Today's Blog: How to get better written responses to short answer questions
Asking good short answer questions about texts and not getting good written answers? One way we can improve student written responses is to give clear writing instruction words and to ensure students understand what following that instruction exactly entails. As English teachers, we tend to think of text types as being things such as: reports, blogs, letters, analytical essays, persuasive essays, short stories or poems. And it's true - these are all text types. But there are other text types for short answer questions: definitions, descriptions, explanations, comparisons, discussions and so on. In senior exams, students are required to write in these forms by being given instructions such as:
We can employ these effectively in the English classroom. Instead of simply asking a question such as 'What is Shaun Tan's literary style in The Tales From Outer Suburbia?', we can give an instruction such as: 'Describe Shaun Tan's literary style in The Tales From Outer Suburbia' or 'What is Shaun Tan's literary style in The Tales From Outer Suburbia? Discuss.' Attached here is a handout resource which provides a clear snapshot overview of these short answer text types: define, describe, explain, use an example, discuss, evaluate. Importantly, this handout stresses the significance of a good topic sentence for each of these text types - even though they are only short answer. Try asking your students some questions about a text - and be clear about the text type instruction for each of the questions. Go through the model with your students and then see what happens next when they write. You'll get much better responses, because you'll be clearer about exactly what you want, and so will your students.