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River Oaks Elementary School

Questions

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

'Once you have learned how to ask relevant and appropriate questions, you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning
what you want or need to know.'

'If we hope to see inventive thought infused with critical judgment, questions and questioning must become a priority of schooling and must gain recognition as a supremely important technology.'
-- Questioning as Technology by Jamie Mackenzie

Questions can move students beyond the surface-level of any kind of learning. Kids are full of curiosity, but they can learn to develop questions that lead them to dig down and reach for deeper thinking and knowledge building. Questions not only jump-start this process, but also fuel motivation to learn too. Essential to knowing how to learn in the 21st century is this ability!

Students can learn to distinguish between different kinds of questions. What makes some questions easier and some harder to answer? Sorting and creating categories for questions is helpful to get kids thinking this way. Which of our questions are open-ended and which are closed?  Which will be quick  to answer and which will be more challenging? Why? What other categories of questions can we make? QAR (question-answer-relationship) is yet another way to analyze questions and strategically search for answers.

2nd graders collaboratively brainstormed questions about the cycle of
the moon as part of their Unit of Inquiry about cycles in the natural world
for 'How the World Works.' Then they analyzed, categorized, and
color-coded them as thick or thin questions
. 3rd graders did the same
as part 
of their study of complex societies on the topic of the Inca
of South America 
for 'Where We Are in Time & Place.'

 (Question Cube template)




'Thick and thin'  is one way for students to categorize questions. 'Thick' questions demand deep thinking and making connections among new ideas. 'Thin' questions are important though too! Kids can't ask or answer those high-level questions without exploring some basic knowledge and comprehension questions about  Form and Function first. These lead to those 'thick' high-level questions later. 

As kids become aware of patterns and categories of questions, they begin to understand the kinds of questions they can ask in order to accomplish the thinking they need to do. 
As a result, they become better equipped to seek answers too. As researchers--students seek specific information that allows them to explore a particular topic. All information they find filters through their questions. Without the anchor of questions to guide them, they quickly become lost and overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information.

Interesting Reading:
The Question Mark: A an educational journal devoted to questions, questioning, strategic reading and quality teachingBeyond Cut & Paste: Engage Students with Questions of Import (fno.org)The Power of Questions: Angela MaiersCuriosity: M. Ross on Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers

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