Working with questions on a text found in any coursebook is a dreary business. They are supposed to check the students’ understanding of the aforementioned text and make them work and engage with it. The problem is, well, they don’t. In reality these questions are the pinnacle of pseudo-learning.
Are they a viable way of checking your understanding of a text? Not really, as the nit-picking little buggers only ask for certain details. It is quite possible to have answered most of them correctly and still not have a grasp on the movements of the text, the way it develops its ideas.
Do they make students engage with the text? Only in a very narrow sense as they promote a way of working with the texts that efficiently scans for the answers and fades out everything else.
The worst aspect about this type of questions is that they obstruct any real interest in what the text offers. Any real sense of curiosity is stifled from the onset and makes way for a dull fulfilling of answering duties.
This is why I love alternative ways of “checking your understanding”. Have the students create their own sets of questions based on their interests and expectations of the text – a method that I outlined here.
Another great method is letting students create a sketchnote of the text. This way they have to not only go on a hunt for nit-picking details but also include the broader structure of the text, its purpose, the way its ideas are inter-connected and developed. Best of all, the students create a visual representation of the text that they can use to revisit the contents of the text easily.
A rather obvious example of this method is creating a timeline from a text that covers a sequence of historical events. Below you find two examples of such timelines that my students created from two texts about the history of the British Empire that could be found in our coursebook. At a later stage the students used their timelines as a visual aid for an oral presentation.