Questions and Thinking in Common Core
Part 1: Teachers as Questioners
Teacher Strategies for a Questioning Classroom
Create a Culture of Questioning. Curiosity is at the heart of questioning. It creates a desire to learn and know. Celebrate and foster curiosity in your classroom by displaying unfamiliar artifacts (or online images of them), inviting questions about newspaper headlines, and showing historical photographs, cartoons, or posters and posing questions about them. Post quotations around the room for discussion as well as examples of effective questions. Occasionally show film clips which invite questions and spark discussion. Hearing you question out loud, asking “I wonder if…?” will let students hear questions on a regular basis. The resources below may also be useful as you work to create a sense of wonder and curiosity in your students.
Everyday Mysteries is a site maintained by the Library of Congress that encourages a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world. Bookmark it on your classroom computers and use as a resource when someone has a burning science question.
Science Bob Q&A provides a student-friendly question of the week which you could read and talk about together. Other ideas about how to use this site are listed in the Teachers First review.
A Picture is worth a thousand thoughts uses an archived photo from the Library of Congress to show how questions about it can be generated using the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Note that this resource uses the original Bloom’s Taxonomy, not the revised version.
Image detective is another project of the Library of Congress. Upper elementary students will enjoy the process of posing questions, making observations, and gathering clues about what is happening in historical photographs.
Develop routines and protocols around discussion. Provide direct instruction and guided practice with strategies such as Turn and Talk and Think-Pair-Share. CCSS Standard 1 for Listening and Speaking calls for students to engage effectively in collaborative discussions. They will need practice with respectful listening, speaking one at a time, following agreed-upon rules, asking effective questions and linking comments to the remarks of others. Train students so that they know that you expect an answer to your questions. Make a practice of having students summarize the thinking that has taken place, and make that thinking visible by posting the class summaries.
Infuse questions into your unit and lesson planning. Approach a new unit of study by thinking about what parts of the content may be challenging for students and how you might use questions to check for (mis)understandings. Thoughtfully prepare your questions ahead of time, being sure to include some lower-level ones for scaffolding purposes, and higher-order questions to stimulate discussion, “go deep” into content, and accomplish the goals for the lesson. Structure your questions in such a way that students can draw from previous learning and make strong connections to new content. Seek new perspectives with questions like “How else can we think about this?” or “What is another way to tackle this problem?”
Help students recognize that different types of questions have different purposes. Not all questions stimulate higher order thinking, but do not fall into the trap of categorizing questions as either “good” or “bad.” Questions are asked in order to obtain information. If a question can be answered and an information need is satisfied, it is not a “bad” question.
Incorporate questions into your own “Think Alouds.” When working with a piece of text or setting up a problem to solve, model questions that you grapple with as you proceed, showing how one question may lead to another and how questions provide a mindset for the learning or new information that is to come. Use domain-specific vocabulary during your think-alouds.
Reacquaint yourself with Bloom's Taxonomy. Now slightly revised for 21st Century learners, it provides a way to incorporate higher-order thinking. Consider carefully the language you use when crafting assignments and questions. With the help of Bloom's revised taxonomy and the verbs associated with it, you can provide meaningful, engaging learning opportunities for your students. Bloom's Revised Cognitive Domain is reviewed here. This site includes question starters, key words, and sample project ideas and activities based upon the taxonomy. Both teacher and student roles are clarified.
The Questioning and Thinking Skills strategy section of this wiki has much to offer as well, including colorful posters and Bloom's graphics to display. A number of other reviewed Bloom's resources are available at TeachersFirst, including these.
Use drama, and incorporate games that rely upon questioning. Twenty Questions uses yes or no questions but it encourages careful listening and requires students to use the information from one answer to build the next question. A form of Jeopardy can be played by supplying students with a one word answer, and then challenging them to think of possible questions that leads to that answer. (For example, “The answer is ______. What could the question be?” Hot Seat is another game sometimes used by teachers for students to practice questioning. This blog post explains the game and lists other questioning activities you might use in the context of Reader's Workshop, and more ideas for Hot Seat are found here as well. If you assign a reading for homework, challenge students to come up with the question that the writer was trying to answer in the text, or perhaps the most interesting question that remains unanswered after the reading.