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Questions: Project 180, Day 24



Today, the goal for the kids is to select their topics for their My Life Projects. For that I have two requirements. First and foremost, it has to be of genuine interest to them. Second, they have to be able to generate an essential question. They alone are the guards at the gate for the first one. They know their interests. Even so, and maybe simply because they rarely get real choice, their seems to be an air of distrust on this one as kids come to me and say, “Can I do my project on “X?” And, I simply respond with, “Is it of genuine, I-am-really-passionate-about-this interest?” If the answer is yes, then we are on our way.

But what about the essential question? Well, this requires a different approach, an approach that I must, can, and will support. To that end, the first step is defining an EQ. And this is how I am going about that. First, I put the two columns of questions below in front of the kids, asking them to analyze them as a team, noting their observations between the two columns. Second, based on their observations, I ask them to draw some general conclusions about questions. We did this in teams as a Quick Quest. They had four minutes to complete the task. Then, they shared their thinking, and we discussed our findings as a class. Essentially, the kids arrived where I wanted them to, noting that the left-hand column was more broad in its scope, and the right-hand column was more narrow. They noted, too, that the right seemed to have definite, “Googleable” answers, and the left seemed to have a range of possible, opinion-based answers. All this was done before I had said one word about their projects. Interestingly, one conclusion that we eventually drew is that school seems to largely emphasize and value the right-hand column over the left. Even more interesting was the observation that their seems to be applicability and value to the left-hand column type of thinking in the real world. And we wondered about the mismatch between the two. Insightful kids.

  • How do the arts shape, as well as reflect, a culture?
  • What common artistic symbols were used by the Incas and the Mayans?
  • What do effective problem solvers do when they get stuck?
  • What steps did you follow to get your answer?
  • How strong is the scientific evidence?
  • What is a variable in scientific investigations?
  • Is there ever a “just” war?
  • What key event sparked World War I?
  • How can I sound more like a native speaker?
  • What are common Spanish colloquialisms?

Now that I had them thinking, I introduced the project, emphasizing interest and the EQ as the key first steps to paving the path for their projects. Last night, as homework, I gave them a handout on essential questions to read and annotate. In that handout are the key considerations that we will take into account as we generate our EQ’s today, key considerations that I will take the kids back to as they ask me if they can do their topics on “X.” I told them yesterday that my goal is to ultimately say yes to their chosen pursuits, but they have to pass the interest and EQ litmus test first. I can’t wait to join them in their discoveries today.

A good essential question…

  1. Is open-ended; that is, it typically will not have a single, final, and correct answer.
  2. Is thought-provoking and intellectually engaging, often sparking discussion and debate.
  3. Calls for higher-order thinking, such as analysis, inference, evaluation, prediction. It cannot be effectively answered by recall alone..
  4. Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry.
  5. Requires support and justification, not just an answer.
  6. Recurs over time; that is, the question can and should be revisited again and again.

Happy Tuesday, all. But before I go, I have a request. Many of you have been following me for long time now, and you represent a broad spectrum from fellow educators, to former students, to current students, to supportive friends, to curious or skeptical members of society, and so on. As such, you all have unique perspectives and filters through which you are processing P-180. As a means to not only make P-180 better but also in order to prepare for the conference in November, please consider asking me any questions that you have about P-180: big, small, complex or simple. Your questions will help me further process, develop, and refine the project’s present and future. Thank you for your consideration. Truly, it would help. Good day.

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One Reply to “Questions: Project 180, Day 24”

  • Question: Since starting P-180, have you seen a difference in student behavior compared to previous years before P-180? Ex., student motivation, completion of assignments, respect for teacher and peers, desire to learn, etc.

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