Saturday, September 16, 2017

Getting to GREAT Questions for Inquiry: Talking with your students draws out their best intentions

Parts of this blog published in the book Guided Inquiry Design in Action:Elementary School.  

In an inquiry unit on waves, a group of fourth grade students generated the following list of questions. The questions were documented in a collaborative Google Document at the end of the Explore phase in the Guided Inquiry Design process. 

Student Chat - Sound Wave Questions

1.     How are waves created?
2.     In what ways do waves affect human beings?
3.     How do we harness waves?
4.     Why can’t we see waves with our naked eye?
5.     What’s the point of waves?
6.     What makes sound waves waver?
7.     How do sound waves (as in music) make us feel?
8.     How did humans find out about waves?
9.     How many waves are started in a day?
10. Do people always use waves?
11. What creates waves?
12. Do animals use waves?
13. What makes waves?
14. Will people ever see waves?
15. Does electricity carry waves?
16. Do people carry waves? 
17. What start waves?
18. Can waves be dangerous?
19. Can sound waves kill people?!
20. How are waves so dangerous?
21. How much noise would you need to make your hearing worse?
22. Can you make waves by just tapping anything?
23. How many ways are there to make a wave?
24. How did people discover waves?
25. Is there a way to see waves?
26. How big can waves be? How small can waves be?
27. How fast can waves go?
28. How do sound waves get into our ears seriously?!
29. Are waves dangerous?! !!!!!!!!!
30. How are waves invented? 
31. Why do we have waves?
32. Are waves different?
33. How many waves types do scientist think there are?

34. What are waves made of?
35. Why do we need waves?
36. Why are waves so important?
37. How are waves made?
38. On an average, how fast do sound waves travel?
39. Why are waves so apart/different?
40. How and why do waves move in different directions?
41. How are waves made?
42. Are waves fast?
43. Who invented waves?
44. Are waves slow?
45. Why are waves so important?
46. How are waves made? 
47. Why do we need waves everywhere?
48. Why do we have waves?
49. How do waves move? 
50. Where are waves?
51. How many waves come a year?
52. How many waves are started in a day?
53. How fast can waves go?
54. Why do we need  waves everywhere?
55. Why do we have waves?
56. How do waves move? 
57. How are waves made? 
58. Where are waves?
59. Why do we need waves?
60. Do wave do more than they’re supposed to?
61. Do waves help people or animals?
62. Do waves hurt animals?
63. Why do animals use physical sound waves?
64. Can animals hear waves?
65. Are  waves invisible?
66. How fast do waves go? 
67. How do you make waves
68. Who makes waves moves and how?

Thanks to @LansfordsLines and her Learning Team for these ??'s

At all levels (K-12), through Guided Inquiry Design, students benefit from conferences with the teacher or librarian when transitioning from the Explore to Identify phases. The purpose of this student conference is clarifying. A quick conference with just the right timing helps the student bring life to their seemingly simple questions and transforms them into more complex and interesting ones.

At first glance, some of these questions (above) might seem better than others for inquiry and research. But, the goal of Guided Inquiry Design is that our students choose their own path for inquiry and research. Each of the above questions has the potential to be a worthy inquiry question. A short conference with the Learning Team clarifies meaning, draws out student interest, and provides direction for the Gather phase.

Here are some sample questions from the list above that students chose, and how members of the Learning Team conferred with the student to clarify the ideas. Each conference concludes with the student ready to move forward into the Gather phase. Notice how the Learning Team goes into the conferences with an Inquiry Stance, not a judgmental tone, but one of authentic curiosity for students’ ideas. Notice also that these are short conversations not requiring more than a few minutes of time.
***If you have time, end these conferences by engaging in a quick Google (or catalogue) search with each student after they write their question down. That way, they have a clear direction for key words, some resources, and their immediate next steps increasing independence in the Gather phase. 


There are four important things for the Learning Team to think about when entering into this conference.

1.     Students have good intentions. We need to reach inside our students’ intentions. Asking questions helps students to clarify the connections they are making. A conversation like the ones above draw out the information the student used to arrive at their question and elaborate on their thinking to get more specific.

2.     No question is a bad question.  Yes, some questions that elementary school students come up with are “right there questions” that have easy answers. But even those questions can hold the seeds of deeper thinking. If you take the time to dig a little bit into student thinking, conferences can really help students tell us more about the great thinking behind those seemingly simple questions.

3.     Students interests drive their meaning making.  Students will have more to tell you if you ask them, “what interested you about this?”, rather than asking, “why did you pick this question?”. Focusing on their interest takes the pressure and judgment off and opens the conversation to their Third Space.

4.     Paraphrasing students shows listening and support. Listening is a key to clarifying. Paraphrasing what students say will help you to be a better listener in the conference.  Using “OK so” or “Oh so” as you talk with students will help you to paraphrase their words so they can “sign off” with their intention.  (See examples above.)

Student questions are the core of inquiry-based learning! Hope this helps you get GREAT questions from your students, the ones that they are interested in and spark deeper learning through research.
Leslie Maniotes, PhD 

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