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Students choose their own or draw topics out of a hat, then spend
five or ten minutes reading an article (the more factual and drab the
better) such as something from an encyclopedia about the topic. They are
not permitted to take notes. Then they are asked to create one question
which they would like to ask about the topic or know more about. They
write this down (keeps them honest) and when everyone has a question on
paper, you ask them to read the questions. While they read them, you write
them down on a black board or overhead, and tell the students that if they
see a question that they think they would like to add or modify to their
inquiry, they should feel free to write it down on their paper too.
After the questions have been recorded, discuss the nature of the
questions. Are they yes or no questions that could be answered by an
expert, or are they factual that just need to be checked in standard
resources? Is the answer in the article they just read? Are the questions
open ended? Where would they go to research the answers? What kinds of
background information are relevant or interesting? What are the five most
Conclude the discussion by asking them to consider what they would
like to learn in a more expanded form about their topics, and ask them to
come up with a total of five thoughtful research questions. This is a good
time to put them in groups or pairs for some sharing of ideas.
Collect the questions and grade them as part of the project! Write
a few of your own suggestions if you feel someone is way off track or
non-creative. Return the questions the next day (How often do art teachers
have to grade papers??) and give low-achievers a chance to rewrite and
re-submit during the class period, but I caution you to not let it drag out,
as this is supposed to be the opening/motivating activity.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate . . .
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, Virginia 24401