Thinking in Questions – Strategies

questions_globalIf the act of questioning is so important to problem-solving and creativity, how do you teach “how to think in questions”?  We make assumptions that questioning is automatic. Experience tells me that it isn’t. While there are many layers to great questioning, small activities interspersed and integrated into a regular day may provide connections more than a single lesson or unit (just how would one do a unit on questions?).

This activity is partly based on the flashcard and group generation method. questioncards It can be used any time you wish to generate questions from different lenses. For each group, hand out a bunch of flashcards that have a single word on each card (How..Why..What..Who..Where..).  Provide a topic of study (eg. cetaceans in captivity, pipelines, etc.).  Have each group generate questions under each flashcard (these can be scribbled on strip paper or post-it notes). Place the same question terms on classroom walls. Have students collect and collate all of the questions under each term. They can categorize as to ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ questions and why. Consider gallery walks to generate broader questions. Students can then write a post culminating their thoughts.

Or how about using a technology platform like Google Hangout to connect GHangout_questmarkwith another classroom in a different location and participate in a ‘Mystery Hangout’. To do this, teachers might create a class account in Google. Generally the process is a merge between 20 questions, communication and battleship. The goal is to practice developing great questions to cast a better net of answers. Once questions are generated, the teacher sets up a date/time with another teacher to have the hangout. (Consider time zones if connecting to other provinces or countries.) A question is posed live to the other site.  The response gained offer clues to the answer from the other site. You can certainly tell that pre-practice of questioning is a must before connecting online. Imagine using this process to gain information on geography, history or science. Using Google Hangout can open the door and flatten the classroom walls creating a connected environment.

How do you create opportunities to practice questioning? Would love to hear your thoughts.


Blending Environments – Digital Citizenship is Participation

“Stop at the curb. Take my hand. Look left, look right and look left again.” Remember this? I remember this as if it was yesterday. Many of you are recalling when you first started teaching your children the rules of the road.  I don’t ever recall saying the streets are too full of danger so we should stay in the house.  Imagine not being allowed to play in the sand or climb up mountains or jog through trails or wade through streams.  Life demands that we explore, create, build, communicate and share.

So why are we so quick to avoid or dismiss environments that we might not be comfortable. Take for example the ‘digital world’.  Some believe in full access while others are all for blocking this and that. Either way, there is consensus that “digital citizenship” should be taught.  Rather than a list of “don’ts”, I see digital citizenship beyond internet safety, netiquette, schoolhouse management, security, or even footprint. Citizenship requires participation, a belonging to a greater whole, including rights and responsibilities to the community. From this perspective, the digital environment is not separate from the physical environment; they seamlessly co-exist. We learn through active participation, responsible participation and authentic participation. (Someone can tell me a million times how to make pastry but until I get into the floury mess I will never learn it or know how it turns out.)

What we might consider is explore what citizenship looks and feels like in the digital world, joining a community of practice within our schools and to venture with others to share our experiences and story with the larger community. Connectedness and authentic learning happens at the intersection. Conversation extends and deepens the relationships built in both face-to-face and digital environments.


Becoming a digital citizen or a citizen means engaging with the world in authentic, purposeful and intentional ways. This comes with practice and in our schools, guided practice. This means that we have to model those practices. As we continue to work and explore ideas in this arena, we invite you to come play with us.  Just as we started with teaching the basics of crossing the street, our digital sandbox works within frames to purposefully guide and support the learning.  On May 22, we have a beginning launch for K-7 teacher leaders and mentors, administrator as lead learners to experience and reflect on some of these ideas. These will be posted here.

Digital Citizenship is Minimal Requirement – We Need Digital Leaders

Digital citizenship is a topic that is gaining a dizzying momentum.  The range of tools and environments continue to pop up at rates that far outstrip our ability to understand the new territory, much less navigate it.

It is one thing to be able to orient yourself through a new environment like a holiday drive in a new city and to truly feel you can navigate the streets and alleyways with confidence. It is another to state the same with regards to the media rich world we find ourselves negotiating. Our students, staff and parents show up in our classrooms with varying levels of experience and opportunity to negotiate this digital world. It is a whole new world in many respects. The importance of teaching/sharing digital citizenship just like we offer insights into citizenship and social responsibility is paramount.

digifootprint_edDigital citizenship is a belief and value system that aims to empower students to think critically and make informed choices about how we use the new tools to create, communicate and ultimately treat each other.

The digital citizenship journey can be divided into eight components: Internet Safety, Cyberbullying, Privacy and Security, Digital Footprint and Reputation, Relationships and Communication, Self-Image and Identity, Information Literacy, Creative Credit and Copyright (  Each component can stand separately or be easily grouped.  The topics are interconnected and woven together to form a foundational core value. In the language of Restitution, it would be “who is the person we want to be”.

We all (teachers, students, parents, wider community) have a stake in helping socialmedia_thinkalign our practices and experiences to support our students in this new world.
Our journey started four years ago with our district blogs based on WordPress. I adapted this graphic to add to our collective  resources on “digital wisdom”.  Will be adding more as time goes by.

Wondering how you are negotiating this area with your students or districts?

Dialogue With A Twist

google_storybuilderlogoHow would you create opportunities for students to practice dialogue? Perhaps it’s talk between two people or two characters in a book or a conversation between you and yourself? MMhh…now that would be interesting. A bit of reflective action produced in video format. And practicing a host of literacy elements to boot.

The tool you ask? It’s Google Story Builder —just hot off the presses in April. Check out this online tool to create dialogue, monologue…the possibilities are endless.


Type in the names of characters; enter in dialogue. Add some music in the background and capture the weblink to share your conversation online.  I’ve created one on Questions (yes my favourite topic). Here’s the link:

Sometimes you just have to have a conversation with yourself and sometimes it’s just about plain fun. Imagine if this was used as a documentation reflection piece in the classroom?
I would love to hear how you’re using this new tool?