I recently spent a weekend with friends and family members, including a 2 1/2-year-old. I spent the first half of the weekend being amazed by all of the questions this little girl asked: Why are you moving your chair Mommy? Why is the pool cold? Can I have strawberries? How did it get like that? What is he talking about? Will you read this to me? Not only did she ask tons of questions, but she listened intently when her parents answered her. She was so inquisitive and curious and fun to watch! For those of you who have children, I’m sure this isn’t surprising to you. But for those of you who are educators, I ask, is this what you hear in classrooms?
I spend the second half of the weekend reflecting on why this young child’s curiosity was so surprising to me. I babysat children when I was younger. I tutored, student-taught, taught and was a principal, surrounded by students from age 4-18. I have years of experience working with students in and outside of school. What I realized, however, is that the more time I spend in classrooms now, the less I hear questions being asked by students. Throughout my classroom visits, I hear teachers asking questions. This then leads to individual students responding to those questions, or students talking to partners about their responses. Occasionally, this leads to students writing responses. But it is a rare occurrence when the students are asked to generate questions. And I don’t just mean questions when they are confused and need a specific support.
I want to hear our students’ creativity come out in the form of questions. Children are naturally curious (as anyone who spends any time with toddlers can attest!). How is it that a typical day in school can stifle those questions? What can we do to encourage questions? How do we provide meaningful opportunities for our students to ask authentic questions and share their thinking throughout the learning process? How do we structure the school day so that students not only ask their own original questions, but spend time seeking out answers to their questions through research, collaboration, and discovery? What does that classroom sound like?
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