Student-generated Questions About Texts

Hello Colleagues, Having students write their own questions about what they are reading can be a great way to start meaningful, textually rich discussions.  Take a look at this video

to observe how one teacher uses learner-generated questions to prepare students to use textual evidence in support of their responses. When the teacher collects the questions, she has the opportunity to assess the quality and usefulness of the students’ questions.

I’m planning to implement a similar activity with a class this week. Part of my goal will be to help students to understand the difference between open and closed questions. I’ll report back on how this goes.

Have you ever invited students to generate their own questions about what they are reading? If so, how did you structure the activity?  Please share with us how it went.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment COP


Susan asked if any of us have ever had students generate questions about what they are reading. I have observed an exellent teacher, Peggy Seufert, do this. For an intermediate/advanced level class Peggy brings in nonfiction/high interest readings. Then, in groups, the students generate and write questions about the text. The students pass their questions to another group, and read and write answers to the questions of another group. This is done until the questions have made their way back to their original groups .

The thing is, in the classroom it is very often the teacher generating all the questions about texts or oral work, But, in real life, it's the visitor, the outsider, the non-native speaker who needs to ask questions in order to survive and thrive in the new country! And question formation is not particularly easy and intuitive in English!.

Great activity.


SME adult ELl CoP

Hi Irina, Miriam, and all, Thank you for your comments. I agree that generating questions fosters and enhances critical thinking skills. With the College and Career Readiness Standards, we know that supporting critical thinking needs to be a main goal of instruction. I read a great article that outlined a process for having students do just that. Here is the reference and link

Rothstein, D. & Santana, L. (2011). Teaching students to ask questions. Harvard Education Letter, 27(5). Retrieved from

After reading a selected article or story, students work in groups to generate a set of questions. The authors outline four essential rules for producing questions:

1.Ask as many questions as you can. 2.Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer the questions. 3.Write down every question exactly as it is stated. 4.Change any statement  into a question.   After this, the students categorize the questions as either open or closed. They discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the open and closed questions, and then change the questions from one type to another. The third step is to choose the three best questions and discuss why the selected questions were the best. Finally, the students talk about how they will use the questions.   While I have not yet tried this process with a group of students, I plan to do so in the near future. What are your thoughts about this approach to having students generate their own questions about text?   Cheers, Susan Moderator, Assessment COP