While radical free choice is not something kids get often during the school year, this question remains broad enough to encompass current events, history, statistics, sports, music, math, literature, poetry, speeches, politics, and economics, though maybe not deep space exploration. As a teacher, we could begin with 10 questions about the self and the world and see how many of the questions that students generate lean naturally toward answering this question. If a student has a passion otherwise, by all means, let that student be free to follow it. I just find that too much open choice leaves students grasping at straws. They want to please. They expect authority, and we won’t have a year together to build the deep bonds that lead to trust and self-revelation that we have during the school year. It takes months for students to trust me when I say, “Free write”. That’s partially the conditioning of school itself and partially human nature. You don’t usually open your heart to a group of strangers when you are 14 years old. Or, maybe I just don’t know enough 14 year olds. I will get to know them soon enough, though.

In twelve days, it is difficult to form the deep bonds that lead to trust and self-revealing writing; we can ask this question and explode it wide open. I’d love to see what kinds of questions students ask about a question. I have used the Right Question Protocol with Renee Ehle. It works well. You eliminate the closed questions. You make kids evaluate the importance of their own questioning. You model the asking of “good” questions. It’s not something most students know how to do intuitively. In three weeks, we could do a lot of work around shaping interesting writing from this primary question.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Anything Worth Writing About by Krisy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment
  1. Marina 6 months ago

    Dear Krisy :

    I agree with you when you said,”If a student has a passion otherwise, by all means, let that student be free to follow it. ,” because if there’s is one belief that I have about inquiry is that you have to start with you. That is where the natural engagement and motivation lies!

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “You don’t usually open your heart to a group of strangers when you are 14 years old.” I think this is true because it takes a great deal of bravery and vulnerability to let others in for so many people. I think we are all trying to figure ourselves out and sometimes we do not want to reveal our thoughts before we ourselves have solidified them. I have learned that it is when I share that I actually do begin to iron out my initial thoughts taking me one step closer to whatever it is that I want to learn. That being said, I think this experience will offer the kids an opportunity to begin to put themselves out there with some freedoms that will help them begin to figure out what they want to know about – whether it’s about justice, themselves or both.

    Another idea that I connected to was the importance of modeling “good” questions. This stood out for me because like you, I also tried out the Question Formulation Technique with my students this year and had a lot of fun with it. I found that students were intrigued when the information was presented to them in this way and ownership over their learning increased.

    Thanks for your sharing your ideas. I always appreciate what you have to say because often it gets me thinking in new ways. I am excited to be working with you this summer!

    Marina

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