How does time go by so quickly? I do realize that my pacing guide only has 12 fixed schedule lessons for each grade, but at the beginning of the year it seems like there is so much opportunity. As the year goes on I realize more how many choices I have to make for instructional time.
My rule for this year has been ‘no projects.’ I don’t want to do anything in these fixed schedule classes that is a project. It seems a little harsh when I say it aloud and completely devoid of fun. But in a 45 minute time block that has 20 minutes of book checkout also planned it is impossible to carry projects from one week to the next. My goal was to keep it simple.
Another goal I had was to teach with more Visible Thinking Routines.
One of our objectives in Fifth Grade is to ask questions about a topic. I decided to work on this isolated standard with a new-to-me Thinking Routine. I found one called Creative Questions.
I started the lesson by reminding students of how often they asked questions when they were little. Young children ask all of these questions because they’re trying to figure life out. Recently my niece is asking, “Dinnertime?” at almost every meal, and when she wakes up from naps, and during snacks. If my students ask “When is dinner time?” they’re asking because they want to know, or because they’re hungry. If they repeat the question it’s because they forgot the answer or because they’re REALLY hungry! But my niece is trying to figure out how dinner is different from breakfast, lunch and snacks. What kind of food is dinner food? When in the sequence of the day is it? And she needs a lot of repetition at the age of two.
We naturally ask fewer questions as we get older, but we also need to know when to ask questions and how to ask them skillfully so we can get what we want and learn what we need to know.
As students head into Science Fair they’ll be asking a lot of questions. These questions don’t have outcomes that are set in a book. The outcomes require experimental procedures, trials, and repetition. Good researchers ask curious questions that may seem crazy or silly, but they require THINKING to answer them. The answers don’t just come directly from a book.
So here’s what we did….
I showed the students a picture from my set of Curiosity Cards, which is in my Kindergarten Assessment Tools Kit (long story behind that one folks…. there will be sets for older grades sometime!).
It’s a picture of a lava flow. The picture is just to spark the topic for brainstorming questions. We start with simple basic questions.
How hot is it? Why is it red? Where is the volcano? What is the lava made out of? How did it form?
Then I show them the list of Creative Question Stems. I model and we ask some new questions that would require inference to answer. The questions may seem silly, but when you answer them you realize how much you really know about the topic.
What would happen if rock melted at room temperature? What would it be like if this volcano were in the school parking lot? What would it be like if lava were the temperature of ice? What would it be like if lava were blue?
Some of the students will try to ask silly questions.
Silly questions are THE BEST! Answering them still requires that the students know something about the original topic. It requires them to be thinkers.
Students got their own Curiosity Cards at tables along with a workpage for writing simple questions and creative questions. They worked with a partner to fill in both halves of this page, bouncing ideas off one another.
One of my favorite moments came when two boys shared their question with me: “What if it were blue?”
“It” being some kind of gray monkey that blended in perfectly with it’s gray tree.
“You think you’re being silly, don’t you?”
The grins on their faces told me everything.
“But, I love this question! What WOULD happen if the monkey were blue?”
All of a sudden they’re realizing that the monkey would no longer be camouflaged. If the monkey were bright blue in this gray environment it wouldn’t be able to sneak up on prey. It might be caught by a predator. All of a sudden the entire existence of this monkey is in complete jeopardy!
To answer this silly question my students would have to know about adaptions, predator-prey relationships, and the dangers of extinction!
Love and more love for this lesson!
Each table sent two ambassadors to the next table and they question-swapped their favorite Creative Question.
As a class we came back together to share 3 final questions with the whole class. Over half the class wanted to share. With each one we realized how much we could really learn if we explored the question further and how much we would have to know about our topic!
I will definitely be using this Visible Thinking Routine Again!
What are some of your favorite lessons for teaching questioning?