PYP, Teaching

Questioning Conceptually

We are two weeks into our Passion Project and my kids have pretty much narrowed down their area of focus for their passion: travel, gardening, healthy living, animals, music….the list goes on.  These are all big, broad areas of interest, so how do we begin on our passion journey?

Our ‘way in’ was through the PYP concepts. We thought about these in two ways: as lenses and as keys. Some kids really bought into the idea that they were picking up and putting on different glasses with different colored lenses through which they would look at their topic.  Some kids bought into the idea that they were standing in a room with eight colored doors and each key in their hand unlocked a different door to step through to their passion. I was pretty impressed with the speed at which they figured this out, actually!

Download the cards below, updated to include related concepts, here. 

concept cards 2 concept cards 1

Each child made a set of concept cards using the following information.  A descriptor of the concept on one side, and curriculum area sample questions on the reverse. These were mounted on different colored cards and bound together with a ring. We were ready to begin!

picture-15 picture-16

I started with the whole class and a topic close to my own heart and one they could relate to: dogs. We started going through the concepts and thinking of questions that would fit that lens:

FORM: What are the distintive characteristics of a dog?

FUNCTION: How do the lungs of a dog work?

CHANGE: What are the newest medical advances that are now in place to help injured dogs?  

Each child was given a large concept question planner and, armed with their passion topic and their concept-question cards, were asked to think of questions for each concept.  PDF Concept Question Planner

Concept Question Planner

We discussed that some concepts may lend themselves to more questions and some to fewer questions. As we continue with this on Monday, my hope is that we can help each other focus our inquiries through the use of concepts. I also want to make sure that their time is spent on relevant, engaging and worthwhile questions.  I want their questions to be deep and open. But how?

I came across the idea of a Question Quadrant to help see if where your questions ‘fit’: The Quadrant can be used to distinguish closed and open questions that relate specifically to a text; or closed and open questions that stimulate intellectual curiosity.

Question Quadrant

I also really like the Visible Thinking routine Question Starts.

Question Starts

Once they have generated questions, I am thinking of using the Visible Thinking Routine, “Question Sorts” to help my students ensure they are really focusing on questions they care about:

Question Sorts

A question sort, would be similar looking to the question quadrant:

Question Sort

I am still thinking about how best to help them make the most of their inquiries.  I think we are off to a good start! I know a lot of the focus still remains on ‘producing a product’ which is not the goal of this project but is something that I think people are more comfortable with given that is how we were educated: to produce ‘something’.  My goal is to keep putting the tools out there and hoping that the more product oriented ideas arise from the deeper inquiry, rather than become the sole purpose of the project.

21 thoughts on “Questioning Conceptually”

  1. We need to get our students talking. They just did something similar–although not so well-enacted–today. Can they comment on each other’s blogs? Other ways?

  2. Love these ideas for questioning and using concepts…where did you find the key concept cards with categories that you put on the ring (or did you create them)? Love this!!

  3. Would you be willing to share your concept cards? I would love to use them in my room and give you proper credit for making them! Or are they on Teachers Pay Teachers? Thanks!

      1. If possible, I would love to get a copy of your concept cards. I too will give you credit. What a great way to get conversations started.

  4. I stumbles upon your website while searching for questions to drive the key concepts. Thank you so much for your hard work. It’s an excellent resource that every PYP teacher should have handy for ready reference.

  5. Brilliant post. I stumbled upon it planning to introduce the key concepts formally to my learners. I am just beginning my journey to be officially PYP certified. I’ve bookmarked you blog. I’ve always taught conceptually based in an student-led inquiry environment. I just introduced my learners to the concepts for our final units. I love the cards. Did you get them edited or do you have an editable version you wouldn’t mind sharing? I am currently teaching Grade 6 and would openly share anything of mine! I am a CC open source learner. @MHuiet

      1. Hi! This is amazing blog, exactly resonates with what I was planning with my students. Requesting you to grant access to the drive. It will be really grateful

  6. Hi Sonya
    Love your work! Was seeking permission to reproduce your question quadrant image for a presentation I am putting together as part of a tutorial on Inquiry Learning – I will reference your blog of course! Please let me know if this is ok with you. The presentation will be available online, but only to those who have the link to access (which will be the students of the course). It is part of LCN616 Inquiry Learning, a subject in the Master of Education qualification for Queensland University of Technology.

    Thanks again.

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