Successful Teaching

Report
From Objective to
Essential Question
Promoting Higher-Order Thinking
and Retention
What are Essential Questions?
Our Understanding – 1 to 5
 Thinking in Essential Questions vs.
Objectives
 Traits and Examples of Overarching
Essential Questions

Statements/Objectives

Why are questions valued over
statements?
 Promotes
student-inquiry
 Develops responsibility on the part of the
student
 Initiates discussion
 Provides an opportunity for parents to
become an integral part of learning
 Relieves anxiety for some students
Working Definition of EQ

Define Essential Question

http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.ph
p?viewkey=8f70b8321b95e2f1a84e

Is there anything you want to add to your
definition after viewing the video?
Define Essential Questions
Conceptual
 Suggest inquiry
 Set the focus for the lesson or unit
 Initiators of creative and critical thinking.
 Focus on key concepts implicit in the
curriculum

Overarching Essential Questions
Open-ended questions requiring students
to use prior knowledge, new
information, and individual
research/experiences
 Encourage analysis, synthesis, and
evaluation
 One to three per unit
 “Big” questions students should be able to
answer at the end of each unit

Why Essential Questions?
"Essential questions are important because they connect
classroom work to the large and enduring issues that
affect our lives.
They are the links that make expeditions relevant,
connecting the curriculum to actual concerns that young
people face.
They also provide an invitation into critical thinking,
providing chances to coach young people to think
clearly, precisely, accurately, and reasonably about
things that matter" (Umphrey, 2005).
Getting Started with Stepping
Stones
Background knowledge
 Literal
 Concrete with specific correct answers
 The student-friendly objective turned into a
question
 Different questions every day or two
 Reflect Bloom’s Remembering and
Understanding levels

How can I tell if a question is
Essential?
solicits evaluation of data
 helps students conduct analysis through
problem-related research
 makes students produce original ideas
rather than predetermined answers
 encourages critical thinking not just
memorization of facts.

“Is my Question Essential?” Activity

Remembering

Analyzing

Understanding

Evaluating

Applying

Creating
What should the EQ classroom
look like?

Overarching Essential Questions
 Course-long
 Unit-long
 Week-long
 Day-long

Supporting Questions (Stepping Stones)
 Interest-generating
questions
 Student-friendly objective turned into a question
 Leading questions
 Somewhat closed questions to solicit facts and build
background knowledge
Criteria for Essential Questions

Easy to understand
 No

difficult vocabulary
Broad terms
 Much

to interpret
Posted in the classroom
Learning to Write Stepping Stone
Questions
What is your teaching objective?
 Write the objective as a question.
 Do you need smaller key questions?
 Rewrite if necessary to make sure learners
understand the question(s).

Essential Questions

How do we present Essential Questions to
our students?

Traditional – Board, Overhead, Handout,
Oral, Online, Student-Generated
Session EQ
• How could the use of high quality
overarching essential questions change
the way my students approach learning?
• Two minutes
• Report
References
(1996). From now on. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from FNO.org Web site:
http://www.fno.org/sept96/questions.html
(2002). Writing essential questions. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from
myprojectpages.com Web site:
http://www.myprojectpages.com/support/ess_questpopup.htm
(2004). Themes & essential questions: Framing inquiry & promoting critical
thinking. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from Greece Central School District Web
site: http://www.greece.k12.ny.us/instruction/ela/612/essential%20questions/Index.htm
(2005). Essential questions. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from The Question Mark
Web site: http://questioning.org/mar05/essential.html
(2008). Essential questions. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from Spartanburg School
District 3 Web site: http://www.spa3.k12.sc.us/essentialquest.htm
Nellan, Ted (2008). What is an essential question?. Retrieved August 1, 2008,
from The Nellan Family Jewels Web site:
http://www.tnellen.com/alt/essential.html
Wiggins, G., What is an essential question?. Retrieved August 17, 2008 from Big
ideas, an authentic e-journal: Web site:
http://www.authenticeducation.org/bigideas/article.lasso?artId=53

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