Essential Questions What are they and how do you write one?
What Is an Essential Question? • A question you have to think critically to answer. Instead of simply looking up an answer, you need to conduct research and create an original answer.
An Essential Question… • provokes deep thought. • solicits information-gathering and evaluation of data. • results in an original answer. • helps students conduct problem-related research. • makes students produce original ideas rather than predetermined answers. • may not have an answer. • encourages critical thinking not just memorization of facts.
Types of Essential Questions • Which one? • How? • What if? • Should? • Why?
“Essential vs. Traditional Questions" • Not Essential: • “What is it like to live in Hong Kong?" • Essential • Which city in Southeast Asia is the best place to live? • Not Essential: • “What is AIDS?" • Essential: • Which serious disease most deserves research funding?
“How Questions" • Example: What are some sustainable solutions to environmental problems in your neighborhood, and how could they be implemented?
"What if Questions" • What if questions are hypothetical, questions which ask you to use the knowledge you have to pose a hypothesis and consider options. • Examples: • "What if the Cultural Revolution had never happened?" • "What if students didn’t have to go to school?”
"Should Questions" • Should questions make a moral or practical decision based on evidence. • Examples: • "Should we clone humans?“ • "Should we discontinue trade with countries that abuse human rights?"
"Why Questions" • Why questions ask you to understand cause and effect. "Why" helps us understand relationships; it helps us get to the essence of an issue. • Examples: • "Why do people abuse drugs?" • "Why is the death rate higher in one Third World country than another?"
Skinny vs. “Fat” Questions • What are Fat Question? • Open-ended questions, which can be argued and supported by evidence. • Examples: • Skinny Question: "When was the Declaration of Independence signed?" • Fat Question: "What would have happened had we not signed it?”
How do you write an essential question? Consider the focus of the unit or lesson activity: • Digital Dossier • Digital Citizenship • Digital Footprint • Cyberbullying • Bullying
How do you write an essential question? Ideas for a good essential question: • may stem from your particular interests in a topic (e.g. If you were a victim of cyberbullying, what would you do?, community resources (How is your school dealing with bullying?) • Begin with the 6 typical queries that newspaper articles address: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? • From these questions formulate your essential question. • Use: Which one? How? What if? Should? Why?
Student Example Developing an Essential Question • Five Supporting Questions about Muhammad Ali • HOW did he influence the Civil Rights Movement? • WHAT were the main reasons for him not going into the military service? • WHEN did Ali decide not to participate in military service? • WHAT was the public reaction when Ali did not join the military service? • WHAT were his punishment for not joining the military when he was required under the DRAFT? • ESSENTIAL QUESTION • How did Ali influence other people of his race and the Civil Rights movement when he refused to serve in the Military because of his religious beliefs?
Examples of Open-ended Questions • How would you…? • What would result if…? • How would you describe…? • How does…compare with…? • What is the relationship between…? • What would happen if…? • How could you change…? • How would you improve…? • How do you feel about…?
Examples of Open-ended Questions • Why do you believe…? • What is your opinion of…? • What choice would you have made…? • What would you do differently? • Why do you feel…? • How would you go about solving the problem…? • If you were in this position what would you do? • Why do you/don’t you support…? • What could improve…?
Questioning Resources • Asking Essential Questions http://www.biopoint.com/ibr/askquestion.html • The Key to Understanding Essential Questionshttp://www.hannibal.cnyric.org/Acrobat%20docs/ESSENTIAL%20QUESTIONS%20For%20high%20School.pdf • Themes and Essential Questions: Framing Inquiry and Critical Thinking http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/instruction/ELA/6-12/Essential%20Questions/Index.htm • Asking Essential Questionshttp://www.il-tce.org/present04/flesser.pdf