________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006


Q Tasks: How to Empower Students to Ask Questions and Care About Answers.

Carol Koechlin & Sandi Zwaan.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2006.
144 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 1-55138-197-4.

Subject Headings:
Creative thinking-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Creative thinking-Study and teaching (Secondary).
Critical thinking-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Critical thinking-Study and teaching (Secondary).


Review by Reesa Cohen.

*** /4



The title describes the contents of this new book from Koechlin and Zwaan very well. With critical thinking and inquiry a continuing focus in classrooms and school libraries, it is also very timely. The authors see the question as the critical key to understanding.

It is the question that stirs the intellect, wakes up the neurons and provides the stimulus for students to do something with the raw numbers, charts, and data they have gathered or been presented with. The question can be prompted by both the curiosity of the student and the instructional intent of the educator.

     The next six chapters build on this premise and show both the teacher and students that questioning is a skill to be appreciated and nurtured. The first five chapters cover the topics - Encouraging Curiosity; Understanding Questions; Learning to Question; Questioning to Learn; Questioning to Progress. Each chapter builds upon the skills outlined in the one before. All follow a similar format. A "Q Task" or exercise is identified and clarified. Headings of "Building and Demonstrating Understanding" explore teaching ideas, offer strategies and assessment tips. "Q Tips" complete each task, and these range from quotes, to web sites, to further ideas to reinforce the skills. Some chapters feature "Q Task Quickies" which offers further ideas for the use of skills in the classroom.

     The last chapter, "Moving Forward," advances ideas for students to continue this mastery of building good questions and offers teachers a planning map to guide them in the teaching of this ability. There is an index, a list of resources and web sites on the topic of questioning. The team of Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan bring considerable experience to the field of writing for teachers and teacher-librarians, with other books to their credit such as Info Tasks for Successful Learning and Teaching Tools for the Information Age. The inclusion of modeling techniques, the crossover to many curriculum connections, the appeal to different student strengths, and the challenging and creative strategies which can scaffold student learning, are all positive aspects of this title. However there are several very familiar ideas which readers will have seen before and which have been recycled and adapted from other discussions, books, and articles on the topic, even from the authors' own earlier works. These are noted. And like the authors’ other titles, there are a number of reproducible worksheets which many teachers might find appealing while others will see this feature as being a "workbook" with a new name. Grade levels are not specified, but many of the strategies are suitable for early and middle years, although some of the underlying concepts could be adapted for the high school level as well.

     Overriding any negatives is the worthy purpose in exploring the importance of questions and the offering of an extensive collection of practical, flexible exercises that have worked for the authors. Readers can pick and choose what might work as an inspiration to promote a student's natural curiosity and help each to develop the ability to formulate good questions in an information-rich environment.


Reesa Cohen is an Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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