Saturday, October 4, 2008

Essential Questions and Connecting to the World

It has been an interesting exercise for my teaching brain to focus my course on essential questions this year. I knew it would be great for the class itself because I had worked with smaller unit questions last year to really good results. What I realized very quickly though was I had to integrate the essential questions into my daily lessons or my students (and probably me too) would forget they even existed. My students are now finishing their first theme (Utopias and Dystopias), and I think the questions are second nature to them. I am curious to see in the next unit if I can be less overt about the questions and if my students will then take over connecting them. I suppose this all goes back to good teaching in general -- a teacher works hard at the start of the year to create the classroom climate that underpins the whole year. Using essential questions turned out to be no different.

As we were bringing together our utopia study this week, I was trying to drive home even more directly our question about how reading world literature would make us world citizens who think. So, I told my class that they had seen me bring in real-world connections to our studies through magazine, newspaper, and web articles I had come across. I wanted to let them know that THEY could be the ones doing this. Well, what do you know -- I had two students bring in connections the very next day. We had a great time looking at them -- one is the picture at the opening of this post (she promises she was not moving when she snapped the photo of the car in front of her!) and one was this article.

In the end, all of my students' interesting essential question work and the real-life connections they are making just proves to me again that students will achieve at the level you expect them to. They will do amazing things when they believe you believe they can.

1 comment:

  1. I love the last line of your post. Well, no, I love all of it. I have tried to remember to remind my students about why we are studying short stories--and it has paid off in their writing. I wouldn't have thought to do that without going back to that essential question this year.