Empower Students to Ask Questions

Q Tasks: How to empower students to ask questions and care about answers 
By Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan
(Pembroke/Stenhouse, 2014 – Learn more)

vonstaden3Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

Koechlin and Zwaan argue that the key to learning and understanding is the question, that we are not able to think critically or creatively without the question, and that it is through questioning that we are able to self-analyze and set goals. Thus they have provided us, in this book, a curriculum to teach questioning to students.

q-tasks 220Each chapter of the book has a short introduction followed by several “Q tasks” (lessons) complete with a plethora of graphic organizers/handouts. Each of the Q tasks is laid out in two columns. The column on the left has the Q task at the top (essentially the objective of the lesson) and a Q tip at the bottom (resources for extensions).

The main section (right column) of each Q task begins with “Clarifying the Task,” the content being addressed, and is followed by sections on “Building Understanding,” the steps to the lesson, “Demonstrating Understanding,” steps to the lesson that allow for assessment, and “Q+,” a section on using collaborative technology to extend the learning.


More about the book

The book begins with encouraging students to question, teaching them to understand questions and learning how to form questions. The authors finish the book with questioning to learn and questioning to progress. Each chapter also contains a number of reference boxes to current research. There are plenty of Q tasks to meet just about any need. I counted 49, many of which include more than one student activity and the graphic organizers/handouts to go with them.

Although many of the handouts/graphic organizers included in the book look to be more appropriate for the elementary grades, the lessons (Q tasks) could certainly be used in the middle grades, and the organizers could perhaps be tweaked to better fit this upper age range, although there is not a digital link to them, so there would be a bit of re-creation involved.

Overall, this book provides a lot of support for teaching students how to generate and use questions for learning and evaluating information in the digital age and becoming critical thinkers.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Special Education Middle School Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face Professional Development for her school district.



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