The most important educating tool teachers use are questions.
Peruse the following about "Questions for a literature class."
1. Which questions encourage the students to think in ways they hadn't before?
2. Which questions help students think about their own experiences?
3. Which questions deal with general facts from the novel?
4. Which questions encourage students to build a context beyond the world they already live in?
5. Which questions encourage a deeper understanding of humanity?
Questions for a literature class
Who are the characters in the novel?
What motivates each character to act as he or she does?
Which character do you empathize with most?
Who has the harshest burden in the novel?
What about life do readers learn in this novel?
What role does the setting play in the outcome of the conflicts between the major characters?
What historical era is represented in this novel?
What do the characters in the novel have in common with people in the news today?
Are the characters static or dynamic, round or flat?
What characterization techniques are found in the story?
The questions asked shape what students think about a piece of literature. The goal, then, is for students to start asking their own questions about the literature--to be confident enough to trust that their questions are valid and worthy.
Look what happens when students ask questions they want answers to
One of my favorite assignments in Composition I is the profile paper wherein students choose a relative as the subject of a 3000 word paper on that person's life. The goal is to create an heirloom, a tribute to someone's life. So the basic question, who is the subject of the paper is dwarfed by what does the student want to know about this significant figure in his or her life. The answers the author seeks shapes the rest of the paper. Students get a chance to ask the questions they want answers to, and voila, within a month, the final product is produced based entirely on questions the students have asked. It is an amazing process. The task is also satisfying for most students because they created the entire paper based on their own interests.
Questions lead to corrections
Questions also create the foundation of correction in a writing class. When students polish a paper, they are to answer questions like those listed below about their peers' papers during large group critiques. Without these questions, students see the papers as being fine. But eventually, they begin to see what needs correcting and offer good advice, taking the writing to the next level.
Questions for large group critiques in a writing course:
1. How well does the introduction flow with the body and conclusion of the paper?
2. Where does the author give the best examples to support main points?
3. Where is the writing vague and general?
4. How can the author appeal to the audience better?
5. Is the organization smooth and constantly moving forward or does it stop and start jerkily?
6. Has the author tied up all of the loose ends in the paper?
Questions are meant to be answered. If they are not asked, there is no answer. If educators teach students how to use these priceless tools, students will build for a lifetime.