One of the very first things I teach every year is that we are problem solvers, not problem keepers. It is usually about when to go to the bathroom or what to do when you need a pencil! I think on average I say that phrase about 50 times the first two weeks of school. It gets to be so routine that once I start to say it, the students will finish it:)
I used to think that I was doing something really good by getting them to think of solutions on their own and not having to rely on me, as their teacher, to solve it. After reading the book A More Beautiful Question (AMBQ) by Warren Berger, I realized that there is a much better way to get students to solve problems…by asking questions.
At my school, over 86% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In the book Berger (2014) mentions a study that proved that children that come from higher class families are encouraged by their parents to ask questions and students from working/middle class families are told to figure things out for themselves. It is clear that not only do I need to encourage questioning but I need to teach my students to ask.
I recall the second day of MAET class when we were told that we would be hosting a Maker Faire. First we were asked what questions we have. We came up with over 60 questions about Maker Faires. The next day we put the questions into categories (planning, locations, stations, etc.). Then we started to focus on the questions that were most important to us. We decided the next step would be getting into pairs to plan out booth. We learned SO much about Maker Faires through this process and had a successful event.
I took a lot notes about the questioning process we did because I found it to be inspiring and very effective. There is no doubt that I could do something like this with my students. Of course, like most things in life, it came full circle when I was reading AMBQ. Berger (2014) makes reference to the Right Question Institute and their steps for questioning. There are 6 steps:
Humans Depend on Natural Resources
When something really resonates with me, it is important for me to put it into context right away so that I don’t forget. Since I will be teaching 3rd grade this next year I wanted to focus on a science topic. A Michigan Grade Level Content Expectation in Science is E.ES.03.51: describe ways in which humans depend on the natural environment. A question focus I might provide would be humans depend on natural resources. I would challenge the students to come up with as many questions as possible. Once we categorize and choose our 3 favorite questions we can decide on next steps. A learning reflection might be a creation of some sort (infograph, screencast, iMovie, etc).
I have experienced this questioning model first hand. It was a great way for me to really think about a problem or question before just jumping right in to find the solution or answer. As an educator I realize the importance of questioning. Knowing that many of my students are not encouraged to question outside of school means that I have to teach them how to ask. It won’t be easy and I am prepared to make adjustments as we go. Hopefully soon when students have a problem they will ask questions to find a solution instead of just try to figure it out on their own!
Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question. New York: Bloomsbury USA.