If you Google search “quotes about the importance of asking questions”, you get a multitude of inspirational ideas. Einstein says, “The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Other quotes include: “Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answer”, and “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” I stumbled upon a great book several years ago titled, Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana. In the book, Rothstein and Santana make a case for the importance of questions to empower and engage students. Their work began in Lawrence, MA where they encountered parents who wanted to advocate for their children in the public school system but didn’t know what questions to ask. In order to build knowledge and confidence, the two authors joined forces and developed the “Question Formation Technique”. They taught parents how to form questions that got at the heart of their issues. Finding the system very successful, Rothstein and Santana expanded their work to educators and later to health professionals. I had the privilege to attend their summer workshop through a summer grant in 2013. I found the concept simple and yet so powerful. It became a teaching technique for my fifth grade classroom and inspired a conference presentation on “Teaching Students to Ask Questions” at a John’s Hopkins Center for Talented Youth gathering in San Francisco. I have included below the link to Dan Rothstein’s TED talk and a journal article in case you would like to know more about the process. In addition, these authors have recently released a book for parents. It addresses the need to ask critical questions about your child’s learning experience. I have asked for Mrs. Ward to obtain a copy for our library.
What a treat it was for me to walk into a library class the other day and hear Mrs. Ward talking about the power of questions with our fourth grade boys. She was familiar with the ideas put forth in Make Just One Change, and wanted to set up a “safe zone” for questioning all year! Our faculty realizes the value of student questions. As we continue our discussion of twenty-first century learning and assessment, we appreciate the feedback good questions from the boys give us about learning. We may also generate questions of our own to ponder. What should we be teaching? What are the best methods for teaching it? And how can we assess to see if those methods were successful?
The Academic Council is searching for some of those “questions to ponder” through our student/teacher/parent interviews about current assessment practices at Gilman going on this month. When we asked ourselves the questions I posed above, we realized that there was a great deal to explore. As we look ahead to what makes learning at Gilman successful in the future, we need to explore answers to questions posed today. What should our Gilman students be able to do when they graduate and how will we know they can? Thank you to everyone who has participated in this endeavor so far and please look for more about our findings and eventual assessment prototypes in future blog posts.
I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” based on recent school events.
- If you are in Kindergarten- How was the play you saw this week? Who is Eric Carle? What have you created based on his artwork and stories?
- If you are in Prep-One- Why is it important to learn from failure based on lessons learned in Makerspace class?
- If you are in First Grade- What president came and spoke to you last week? What kinds of questions did you and your classmates ask? What are you learning about spiders?
- If you are in Second Grade- What important values and character traits are you talking about in your video filming? How will you put all these great videos together? Why is it important to learn about values?
- If you are in Third Grade- What is a biography? What biography are you reading for your First Friday Book Club in November?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- How are you preparing for your trip to St. Mary’s City this month?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- How are you preparing for your first social studies test? What are some study skills techniques you are working on with your teachers?