Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Laying the Foundation for STUDENT-based questioning

Before I can go forward in the process of documenting our INSPIRED journey into the power of inquiry, questions, and student discourse to leverage instruction and overall higher level learning over the next two years, I must take two steps back to post about two foundational steps that we took before beginning this blog journal.(This was step 1.)

My overall 2-year goal: To explore the potential of student-derived questions and subsequent text based discussion (TBD) to support student comprehension and learning from text. (I will only outline our  journey to find the answer to QUESTION 1 in this post.)

My personal guiding questions:

  • QUESTION 1: How do students learn to develop meaningful questions that promote student-to-student discussions that increase and deepen engagement and learning?

  • QUESTION 2: What does an effective discussion that promotes thoughtful engagement with text or content matter such as math, science, social studies, and knowledge building look and sound like?

  • QUESTION 3: When the students are engaged in student-to-student discourse, how can one monitor or gauge evidence of rigorous thinking?

QUESTION 1: How do students learn to develop meaningful questions that promote student-to-student discussions that increase and deepen engagement and learning?

It is my understanding from reading myriad articles, and to quote the Right Questioning Institute , “ the ability  to produce questions, improve questions and prioritize questions may be one of the most important—yet too often overlooked—skills that a student can acquire in their formal education. Strong critical thinking is often grounded in the questions we ask. By deliberately teaching questioning skills, we will be facilitating a process that will help students develop a mental muscle necessary for deeper learning, creativity and innovation, analysis, and problem solving.”

CCSS correlation - related to so many, I won’t even list them.

Lesson 1 - Students began by watching the visual presentation of the wordless book, Bluebird by Bob Staake ,which captures the “somber hues of loneliness and introspection”, and then following the six steps of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) method. (Feel free to check out Jay Corrigan, teacher specialist’s, Prezi”ntation” which hooked me in!)

1. The Question Focus (QFocus)
2. The Rules for Producing Questions
3. Producing Questions
4. Categorizing Questions
5. Prioritizing Questions
6. Next Steps
7. Reflection

(To keep this blog post as short as possible, here is a link to the in-depth description of implementing each step of the QFT method. )

OUTCOME:  Upon completing the prioritization and reflection process, ONE student-generated question became the basis of a very high-level whole-class evidence-based discussion.

  • How did the author use color, shades, and hues to define the theme of the story?

Lesson 2 - Students used the Text-Based-Discussion TBD sheet, adapted from Krista McDaniel, to prepare for their first TBD using the first lesson as background knowledge for generating questions.

OUTCOME: While the discussion was interesting to observe, it was the REFLECTION portion of the discussion that provided us with what we really needed to move forward with our questioning technique. The students evaluated the type of questions that they had discussed in their group, and which ones had the most profound impact. They came up with a list of SIX CRITERIA for effective, what we call - INSPIRED- questions as outlined below:
This criteria has been the bridge to extending our work towards answering QUESTION 2.

**I can tell that students understand the value of the an INSPIRED QUESTION, as they have elected to actually hold a collaborative question “revising and editing” session before formalizing their individual Text-Based-Discussion preparation sheets, and subsequently having a high-level, meaningful TBD. 


  1. I like this first week of school blog prompt:

    Three questions that you want to find the answers to this year.

  2. I love that, Tammy! Your statement is beautifully simple; yet, in it you can discover interests of each student, motivators, and possibilities for deep inquiry projects. Not to mention get/ keep them writing!

    I'm going to borrow it and do it also :) Thanks for sharing.