Slice of Life Day 17: Questions But No Answers Yet

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI am participating in Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge. This is #17 in the series. Read more slices here.

This Slice of Life is born out of the messy meanderings of my Sunday reading. I’m working on figuring it out, so if you can follow my line of thinking, maybe you can help me through. or get a kernel of something for yourself. Thanks in advance for your indulgence.

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This is my favorite quote of all those collected by my students from our read aloud, The One and Only Ivan. We finished Ivan two weeks ago, but I can’t let go of the reading graffiti wall where students have written quotes from the book. I look at it and feel like it is a bit of a monument to him. It holds his space in the classroom.

I wonder how do my students feel about this space now? Is it valuable for them? They clearly enjoyed the process of creating it, but how do they see it now? Was it just the fun of using markers on a white sheet of paper, or are they attached to it like I am? Do they find meaning in it?

I am asking all the questions here. Even if I ask students what they think about it, I am still setting them up. Instinctively students are looking for the answers that I want. Not necessarily what they are really thinking.  It’s fixed the minute I open my mouth, because it is my question, not theirs.


Fast forward two hours when I start, Make Just One Change, Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana,

The book begins out with two simple statements:

  • All students should learn how to formulate their own questions
  • All teachers can easily teach this skill as part of their regular practice.

And even more interesting, the inspiration for some of this work comes from parents in a low-income community. Intrigued?

This approach has teachers put forth a “question focus.” Not a question but an issue, topic, area of concern or emphasis for students to create questions for and then dig deeper into. The design of the focus is key of course. It should be open and designed to stimulate student questions..

So I think — When do my students ever come up with their own questions?

I want my students to do this and have attempted to take my judgement out of the equation. In read aloud  I ask them to wonder, but my presence is an undeniable force in their thinking. They are so attuned my reactions, and it is so hard to stay in neutral. A formalized approach in how to develop a line of questioning is worthy of investigation. Where might it lead?  I’m on chapter three, which introduces the “rules” for students producing questions:

  1. Ask as many questions as you can.
  2. Don’t stop to discuss, judge, or answer and question.
  3. Write down every question exactly as it is stated.
  4. Change any statement into a question.

This is a big change from what we (my students and I) are used to. But doesn’t it sound worth the adventure?

Right now I’m resisting the urge to jump before I know a little bit more. Anyone been down this road before?

7 thoughts on “Slice of Life Day 17: Questions But No Answers Yet

  1. The whole question balance is delicate in my mind. Our students don’t always wonder about what we are wondering about! I do think the “close reading” and rereading and reflecting part is critical to students’ questioning.

  2. I love the quote from Ivan.
    I love Ivan.
    I love the idea of the graffiti wall.
    If I were a student in your room, my eyes would be drawn to that area, and those words would sink in. They may not apply right now, but I’m betting they’d sink and come back to me at just the right time. That’s why it has value. Keep it!

  3. A thought provoking post – thank you for sharing your thoughts on questions. I strongly believe that if we teach our students to question, we help foster motivated, critical thinkers. I will definitely read Rothstein and Santana’s book. Let me know what you think upon completion.

  4. Interesting! This doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” thing does it? Can you try out these four rules in a small dose? I’m with you – I’d be tempted to jump right in. I know if I leave ideas too long, I will move on. Thanks for sharing this title. Sounds like one worth checking out.

  5. We do chart talks using quotations or bits of the Julieanne – the point is to come up with questions. We’ll actually be doing this tomorrow as we finish our historical fiction genre study read aloud. I’ll post pictures of it on Wednesday!

  6. My school culture is based on student questions and wonderings Julieanne. Perhaps when students begin to realize that their ideas and questions are valued rather than waiting to answer the teachers’ questions or the texts’ queries, they will begin the new process? Turning around the expectation is at least one key. I love hearing your questioning here & hope you find some answers. Maybe you should ask the students their thoughts and build there?

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