Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Authentic Questions in English Language Arts

Photo by 姒儿喵喵
 Yesterday, I read Doug Johnson's post entitled "What is an authentic question?" and was feeling once again inspired to write.  In just a few short words, Johnson gets to the root of the reason that so many 'research' projects fail... there is no authentic question to investigate!  If there is already a list of predetermined outcomes and right or wrong answers, why bother inquiring?  If you have never listened to Jeff Wilhelm talk about inquiry in the Scholastic Professional series, take a few minutes to do so.  Then, think about the big questions, authentic ones, that will get real inquiry rolling, and more importantly, your students engaged in thinking.

Here are just a few of my personal favourite examples:
  • What enables some people to endure/survive horrible circumstances? (Holocaust, War/Peace, Survival units...)
  • Why do we always want/need a happy ending? (fairy tale unit)
  • What is worth fighting for? (Personal Best, Life Challenges units...)
  • Is conflict necessary?
  • What makes a good relationship? (Wilhelm's big question for Romeo and Juliet)
For great examples, check out Wilhelm's book, Engaging Readers and Writers with Inquiry (p. 54-55)

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