You can encourage students to write stronger, more thorough responses to content area questions with the Invisible Questions strategy.
For every short-answer question you ask, consider assessing it on a 6-point system, broken down as follows:
- 1 point for restating part of the question within the response.
- 1 point for avoiding the use of any pronoun (he, she, it, they).
- 1 point for writing a complete thought that makes sense without ever reading the question.
- 3 points for an accurate response/correct information.
Weigh heavily the correct answer, but by offering points for strong sentence writing, you are also showing the value of clear and complete thoughts.
For example, imagine a student submits this response: I think she is because she couldn’t tell the difference.
It’s difficult to assess if the answer is accurate because the question isn’t restated in the response. The use of “she” makes the response even more vague. Who is she? And the response itself doesn’t make sense. The reader is desperate to know the question because right now this doesn’t make sense all by itself. Accurate or not, this response is poorly written. Here is a stronger response to the same initial question:
I believe Little Red Riding Hood was naive because Little Red just assumed anyone sleeping in Grandma’s bed must be Grandma. It wasn’t until after studying the big ears, big nose, and big teeth that Little Red realized it wasn’t Grandma. That’s pretty naive.
The second response makes sense all by itself. In fact the reader can guess the original question (Do you think Little Red Riding Hood was wise or naive? Explain your answer.) Complete sentences and the avoidance of pronouns increases the clarity of the answer.
NOTE: Consider establishing these guidelines for strong responses as part of the class procedure when conducting group discussions. Teach students to speak more clearly and then move it into their written assignments.