I seem to write a lot about questions. The more I look into them, the more I see the massive potential they have to revolutionize the way we teach and the way students learn.
In preparing to share some ideas on questions at our faculty meeting, I came across an article about questions. The article reflected on the results of a study in which they found that mothers are the people in the world who are asked the most questions each day. And that the most inquisitive of question askers are four year old girls, who seek answers to an incredible 390 questions per day – averaging a question every 1 minute 56 seconds of their waking day.
I began the meeting by sharing the five most difficult questions kids ask – an interesting mix of curiosities (check out the presentation to see them).
All this was to lead into Essential Questions for math. I spoke again about Wiggins and McTighe and the different kinds of questions we tend to ask:
Questions that lead: e.g. What is 4 x 3?
- Asked to be answered
- Have a “correct” answer
- Support recall and information finding
- Asked once (or until the answer is given)
- Require no (or minimal) support
Questions that guide: e.g. How do we know the answer is zero?
- Asked to encourage and guide exploration of a topic
- Point toward desired knowledge and skill (but not necessarily to a single answer)
- May be asked over time (e.g., throughout a unit)
- Generally require some explanation and support
Questions that hook: e.g. Could we go through the whole day without using math?
- Asked to interest learners around a new topic
- May spark curiosity, questions, or debate
- Often framed in engaging “kid language”
- Asked once or twice, but not revisited
We were looking at essential questions: ones that are “essential for students to continuously examine so as to ‘come to an understanding’ of key ideas and processes.” (Wiggins and McTighe).
In math, these could look like:
Grade level teams are now in the process of adding essential questions to their math planners. To support this work are the following resources:
Essential Questions by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe
Ultimately, it is all about the quality of the questions we ask. When I was working in Boise, I was fortunate to work with an outstanding parent community. During the Exhibition, two of these parents, Marty and Lydia Baird, spent a lot of time working in my class with students on engaging their audience in a presentation. How do you create engagement? You get people thinking. How do you get people thinking? You ask great questions.