2. Class Taxonomy of Questions (K-12)
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When students begin to label the different kinds of questions, they learn to select different kinds of questions to perform different kinds of thinking. No matter what the level of schooling, some kind of label can work effectively.
Teach students that questions are like tools in a tool box. They would not pull out a screw driver to saw a board. Nor would they use a hammer to unscrew a bolt. Jobs require a choice to tool. Thinking requires a choice of questions. For most students who have never thought consciously about how they think or question, the thinking tools lie unassorted, unlabeled and unidentifiable in the bottom of the box. They tend to reach into the box and pull out the first tool (or question) that comes to hand (or Mind). This leads to hammering instead of sawing, planing instead of drilling.
To introduce students to the idea of categorizing questions, bring in a tool box of tools and ask them to suggest how they might be organized in the toolbox based on what they do. An alternative manipulative activity is to ask students to sort colored shapes into categories based first on color, then on shape, then on both. For older students use figures with multiple characteristics, such as complex geometrical figures, or something familiar and interesting to them such as the latest movies - "Put the last five movies you saw into categories based on how you liked them, their subject matter, their general popularity, their style, their characters, their plot, or their related economic factors."
Primary students may begin with three or four types of questions. As they scan the questions generated at the beginning of a unit, they may come up with types such as "Fact Questions" and "Why Questions"and "Imagine Questions." Or they may find other names. It does not really matter, for t he important thing is to start them thinking about questions. The more time you devote to thinking about questions, the more likely they are to discover new types of questions that do not fit nearly into their first typology. The class should then discuss the new type and agree upon the wisdom of including it.
In a similar fashion, middle school and secondary level students can create a typology around their own questions. The labels and types will probably be more complicated, but first efforts will also shift over time as they struggle with questioning.
As students' sophistication with labeling questions grows, it is fun to share the thinking of others in this area. Share Bloom's Taxonomy (1956) and Taba's strategies with your students. Ask them to critique these other models. Ask them to relate them to their own.
And why do we bother with a time-consuming activity like developing a typology of questions? Because once students have the labels, you can lead them to practice each type of question thoughtfully. You can show a film and ask each student to think of three "why?" questions to share with the class at its conclusion. You may assign a story to read and ask for three "inference" questions. Suddenly the students can reach into their questioning tool box and carefully select the saw for sawing and the plane for planing.
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