I’m a great fan of the Project Zero Visible Thinking program and its ‘thinking routines‘ which provide simple structures to support student thinking and questioning. If you start a unit of inquiry with a powerful provocation that hooks students into the big ideas, followed by an appropriate thinking routine, like ‘See Think, Wonder’ or ‘Connect, Extend, Challenge’, or ‘Question Starts‘ you’ll have kids asking great questions right from the start.
What do you do with student questions?
If you’re an inquiry teacher, you’ll know it’s not just about providing answers! We’ve spent some time recently exploring ways of analysing students’ questions. Here are some approaches that we have tried:
A range of student questions were gathered, printed off and cut into strips, one question on each. The ‘central idea‘ (enduring understanding), lines of inquiry and key concepts were printed on another sheet. In pairs, the teachers sorted the questions in any way they chose. Some assessed the questions’ relevance to the central idea. Others grouped them by concepts. Another group sorted them into deep and shallow questions, ones you could ‘google’ for a quick answer and ones that would lead to deeper inquiry. Irrespective, there was careful consideration of the questions and great conversation ensued as a result.
In another session, a group consisting of teachers from different grade levels analysed a set of questions from a Year 1 class, using the LAST protocol from Project Zero, which includes these steps: explaining the task, describing the work, speculating about students’ thinking, asking questions about the work and discussing implications for teaching and learning. The Year 1 teacher (who didn’t participate till the fourth stage, as per the protocol guidelines) found the suggested directions and strategies for future teaching and learning really valuable.
In both sessions, the questions revealed where learners were in terms of their understanding, misconceptions which needed to be corrected and areas of interest, which could guide where the teacher might take the inquiry next… or where students might go with their own inquiries.
We’re planing on developing the process further next year. Really ‘listening to’ and analysing students’ thinking reveals a great deal about both the learners and the learning process. Documenting and tracking students’ thinking and questions over time would reveal even more about individual learners… but that’s another story for a future post.
Flickr image by Dom Dada.