Tag Archives: 21stC

Practice seeking questions – #AskDon’tTell

Do you create carefully crafted worksheets to guide student learning?  I did for years.  I wanted my learners to be successful, and I thought it was my job to step them through the problem-solving process.  It would foster confidence and success, right?  Year after year, the next teacher of my learners would ask me if I taught X, Y, and Z topics.  Even when the learners in my care did everything I asked of them, they were not always successful at retaining what needed to be learned.

Do these carefully crafted worksheets really promote learn in the long run? Are we teaching perseverance, critical thinking, and problem solving when the path is so carefully crafted? Does having a step-by-step roadmap create opportunities to learn or handicap a creative process?

What if we offered our learners more opportunities to chart their own path from where they are to the target? Is the path they take as important as the learning they acquire?  How can we create investigations that prompt students to make observations and ask their own questions?

In writing LEARNing: Linear Functions Investigation – #AskDon’tTell and LEARNing: Quadratic Functions Investigation Zeros and Roots – #AskDon’tTell, I’ve been trying to work out an idea for prompting student investigation and questioning using dynamic investigations without much scaffolding.  I continue to reflect and ponder Steve Arnold’s great comment on the  LEARNing: Linear Functions Investigation – #AskDon’tTell post.  Here’s a snippet if you missed Steve’s comment:

My own experience is that “free orientation” (to use van Hiele’s terminology) tends to occupy kids for between 20 seconds and 2 minutes tops. It helps them a lot to be given some goal or curious thing or something to get them started… but I could well imagine that, in the right hands (i.e. yours) a class could be trained to be curious and capable of exploring.

Hmm…Could I help young learners learn to be curious and capable of exploring?  Are there protocols that I could employ while I am practicing the art of questioning?  I think I already engage in the art of questioning regularly with learners, but I am asked often about how to teach other teachers to “do what I do.”  I want to continue to hone this craft, to learn more, to become masterful.

So, what do I do to continue to learn?

  1. Read, read, read…Currently high on my list:
    1. Grant Lichtman‘s The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School,
    2. John Barell’s Developing More Curious Minds, and
    3. Dan Rothstein’s Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions.
  2. Practice, practice, practice…Remove the scaffolding:
    1. Watch Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover and try it.
    2. Stop creating slideuments.  If your TI-Nspire document, your PowerPoint presentation, or your worksheet has multiple pages, slides, or steps, eliminate lots! Create space for questions, investigation, and thinking.
    3. Use Gamestorming games to develop techniques for learning to ask questions. I like Brainwriting, 3-12-3, and others.
  3. Risk, reflect, revise:
    1. Try it – more than once. One trial does not make an experiment.  Celebrate even small successes.
    2. Have strong wait time, and have questions in your “back pocket” if prompting is needed.
    3. Seek feedback from a trusted colleague. Engage in peer observations to help you see from another perspective.


Comma rules part 1: S & C #AskDon’tTell (1/3)

How confident are you with comma rules?  Did you memorize the rules, or do you punctuate based on your gut?  I struggle to feel confident about some or most of the technical aspects of writing.  I second guess myself, and I hesitate to press publish because of this lack of confidence.

As a young learner, I fell in the category of a memorizer.  I learned the rules as expected for “the test” and them promptly lost them.  This lack of learning continues to impact my confidence and my performance.  I will admit that I usually put commas in my sentences when I pause when reading aloud.  I’m pretty sure that is not the best criteria.

It is possible to lead learners to an understanding of commas by asking them questions? Could we offer young learners the opportunity to develop an understanding of the rules for themselves through the use of examples and visual metaphors? Could learners decode how to correctly place commas to separate the elements in a series and in compound sentences without being told the rule first?

My friend and colleague, Marilyn Bauer, has set off on this quest.  I have been a student in her 6th grade writing course to learn more about 6 comma rules.  The younger learners have partnered with me to construct the rules based on examples and visuals.

Can you use the examples and the image to help write the rule for comma placement in a compound sentence?  Can you describe how the image connects to the rule?

Can you use the examples and the image to help write the rule for comma placement in a series?  Can you describe how the image connects to the rule?

As a learner, I loved this experience.  I had something to decode.  There was a puzzle to solve.  I have only highlighted one part of the lesson.  Marilyn’s plan involved so many experiences for learners.  Once we attempted to verbalize the rule, she came to coach.  She listened as we talked through the rule and asked questions to clarify and support our learning.  Formative assessment was offered in multiple ways.

How will we exercise our creativity to design lessons that ask our students to question, experiment, and learn?  Will we engage in practicing the art of questioning?

Ask; don’t tell.

LEARNing: Quadratic Functions Investigation Zeros and Roots – #AskDon’tTell

What questions could we ask to help our learners investigate and “discover the rules” for the number of roots or zeros of a quadratic function?

Should we start by questioning their understanding vocabulary?  Can we questions our learners to connect roots, x-intercepts, and zeros?  Can we listen to the learners’ questions to take their path instead of our carefully scaffolded plan?

What questions should be asked to lead our learners to move them identifying no real roots,  1 real root, and 2 real roots graphically to identifying the number of roots using the equation and the discriminant?

Remember, we ask questions; we do not tell rules or definitions.  The art of questioning must be practiced and honed.

