Asking Real-life Questions

“I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING — the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his ‘cruiser’. I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!”

~Carl Rogers

We are finishing up history class with an independent study. As students narrow their topics, I keep asking them to take the Carl Rogers’ test before they choose their topic:

  1. No, no, that’s not what I want.
  2. Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need.
  3. Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!

My goal is to walk each one through the process so they get to #3 before they are satisfied with their topic!

Imagine if school was always lived in that #3 area–Ah, here it is! Now I’m learning what I want to know!  What a great educational reform that would be! Can school be like this?

If schools were really like this, think of the suppertime conversations: Parents would ask their children big, real-life questions like these, via Will Richardson in this post “What Did You Create Today?”

  • What did you make today that was meaningful?
  • What did you learn about the world?
  • Who are you working with?
  • What surprised you?
  • What did your teachers make with you?
  • What did you teach others?
  • What unanswered questions are you struggling with?
  • How did you change the world in some small (or big) way?
  • What’s something your teachers learned today?
  • What did you share with the world?
  • What do you want to know more about?
  • What did you love about today?
  • What made you laugh?

May school be a place where parents aren’t limited to questions like: “What grade did you get on your math test?” and “Do you have homework tonight?”

5 thoughts on “Asking Real-life Questions

  1. This is exactly what I am trying to do with my grade 5 and 6s!
    Denise, you have a wonderful way with words…your blogs are always inspirational!

    So, now comes the important part! How do we do more of this in the classroom? #geniushour is obviously one component. More science experiments and less science textbook is surely a part of it! What else? Would love to hear how other teachers make this a reality in their classrooms!
    Looking forward to everyone’s comments!!

    (Denise, I am currently working on a blog that is quite similar to this…though not nearly as well-written. I will let you know when I publish)

  2. Thank you, Gallit,
    I will look forward to your blog post, and I love conversing with you about the wonderful changes occurring in education. Thanks for the compliments, but I certainly owe this blog post to Carl Rogers and Will Richardson.

    Another thing I have been doing is showing the standards to the students and then saying, “How will you learn this? How will you show the learning?” I’m not yet sure if they are convinced they want to learn those standards, but the standards are really big ideas. I hope they do look at them as “essential concepts,” as they are called. The students do have freedom to choose the content of their learning though.

    Did you see these, where I explain more about that?

    Thanks again, Gallit, and I hope others will comment about what they are doing too!

  3. I’m going to share with my students too. It is exactly the kind of thinking I want them to experience when they are making choices about their learning. It begs the question what good is differentiated instruction if students are making decisions from a mental standpoint of impressing peers? We need frameworks & teacher guidance like this to help students understand it is okay to make choices based on what creates a sense of wonder & excitement in themselves when they are learning.

    This is another wonderful post Denise! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Kelley and Hugh,
    Thanks for checking out this post. I’m glad more students will be asking questions about what they are learning. I know they are more engaged!

    Today I was walking around, stopping for brief conferences with my students. I went to one who had written two pages of notes on what he was reading. I asked if he was enjoying what he was learning. He said, “Yes, this is really interesting!” I don’t always get that response in eighth grade American history class. I’m loving the new look of learning in my room.

    Take care,

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