I was with a school principal in one of our districts recently, and had the chance to spend a few minutes in an upper elementary classroom. The students were working on a writing assignment in which they had to state their opinion on an issue discussed in class and defend it with additional details. The topic they were asked to write about was: should we continue to have daylight savings time?
The students seemed to have plenty of ideas to begin their first drafts, and I asked the teacher what she had done to prepare her students in advance of this task. So many times students struggle at the onset of a writing assignment because they don’t seem to know where to begin. She shared that she had used an instructional strategy called QFT (Question Formulation Technique). She explained that QFT is an activity in which students work together in a very structured way to formulate questions, analyze their questions, and then help to determine “next steps” for their learning. The process starts with a prompt (Q focus) which is broad enough to get students thinking about what they want to know.
The Q focus for this writing activity was “daylight savings time”. Students had worked together and recorded every single question they had about this topic, and then categorized their questions into open/closed ended questions. They continued by identifying the three most important questions that would give them the most information about the topic, and then worked with their teacher to use different resources to answer the questions. The questions they had identified as “most important” were:
- Why do we have daylight savings time?
- What are the pros/cons of daylight savings time?
- Who decides if we do daylight savings time?
After learning about the process to formulate their own questions about this topic as well as their research to answer those questions, I could understand why these students were so ready to take a stance on this question and defend it.
I returned to my office, and did some research on the QFT strategy. For more information, click here.
The Right Questions Institute is a non-profit entity that provides educational resources to assist a wide variety of people to think and act more effectively on their own behalf in a variety of settings (educational settings, health care, etc.). The Question Formulation Technique is used in many schools across the United States, with a variety of age groups and populations.
Learning to ask questions, planing to answer them, and developing informed opinions are skills we want all students to have. Check out this great resource for more ideas!
P.S. Did you know that there are some states that have elected not to participate in daylight savings time? Do you know which they are, and why? I’m glad that someone’s asking these questions!