Well, today we started out with an exercise in futility. I chose a close-ended question (is “close-ended” really a word? what’s the opposite of “open-ended?”) and gave the students 5 minutes to write about it. The question was “What is your last name?”

I thought this activity called into nice relief the difference between close- and open-ended questions. The only way students could actually spend 5 minutes writing on the topic I gave them was to make up and answer some other questions of their own, such as: “Where does my name come from?”, “Why do I hate my name”, “What does my name really mean?”, and “Who was my real father, anyway?”. Each time someone read their response, we tried to tease out the questions they had asked themselves to come up with that response.

Quick review:

  • A close-ended question is one which has a specific answer. If you want to get technical, you would have to say that with these types of questions, the person asking the question generally has some particular answer in mind. When we’re talking about literature, a close-ended question is one in which the answer to the question is found right in the text.
  • An open-ended question is one with multiple, even infinite, appropriate responses. These are often “why,” and “how,” type questions. When we’re talking about literature, these are the questions that require you to use the text, plus your own knowledge, experience, and imagination to answer them. No direct answer is found in the text.

After this discussion, we read Catcher. While we read, students wrote down questions on a sheet divided down the middle–one side for close-ended questions, and the other side for open-ended questions. They handed this sheet in and I’ll be grading it, in case you missed class today and are wondering what points you missed.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about a couple of different types of open-ended questions and we’ll try to come up with some good questions about Catcher.



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