Sunday, November 3, 2013

Snowballing Good Questions

As part of our school's SSSSI (Student Success School Support Initiative) group we have focused on questioning and accountable talk. Through lesson study we have developed lessons in grade 9 and 10 math and grade 10 English. I recently delivered a lesson on questioning to my grade 10 applied math class.

In 3 Act Math task fashion I posted this photo (National Geographic magazine) on the board 

Of course you can't see them but there are four people in the picture. I then asked all the students to write down any and all questions they had about the photo. Many students filled a whole sheet with questions. Students also went to the board to have a look.
Students were then put in groups of 3 and given a colour associated with their group. Each group was required to discuss all their questions and were required to pick their "best 3" and the reason why each question was chosen. The question and the reason was put on a white board.  
At this point the classroom had 7 groups of 3 students (each group assigned a colour) and each group had 3 whiteboards with their best questions A, B, and C and the reason each was chosen.
Students then took their marker and we rotated (3 minutes per table) and each group was required to pick what they thought was each groups best question and why they thought it was a good question. They put this information on a piece of chart paper that was at each pod. (I call this SNOWBALLING - where each group goes and evaluates / judges all other groups stuff)
Eventually groups returned to their home location and received the feedback about their three questions.  Each group then took their best question out of the 3 and posted the question and the chart paper with all the feedback at the front of the room.
At this point the front of the room had 7 questions (one per group) and the class feedback.
Here are some samples. 



After examining all 7 best questions with the rationale groups then developed criteria for a good question.
Here is what they came up with:

At this point the students quickly snowballed all the criteria from each of the 7 groups. Then the class generated what they thought was the criteria for a good question and we generated a poster.

My thoughts:

1) Pleased with the amount and quality of questions students generated by themselves.

2) When pods of three were choosing their best three questions I was disappointed with the amount of accountable talk. I thought they settled on their best three questions too easily.

3) Groups struggled with the "why" it was a good question.  They had difficulties articulating this.

4) The groups did a great job deciding on the criteria for a good question and picking out the best ones as a class.

5) Having the students move around the room and evaluate other groups work was a positive.

6) Time well spent (two days) - I think the students developed a better idea of what I am looking for when I ask them " Any questions come to mind?", "Anything your wondering about?" Etc.

Of course on the third day the students answered these two questions:

 In three act math fashion:

Here is the work on these two questions by two groups:

If you made it the end of this post - you rock!

Go ahead - ask questions?????

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alex!
    Found this post after hearing your Global Math Dept presentation on Spiraling! This seems like an activity that would set up a good "questioning" mindset in any subject, so I'm excited about using it in my ESL class as well.
    Question: During the Global Math Dept recording, you mentioned that you do three of these posters a semester... And I think you mentioned (in addition to this one): "What's good thinking/problem solving" and "What's good communication in math class". Is that right? When in the semester do you do these "co-creating criteria" exercises? On the one hand, I can see how it would be a great beginning of the year activity to set up the classroom culture, but on the other hand, I can see how having these discussions *throughout* the semester would be helpful as well...? (Also, I'm guessing that your classes are only a semester long, is that right?)
    Thank you!