What to do with the Question Pt. 1

I am a big fan of Project Zero Visible Thinking routines. Even when working with grade 12 students, I find myself relying on a wide variety of routines to explore ideas, dig deeper, and make our thinking visible. As I have used and tried out the different thinking routines I have come to rely on certain routines more than other. Some of my current favorites are Chalk Talk, Sentence-Phrase-Word, and Color-Symbol-Image.

One of the routines that I have used in the past but is not in my “to go to regularly” tool box is the routine called Claim-Support-Question. I like the basic idea of, creating a strong claim and then supplying evidence that supports that point. As a history teacher this is a skill that I work with my students on all the time. The part of the routine that  I struggled to make sense of for me and in turn communicate the application to my students was the Question portion of this routine.

Step three of the routine reads as follows.

3. Ask a question related to your claim

Question: What’s left hanging? What isn’t explained? What new reasons does your claim raise?

I love questions. I think that questions are what do/should drive our learning. Questions are what feed our curiosity. However, with this routine I continued to have a hard time deciding to most effectively use the Question portion of the routine. In my class of 20 students I could get 20 great questions. Do I answer them immediately? Do I let them just linger? Do I save them to address later? Do I have students try to answer each other’s questions? This is where I would get stuck with this routine.

Next week I am going to try a modification to this thinking routine and see if that will help me with doing something with the Question portion of the routine so as to promote student learning rather than the lingering, unanswered question. What I am planning on doing is adding an “Inquire” step to process. Once students have created a question based on their claim, they will have time to explore that question and seek an answer. I will be doing this at the start of a unit and am hoping that this chance to explore questions of their own I will hook the students and tune them into our studies.

I will post part two once it is completed.

Why do I Study History?

History provides me with a context of the world. It’s comforting yet disturbing as the world is more than today yet greater than myself.

I study history to appreciate the opportunities and advancements we have in the present.

I study history because it promotes critical thinking.

I study history to understand the human race, and why/how people act/think the way they do.

I study history because it helps me to evaluate (IB,IB,IB) the world’s conditions.

I study history becuase the eternal knowledge that it represents allows me to almost time time travel and teleport. It inspires me to leave my own eternal mark.

This year I am working with seniors in high school. I feel lucky that I get to be part of what is a very exciting year for them. There are countless things for these students to anticipate such as graduation, university, and world exams. I hope to be an adult that can support them as they begin their transition into their post secondary life. In addition, I hope that I can be a teacher that can keep them focused, grounded, and living in the present so their high school experience culminates in a way that is memorable and meaninful for them–not experienced in a blur.

My fear is, along with all of the excitement that comes with being a senior in high school, there is also lots of stress, anxiety, and potential burnout. Students can fall victim to going through the motions of school as they wait for the year to finish out. The hard work, critical thinking, and love for learning could be put aside as their next chapter is about to begin.

In an effort to set the tone for the year and hopefully encourage students to reflect and draw focus on the year ahead of them, I asked them the most of basics questions for a history teacher. I asked them, Why are you here? Why do you choose to study history?” The class I teach, SL/HL IB History is an elective for these students. There are other classes out there for them to select from. However, for one reason or another, I have 40 individuals that selected this class. I hoped that by helping students reflect on why history class is meaningful to them I would help to ground them on all the learning that is still to come this year and also rekindle that study of history spark.

In addition to wanting them to be grounded and focused on this year, I also wanted their voice to be heard. Last year when they were first year DP students they did not necessarily get the chance to answer this question. Instead, as the teacher I made the call to start the year off by using a piece by Peter Stearns entitled Why Study History to answer this all important question. While I think that there are many excellent ideas in this piece, the more I reflected on it, the more I became upset that I stole my students opportunity to create this idea for themselves. A year later I tried to redeem myself by giving them the voice.

The responses that I got blew me away. Their responses helped me see that there are many student who are passionate about history and that they find value in the study of history for a wide variety of reasons. Also, by soliciting their response to this question it can help me create a path for the year that can incorporate my students ideas on the importance of history by relating back to the themes and ideas they think are key. Yes, there may be off days and moments of high-stress and unknown for my students, but overall I am so amazed by the insightfulness that my students bring to their learning. It will be my job to keep this level of engagement up all year especially when the future, via their lens, could seem more important than the present. Challenge accepted.