Module Design Format:
of Module: “You Want a Better
Answer? Then Ask a Better
Topic(s): Use of questioning in the classroom; Designing questions that allow students to think in different ways; Encouraging and developing higher order thinking skills in young adolescents
Course: Middle School Theory / Structure / Philosophy; Best Practices for Teachers of Middle Level students (Elmhurst College)
Designed by: Brian B. Kahn
Duration: 1 semester - 1 unit course / app. 45 hours of contact
The idea behind this module is to introduce/reintroduce practicing and/or preservice teachers to the art of designing and asking meaningful questions in the context of the middle school classroom – the primary aim being to develop higher-level thinking skills in young adolescents. This unit will be taught in the context of the middle school course but will be using social studies methodological considerations as a base as well as strategies for the integration of both visual and dramatic arts.
Description of Learners: The course is taken by both preservice and practicing teachers at Elmhurst College – it is required for certification for teaching middle school along with the adolescent psychology piece. Many teachers who have been in the classroom for some time are now required to return to school in order to complete these requirements. The bulk of the students will be undergraduates who want to “play it safe” and get their middle level certification even though most will tell you that they really do not intend to work at that level.
Goals: The overall goal is to introduce students to the art of questioning and to help them learn new strategies to develop more critical thinking skills in their students. While this module will be a unit within the middle school course itself, it will be based upon social science methodologies. In addition, the actual content of the activities will focus on the visual and dramatic arts.
Instructional Strategies: group brainstorming, large group discussion, cooperative group work, “Carousel” technique
Assessment: Students will be required to complete a number of “products” as a result of these activities including a Bloom’s Flip Chart, lists of questions based on the Carousel activity, a list of web sites showcasing primary and secondary source documents
Resources/Materials Required: large easel paper, construction paper, markers, scissors, poster set (Women of Courage), posters of World War II government-sponsored art (recruiting posters, Rosy the Riveter, etc.)
EXPLANATION & RATIONALE
This module is intended to assist teachers/preservice teachers in better understanding the how and why of developing better question skills, the ways in which these skills can enable students to better higher-level thinkers, the ways in which primary and secondary source history documents can enrich the understanding of a particular time in history, and the importance of exposing their students to the visual arts and dramatic interpretation of historical events.
This will take place within the context of a Middle School Best Practices course (certification course) in which proven teaching and learning strategies for young adolescents are emphasized. Middle level educators understand the great importance of assisting their students develop higher-order thinking skills/strategies and the fact that one such avenue to this end concentrates on designing, developing, and implementing meaningful question and answer sessions. This will allow students to better move across the various levels of abstraction (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, application) and to develop the ability to think on a higher order.
The art of questioning is often taken for granted – it just comes naturally or it is just something that all teachers do. Question design, when based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy, allows teachers to stretch the boundaries of their thought, to think about issues and topics from various levels of abstraction, and to develop more and better strategies for applying their new knowledge. We also know that well thought out questions assist teachers in eliciting the answers they want as well as giving students the opportunity to expand their boundaries of thought – to be able to better understand the very nature of knowledge and its uses.
Visual and dramatic arts serve many purposes in the classroom. They have the potential to enrich the particular learning experience be it history, science, reading related. It stimulates thinking, it encourages students to develop their other learning modalities (psychomotor skills), it exposes them to a whole different understanding of self-expression, it gives them the opportunity to develop their creativity, it provide them with a strategy for interpreting the meaning of any number of primary and secondary source documents (which are essential in order to have a greater understanding of any historical era).
Ideas for Classroom Activities:
This kind of activity has lots of possibilities for outside assignments/projects – students would create their own Questioning activity based upon a particular content area – students would create an activity for the classroom which included both integration of the arts and critical thinking skills – the lesson plan and possible demonstration could be the final product for such a task.
In addition, further modules could be created with such an arts integration theme in the context of this middle school course – inquiry learning, cooperative group instruction, etc. – each focusing on a “best practice” for working with this age level. Special attention could be given to finding ways to bring in many forms of art – old and new – “art” that adolescents might relate to better – media images – video/computer generated art, etc.