Friday, May 10, 2013

Who Wants to Know?

I love answering students’ questions; I dread trying to make them answer mine. 

You know the situation. “Okay, everyone, who knows what ‘knavish’ means?” “How many acts in every Shakespeare play?” “What’s an example of a metaphor in this passage?” “What’s wrong with this sentence?” Dead silence. Are they awake? Waiting you out? Trying to figure out what answer you want? Even when you finally get an answer, the class will have learned...that one person knows. Will anyone else have appropriated that knowledge? Probably not. 

Then there are the moments when students want to know. Here’s some great student questions I was able to answer this week: 
  • I worked hard on making the transition smoother on this paper. Do the paragraph changes still seem abrupt? 
  • I want to know more vocabulary because I have low vocabulary skills. What’s the best way to do that?
  • How do I write shorter essays with more detailed and straightforward sentences?
  • I was wondering if the similes I used were clear or confusing.
  • I still don’t understand the purpose of a semicolon, and what’s its difference to a colon.
  • What would be a good way to come out with a creative hook?
  • Does the hook and clincher connect smoothly?
  • I tried to put in as many sensory images as possible, but was this enough?

I got these questions because I ask students to write at the top of every final draft they hand in one specific question for Mrs. Essenburg about their writing. Yes, there are still some students who write, “How can I write an ‘A’ paper?” but on the whole, they are demonstrating more insight into their own writing strengths and weaknesses, a sense of control over the progress, and a real desire to get specific feedback. I’m happy to spend the time answering these questions because I know the answers are wanted.

How can you get your students to ask you questions so you know they're listening to your answers?

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