Dissecting Questions for Essay Writing
Sometimes you might ask your students to write a short essay answering a pre-chosen question. Many writing prompts start out this way, and it’s a quick way to get students thinking (and writing.) Still, sometimes your students might be a little stumped by the question itself. But wait! You don’t have to completely abandon the question in favor of another one or even necessarily simplify or otherwise change it. Sometimes (but not all the time), it’s merely a matter of teaching your students how to dissect a question. After all, there’s going to be plenty of times in the future that they may have to tackle a tough question, getting to the bottom of it using the skills they have at their disposal. So here’s some ideas that may help them:
Break the question down into parts
Determine the subject as well as whether the question is asking how, why, or what might be the case.
Narrow in on the context of the question
Examine what clues there are within the sentence or the material around it that give us the perspective or point-of-view that might be framing the question.
Review any additional instructions the question might include
Decide if the question is asking for our opinion on something or for us to make an argument. Do you need supporting facts or citations to prove a point?
Ask the question aloud
Just like reading their writing out loud, your students can benefit from connecting a question to a more conversational situation. This also allows them to think of how they might respond if a friend were to ask them the same question. And then, of course, they can get those pencils moving!
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