Finding discipline-related problems, asking discipline-related questions
The comments from Rachel Bolstad and NZteacher both point to the kinds of questions children ask. Ideally (in my mind) we want children to ask questions and find problems that are consistent with the ‘whole game’ they are playing – whether that is the game of science, mathematics, or – in the example I gave – literary criticism.
If students are playing the whole game of literary criticism we want them to ask the types of questions of text that literary critics ask. The question asked by the students I observed – whether or not there really was a lion in the meadow – is a good example. It concerns the relationship between story and ‘reality’, and would not be out of place in a post-graduate English class. These children were also finding answers to their problem in ways consistent with the ‘whole game’ of literary criticism – by drawing on evidence from the text, their prior experiences, and the interpretations of others.
Do children and adults ask different types of questions of text? In my experience they sometimes do and this is usually due to different world views. That’s why I find talking with diverse others (including people of different ages) about a shared book more interesting than talking to people who see the world in much the same way that I do – because sometimes they ask different questions and sometimes they find different answers, or find their answers in different places. For example the children referred to above found another problem they wanted to solve in The Lion in the Meadow that never would have occurred to me. Their question was whether or not the dragon the little boy claims he sees in the meadow at the end of the story is in fact a friendly one (like the lion was). This is a very interesting question (given the ambiguous expression on the dragon’s face) and one I would never have thought to ask. I am now thinking about how we can best work together with children to construct problems and define questions that are consistent with the disciplines in which we are working.