This post has to do with Dan Meyer’s What Can You Do With This? concept and my utter failure to come up with ways to do it the way I’d like in English.
I seem to be struggling with the same things that Todd Seal is/was struggling with over on Thoughts on Teaching.
I can come up with lots of ways to make media encourage actions (prompts essentially) but I’m failing to figure out ways to make questions that require specific skills/understanding1.
The question is the key element it seems. The question has to drive the whole thing and be simple enough that people will take a guess without feeling over invested. This primes the pump so to speak.
Every question I come up with ends up with possible skills all over the place but missing the requirement for a specific skill or set of skills. In English it often seems like you can accomplish an answer but it’s less a puzzle to figure out that will require specific skills and more of a task to accomplish that can be completed to a greater or lesser degree depending on a variety of skills2.
I wonder if it doesn’t come down to the fact that in English we often lack a definitive “right” answer. It could be I’m just failing to think properly about this.
Take the serial comma artifact that was posted on Dan’s site a while back. I ended up at Wikipedia pondering a way to make this into something that had a question and required understanding the serial comma to answer the question.
I wanted to ask was something like –”Given the sentence below, how many people went to Oregon?”
I went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and a cook.
That creates the confusion. I can even resolve the confusion for this particular sentence but it’s more about reading it closely and just re-writing it as opposed to starting to understand something like Wikipedia’s explanation —
The list x, y and z is unambiguous if y and z cannot be read as in apposition to x.
Equally, x, y, and z is unambiguous if y cannot be read as in apposition to x.
If neither y nor y[,] and z can be read as in apposition to x, then both forms of the list are unambiguous; but if y or y[,] and z can be read as in apposition to x, then both forms of the list are ambiguous.
x and y and z is unambiguous.
There’s something to be said for just having fun with the language and letting some things be messy. That’s good and fine but I still think there are ways to get at more specific understandings using the WCYDWT format. I haven’t given up but I wouldn’t mind hearing the thoughts of some others who might have already fought this battle.
Then drop this one in-
I went to Oregon with Betty, a maid and a cook.
But I don’t feel like I end up with clarity.