There is nothing that animates learning more than a great question.
If we can just get that one thing right, life is good.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot stacked against us.
Outside school, amidst the polarization of political views and clutter of social media, our students find themselves in competition over who can state their opinions the loudest. The whole idea of stopping to slow down and ask questions doesn’t enter the consciousness.
They have few places to go to confront great questions. We compound this problem inadvertently by racing through our curriculum and never setting aside enough time to work in questions and have meaningful conversations surrounding them.
The greatest benefit to reflective inquiry and conversations is long term—they give our students the feeling that their voices matter. When student voice is validated in this way over time, a student sees learning as a natural and enjoyable part of life, which in turn feeds into a desire to make the world better. There’s a ton at stake here.
That’s why at Teach Different we developed a teaching technique that uses SEL principles to build essential questions and give students voice.
The process comes in three steps and draws its inspiration from the wisdom of the greatest questioner and advocate for socio-emotional learning, Socrates. He knew way before all of us that asking profound questions and engaging people in dialogue was the best way to honor our lived experiences and nurture student voice.
Here’s a quick 2-minute cartoon summarizing the process, beginning with a provocative quote from Chinese philosopher Confucius– “If you want to embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
In steps one and two teachers and students think deeply about a quotation which provokes their emotions in some way. Then, they generate claims and counterclaims surrounding it. The essential question, designed in step three, becomes the hitching post for a conversation connected to the curriculum. The key to the essential question is accessibility– it coaxes students to draw out their own lived experiences inspired by the quotation. In this way, the essential question promotes student voice in a deeply meaningful way.
Success with the 3-Step process, like any other change in instructional habits, is dependent on careful planning and an adherence to a consistent routine over time.
It’s worth the change!