Want to explore the investigation? Here’s how:

  • Clicking on the screenshot should enable you to download the TI-Nspire document and open it if you have the TI-Nspire software on your computer.
  • Clicking on the Launch Player button should open a player file where you can interact with the document without having TI-Nspire software. (Be patient; it is a little slow to launch.)

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.  Also, what questions would you ask, and what questions do you hope your learners ask?


Engaging every learner – #AskDon’tTell #TrinityLearns

Do you ever worry about student-directed learning? Does it mean that the teacher is not engaged?  How are we supposed to teach if we don’t tell them stuff?  What if we asked our learners to show what they know before we teach and reteach? Are we assuming that they know nothing because they are, well, young?

When our friend Grant Lichtman (@grantlichtman) was here last week, he talked about game changers for education.  Number 1 on his list was idea paint.  What if we offered the opportunity for every child to show what they know instead of having them raise their hands and wait for the chance to respond?

Here’s what that looks like in practice:

  • Is every child engaged in this lesson?
  • Is every child working collaboratively to show what they know and, at the same time, learn from others?
  • Is every adult engaged in this lesson?
  • How many opportunities for personalized learning, formative assessment, and practice are there during this lesson?
  • Who owns the learning?

Here is additional information and context for this collaborative first grade lesson from Marsha Harris’s (@marshamac74) lesson plan:

How might we engage more learners simultaneously, offer visible opportunities to show what they know, and personalize feedback, intervention, and enrichment?

Caine’s Arcade #PBL #DoDifferent #STEAM

Do you still wonder if we should make time and space for project-based, student-directed learning? Can you spare 11 minutes to watch Caine’s Arcade?

Can you find the content that you teach in Caine’s learning? I found design, engineering, math, physics, art, problem-solving, creativity, communication, strategic planning, perseverance, and many other important, fundamental, essential learnings.  I have to say that I just love his built-in security system with the calculators.  Amazing!

If you have 8 more minutes, please watch the next step,  Caine’s Arcade 2: The Global Cardboard Challenge & Imagination Foundation.

Who are the learners in this project? What was learned?

LEARNing: Linear Functions Investigation – #AskDon’tTell

I used to think I needed to carefully scaffold each algebra learning experience into a series of steps so that each learner would learn.  Now I think I should listen more and talk less.  What if I practiced inquiry and student-directed learning? What if I lead by following the learners questions? How might I set up opportunities for learners to explore and think PRIOR to my show-and-tell show?

What if I gave my learners the following TI-Nspire document and asked them to explore it for 10 minutes? What if I asked them to jot down observations, patterns, and questions  that come to them as they play with this document? What would they learn? What would they ask me? What should I be prepared to ask instead of answering their questions? Can I spend an entire learning episode answering questions with questions to facilitate student learning?

Want to explore the investigation? Here’s how:

  • Clicking on the screenshot should enable you to download the TI-Nspire document and open it if you have the TI-Nspire software on your computer.
  • Clicking on the Launch Player button should open a player file where you can interact with the document without having TI-Nspire software. (Be patient; it is a little slow to launch.)

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.  Also, what questions would you ask, and what questions do you hope your learners ask?


Practicing to be a TLC student leads to learning and questions

I am very intrigued by Steve Goldberg’s use of Google Earth for education and empathy.  Yesterday he posted A typical morning at TLC middle school.  For context, here’s what Steve predicts a day might look like at his school, opening in fall of 2013 in North Carolina:

In the spirit of learning by doing, I thought I’d practice being a student at Triangle Learning Community middle school and follow the typical morning plan for the Morning News Discussion…with a Synergy twist. In Synergy, we wanted to work in ripples – local, national, and international. I gave myself the 45 minutes to read and investigate. This 45-minute exercise turned into the entire two hours! It is the most concentrated news reading I have done in a while!

I started with the AJC to read and learn more about Atlanta. The article Three options for the ‘Gulch’ caught my attention. I noticed the “Gulch” just last week. I used Google Earth to see the area. I immediately thought of how to use the map view in 6th grade math when we teach the area and perimeter of “funny shapes.”

I was intrigued by the vocabulary and meaning of “multimodal passenger terminal” because I have just been reading about how car-oriented Atlanta is which can be frustrating for cyclists. The search for multimodal passenger terminal lead me to atlantadowntown.com’s Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal page.  I did not know Atlanta was planning to have a street car.  I also did not know about Bikes and Bites on July 21.  Bikes and Bites is billed as a car free initiative during Downtown Atlanta Restaurant Week where Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) are encouraging diners to ride their bikes to dinner at more than 20 Downtown restaurants.  What positive environmental outcomes are predicted?  Wow!  Bo’s Whatever It Is I Think I See Becomes a PBL to Me! is so true!

I read and researched and connected these ideas for quite a bit of time.  I wanted to “go global” with my news reading too.  I returned to A typical morning at TLC middle school. After watching the video again and reading the linked article about child brides in Niger, I wondered what the headlines were from the paper in Niger.  Did they have a daily paper? I found Le Républicain Niger using Newspaper Map, a new-to-me resource suggested by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Thankfully, Newspaper Map would translate this newspaper into English (from French) so I could read the headlines.  Talk about a lesson in perspective!  Not one mention of the plight of child brides, the hunger crisis, rapid population growth or infant mortality in the headlines of Le Républicain Niger.

How often do we not see problems in our own community?  How can we find (do we seek) new perspectives to see and observe what is happening in our neighborhoods and larger communities?