Happy Monday! Today I’m sharing five more strategies for guiding students in inquiry questioning. Let’s dive right in!
Set Students up for Success in Explore
My mind was blown the first time I realized I could directly impact student questions with the resources curated for the Explore phase. This strategy is especially useful for a learning team that is concerned that students may miss out on critical content in a GID unit. By carefully curating the resources that inspire inquiry questions, we can guide students toward required content and help ensure their questions are right for the unit.
Here’s an example from a real-life unit: 8th graders rotated through several stations during Explore. At each location, there were primary and secondary sources, photographs and video, articles, infographics and more for students to dip into the content. Each station had a theme under the unit concept of Displacement: the Syrian refugee crisis, Japanese internment, the Holocaust, Natural Disasters, and so on. After exploring each station, the vast majority of student questions came from the materials they had interacted with during Explore. We were intentional with the content we included and that which was excluded from the first three phases of the unit in order to guide students toward the content we wished to cover.
Provide a Structure
As in everything else, students benefit from structure in questioning. A questioning structure helps students to recognize the quality of their own questions in a way that they can continue to use in the future.
There are many ways to structure questions: Thick vs. Thin, Leveled, or using a Question Builder. But the way I have found that works best for my students is Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 questions. Based on the AVID questioning structure, I have found that this structure is complex enough to help my students write high-level inquiry questions, yet simple enough that they can clearly distinguish the three types of questions.
Here is a video I made for my students explaining the 3 Levels of questioning:
Get Started on the Right Foot
Another strategy I use to help students write excellent inquiry questions is to actually start their questions together. As a group brainstorm, we list as many question words as we can: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How, Does/Did, etc. Then together, we cross out those question words that always lead us to Level 1 inquiry questions, leaving us with What, Why, and How. These are the question words that are most likely to begin a quality Level 3 inquiry question.
For students who continue to struggle with getting started, I have also provided sentence stems to help set them off in the right direction. With questioning, we want students focused on a question they are excited to answer, not feeling frustrated with the questioning process. Questioning often needs scaffolding just like anything else.
One on One Conferencing
In over 20 GID units, I have never passed the Identify phase without conferencing individually with every single student. Though it can seem logistically daunting, the benefits of face time with every learner as they work through their own questioning process far outweigh the costs.
In these conferences, I discuss with the student the level of their question, how it relates to the unit concept and their own interest, and how they will approach researching the answer to the question. I try to ask vague and open-ended questions that help the student come to their own conclusions about their inquiry question. Some students require more guidance than others, but eventually I know that each student will end up with a high level inquiry question that meets the needs of both the classroom curriculum and their own interests.
Let Them Ask the Bad Question
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if we conference or how much structure and support we provide to a student, they will insist on writing an inquiry question that does not meet the criteria we are looking for. In these cases, sometimes it is best to allow the student the opportunity to pursue their question and find that their avenue of inquiry leads to a dead end. It’s important that students understand that they always have the opportunity to loop back to Identify after moving on should they find their question does not work.
In this same vein, I often have students ask questions so specific, they find very limited information to answer them. In these cases, the trial and error involved in adjusting the question after beginning to Gather can be a valuable learning experience for the student. Real life inquiry is not perfectly linear, and Guided Inquiry units don’t have to be either!
I hope that you find these strategies as useful as I have for facilitating student questioning. If you have your own tricks or tips for helping your students write awesome inquiry questions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Until next time!