A Review of “Essential Questions” Lynn Smith CED 505.20
Creating Essential Questions http :// www.galileo.org / tips / essential_questions.html Something I learned Restate information This is not necessarily something that I learned, but something that was reiterated to me. “Imagination knows no bounds, no restrictions; nor do the questions we pose when we cultivate our powers of imagination.” This statement is so true and so often forgotten. The essential question comes when people are trying to learn more about something in our world. It makes us think about things more in-depth. It is not a simple yes or no question. There has to be a thought process used to find the answer. We have to explore how knowledge is developed and how it has changed over time. The essential question engages the imagination.
From Trivial Pursuit to Essential Questions and Standards-Based Learning http://www.fno.org/feb01/pl.html Something I learned Restate information I learned that I don’t know very much about gargoyles! Actually I hadn’t thought about how much some teachers do require students to complete trivial pursuits. Students are just looking up answers and not really understanding anything new. The information isn’t sinking in. This site begins talking about the trivial pursuits that some teachers make their students complete. Essential questions are at the root of all learning. They are what make us look deeper to have a greater understanding of a topic. There is a big difference between knowledge and having an understanding of something. They are the type of questions that get inside us and don’t let go. We have to find the answer which also gives us answers to the greater questions in life.
Framing Essential Questions http://www.fno.org/sept96/questions.html Something I learned Restate information The fact that some answers may never be found, only tentative ones is something I learned. I know there are questions that don’t have answers, but as a teacher, aren’t I supposed to know the answer? Or at least be able to help the students find the answer? Essential questions give the students more meaning with the assignment rather than just looking up information. They have to research, research, and then research some more. The essential questions make the research more meaningful. It makes us want to find an answer to the interesting topics created by these questions. They spark our curiosity. Answers to essential questions cannot be found; they must be invented. Answering these questions may take a lifetime. They also engage students in real-life problem solving and can encompass other subjects and skills as well.
Filling the Tool Box http:// www.fno.org/toolbox.html Something I learned Restate information I liked the idea of the five minute question. There are too many times that I ask a question and get no answer because it was a recall question and no one remembers. Asking a five minute question would require them to think about the answer and not just wait for me to tell them the answer or for the one “smart” student to blurt out the answer. Having the students develop the questions for the unit will make them feel more a part of their own learning. It becomes something that they want to research because they were part of the process. When the questions are put into categories, they are learning that you have to have the right question to find the right answer. If they then use this process with their homework, they might expand their learning even further than just completing the assignment. They can also be asked to think like an interviewer. Reporters ask questions that flow from or stimulate curiosity. The article also mentioned the five minute question. Telling the students that the question coming up is a one minute or five minute question lets them know they will have to think about it for awhile to discover an answer.
A Questioning Toolkit http://www.fno.org/nov97/toolkit.html Something I learned Restate information I learned how to word essential questions in a more efficient way. The examples this article listed were great. Also using subsidiary questions to give the students some information to start with is a great tool. Essential questions are those that give us an “ah-ha” moment when we find the answer; if we can find an answer. The greatest stories of all time include essential questions as to the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our universe. The greatest novels, plays, songs, and paintings all explore essential questions in some way. There are also subsidiary questions that help build answers to the essential questions. These are usually smaller comprehension type questions that give the students some background.
The Question Mark http://questioning.org/mar05/essential.html Something I learned Restate information It helped me be able to recognize essential questions a little better by providing more traits. Also the fact that the answer could change over time was something I hadn’t really thought about. This article is out of a book. It says a lot of the same things the other articles did but added traits of an essential question. The traits were as follows: The question probes a matter of considerable importance. It requires movement beyond understanding and studying. The question cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. It probably shifts and evolves over time. It also may be unanswerable in the ultimate sense. It can frustrate the researcher. The essential questions are usually about more important issues, such as the meaning of life. They can be frustrating for many reasons. The answers can change over time and with conditions. You could get one answer today and a different answer next year. You have to look beyond what you understand now into the unknown sometimes.
Most of these resources said basically the same thing. The essential question is the one that makes us think. They help us define what it means to be human. They are more than a simple answer; a yes or no won’t do it.
These sites made me understand what is meant by the words “essential question”. I had heard it before but didn’t really have my head wrapped around it quite yet. This assignment made me completely understand what it means and how to apply them in my classroom.
I really liked the concept of letting the students help come up with the questions. We shouldn’t reject any question, but keep brainstorming until most of the questions become essential questions. I truly think that the students will be more inclined and excited to look for the answers to the questions that they helped create than to answer questions that I provide them.
I did take a little time to look as some of my assignments that I give students. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was using essential questions more than I thought. However, I am really going to be looking at my questioning technique a lot differently from now on.