Asking questions is a natural to all human beings. We know this because as soon as babies can socialize they are asking questions. Even before they are verbal babies point to objects and make noises. We know they are exploring their new world.
When those babies learn language they spend the first few years of life constantly asking questions. Kids ask thousands of questions a day…. and then they stop.
What could possibly turn off the curiosity of a child? Silence the tiny investigator that lives in their brains?
School. Once kids enter formal schooling at the age of 5 they stop asking questions.
No one directly tells kids to stop asking questions, but they learn that asking questions does is not appreciated. We have curriculum…. There’s standardized tests to take…. How will we finish the end of the unit if the kids keep asking questions…..
And so students learn to not ask questions and the skill of investigating the world around us and being genuinely curious about life dies a tragic death because of….. education.
Stop the Spiral
Our kids have access to all of human knowledge on their smart phones, but cannot access it. Not because of lack of internet connection, but because they don’t know the questions to ask. As a frustrated teacher I could not wrap my head around this. How do children have access to so much knowledge but are inept at accessing it. Then, by chance I happened upon a book that changed the way I taught.
This. Book. Changed. My. Life.
The entire way I taught transformed in the course of a few hundred pages. I felt as if I was seeing the world for the first time and the colors were brighter and the edges clearer.
Immediately my teaching changed and I have never looked back.
Question Formulation Technique
Question Formulation Technique to the system of reteaching out kids how to ask questions. All neglected skills rust and asking good questions is no different.
Students must be explicitly taught how to ask, sort and deepen their questions. I order to successfully operate in a quickly evolving world they must be able to access information and dig for deeper meanings. We no longer operate in a world were we just do what we’re told. The future is being created by those that ask questions and let their curiosity lead them.
The Right Question Institute has created a amazing resources and training’s that teach teachers how to harness this power.
When students ask questions they guide their own learning. They can create the units, the topics, the projects.
They are the architects of their own learning.
The first formal lesson of my school year is teaching question formulation technique. This is how important I believe it is for a rich learning environment.
I teach U.S. Government to 8th graders. My first content unit is social contract theory, not exactly the topic that drives an enthusiastic response from the pre-teen crowd.
To give this unit life we jump off with a quote. Students then use post it’s to write as many questions as possible.
Quantity over Quality.
We then discuss the different types of questions and what their function is.
What is an open question? What is it’s purpose? How could we use it?
Then there is a flutter of post its. Using their spacial intelligence students find free space on their desk, wall, bulletin board, anywhere that is free to help sort their questions. I find using the space helps students process the learning. It also allows movement during the day and a chance to break out of old models of what learning looks like.
After sorting we discuss, rearrange and create new questions. Change open ended to close, closed to open. Can these questions be googled? What could we do with this information?
Finally we end with a discussion, because we started with a quote, but it was never discussed.
What does this quote mean to you?
This is the presentation that I use. The quote changes. Sometimes it’s an image, sometimes music. The steps are always the same.
I model this technique at every opportunity. Most of my communication with my students is in questions form. Instead of being the sage on the stage, I’m the Riddler of social studies. Asking the questions, teasing out information and asking students to fill in the holes themselves.
We use question formulation technique in every unit throughout the year. It drives research, creates study guides, deepens harkness discussions and even casual class discussions.
Let me know what you think!