Today students are introduced to a highly structured technique to help them formulate good questions. This technique will be used throughout the year. It takes an entire class period to introduce technique, but once students are familiar with it, the technique can be used again and it will take less time.
I begin by discussing something we have talked about in class already, that the ability to ask good questions is an essential thinking skill. I let them know that today they will learn a technique where they engage in a group activity that helps them formulate good questions.
The technique is called The Question Formulation Technique and it has the following components. I will be walking students through these steps and will show each step one at a time. I use this Power Point Presentation, Question Formulation Technique powerpoint, to walk them through each step of the technique.
You should know that the Question Focus should be brief. It can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, a quote from a text, an image, etc. As the name suggests, the Question Focus is the focus of the questions students formulate. For this lesson, the question focus is POWER. This means they will be formulating questions about the concept of POWER. I selected this as the question focus for this lesson because this concept is at the center of social criticism theory, which we have been studying for a couple of lessons. I do not show students the Question Focus until they are ready to start formulating questions. The next step is to explain the second component of this technique, the rules.
I divide students into groups of 3 or 4. Each group will work together to formulate questions. I explain the second component using the Power Point Presentation.
Component #2, Rules for Producing Questions:
Rules For Producing Questions
1. ASK AS MANY QUESTIONS AS YOU CAN
2. DO NOT STOP TO ANSWER, JUDGE OR DISCUSS
3. WRITE DOWN EVERY QUESTION EXACTLY AS STATED
4. CHANGE ANY STATEMENTS INTO QUESTIONS
I then give each group 30 seconds to decide who will record the questions on a piece of paper then ask each recorder to raise their hand to make sure each group did select someone and is ready to go. They are now ready to work in groups to formulate questions.
For this part of the activity, I explain component #1 and #3.
Students are now ready to formulate questions. I give students 5 minutes to formulate questions following the four rules. During this time, my role is to walk around and listen to the questions students are formulating. If necessary, I gently remind them of the rules, especially #2, which is the hardest to follow. This is my only role during this time as it is important that the formulated questions are entirely student-generated. I expect some groups to come up with a total of 5 questions while others come up with 20. They will all get better at this later. I ask the recorder to number the questions on their list. Students WILL come up with great questions. This is a sample list of student-generated questions one group of students produced in my class for today's lesson.
This step addresses Component #4, Prioritizing Questions:
As they work I mainly listen in on their conversations. I do have to highlight the importance of working together to prioritize because when they share their questions, they will also be expected to explain their rationale for prioritizing in that order. This is the hardest part of this activity and I have to remind them of this repeatedly because many will try to skip the discussion and once they share they will have nothing to say regarding their rationale for selecting those questions in that order.
I give each group an opportunity to share their work by doing two things. These are also listed in the Power Point.
As students share questions, others listen attentively. The questions they come up with are very good and classmates will openly show appreciation. See samples in the following reflection.
Finally, I ask them to say what number each of the three questions was on the original list. I whip around and ask each group to say the three original numbers. The point of this is to help students become aware of the fact that the best questions tend to show up later, which is why brainstorming is a valuable process. I help students arrive at this conclusion by repeating each of the three numbers each group gives us and asking all students to pay attention to any patterns. Once every group has shared, I ask them to explain the pattern. They can easily see that these questions tend to appear later in their lists. I ask them what point they think I am trying to make. They will say that the point is that the best questions come later in the process.
I praise students for the great questions they came up with. I ask them to post them on a bulletin board I set aside for this. I let students know that they will be using these questions for a writing assignment.
This is what one student remembers about the Question Formulation Technique when I asked him about it a few months later.