Thursday, October 29, 2015

Trick or Treat Questions

Last night I had a great time participating in the #weirded Twitter chat hosted by Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher). The chat itself shaped the lesson that I taught today. All week I have not really been looking forward to what I had intended on doing in class and I was looking for fresh ideas. Who knew I'd find it while talking about sexy halloween costumes and the benefits and drawbacks of giving children candy in school?

The Purpose

My students (9th grade, English 1) are getting ready to read Of Mice and Men and I want them to be able to identify confusion while they read and ask targeted questions to clarify the reading and ease confusion. The main takeaway from the Twitter chat last night (read about it, here) was the TRICK and TREAT questions, or questions that are used for specific purposes. I wanted my students to practice writing targeted questions, so using the TRICK or TREAT format was perfect.

The Setup

I split my students into groups and gave each group 2 index cards; a TRICK card and a TREAT card. Then, I gave each group a Halloween theme. The themes I used were:
  1. Scary Movies
  2. Scary folktales (I serve an all ELL population, so I get the advantage of having a ton of cultural stories that my students know)
  3. Halloween Candy
  4. Monsters
  5. Costumes
Once the groups were assigned a theme, they were given the task of brainstorming 2 questions that related to their theme. Their TRICK question had to target the skill of either argumentative or narrative writing. The TREAT question still had to be about their theme but could be more open-ended and fun.

Playing the Game

Once each group had both a TRICK and TREAT question, I called on a random student from a group and said, "Trick or Treat?" The individual then chose to read their TRICK or TREAT question and the whole class had to write an answer. One of my favorite questions from our game today came from the group that was assigned the Halloween Candy theme. Their TREAT question was, "What happens to a person's body when they eat too much Halloween candy?" This was a great, open-ended question that some answered with long-term effects in mind and others answered with short-term effects in mind.


My students had a great time with the game. They learned about using targeted questions to give them specific answers and I hope they can remember this activity when I ask them to write targeted questions about Of Mice and Men over the coming weeks. They all thought I was pretty nerdy when I told them that today's lesson about questions was inspired by a Twitter chat, but I'm cool with that. I started this week wanting something different to engage my students, and I definitely found it with this TRICK or TREAT question formatting.

Want to try it in your class?

If you feel like trying this in your class, I've embedded my slides with the setup and instructions for students below using Speakerdeck. Have fun and let me know how it goes! And please, go read Doug Robertson's book, He's the Weird Teacher, and participate in the next #weirded chat.  

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