Chapter 7 #16 Creating their own questions

The benefits of students asking their own questions are mentioned in the text including, placing the meaning-making process directly in the students’ hands (p.210).  They deepen their engagement with the text and deepen their understanding of the text (p.210) and for ESL learners I believe deepen their knowledge of the English language. For lower level ESL learners, generating their own questions allows them practice using the basic question words and helps them learn and practice the process of forming different questions and then they better understand how to go about answering the different questions.  If it’s a “why question”, you answer with “because”.  If it’s a “where question”, the answer should contain a place.  If it’s a “who question”, the answer should contain a person or group of people. Etc…  I like the Request activity mentioned on 211 which gives all students the opportunity to create and answer questions.  I have found that the questions that students come up are very interesting and can be more thought provoking than the simple comprehension questions asked by the teacher.

I’m not teaching a GED classroom but with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge questions that are now on the GED test, I see the value of having students write their own questions.   I know that teachers like to use the question stems and instead of having the teacher always form and ask the difficult questions, teachers are now having the students write and answer more complex questions about the text they are studying.  This gives the students practice understanding the types of questions they may face on the GED test and how to go about answering them and builds their higher order thinking skills.

This chapter has a lot of very practical ideas on implementing reading strategies.  I think it is important for teachers to assist their student in assembling a reading toolbox full of these strategies so as p.232 states, “Eventually students will be able to skip the “making thinking visible” part of their comprehension practice.  The metacognitive conversation will be both internal and internalized.”


I thought the idea of students creating questions (Request) was a good one as well, so yesterday I put it to the test in my class. My class is an ABE class was very effective! I noticed that when they had to come up with a question they looked much deeper into the text ( just as teachers do when they are making questions). I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of their questions, and their individual values, curiosities, and interests surfaced in their questions as suggested on pg 210. I know this is a strategy I will continue to work on and I want to improve their metacognition by incorporating QAR as well.

As a precursor to students generating their own questions, I am trying a setup.  The students are watching a TED Talk.  Then I am having them print the text and read it.  After that, I am asking them to write down some questions or confusions (Talk to the Text) they have about the information and email them to me.  Finally, I am planning to have small group discussion.  I thought that this might help a couple of the students feel more comfortable before the group process -- babysteps for all of us.

Aimee, Meg and all, Thank you so much for bringing up the idea of having students generate their own questions. I firmly believe this is one of the most valuable practices we can ask all level of learners-- whether English learners or those who speak English fluently-- to engage in.

It's good to hear that you've already applied this in your classroom, Meg, and have seen excellent results! Hearing about actual classroom implementation is one of the best things about our online community! Thank you for sharing with us here!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

Hi all, As I posted previously, I think having students generate their own questions is a powerful strategy. I have been following the work of Jeff Zwiers, from Stanford University, for years. Zwiers has gotten me to think hard about the way I use questions in my teaching. In one of his most recent books, he stated, “The real world does not have so many questions as in school… People are asked to produce or perform, asking their own questions along the way… Questions should be a means to learning, not the end” (Zwiers, 2014, p. 123). Zwiers suggested these ideas about teacher questioning to guide our practice:

•Ask fewer questions and give more time for thoughtful answers •Make the questions … relevant to the real world •Ask questions you would ask of yourself •Train students to ask their own questions •Create learning tasks that are not so dependent on questions   For those who are interested, you can check out some of Jeff Zwiers' additional ideas at the Academic Language Development Network. Zwiers, J. (2014). Building academic language: Meeting Common Core Standards across disciplines, grades 5-12. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP

First, I am enjoying this book discussion and this book so much.  And I'm learning so much from everyone.  Thank you.

I have always enjoyed having my students ask their own questions.  As others have stated, their interest goes up and the class discussions are more engaging when students develop the questions.  On the teaching channel, they have a great presentation at: called 

Text Analysis: Questions & Symbols 

The video gives practical ideas for organizing this activity:   students independently write questions about a text they have read, work in small groups to determine best questions and then submit those to the teacher.  The teacher uses the selected questions to discuss the text.  The teaching channel is K-12, but as we have noted, the strategies are often very applicable to adults.  




Hi Sylvia and others,

I want to say that I feel the very same way that Sylvia described about these last weeks in the Book Study.  The discussion has been so rich in information and the value of what everyone has shared has been enormous.  I cannot express my thanks enought to everyone.

Sylvia, I use the Teaching Channel videos often, and I want to share Student Generated Questions for Exam Prep at  Let me explain that a Math lesson is demonstrated, but the idea can be used for any content area and student level.  The whole idea of the questions coming from the students definitely increases engagement and learning.

Meryl, SME

Hi Sylvia, Meryl and all, Thank you for posting these Teaching Channel videos. I agree that we can benefit from seeing how K12 teachers are implementing standards-based instruction. I especially appreciated the math teacher emphasizing that getting the wrong answer is an important opportunity for learning.

I have also had students generate questions for a test as shown in the math video. When students do a presentation for the class, I ask the presenters to generate questions that they want their classmates to be listening for. They also generate questions for a study guide. I choose from among these questions for a test on the unit. To prepare for the test, the students use the study guide to help each other during class. The interactions that take place while students are helping each other have been great.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP