Exercising Minds through Questioning

Bright students often come to class thinking they must know all the right answers. What they (and many adults) may not realize is that thinking is not driven by answers, but by questions. It is the sense of wonder and curiosity that drives understanding. As the old saying goes…The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. The more you learn about a subject, the more you realize there is to know. Perhaps having students list thoughtful questions at the conclusion of a unit would be a better determiner of knowledge gained than taking a test.

Young people learn to develop inquiring minds when they hear their parents and teachers ask thoughtful questions of themselves and others. One way to do this is to use Socratic Questioning. Socratic questions help to
  • Clarify issues
  • Question assumptions
  • Justify statements
  • Understand the ideas of others
  • Imagine consequences
  • Relate different issues 
Divergent questions are also useful. They usually begin with words or phrases such as
  • Imagine…
  • Suppose…
  • Predict…
  • If…, then…
  • How might…
  • Can you create…
  • What are some possible consequences…

Here is one example of questioning for young children in kindergarten or first grade after reading and discussing Jack and the Beanstalk.

Q. What did Jack do when he got to the giant's castle?"
A. Jack hid from the giant, found the goose that lays the golden eggs, was discovered by the giant, fled, reached the bottom of the vine, and then chopped it down. The giant, of course, tumbles down, breaks his neck, and Jack lives happily ever after with his mother and his newly found wealth.
Q. Did Jack trespass illegally? (In kindergarten terms, "Did Jack go into someone's house where he did not belong?")
A. Yes!
Q. Did Jack steal the goose that lays golden eggs?"
A. Yes!
Q. Did Jack, then, refuse to give back what did not belong to him?
A. Yes!
Q. Then did Jack escape down the bean vine and cause the giant to be killed?"
A. Yes!
Q. If Jack trespassed, stole, and murdered the giant, why is the giant the villain of this story?

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