Monday, September 12, 2016

What's the Question? Who is asking?

A hallmark of the standards is the development of questions! Perhaps while concentrating on reading closely and writing in different types and genre, questions have taken a back seat. However, reading standard 1 in the early grades emphasizes teaching students how to ask and answer questions. Additionally, all the inquiry and research connected to the reading, writing, and speaking/listening standards, require the development and pursuit of interesting and important questions.

Help is available.
  • The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) is a simple, but rigorous, step-by-step process designed to help students produce, improve, and strategize on how to use their questions. The QFT allows students to practice three thinking abilities in one process: divergent, convergent, and metacognitive thinking. The QFT helps students become more curious and engaged learners—when students ask questions it is a shortcut, not a detour, to deeper learning.  Use backwards planning to guide your use of the QFT. The QFT Planning Tool can help to identify your teaching goals, consider how students' questions may be used, design a Question Focus (QFocus), develop prioritization instructions, and create reflection questions. Signup for the Educator Network at to access free resources and content.
  • From Warren Berger:It’s back-to-school time, so I wanted to share this excellent article that appeared earlier this year on the education blog MindShift. It was written by journalist Katrina Schwartz, who attended a talk I gave at an education conference hosted by the Nueva School in California. I didn’t even know Katrina was there in the crowd, but in any case she captured the essence of the talk very well in her article. It’s about the things that tend to keep kids from asking questions in class. And it offers some suggestions of what we all might do about that. I also love that in her post, Katrina includes a video clip of George Carlin. Check it out: The article also offers 5 ways to help students become better questioners.
  • To get started, look at the essential questions associated with the model curriculum units. Have students develop open-ended questions that peak curiosity associated with the essential question. Subsequently, develop your own essential questions based on whatever the content or topic.
Questioning supports curiosity. Curiosity is one of those prized attributes that seems to be increasingly lost in our busy lives. With our current standards, emphasis on inquiry and question-development brings curiosity and pursuit of understanding or creativity that develops novel solutions to problems right to the top of our priority lists. In your own quest for creating the best open-ended, higher-order questions to present to your students, keep in mind the importance of giving students the opportunity to be your apprentices in learning to ask and pursue the most adventurous and beautiful questions.

Be patient with yourself and your students as you begin to emphasize questioning and creating an atmosphere of challenge with safety and acceptance. I can remember times when at first hearing a student's question, I thought it was insincere or meant to throw us off track. With trust and true curiosity on my part, these turned out to be some of the best questions - the ones that led us into new learning and creative pursuits. Good luck and above all enjoy the inquiry journey.