The technique begins with a focus statement or an image. Students read the statement or view the image in class. For example, students in an ELA class might respond to a statement about a character in a common text, math students might view a graph or science students might view a picture of an X-ray, and social studies students might view a painting of a historical event. It is important that the focus is not a question, but rather a provocative statement or image that might evoke many questions from students.
Students in small groups (or whole class, dictated to the teacher in lower grades), produce questions that are raised for them in response to the focus image or statement. Before beginning, students should identify a note taker for the group. There are four rules for students when producing questions:
- Ask as many questions as you can
- Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer the questions
- Write down every question exactly as it is stated
- Change any statement into a question
Additionally, students should write questions that remain relevant to the topic.
Give the students a specific amount of time to produce questions (3 min, 5 min, 8 min, etc.) and then have them reread the questions.
The next phase of the process is designed to improve questions. Students should now review the questions and identify the questions as either open-ended or closed questions. Students will need some instruction on this before they will be able to identify questions accurately. Not all students will agree on whether a question is open or closed, and that's ok! The debate is part of the process, as students are analyzing each question. Mark open-ended questions with an "o" and closed questions with a "c."
Next, students should discuss the value of the each type of question, both in general and for the specific questions for the focus. What knowledge would they gain by answering the closed questions? The open-ended questions?
Once students have identified and debated the types of questions, students should work to change one type of question to another. Students should alter an open-ended question to be closed and vice versa. Students can discuss what knowledge they might gain from this process with those particular questions.
Next, students evaluate the questions they have written and prioritize their three most important questions. As they narrow, they should be thinking about why they select each of their most important questions.
Finally, students should discuss next steps: how will you use these questions? How would you answer these questions?
This process is really about supporting students in asking questions, rather than the process of answering the questions. Teaching students to be inquisitive and curious through asking questions is an important skill, one that can be well-supported with this strategy.
Try it out, and then post back here how it went!