Where do your students find their purpose? They find it by previewing the questions! They need to know if they are look for the main idea, making an inference about how a character feels, or searching for a “right there” answer. Without previewing the questions, they don’t know what to look for as they read.
So, why do we need to teach this explicitly? Honestly, our students are lazy. They want to dive in and get it done. They don’t want to spend an extra time reading. They want to start reading and answer the questions afterward. Show them WHY they need to preview the question.
Highlighting the Text
When your students preview the questions, they also know what to highlight. If the question asks which word describes a character, your students should know they need to have their highlighter radar on when they see a sentence or a phrase that tells how what the character reacts, responds, or demonstrates a character trait.
Restating the Question
I have a PowerPoint, booklet, and example passages to help explicitly teach your students to restate the question. You can find them in my Restate the Question packet on TpT. Once we use the booklet to understand what it means to restate the question, we practice by cutting up the words and rearranging them to help us restate the question, as shown in the picture above. I have a blog post with the details on this activity that I do in my small groups, if you would like to read more about it as well.
Finding the Supporting Evidence
I like to have my students begin by answering a question that has more than one right answer. Students can support each side of the answer with various pieces of evidence. It’s a great way to explicitly teach and prepare students for transitioning to finding the evidence on their own. If this looks like something that your students need to practice, you can find it in my TeachersPayTeachers store.
There are many aspects to this, depending on if you are focusing on reading or writing. For example, students need to understand that if a test is thirty minutes and they have three passages to read, they only have ten minutes per passage. In writing, students need to realize that if they have fifty minutes to write their response, they can’t spend thirty minutes of that planning. Instead, they must be reminded that they should spend approximately five minutes planning, 35-40 minutes writing, and 5-10 minutes editing. Of course, each student is unique in their needs, but discussing this with your students as you practice for upcoming testing is critical.
Planning for Writing
Your students need you to help them know what to write during their planning time and WHY planning is so important. Planning is needed for even the best writers. In what order will you write your paragraphs? What are you going to say in your introduction, after all your introduction should tease what is to come in later paragraphs. Without planning ahead of time, how can you make these decisions about your writing.
I love to use graphic organizers to teach students to plan properly. Since the planning page is often 90% blank, I teach my students to quickly draw the graphic organizer that would be most beneficial to them. They can do that with a few seconds and have a good way to organize their thoughts.