Thursday, May 5, 2016

ELL Strategy: Question Ladders

As teacher appreciation week continues, I wanted to bring you another great tip for working with your ELLs. There's nothing I like better than sharing tips that can make a teacher's life or planning easier!

This strategy is all about helping students develop their own questions and set a purpose for learning or reading. In order to engage students in the learning process and allow them to  become  more independent  learners,  they  need  to  be  able  to  form and ask questions. Not just any questions will do-­‐ we need to teach students to ask high quality questions that can guide reading and learning.  This  strategy  helps  students  generate  questions  for  reading  (or  learning  in  general),  giving them  the  opportunity  to  both  set  a purpose  for  reading,  and  to  make  connections  with  what they  already  know  about  the  topic  from  personal  experience,  prior learning, or previous readings.

Prior  to  reading,  provide  students  with  a  copy  of  the  text.  Allow  students to use headlines, captions, pictures, and section headings to determine the concept or topic of the reading (this is filled into the  first “rung”). Next, students  use  the question  ladder  and  work  independently  or  in  small groups  to  generate  questions  that  they expect  to  be  answered  during  reading.    As  they  read and  find  answers  to  their  questions,  students  can  make  notes  next  to  each rung.

Another  way  to  use this  is to provide  each student with a  copy  of  the question ladder when introducing a new unit of study. The topic of  study  is  filled  into  the  first  “rung”  on  the  ladder, and  then  students  can  work  independently  or  cooperatively  to  generate questions they hope to have answered throughout the unit. These can be compiled on a classroom chart and as students find answers, they can make notes on post-­‐its and place these on the “rungs” of the ladder.

When introducing this strategy, I recommend doing it whole-group style a few times, then in small groups, before expecting students to be able to do it independently.

Scaffolding this for students at different proficiency levels:

  • Beginners (WIDA levels 1/2): Add sentence frames centered around the 5 Ws and H, along with a word bank.
  • Intermediate (WIDA levels 2/3): Add a word bank (question words, content words) to support students
  • Advanced (WIDA levels 4/5): These students should be able to form questions without language supports!

I'd love to hear how you use this strategy in your classroom!

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