For whatever reason, I’ve gotten into a ton of conversations lately around the topic of compelling questions. Some of the conversations have focused on the creation of quality sample questions as part of the ongoing revision of our current state standards. There’s been discussions with schools and individual teachers as they continue to develop quality curriculum designs and instructional units.
And while there always will be – and should be – conversations about the differences between compelling, driving, essential, and supporting questions, the point remains the same. If we’re going to help our kids become knowledgable, engaged, and active citizens, they need to be solving problems and addressing questions. So quality questions of all kinds are something we need to be incorporating into our unit and lesson designs.
But what can they look like? Read more
Just finished a great two days with Rich Cairn from the Collaborative for Educational Services. Together with a small group of middle and high school teachers, we spent the time working to figure out effective ways to engage English Language Learners with social studies inquiry methods. Rich is in charge of Emerging America, a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project.
Part of what he does is to help teachers across Massachusetts – and now Kansas – use Library of Congress resources to make inquiry learning accessible to all learners. During our time together, we addressed a wide variety of topics – challenges faced by English Language Learners, challenges faced by teachers of EL students, ways to use graphic organizers to support language acquisition, using the LOC website, researching the history of immigration policies and court cases, and generally have an awesome time.
A small part of our conversation focused on the use of essential and compelling questions. Here in Kansas, we’ve been pushing compelling questions for a while. They play an important part in our current standards and are the key to a great inquiry-based lesson.
Question. Evidence. Solution. Communicate the solution. It all starts with a great problem to solve.
And during our conversation Rich shared a sweet definition of what a great historical inquiry-based question should look like in that process. He was happy to share it.
So . . . if you’re looking for a list of characteristics of what a compelling / essential / overarching / inquiry-based question should look like, here ya go: Read more
I just got off the phone with a former social studies teacher and current building admin. She’s working with several of her teachers as they develop standards-based lessons and units.
Part of the problem that they’re running into, of course, is that the state standards here in Kansas are not your typical standards. Our document does list some suggested people, places, events, and ideas for each grade level. But that list is not mandated or assessed at the state level. The social studies standards in Kansas is made up of a simple bulleted list:
- Choices have consequences
- Citizens have rights and responsibilities
- Societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas, and diversity
- Societies experience continuity and change over time
- Relationships among people, places, ideas, and environments are dynamic
The purpose behind this “simple” list is to encourage classroom instruction that ties social studies content to these big ideas. We used the term mental velcro a lot – why teach the aftermath of the Civil War? Why teach about the Army of Amazons in southeast Kansas? Why teach redlining in Chicago during the 1930s?
Because Read more
Several months ago, I posted some thoughts about the importance of creating better problems for our kids to solve. Basically I asked:
“If a kid can Google whatever you’re asking, what value are you bringing to the process? If they can ask Siri the answers that are on your test, why do they need you?”
The value we bring is a deep understanding of not just the content but the process needed to understand and apply that content. And the ability to create authentic and engaging questions that lead your kids into that content and process.
In the earlier post, I listed a few suggestions about what those sorts of questions might look like. I called them “un-Googleable” questions, the kinds of questions that Siri can’t really answer: Read more