Last week I attended a fantastic AP government redesign workshop through Northwestern University led by Vanessa Lal ( @vlal ). I was heartened to see that inquiry is a centerpiece of the new format. In fact, the College Board has designed specific Big Questions to underpin each of the five broad content categories: Foundations, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, American Political Ideologies and Beliefs and Political Participation.
We’ve all seen the images, heard the audio and read the tweets. The immigration debate has everybody busting at the seams on both sides.
And August is just around the corner.
And we know what that means.
Students will be walking into our classrooms confused, tired, angry and needing answers. And we will be trying to figure out ways to teach a historical, psychological, sociological or political understanding of the immigration issue while at the same time resisting the impulse to impose our own opinions– a delicate and seemingly impossible burden.
This is exactly the kind of environment in which Big Questions thrive. Continue reading
My friend’s high school-aged daughter volunteers every week in Chicago at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. There she gains invaluable experience working with individuals who suffer from physical limitations brought upon by a spinal cord injury, stroke, amputation or some sort of traumatic brain injury. She will play card and board games, for instance, to help patients work on memory and fine motor skills. These tasks, once routine, now require intense mental effort and energy. Continue reading
I love fishing. It’s a chance to relax, be in nature and enjoy a little peace and serenity. The best part, though, is the excitement of setting the hook on a really big fish. That’s the beginning of an enjoyable struggle whose outcome is always uncertain.
Usually the hardest part is setting the hook just right.
In teaching we often feel like we are fishing without a hook, trying every strategy we can to get kids excited, asking questions and taking learning seriously. Despite our noble efforts, we fall short many times. It’s usually not that our lesson was poorly conceived as a whole; it’s that we never got started in the right direction and so things just sort of… fizzled out.
If we can’t set the hook, especially in a class driven by Big Questions, then students quickly lose interest and usually we can’t get them back.
So what is the best way to set that hook?
Bring in a little philosophy.
“I think, therefore I’m right.” Whether it’s defending a position on gun control, angling for a better grade in class or arguing about musical tastes in the lunchroom, many students tend to think that thinking about and believing in something are sufficient grounds for the truth of that something. Often, adults are no better. The whole idea of actually having strong reasons behind beliefs is noble in the abstract but requires mountains of patience and work to actually put into action. Thus, when faced with the agonizing choice, many of us stick to our hard and fast opinions rather than embrace the grueling work to justify those opinions with careful reasoning. Continue reading
This post extends last week’s debrief of ideas from the sschat “Teaching Teachers and Students to Ask Big Questions,” held on April 2, 2018. Short commentary follows each comment with links to past blog posts relevant to the idea shared.
Thanks again to all who participated! The next chat is Creating Podcasts with Your Students #sschat April 9, 2018 at 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm Hosted by @listenwiselearn Continue reading
On Monday, April 2nd the sschat community discussed the importance of teachers and students asking questions to guide instruction and learning. Since so many great ideas were shared, it seemed fitting to slow down and debrief some of the ideas in more depth, and acknowledge people in the process. The list below is just a small sampling of tweets yet it paints an authentic portrait of the types of conversations which unfolded.
I’ve also provided some of my own commentary with links to previous blog posts which expand upon the idea in a meaningful way.
Thanks to all who participated! More coming soon. Continue reading