With our district's focus on concept-based learning and quality instruction, we decided to expose teachers to an instructional strategy from the Right Question Institute out of Harvard University. We chose this strategy because asking questions is a strategy that's used by teachers in all content areas at all grade levels. The Right Question Institute developed a well-researched and incredibly powerful critical thinking experience known as the Question Formation Technique. Their rationale for designing this technique is explained by one of the book's authors, Dan Rothstein, in this TED Talk (13:41). In this talk, you'll notice how the skill of asking questions declines from age 5 to age 18. You might predict that a variety of variables impact this pattern, but the bottom line is...IT'S SAD! Asking questions is a skill, and it's a skill that needs developing if we are to have students who participate in society as critical thinkers. With the Question Formation Technique, teachers "express deep satisfaction as they see their students rapidly develop divergent, convergent, and metacognitive thinking abilities and become more confident learners." (p. 2) (To find out more, check out the link above or look into their book Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions.)
- 6th grade Question Focus: This was designed to be used with a Western Hemisphere study when students begin to examine the era of European exploration and to consider multiple perspectives when analyzing the impact of exploration on early cultures of the Western Hemisphere.
- 5th grade Question Focus: This was designed to be used with a unit titled Changing Face of North America: Emergence of a New World Society (We no longer use the Euro-centric title of "Colonial America"). The goal was to elicit questions related to why people came to the Atlantic coast of North America, where they settled, why, and the patterns that existed within this migration of people.
- 4th grade Question Focus: This was designed to go with a state study of Colorado. The goal was to cause learners to ask who came to Colorado over time, why, and where did they settle.
- 3rd grade Question Focus: This was designed to go with a study of Denver titled The Big City. The goal was to illuminate the idea that citizens and government work together to create important changes over time.
- 2nd grade Question Focus: This was designed to go with a civics study. The goal was to cause students to think about various forms of conflict and active citizenship of students. An image of the man scratching his head was placed on a mirror and then the mirror was placed at the top of the page where you see three scenarios of conflicting students.
- 1st grade Question Focus: This was designed to go with a history unit and was created to help students consider how and why things have continued to stay the same or change over time. This is the history concept of continuity and change over time.
- Kindergarten Question Focus: This was designed to go with a civics study where students explore the purpose of classroom rules, citizenship, and roles within the classroom.
- Preschool Question Focus: This was designed to go with civics learning related to respectful interaction and classroom rules.