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Essential Questions for Students
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Essential Questions for Students


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  • 1. Essential Questions What are they and how do you write one?
  • 2. What Is an Essential Question?
    • Students have to think critically to answer an essential question. Instead of simply looking up answers, they conduct research and create an original answer. An essential question:
      • provokes deep thought.
      • solicits information-gathering and evaluation of data.
      • results in an original answer.
      • helps students conduct problem-related research.
      • makes students produce original ideas rather than predetermined answers.
      • may not have an answer.
      • encourages critical thinking not just memorization of facts.
  • 3. Bloom’s Taxonomy
    • Essential Questions are found at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, 1954).
    • They require readers to:
      • EVALUATE (make a thoughtful choice between options, with the choice based upon clearly stated criteria)
      • SYNTHESIZE (invent a new or different version)
      • ANALYZE (develop a thorough and complex understanding through skillful questioning).
  • 4.  
  • 5.  
  • 6. Types of Essential Questions
    • Which one?
    • How?
    • What if?
    • Should?
    • Why?
  • 7. “ Essential vs. Traditional Questions "
    • Not Essential:
      • “ What is it like to live in Hong Kong?"
    • Essential
      • Which city in Southeast Asia is the best place to live?
    • Not Essential:
      • “ What is AIDS?"
    • Essential:
      • Which serious disease most deserves research funding?
  • 8. “ How Questions "
    • Examples:
      • What are some sustainable solutions to environmental problems in your neighborhood, and how could they be implemented?
  • 9. " What if Questions "
    • What if questions are hypothetical, questions which ask you to use the knowledge you have to pose a hypothesis and consider options.
    • Examples:
      • " What if the Cultural Revolution had never happened?"
      • " What if students didn’t have to go to school?”
  • 10. " Should Questions "
    • Should questions make a moral or practical decision based on evidence.
    • Examples:
      • " Should we clone humans?“
      • " Should we discontinue trade with countries that abuse human rights?"
  • 11. " Why Questions "
    • Why questions ask you to understand cause and effect. "Why" helps us understand relationships; it helps us get to the essence of an issue.
    • Examples:
      • " Why do people abuse drugs?"
      • " Why is the death rate higher in one Third World country than another?"
  • 12. Skinny vs. “Fat” Questions
    • What are Fat Question?
      • Open-ended questions, which can be argued and supported by evidence.
    • Examples:
      • Skinny Question: "When was the Declaration of Independence signed?"
      • Fat Question: "What would have happened had we not signed it?”
  • 13. How do you write an essential question?
    • Consider the focus of the unit or lesson activity:
      • Substance abuse, drug addiction, legal & illegal drugs (use your inspiration mind map)
    • Ideas for a good essential question:
      • may stem from your particular interests in a topic (e.g. What makes a drug “good”?, community resources (How is China dealing with substance abuse?)
      • Begin with the 6 typical queries that newspaper articles address: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?
      • From these questions formulate your essential question.
      • Use: Which one? How? What if? Should? Why?
  • 14.  
  • 15. Examples of Essential Questions
  • 16. Examples of Open-ended Questions
    • How would you…?
    • What would result if…?
    • How would you describe…?
    • How does…compare with…?
    • What is the relationship between…?
    • What would happen if…?
    • How could you change…?
    • How would you improve…?
    • How do you feel about…?
    • Why do you believe…?
    • What is your opinion of…?
    • What choice would you have made…?
    • What would you do differently?
    • Why do you feel…?
    • How would you go about solving the problem…?
    • If you were in this position what would you do?
    • Why do you/don’t you support…?
    • What could improve…?
  • 17. Culture: Values, Beliefs & Rituals
    • How do individuals develop values and beliefs?
    • What factors shape our values and beliefs?
    • How do values and beliefs change over time?
    • How does family play a role in shaping our values and beliefs?
    • Why do we need beliefs and values?
    • What happens when belief systems of societies and individuals come into conflict?
    • When should an individual take a stand in opposition to an individual or larger group?
    • When is it appropriate to challenge the beliefs or values of society?
    • Are there universal characteristics of belief systems that are common across people and time?
  • 18. Social Justice Questions
    • What is social justice?
    • To what extent does power or the lack of power affect individuals?
    • What is oppression and what are the root causes?
    • How are prejudice and bias created? How do we overcome them?
    • What are the responsibilities of the individual in regard to issues of social justice?
    • Can literature serve as a vehicle for social change?
    • When should an individual take a stand against what he/she believes to be an injustice? What are the most effective ways to do this?
    • What are the factors that create an imbalance of power within a culture?
  • 19. Questioning Resources
    • Asking Essential Questions
    • The Key to Understanding Essential Questions
    • Themes and Essential Questions: Framing Inquiry and Critical Thinking
    • Asking Essential Questions