In my last post, I declared my love for the question trail, a magical strategy that can automatically make any content or skill engaging, student-centered, kinesthetic, and fun! If you’re wanting to learn more about this unique activity, head back there. When you’ve wrapped your mind around the strategy and are ready to learn about how to use it in your classroom, come back to this post!
Question trails are so versatile and adaptable that you can use them for just about anything. The general rule is that if you can convert the content/skill into multiple-choice questions, you can create a question trail for it. And if you already have questions and a time-saving question trail template, you can quickly whip one up for a lesson as soon as tomorrow!
Quick Side Note: Obviously, multiple-choice questions can’t fully assess high-order thinking or all of the standards we teach, but they can help students work on fundamental skills on their journey to mastery. For example, a question trail can’t help students learn how to write a literary analysis essay on theme, but it can help students practice identifying the strongest piece of textual evidence to support a claim (a skill they will need as they write the essay). Keep this in mind as you’re planning when and how to use a question trail in class.
Ready to start brainstorming some ways to use question trails in your classroom? Here are 10 different ideas to get your creative, lesson-planning energy flowing:
Question trails work especially well for those things that can be difficult to make fun…like vocabulary! To be clear, I love vocabulary, but I’ve found that most students groan at the mention of it. Thankfully, a question trail can save the day! Whether you are introducing new vocabulary, practicing context clue skills, or reviewing vocabulary, you can probably find a way to convert your content into a question trail. Think fill-in-the-blank style questions where students identify the correct word, or “As used in this sentence, what does [word] mean?” These types of vocabulary in context questions are especially helpful for students preparing to take the ACT and/or SAT. You can check out some vocabulary in context/test prep question trails HERE.
2. UNIT REVIEW
Because question trails give both the student and teacher immediate feedback, they offer great practice to help students review for an upcoming assessment. The activity itself is very revealing; you’ll quickly see which students are struggling and which questions are tripping students up. During the trail, you can offer targeted support to students who need it. After the activity, you can review the most-missed questions, reteach what you need to, and make sure students know exactly what they need to study or work on.
3. FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE
Does anybody else feel like you’re constantly reviewing figurative language because students learn it and forget it every year? Students usually remember more than they realize at first, so a quick figurative language question trail is a great way to review! It’s also a great way to sneak in more repeated practice throughout the year so students remember similes and metaphors once and for all. You can check out my various figurative language question trails below:
- Figurative Language in Songs Question Trail (Middle School)
- “All Summer in a Day” Figurative Language Question Trail
- Before The Ever After Figurative Language Question Trail
4. LITERARY DEVICES
Literary devices are another example of something we are constantly asking students to identify and analyze in ELA. Students need practice with these devices in a variety of texts and contexts, and a question trail is a great way to offer that experience. Whether you’re reinforcing devices in preparation for a literary analysis essay, reviewing poetic devices for a poetry unit, or identifying devices in a novel/story, a question trail is an engaging option.
- Rhetorical Devices in Songs Question Trail #1
- Rhetorical Devices in Songs Question Trail #2
- Poetic Devices Question Trail
- Harlem Renaissance Poetic Devices Question Trail
- Winter-themed Literary Devices Question Trail
- Edgar Allan Poe Literary Devices Question Trail
5. RHETORICAL APPEALS & LOGICAL FALLACIES
Similar to figurative language and literary devices, rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos) and logical fallacies can be tricky for students. Students need to see lots of real-life examples and engage in repeated practice before they feel confident analyzing these appeals and using them in their own writing. A question trail can be a great way to give students the repeated, low-risk practice they need. For an extension or “early finisher” activity, ask students to select one example from the question trail to analyze or emulate in their own writing.
6. READING COMPREHENSION
Whether you’re reading nonfiction or in the middle of a novel unit, a question trail is a great way to mix things up and quickly assess reading comprehension. You can even encourage students to refer to the text by including page number “hints” on questions (or give these hints out when students need extra help). I find that question trails help me discern which students are comprehending the text and ready for analysis, which students are reading but struggling to comprehend, and which students may be skipping their reading homework. Not only do question trails give you great informal data to help you plan future lessons, but they also give you the chance to help students right when they need it. Since the trail is so student-led, you have the time to check in with whoever needs your assistance the most.
- Question trail in my A Long Walk to Water unit
- Question trail in my unit for The Giver
7. LITERARY ANALYSIS
While question trails work well for identification and comprehension questions, you can also use them to practice literary analysis skills. These types of questions are more challenging to create, but they will challenge your students more than easy recall questions. If you’re stuck on crafting higher-order thinking questions, check out examples on platforms like Common Lit and Newsela, as well as examples from state tests. Speaking of standardized tests, that brings us to the next idea!
8. STANDARDIZED TEST PREP
If you’re tired of dreading those days that you just have to devote to standardized test prep, take those multiple-choice questions and turn them into a question trail. You probably have access to example questions, a book full of practice questions, or a digital question bank, so it won’t take much extra work when you have a question trail template.
If you’re anything like me, then you might dread teaching grammar just as much as test prep! It might feel impossible to make a grammar lesson engaging, but a question trail can save the day. Whether students are identifying parts of speech, sentence errors, correct usage, etc, it’s simple to convert grammar to multiple-choice questions. But you probably don’t even need to do that. Chances are you can find student-ready questions in your existing worksheets, a grammar workbook, or online on test prep sites. Simply plug those questions into a pre-sequenced question trail template, and you’re good to go!
10. MINI QUESTION TRAIL (OR ONE AS A STATION ACTIVITY)
If you’re excited to try a question trail but want to start small, you can opt for a “mini” question trail as part of learning stations or centers. This can function as a trial run to give both you and your students a taste of what a full question trail might look like. If you do this, keep it small (5-6 questions) and make sure small-group sizes do not exceed the number of questions on the trail. For example, if students will be in groups of 4-5, make sure you have 5 questions. If you try to do a mini trail with too many students, you’ll end up with too much traffic along the trail.
To see some of these types of question trails in action, check out these Instagram reels below:
- What a question trail looks like in action
- Why you should try question trails
- Reviewing figurative language with question trails
- Question trail pro tip
- What’s a question trail?
I hope these ideas help you brainstorm different ways to use question trails in your classroom! For more examples of question trails, you can check out my collection of student-ready trails HERE and create-your-own trail templates HERE.