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