Teaching Kids to Restate the Question in a Sorta Fun Way

Here’s what I mean by “restating the question”:

Question: What are the three major predators of kangaroos?
Correctly stated answer: The three major predators of kangaroos are people, dingoes, and crocodiles.
Incorrectly stated answer: People, dingoes, and crocodiles.

In short, answers should be expressed as complete sentences, but also give some sort of context for their existence. The way I explain it to my students is that any stranger, upon randomly picking up their work (as strangers are wont to do), should be able to understand the initial question by reading their answer. “People, dingoes, and crocodiles,” by itself, could be the answer to countless questions, such as “What are three species that should never be locked in a room together?”

Anyway, this is one of those annoying things that kids really should be doing but have trouble remembering, because it completely counters how real-live people talk:

BILL: How was your weekend?
MANDY: My weekend was fine. Did you watch anything interesting on TV?
BILL: Yes, I did watch something interesting on TV. It was the final episode of Breaking Bad. Did you see it?
MANDY: No, I did not see the final episode of Breaking Bad. I prefer The Vampire Diaries.
BILL: Why do you prefer The Vampire Diaries?
MANDY: I prefer The Vampire Diaries because…

Ugh—you get it. If people really talked like that we would never get to the important things in life, like chatting about your neighbor’s unfortunate new hairstyle and watching Ylvis videos on Youtube.

That being said, restating the question is actually an important skill for students to develop, if just to give them a more concrete reason to use complete sentences. Tired of constantly writing, “Restate the question!” over and over again on my students’ papers, I decided to make a creative writing center out of it. It’s kind of fun, too: Students are given completely ridiculous questions to answer, and their response is 100% correct as long as they restate the question and use proper punctuation.

For example:

Why do the houses of Planet Tyronial have so many extra chimneys?

ANSWER#1: The houses of Planet Tyronial have so many extra chimneys because there is so much pollution.

ANSWER#2: Because that’s where the Santa Claus clones live.

Answer#1 is correct because it restates the question. Answer#2—though a far more creative response—is wrong.

I attached a very simple worksheet; feel free to use it. Just change the questions if you use the center for more than one week. For enrichment, have students make up their own questions, or give them the answers and have them write the corresponding questions. Change it up!

It sounds crazy, but if you do this center consistently for a month or two, students will start to restate the question more often on legitimate exams. That’s been my experience, at least!

Restating the question

25 Responses

  1. Chris DeBlanc

    100% loved this assignment. I had my students performing the interaction between Bill and Mandy in front of their peers. They fully enjoyed doing it. I teach at a school with a very high poverty level. Discipline issues can be out of hand from time to time. This kept them interested and I was finally able to get them to understand, not only why they should restate, but why they should want to.
    Thank you sincerely,
    Chris DeBlanc

    1. J.A. White Post author

      Hi Chris,

      I’m so glad your students enjoyed the activity and got something out of it. Thanks for taking the time to let me know–it made my day!

    2. Changela Kirts

      This resource was just what I needed and my sixth graders loved it! It was easy to assess without taking a formal grade and the students got a better understanding of what it meant to restate questions! I loved it!

    3. Raegan

      thanks this is a amazing website it helps my daughter alot thanks again this is teach in my mom an dad they are learning along with my daughter

    4. Karen

      Love this. Thank you. I also teach why this needs to be done and like to have students practice. The silliness here makes this fun 🙂

  2. Amanda

    Hi there, I found your website Googling ways to teach kids how to restate questions in their answers. Thanks for the great center activity! I will be following you on Facebook.

  3. Annmarie

    Thanks so much for sharing this activity. I was able to change up the questions a little and insert some student names (which they always love). Thank you so much for this resource!!

    1. Kathy

      This is an awesome idea!! Thank you for sharing!You were the first site to show up when I searched “complete sentences”! That says a lot!

  4. Justin Weinmann

    I created a slide show explaining what readers could assume about your answers if you didn’t restate the question and included this activity in it. It’s a great way to explain why they need to restate the question. Thank you very much for sharing.

  5. Pingback: Complete Sentences & Restating the Question | History Illustrated

  6. Morgan

    Thank you for this resource! I’ve been practicing this strategy with my students this year, but adding the humor into this activity should make them more engaged with this important skill. Thank you for sharing!

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