A Jumpstart to Written Response
How great does it feel when a student’s eyes light up and she announces, “I know just what to do!”? This happened one day when I was teaching written response. We had been working on Turn the Question Around, also known as TTQA, for the past week. After guided practice, students were expected to TTQA independently. This particular student, who is usually quite tentative, appeared confident and eager to demonstrate her learning.
Written response can present a challenge to both teachers and students. While use of a visual reminder (i.e. checklists, graphic organizers) can be helpful, each of the components of written response must first be explicitly taught.
TTQA is the first step of our written response process. It guides the student in constructing their response based upon language from the question. Below is an example of a question and a TTQA response.
Question: What is the main idea of this text?
TTQA: The main idea is…
To familiarize students with TTQA, we have found it both informative and helpful to give students the opportunity for oral practice before requiring a written task. This practice does not have to take place only within the language arts block. It can be incorporated throughout the school day. For example, after recess, a teacher can ask her students some questions and ask for a TTQA response:
Question: Who did you play with at recess?
TTQA: I played with Suzy at recess.
Question: What did you have for lunch today?
TTQA: I had pizza for lunch today.
Once students feel comfortable responding to questions in the TTQA format, teachers can begin to pose questions related to a read aloud.
Question: “How would you describe <the main character> in this story?”
TTQA: “I would describe <the main character> as…”
It is important to note that oral TTQA can begin as early as Kindergarten and can evolve throughout the grades with increasingly more complex questions. While formal lessons are not necessary at the emergent stage of literacy, teachers can weave it into conversations with younger students to promote oral language and vocabulary development.
Once students have a solid foundation of oral TTQA in the early grades (K-1), this will make the transition to a written TTQA easier to grasp in grades 2 and beyond.
We have developed a comprehensive TTQA unit. Within this unit, we have created a pre and post-assessment to inform instruction. The unit follows the gradual release of responsibility model beginning with guided practice and ending with independent application. The unit also includes games for oral practice, a kinesthetic approach to TTQA, practice questions, templates for scaffolding students’ responses and related posters. We have also posted a free sample of our TTQA Bundle that includes a game, a sample lesson plan, and related materials.