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Saturday, July 01, 2017

What Questions Will Lead Teaching and Learning This Year?

Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, shared the alarming statistic which showed that almost 50% of American citizens of voting age did not vote in the last Presidential election. This is troubling, and would make a great focus for a high school civics class with the essential question, "Why don't people vote and why does this matter?" Big questions like this invite student enthusiasm and investment and result in memorable, transformative teaching and learning.

As I read David Culberhouse tweets yesterday, he reminds us that it is the questions we ask that will be just as important or more important in the future than the knowledge we teach.

When I think of this, I wonder about the questions that I will pose to my students next year--questions that will lead to their investment and good learning and questions that match their developmental stage.

Some of the questions I will pose will include the following:
  • Why do we all look different from one another? I always pose this question at the start of the year as one way to dispel prejudice. Most children don't know the story of human migration, skin shade, inheritance, and cultural similarities and differences. They don't realize that almost all of who we are and what we do has its roots in our natural impulse to survive. We use maps to talk about the history of people, skin shade, community, country, and government. This dispels prejudice and allows students to see that everyone of us and all of us together are greatly impacted by our history, environment, experience, and events. 
  • How do people learn? All year we will revisit this question again and again as I reveal lots of information about how people learn. I want students to understand the science behind learning so they can access those truths as they promote their own learning.
  • Why are we learning _______? I will tie every lesson to real world rationale as to why we are spending our time learning that skill, knowledge, or concept. I want students to see how every learning goal is connected to our greater world.
  • Who are you and what do you want? Identity will be a strong theme in the curriculum program since fifth grade children are beginning to see themselves clearly--they are questioning who they are in comparison to those around them. 
  • How do we maximize our strengths for the greater good of the learning community? We'll continually look for ways that we can work together to help one another and build a strong learning community?
  • How is knowledge changing? We will often stop to ask how information changes. I want students to understand that knowledge is always evolving, and I want them to understand why and how this happens by using the evidence of specific learning/knowing events. 
These are some of the essential questions that we'll study as we learn the specific curriculum set for the grade level--we'll tie those specific learning points to bigger, deeper questions of living and learning.

What questions will lead your curriculum and practice this year? How will you forward those questions in signage, learning environment set-up, units of study, field studies, special events, expert visitors, books and more?

The questions we ask lead our students and us forward--what will those questions be in your teaching/learning sphere?