One important critical thinking skill is asking and answering questions. This is also an important way that students deepen their understanding of what they are reading. Additionally, this is also one component of language development. Students may need assistance with the syntax and sentence structure of asking and answering questions. Here are some tips to support asking and answering questions for ELLs.
Supporting ELLs in Formatting Questions
Depending on a students language level, they will require different amounts of language support in asking questions. EL Excellence Every Day, offers both high and low levels of support.
Low levels of support:
Use a word bank to help students start formatting questions.
Ex: who, what, where, why
Moderate levels of support:
Provide students with a question frame about the intended topic that includes a verb. Use the verb tense that matches what the student will be expected to use.
Ex: How do ______?
High levels of support:
Give student both a model complete question and question frame about their topic.
Ex: How do bears survive during the winter? How do ______?
Supporting ELLs in Answering Higher Level Questions
ELLs need the same opportunity in answering higher-order thinking questions as their native English speaking peers. In The Language Rich Classroom, Himmele gives some suggestions about how to scaffold their participation in answering these questions.
First, give students time to individually think, and in some cases write down (or draw) their answer to the question. Next, have students share their answer with a partner or in a small group. Finally, have students share with the whole class.
Giving students multiple opportunities to practice answering higher-level questions gives ELLs the chance to participate. This is instead of only having a few students answer the question and allowing others to zone out if the material appears too difficult.
Question and Answer Research Project
One way for students to practice asking and answering questions is by taking part in a research project. This gives the student a unifying theme to ask and answer questions about. I have developed sample questions and graphic organizers the help students conduct their research.