In considering the types of questions that you develop, how do you balance unit content with critical content questions? Within your assessments, do you work to create specific questions based on Webb's DOK?



Hello Monday! @informed_members @Certified_Educators

Today begins a week long SLOW CHAT about creating strong questions for our students.
As educators we see the pendulum swing every few years about what is best practice in education, but we also know that effective teachers do what is best for their students at all times (no matter what the newest trend might be). As part of this group, that is you!

We (@senger, @Darcey_Teasdale, and @Susan_Shires) would love to hear from you this week- with each question we ask. I am eager to learn your process for creating strong questions that both allow you to know what a student knows, but also how well they think.


Here is some information about Webb’s Depth of Knowledge:

Does the level of difficulty of your questions increase within a unit? Throughout the year? Why/why not?
Chat Opportunities!
How do you reflect on and evaluate the questions you ask? How often?
How do you prepare your students to answer questions collaboratively vs independently?
Share some of your favorite/ most effective questions and why/what the result has been?
Do you discuss higher order thinking questions- and their levels- with your students so that they can develop their own?

I teach several subjects, including Ancient World History for 6th graders.
With a new topic we always start with the basic information, but then really emphasize growing what we call our “Social Science Skills” that focus more on the higher level questioning. They find connections and similarities/differences between the different civilizations, their religions, governments etc. with other ones we have studied as well as our own.
They also practice forming and defending their own opinion.
These are incorporated into our whole class discussions and activities, but students also use them on their individual unit projects. Their end of unit test also asks them to think about the influence and to state and defend their opinions about what was effective/ineffective about the civilization.

The TCI curriculum already has an essential question for each chapter that is at the higher level thinking that the students work to be able to answer as they are building their knowledge of the civilization which is helpful; otherwise, I create additional questions for discussions, “homework”, etc. .


I teach 5th grade both general and special education students. The balance between unit content and critical questions is easier than we make it out to be. Although some teachers feel that these are two different pieces, they go together. As a teacher who works with special education students, when I ask questions I am always asking the critical content questions that relate and/or match the unit content.
I want to make sure that I am always working towards being able to implement questions that ensure students are aware and thinking beyond the basic questions.
With our assessments, the questions have either been formulated by a committee or most often, the coaches for the subject areas. We have not yet began to write questions based on the DOK. Our administrators have asked us to start answering questions about how the students have completed assessments based on the DOK, even though we have not written these types of questions.


I love that you keep this in mind as you are teaching. Too often I think students and parents get oriented to ask - what facts do I need to memorize to pass the test.
It is so important that we guide our students to be active thinkers and not just trained to “find the right answer”


This is great! How do you address critical content (areas of weakness as shown in previous assessments)…perhaps from a past unit?


I am a Social Studies teacher and as that I try for the higher level, why, how or the idea of planning how to avoid an event like WWI or like currently trying to get my kids to think about the idea of being a turn of the 1900’s business person to try and balance the goal of making money while keeping workers safe and happy.


@senger I love that becuse I am also looking to move them beyond the basic as well as trying to show students that answers are not “right” or “wrong” just differences of opinion and as long as they can be backed up accepted. I also try to show that there are different sides to each story which is seemingly the hardest thing to do.


I teach high school US history and art history. These two disciplines can easily rely to heavily on factual recall, so I try to be cognizant about my line of questioning during class discussions as well as on assessments. My favorite question to ask kids in class is “What makes you say that?” so that they are always defending their knowledge with specific, relevant evidence. I like agree-disagree statements that get students moving from one side of the room to the other and defending their choices, and I love activities that force them to compare/contrast topics. I try to make a good chunk of my assessments application, analysis, and evaluation (Bloom’s) questions, and I’m just starting to use DoK questioning. I’m a fan of students even being allowed to use materials on an assessment that can serve as evidence for arguments that they have to defend.

I’m the only person at my K-12 independent school who is paying close attention to questioning (that I’m aware of), so, coincidentally, this is a topic that I’m bringing up with my grade-level team tomorrow.


