Finding a Piece of a Puzzle

I don’t mean THE PIECE that is the ultimate solution to the problem.  I mean “a piece” that fills some minor void without claiming the right to answering all the questions or even to completing the picture. 

For a very long time, Robert was able to answer only very simple questions and not capable of asking any.

The questions had to be concrete and relate to  visible  objects or their pictures. “What is it?”, “What color is it?” Or  later,”Where are they? ” “What are they doing?” He was unable to answer reliably any question about himself.  He also could not answer any question as it related to the simple sentence, he had just read.

I was baffled by that fact and felt powerless.   Today, I believe that Robert didn’t have an idea of the “question”.  Fifteen or twelve years ago, I was not aware of that fact.   Yet  unknowingly, I  introduced the concept of the question to Robert. I did that with the help of an old Schaffer’s Publisher workbook for kindergarten or first grade level reading.  I don’t have this workbook anymore.  I tried without success to find it on multiple websites. I don’t even remember its title.

To make up for this lack of concrete information, I will try to recreate its method of developing the idea of question as I remember it.

On the right side of each page, there was a small picture.  On the left side, there were three very simple and short sentences printed in large letters.  Below the text, there the same sentences were written.  Each sentence was copied twice or even three times.  Each copy  had one empty space replacing one of the words.

For instance:

The cat sleeps under a chair.

The ……………sleeps under a chair.

The cat sleeps ………………..a chair.

The cat …………………..under a chair.

At first, I wanted to skip this part of the workbook and move to the part where “WH” questions were asked.  I noticed, however, that Robert had difficulties even with those simplest (?) of tasks.  I concluded, that the practice was in order to help Robert better attend to the text.  So we did work on filling voids in the sentences before moving to questions in the next part of the same workbook.

It did not occur to me then, that by writing missing words, Robert was learning the concepts of questions and answers much more precisely than when he was answering the questions I described in the first part of this post, in the context of a concrete picture.

The question is nothing more than a  the missing information, thus missing word.  To  answer is to  provide that information and thus to fill the void.

With the support  of a Schaffer’s workbook (I doubt if it has been reissued during the rule of Common Core Standards) I helped Robert understand the concept of the “question”  and place a small piece of the puzzle in the right place.

I did not realize that ten or twelve years ago.  For me, those were  only exercises in paying attention.  Had I understood this mechanism better, maybe I could teach better.  But then, maybe not.