Margin Questions

Professor Pauline Gibbons (2009) shows how margin questions are a great strategy to support reading texts and develop EAL learners ability to become more effective readers.

Questions are designed to focus learners’ attention on particular parts of a text. They are used to help with comprehension and can be used to model the types of questions that effective readers ask when they are reading a text. EAL learners benefit from being taught how to become effective readers and margin questions is one strategy that we should use.

Questions should focus on the key skills of reading such as: predicting, summarising, clarifying, questioning, hypothesising etc. In this way we are not just checking understanding but we are enhancing learners ability to approach academic texts that they will face.  Here are some examples of generic questions that I have used before:

  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Why does the writer use this word?
  • What does this sentence tell us about earthquakes?
  • How would you feel if …?
  • Who is the speaker referring to when they say…? 

Place questions around a text and directly point the questions to where a learner can find the answer.

To differentiate this strategy I highlight the specific word, phrase or sentence that a beginner EAL learner will need to read to answer the question.

For more advanced EAL learners you could use a range of higher order questions.

Source: Gibbons, P (2009) English Learners: Academic Literacy and Thinking. Learning in the Challenge Zone. Heinemann. Portsmouth.

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