I love to hear about the connections they are making. Completing a project in itself usually addresses both Blooms and DOK. Do you provide them with or expect them to address specific levels? For example, my freshmen are participating in a Socratic Seminar tomorrow over Romeo & Juliet. They are expected to come prepared with questions that focus primarily on level 2 and 3 of DOK. These are a challenge for them, but they get better the more we work with them (often answering them is easier than creating them! for me as well:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I love your go-to question, and I bet you just keep repeating it until no more questioning can really occur. It can frustrate the students, but they come to learn to anticipate what is coming and mention it before you have to question.

Questioning is often the most difficult for me so I consider myself a “work in progress” at all times.

They moving to sides of the room in support of an answer is a great way to get students to think and defend their beliefs. You are reminding me that I need to do it more than I do.

Our campus has been studying _Thinking Through Quality Questioning for a couple of years. One focus is the wait time - 3-5 seconds before addressing an answer, thus allowing student to slef adjust or explain an answer. It’s amazing how hard 3 to 5 seconds can be some times! It does work though.


@senger The idea of going beyond basic is fantastic. I have often heard that sometimes admin needs to be reminded that there need to be basic foundation questions to clarify understanding, but then we need to move beyond that. How do your students react as the questions become more challenging? When mine are really stumped or tired they just look at me and say, “Just tell us the answer!” I share that I am there to help them get to the answers and that many times there is more than one correct answer. That’s when a few tell me that’s why the like math-:rofl:


How do you achieve success with this? I teach 9th and 10th ELA and my students are always trying to use 21st century ideas/beliefs when reading something like Romeo & Juliet or Ayn Rands Anthem
They just can’t seem to see beyond why Juliet couldn’t just tell her parents no and go to Mantua to be with Romeo or why individuals would allow someone to tell them what career to choose and to be happy with being themselves. I’d love to hear your successes!


I teach 5th grade all subjects. I have students of all levels, ELLs and ESE included. I try to base my questioning on standards at grade level and differentiate answer choices. I also start broad and then get deeper into the content.
Our unit assessments are district based created by a group of coaches and teachers. We are able to see the assessments and I use this as well as item specs to create my questioning types.


As I said before, I have 5th graders, so getting them used to what they are going to experience in the middle school next year is crucial for me. I don’t just tell them the answer, I tell them to figure it out. My district is a one-to-one iPad district, so they have the resources to figure it out and they do. We also do a lot of discussion after students have arrived at an answer or are able to find information to help them solve.


@Jason_Jorgensen I like that you are putting the students thoughts and responses first. That is what I do now with my 5th graders. When they ask me how to do something or if it is correct, I respond with the same question and have them discuss to figure it out. More than one is usually the understanding that students achieve after discussion and research.


If you don’t mind me asking, how does your district determine those groups- voluntary or does district personnel determine the groups? Do you find that they do a good job?


Each project includes at least one of the skills that they need to show mastery of - and is a little more spelled out.
For my more advanced students they design their own project where they choose the skill they will focus on.

I like that they have to come prepared with questions to the seminar. Not all of my students are quite at that level yet where - although I have a few that are.
With each unit we do a “Discussion Day” I come with a variety of levels of questions prepared, but the students really get to lead what they are curious about or have been thinking about with the unit. I have several students at this point in the year that are starting to come with some of those higher level questions which is awesome! (Most of my class though is still with basic facts as answers). My goal though is that by the end of the year, they can all bring at least 1 of the higher level questions to the discussion day.


Mine can be very similar! They are so used to just being given the answer, they don’t always like to put in the work to discover or work through problems.
I sound like a broken record halfway through the school year when I say " I can help you learn where to look, but I won’t tell you the answer or what to think". If they’ve given a solid effort and tried 3 different tools to tackle the question, I’ll guide them to where they might be, but especially with the more “challenging” questions - there often isn’t a “right” answer, but they do have to do the work to support it.
Some of my students love the opportunity to have a space to tell and defend what they think, others though really struggle because they just want a “right” answer that they can memorize.


I love this! It is so interesting that they have all of these resources at their finger tips,but don’t think about or really confidently know how to use them all of the time.
We definitely need to focus on teaching our students how to use the resources that they have well.


My district tried to get a variety of teachers and coaches involved, people volunteered then were selected from the interested group. It was done over the summer a few years ago initially, good variety of years teaching, and schools from title 1 to magnet were represented. We tweaked them after the first year based on feedback. They are pretty good, there is a good correlation with proficiency to our state tests.