Our regions unit has been challenging in getting kids to choose a good, researchable question. Students either pick a very simple, thin question, or they pick one so complex that it can't possibly be answered. I liked the new routine that we were introduced to, "Peeling the Fruit" as a way for students to have a visual to assess the appropriateness of their questions. The outside (skin) of the circle was labeled, "What are we interested in?" The next layer, just under the skin, is labeled, "What questions do we have?" The next layer is, "Making Connections: What connections can we make?" The center is labeled, "What is at the core or center?" Students took their initial and placed them on the poster. We were able to look at it together and evaluate if questions were placed correctly on the poster and have a discussion about the similarities of those questions that were in the same part of the fruit.
This was a good routine for determining importance but also an exercise in synthesizing. My issue with this unit in the past is that students in third and fourth have such a difficult time doing the research adequately. I really think that the real issue is that they don't have the skills to ask the right question in the first place. Bill Roberts is a school that has inquiry -based learning as one of its core practices. If I am going to help kids direct their own learning through inquiry based practices, then I need to do a better job of helping them to ask questions that interest them. I think that the use of this routine brought up the right kinds of conversations that allowed us to come closer to ask those really good questions.