Sunday, September 13, 2015

Introducing Student-Generated Questions

On Thursday, I am going to be introducing the idea of student-generated questions to my classes.

Inspired by Mary Bourassa and Alex Overwijk, we will start class by projecting the picture below. Students will write three questions that they have based on this picture. After having a couple students share out their questions, I will pose the question of why I am asking them to generate questions. Some of my reasons are that asking questions is part of what mathematicians do, in generating questions students connect natural curiosity to math class, students may be more invested in answering their own or their peers’ questions, making space for student-generated questions gives students power and voice in the classroom, and being able to ask good questions is an increasingly important skills. However, I am interested in hearing what reasons students will give.

Once we are done with that discussion, I will introduce the kids to number bracelets. They will do a couple examples in order to understand how they work. Then, we will go through a modified version of the Question Formulation Technique, which was developed by the people at the Right Question Institute.

Here are the steps in the Question Formulation Technique:
  1. Question Focus (jumping off statement most often set by the teacher)
  2. Produce Questions (four rules: ask as many questions as you can; do not stop to discuss, judge or answer the questions; write down every question exactly as it is stated; change any statement into a question)
  3. Improve Your Questions (categorize questions into closed and open, and then re-write at least one in each category so it would be in the other category)
  4. Selection of Priority Questions (groups choose their top 3)
  5. Next Steps (teacher and/or students decide what to do next with the questions)
  6. Reflection Activity (debrief the process)
For the first day, we will only be doing steps 1, 2, 4, and 5. In pairs, students will generate questions about number bracelets following the rules. They will then choose their three favorite questions and investigate (at least) one of them. My hope is that this will serve as enough of an introduction to the process and then the next time we do a student-generated questions task we will follow the whole protocol.

Thoughts or suggestions for supporting kids in generating interesting questions?

(Cross-posted at BetterQs)

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