What do you wonder? Do you constantly form questions about the world around you? If you are an elementary student, your answer is probably “yes.” If you are an adult, the answer is “sometimes.” If you are an adolescent, your answer is probably, “What are you talking about?” By the time students are in seventh grade, they are so used to the teachers telling them which questions to ask and which questions to answer from their reading, that they stop forming their own. Do you wonder why so many adolescents are disconnected from the content of their classes? Cris Tovani writes in I read it, but I don’t get it, “In a rigorous, inquiry-based classroom, student-generated questions drive instruction and encourage engagement.” Questioning is a strategy that can be, and should be, taught. First, the teacher needs to create a low-risk environment encouraging all students, through modeling, that all questions are valid. Then, the teacher connects questioning to text the students are reading. The key through this whole process (and most educational processes for that matter) is teacher-modeling.
How often did I, as a classroom teacher, generate all of the questions? Did I allow for student inquiry? Happily, I can say that I did. On the flip side, I can say, not often enough. I wonder how much more fun my teaching would have been, how much more my students would have learned had I allowed for student-generated questions to guide my instruction on a regular basis.