote it flawlessly, but they missed its meaning and purpose. Their comprehension was lacking. They didn't get it. They also were not alone. Too much focus on getting the facts right and giving right answers often results in simply cluttering your student's mind. We need to move beyond the first step to the second step by asking questions that help us see how well our students understand the content we are presenting. Here are some questions you may want to use:Explain what the writer meant by... Describe what was meant by...Discuss the following concept...Distinguish the following terms...Restate in your own words...Compare the following...Predict what will happen next...Put this in your own words... In my next ezine, I'll present a couple of ways to use questions like those above that will increase your effectiveness as a home school teacher. Thanks for reading!Curt Bumcrot, MREDirector, Basic Skills Assessment & Educational ServicesPlease feel free to forward this to home schoolers you think would benefit. Also, you have permission to copy this article to your blogs, forums, social network pages, or other websites.

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