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powerful questions

Page history last edited by Bob Hofman 9 years, 9 months ago

Note: This page is based on a document created by Mr. Garfield Gini-Newman / Thinking Consortium
and kindly share with GTP to support the process of creating a really powerful question for the Learning Circle.


Modelling the Tools:Asking Powerful Questions

 

Overview The detailed suggestions that follow help students learn to frame effective questions. In preparation for a visit by a classroom guest, students brainstorm criteria for a powerful question and then use these criteria to assess generated questions. Each student selects a powerful question to ask of the guest.

 

Preplanning Build background knowledge.

  • In the days and weeks leading up to a visit by a guest, build students' background knowledge about the topic that will be the focus of the guest's visit. This may mean reading stories or sharing pictures.

 

Session One Introduce the upcoming guest.

  • Explain that a guest will be coming in the near future to talk about a topic that the class has been studying. Provide background about the guest and invite students to consider what they would like to learn form this guest. Ask students to think about what would be a really good question–a really powerful question–to ask.

 

Discuss the concept of criteria.

  • If the class has not previously worked with the concept of criteria, provide a definition (e.g., criteria are how we recognize whether something is what we say it is) and invite students to provide examples of criteria for familiar things; e.g., What does a nice person look like? Do? Sound like? What would a mean person look like? Do? Sound like?

 

Explore criteria for a powerful question.

  • As a class, brainstorm criteria for a powerful question. From the brainstormed list, ask students to select up to five criteria that they think are most important in recognizing a powerful question (see sample criteria below). You may want to cluster similar criteria into a more encompassing term.

 

Criteria for Powerful Questions

  • give you lots of information

  • are specific to the person or situation

  • are open-ended; i.e., can't be answered by yes or no

  • may be unexpected

  • are usually not easy to answer

This list of criteria was generated by a multi-aged class of K to 3 students at Charles Dickens Annex in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Brainstorm possible questions.

  • Ask students to think of questions they would like to ask the guest. Encourage students to use the criteria in formulating their questions. Record questions generated during the class brainstorming.

 

Powerful Questions Asked of a World War II Veteran

  • Why did you fight in the war?

  • Do you remember some of your friends from the war?

  • Which countries did you fight over?

  • Where did you live during the war?

  • Were there any women in World War II? If so, what were their jobs?

  • What started the fighting?

  • Why was Canada involved?

  • What was your safe place?

These questions were generated, using the criteria listed above, by a multi-aged class of K to 3 students at Charles Dickens Annex in Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

 

Identify powerful questions.

  • Model how to use the Student Checklist to evaluate the quality of the questions provided during the brainstorming. Point out the criteria in the LH column of the checklist. Involve the students in providing evidence of how the question meets the criteria for a powerful question as well as providing suggestions for improving questions that do not yet meet the criteria for a powerful question.

 

Sample #1

Student Checklist: Are my questions powerful?

 

This is one of my questions:

 

Why did you fight in the war?

 

 

 

 

 

Is the question:

Yes, because . . .

No, but here’s how I can make it better:

  • open ended? Will it give me more than a yes-no answer?

 

 

My question is a why question. The guest will have to explain his reasons.

 

  • specific to the person or situation? Will it give me important information?

 

The question asks him to tell why he fought so it is specific to him.

 

  • not too easy to answer? Will it give me interesting information?

 

 

 

I think it will give me interesting information. I don’t know anyone who fought in the war. I want to know why he wanted to go and be in the war.

 

 

Sample #2

Student Checklist: Are my questions powerful?

 

This is one of my questions:

 

Do you remember some of your friends from the war?

 

 

 

 

 

Is the question:

Yes, because . . .

No, but here’s how I can make it better:

  • open ended? Will it give me more than a yes-no answer?

 

 

 

Who were some of your friends from the war? Do you still see any of them?

  • specific to the person or situation? Will it give me important information?

 

The new question will give me specific information about his friends.

 

  • not too easy to answer? Will it give me interesting information?

 

 

The new question will give me interesting information. I think it will be fun to hear stories about our guest’s friends.

 

 

 

 

  • Ask each student to write out two or more powerful questions they would like to ask of their guest. Make it clear that students will NOT be required to ask their questions orally if they do not wish to do so.

  • Involve the students in self reflection or peer coaching using the Student Checklist to evaluate the quality of their questions. Adjust the criteria on the Student Checklist to align with the criteria generated by the class. Encourage students to make adjustments to their questions based on the evidence identified in the checklist.

 

 

 

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