Fascinating Facts

 

Opinion Questions

The text, Fascinating Facts, is sprinkled with questions. They are easy to spot because they are highlighted in a bold font. Here, for example, are the last two paragraphs of the chapter on Algeria.

From Fascinating Facts, by Ruth Foster:

How do camels keep sand from blowing up their noses? They can shut their nostrils. Camels also have a third eyelid. If sand gets past their first line of defense—really long lashes—the third eyelid comes down like a windshield wiper, moving side to side to wipe the sand away.

Hassiba Boulmerka became the first African woman to win a gold medal at the World Track and Field Championships in 1991 when she won the 1,500 meters. A year later, she became the first African women to win an Olympic gold metal. She ran 1,500 meters in 3 minutes and 55.30 seconds. Boulmerka has been spat on and pelted with rocks by Muslim fundamentalists who feel she has been disrespectful to God by "running with naked legs in front of thousands of men." Boulmerka says, "…my gold medal wasn't simply a victory for the moment. It was a victory for the future." What do you think Boulmerka meant?

The first question ("How do camels keep sand from blowing up their noses?") is the sort of question that teachers call an "in-the-text" question, because the answer is found right there in the text. In fact, in the very next sentence, the author, Ruth Foster, gives us the answer: "They can shut their nostrils."

Foster often uses such questions to transition from one paragraph to another. When she wants to bring up a new topic, she simply asks a question and then answers it.

The question at the end of the last paragraph ("What do you think Boulmerka meant?") is different. It's an opinion question. There is no right-or-wrong answer, and the answer isn't found in the text. It simply asks you to ponder the meaning of something Boulmerka said.

Opinion questions are a great opportunity for you to think deeply about current issues and share your own opinions. Here, for example, is how I might answer that question:

Boulmerka probably meant that her gold medal would have a positive effect on future generations of Algerians . . .

But wait! I can't just drop that into the middle of my letter. If I did, my reader would be confused: Who is Boulmerka? And what exactly did she say?

So let me start again, and this time I'll start by supplying the context in which the question was asked:

In the town square there is a statue of Hassiba Boulmerka, the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal. According to my guidebook, Boulmerka said, "My gold medal wasn't simply a victory for the moment. It was a victory for the future.”

I think that Boulmerka probably meant that her gold medal would have a positive effect on future generations of Algerians. For example, young female athletes would now have a role model—someone who is living proof that Algerian women can compete—and win!—at the highest levels of international competition.

Furthermore, some Algerians might be forced to re-examine their old-fashioned attitudes regarding women competing in sports. Many people may not have believed that women were capable of athletic excellence, but now they have proof that women can be awesome athletes. All these things, I'm sure, will have positive effect on Algerian cultural attitudes, and thus Boulmerka's medal is a "win" for Algeria's future.

See how I did that? I used a statue of Boulmerka as an excuse to quote the text, and then I went on to ponder the meaning of the quote.

You too will have to find creative ways to answer opinion questions, without sounding like you're answering questions on a worksheet.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the Questions.

Quiz