Imagine my astonishment when I was filming Jeremy Mettler in class, and he’d responded to a student’s question, with a very calm, “That’s a good question, I hadn’t thought of that,” during a discussion on the government shutdown from a few years ago. Or one of the students in Mr. Holbrook’s class who said “I don’t know” because he knew it was ok to own not knowing.
If educators are going to build creative thinkers then they have to be prepared for questions and they also have to be prepared to not know the answers to the questions.
That’s a lot to wrap your head around, especially when you’re used to being in charge and knowing the answers.
There’s also a very good chance you’re going to tangent from the original learning objective outlined in your lesson plan.
Which is awesome and terrifying at the same time.
Here are some ways to encourage questions in your classroom, and stay on track:
- When introducing a new unit give students a few days notice and ask them to come to class with 3 things they know and 3 things they want to know. Build that into your lesson planning.
- Give students a question and vocabulary log for them to note questions and unfamiliar words that arose for them during class. You can either give students time at the end of class to share and poll to see how many students have similar questions. Or, collect them during an activity, to review and discuss with the class, noting how many students had similar questions. It’s a great way for students to see shared inquiry.
- Encourage students to connect what they’re learning with what they already know. Build in 5-10 mins at the end of the class for students reflect on how what they learned is similar to something else. Graphic organizers are great to help them link the knowledge.
- Once you feel your students have mastered the concept, brainstorm new things they can do with that knowledge. Their question log may prove to be useful during this exercise. For example, after watching this TED Talk during a climate change unit in a Grade 3 class, students brainstormed ways to turn their unused green spaces into mini forests. Fun and empowering.
Who’re taking risks.
Who may fail.
And ultimately learn.