Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Misreading the question.

A few summers ago I remember reading in a Sunday supplement a special feature about Jack Douglas playing in a golf tournament in Mallorca. I thought it strange that the absurd star of the Carry On films should warrant 6 pages in an OK magazine style feature, he must be in his 80s if he's still alive* I thought, but carried on anyway thinking nothing more of it.
It was only when I came to the line about "his lovely wife, Catherine Zeta Jones", that I realised something was wrong. On carefully rereading the article, I learned that Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas were playing golf in Mallorca. D'oh!

"Get to the point" I hear you cry.
I've just finished marking my Year 7 students' exams and some of them have done really well. However, some of them would have done even better had they read the questions properly.
I'm not talking about the students who have trouble reading English, but the more able students who write ridiculous answers to very simple questions.

e.g. When does he play volleyball?

The answers I got were: Tennis, A laptop, because he likes it, it's his favourite sport, his sister, at the beach, etc....

The correct answer was "Saturday".

Can we teach students not to misread questions?
If so, how do we do it?

Here are some ideas to try:
  • read the questions slowly and, if it isn't an exam, read it out loud.
  • write down the question before answering it.
  • circle or highlight question words. (who, what, why, where, when, how?)
  • teach time management, misreading questions can be a sign of rushing.
  • teach students always to read comprehension texts before attempting the questions.
  • teach students to read through the questions and their answers at the end.
*Jack Douglas was still alive but passed away in December 2008 aged 81.

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