Today’s blog is a guest post from Mike Saracini, who is a 7th and 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher at Freedom Middle School in the Berwyn South School District. We met online over an article I posted about Questioning (click here to read it) and an action research I did at my school a few years ago. Mike ran with our findings and resources and took action in his classroom with amazing results.
I don’t think there is a teacher out there who doesn’t believe in the power of questioning when it comes to student learning. Questioning is student-centred, students become stakeholders in their own learning, it is a major part of the common core standards, so why is it so damn hard for students to grasp?! This was the “question” I was asking myself as I struggled every year to get my students to develop questions that drive inquiry. I attended workshops where the presenters were “specialized” and guaranteed that their methods would help students create a higher level of thinking questions, guess what? Yeah, it didn’t work.
Then I came across a blog post from Craig Kemp called “Questioning The Most Powerful Tool in the Classroom – an action research. As you can imagine this blog post immediately caught my attention, of course with a bit of scepticism. While reading the blog post, it turned out that Craig and many other educators were having the same problem. Their solution to the problem was so simple. They created a rubric to support the students learning. This rubric broke down questions from level 1 (the most basic) to level 7 (allowing for deep inquiry). The ideas seemed so simple; I had to try it.
The next day in class I asked all of my students to develop questions related to the causes and effects of World War I. When they were completed I had several students share their questions and then asked the class, “If I were to put any of those questions up on the board and asked you to answer them do you think they would lead you to the finding the causes and effects of World War I?” Most students laughed and said, “most of the questions don’t even mention World War I, so…no. I don’t even know what most of the questions even mean!”
I then passed out the rubric from Craig to each student and we reviewed each level. Before I was even done a majority of students were already fixing their questions to make them level 6 or 7. You could see the light bulbs go off right away.
Now, I can go on about how each time my students do a questioning activity they use the rubric provided by Craig or how most students have it memorised. But, I think the impact is best when you hear it from the students themselves. Check out the VLOGS (video blogs) they created about using Craig’s questioning rubric.
“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge”- Thomas Berger
7th/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher
Freedom Middle School
Berwyn South School District