By Ashleigh Burry and Kristy Mandel
After going through the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) protocol, you may be wondering what you can do with all those wonderful questions your students have generated. Here are some ideas we have implemented in our first-grade classrooms.
Wonder Wall and Exploration Hour
This is a great way to introduce and practice the QFT with students at the beginning of the year. It requires some set-up on the teacher’s part, but it really does run itself after the initial launch.
Here’s what we do:
- Have a place where students can post their questions throughout the week (e.g., Parking Lot, Light Bulb, or Wonder Wall).
- Have a place where students can access sticky notes independently (a giant library pocket is great!)
- Throughout the week, allow time in the day for students to ask questions about things that make them curious (independent work or morning work are great opportunities for this).
- On Fridays, or another designated day of the week, give students time to explore their questions. We call this Exploration Hour. Our students use the internet or books to find answers to their questions. Kiddle.co is a great search engine for kids.
- What the students choose to do from here is up to them! They can just simply find the answer or they can write a small booklet or draw a picture to show what they learned.
Informational Reading and Writing
As you know, each grade level is required to have an informational reading and writing unit somewhere during the year. We choose to align our units so our students can use questions to guide their thinking and writing. This requires more of students than the first idea, so we implement this later in the year once students have had practice with QFT.
Here’s what we do:
- Have students choose a QFocus. We usually give them some guidance with this. For example, a QFocus could be an animal, person, or place.
- Students generate questions about their QFocus and turn any closed questions into open questions.
- They then choose three priority questions that they will research.
- Students use books and the internet to take notes on their questions. This is where we teach how to read informational books and use text features.
- Finally, students use their notes to write an informational “All About” book on their QFocus using what they’ve learned from informational text and its features.
Project Based Learning (PBL)
Definitely the most complicated of the three, PBL is a great way to use questions in the classroom. This by far requires the most teacher guidance. If you’re familiar with PBL, we have slimmed down the process in order to make it developmentally appropriate.
Here’s what we do:
- Give students a “driving question.” For example: How do we, as first-grade scientists, help chicks develop through their life cycle?
- First, students will generate “need to know” questions, which will guide their learning throughout the PBL unit.
- To best scaffold this for students, we have found it helpful to give them headings to ask questions about. For example: Incubator, Egg, Life Cycle, and Adult.
- Students use what they know from the QFT to write questions on sticky notes and post them under each heading.
- As a group, we categorize and prioritize questions.
- Once we have the “need to knows,” we develop our lessons and research around them so that students are able to find answers to these questions.
- What your students do with their findings is up to you. Here are some ideas we have tried: Google Slides presentations, All About books, research journals, Wonder Bubbles, and brochures
About the authors
Ashleigh Burry is a first-grade teacher in Novi, Michigan. She has been teaching for 12 years (at the time of this writing), with experience teaching fifth grade, literacy, and first grade. She holds a master’s degree in curriculum and teaching from Michigan State University. In addition to questioning, Burry has a passion for literacy and finding books that foster a love of reading in her students. She lives with her husband, a fellow teacher, and twin 6-year-old boys. You can find her on Twitter, @arburry.
Kristy Mandel has been a first-grade teacher in Novi, Michigan, for four years (at the time of this writing). She attended Michigan State University for both undergraduate and graduate education, recently receiving a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum. She has a passion for teaching and strives to foster a love of learning in her students. Mandel recently celebrated one year of marriage with her husband, Jake.
Follow Burry and Mandel on their shared Instagram account, talesofaverage.