Thinking through Quality Questioning:Deepening Student Engagement

Below is a summary of the evernotes I took during our thinking through quality questions session with Jackie Walsh & Beth Sattes. (Authors of Thinking Through Quality Questioning) We had a jam packed day of collaboration, intense discussion, activities, & technology integration. The highlights, in my opinion, are listed below. The full evernote summary will also be attached below! 

Our purpose- To engage all of our students through throught provoking, quality questions to promote a classroom where thoughtfulness is happening everyday. 


Big Questions





TRUE LEARNING HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE A QUESTION THAT YOU WANT AN ANSWER TO…(how do we give them the questions that we provoke not only answers, but more questions?)

THIS IS ALL BUILT AROUND CLASSROOM & SCHOOL CULTURE- (how do we begin to embed thinking through quality questions into every aspect of our school & community?)

Collaborative Groups

we worked through the day in communities of practice. These communities of practice will serve as or collaborative groups & support systems as we work through embedding thinking through quality questions in our classes throughout the year.

Roles & Responsibilites-

Facilitator- Recorder-Reporter-Timekeeper-Material’s Manager

Ground Rule for Collaborative Groups

*Be open to & respect all points of view

*Listen with an open mind & expect to learn from eachother

*accept responsibility for active & equitable participation by each member

*check for understanding, before you counter an idea, be sure you fully understand what is being said

Bobba- “What I heard you say was, _________ (repeat)- then go into your comment”

*allow think time

*welcome questions

-How great to not only work together as colleagues like this, but also to embed these rules into your classroom! 

-What happens when someone does not comply? How do these issues get resolved? Whose job is it to address these issues of imbalance?

Kisha- “let people be who they are- don’t force functions- follow the principle of I am doing the best I can- keep modeling & stay positive- force does not work”

other notes on collaboration ground rules:

 active listening can be a real answer to that

what I heard you say IS (this is automatic respect) 

Norms for collaboration- before we do this-this is what is expected

“true discussions” what does it look like to be open to all points of view- show them what the value of that is

use schoology after intoducing guidelines could really promote using these guidelines

pg.2- 2 of the critical components of collaborative groups- must be equal roles- if you have roles & responsibilities- talk a/b it, making it work

Actual grouping- composition depends on the purpose

Affinity Mapping 


purpose: Engage students in analyzing data to identify relationships & create conceptual categories.

why- activate prior knowledge & experience

how- reflect individually and collab w your table group to categorize group responses

Big Ideas- Reflection & Megacognition, Engage, Decide & apply, Collaborate, connect & discuss, question, all about the body

The Thought-The process-the answer- engage-engage-engage

“thinking is a free fall! jump in!” -Mathis




decipher, connect, paraphrase, process, see the big picture to answer

once you find the answer it leads to more questions 

do you have to care about the question to really give an answer? -Kisha 

“thinking is being alive”- Mathis

making sure that they know what you are asking- relevant- exciting- in students rang/ability to answer- not to hard not easy

asking questions that relate to the individual but that a lot of individuals can connect to

no opt out- force participation- by we won’t proceed until you share

hook & build- questions

looking at questions- the first dimension is the focus- whats it about and is it interesting to them?

#1 WE CAN DO IS ALLOW COMPARING & CONTRASTING- LISTEN, REFLECT- THAT IS about thinking- the process is collaboration, the answer is performance

“engaging for a cause”  


activities are documented in back of book pg. 151

Affinity Mapping- it it goal oriented, it allows individual to think and then share with the group,making connections, make connections w prior knowledge, between eachothers ideas- makes you rethink what you initially thought of- more than one way to state it-more than one right answer- first ground rule-(hearing & valuing others)

see the full thought process before you respond- makes response more valid- listening is not just from voice

schoology allows for deep reflection-can respond later- can add to it- the thinking never ends

how to get to them

variety is the spice of learning- listen better b/c you can see it- WE ARE DEALING WITH A GENERATION OF VISUAL LEARNERS- APPLY THEM ALL TOGETHER- Sattes

academic vocabulary- do not have the vocabulary to express themselves academically but they know it in their own words- give students the freedom to say what they do know

“we are a classroom of ANDS not BUTS”

replace the word BUT with AND to take away the negative and focus on the thinking/learning

begin with the end in mind- why are you doing this? what do you want to learn? 

how am i connecting with what I already know? how am I monitering my progress? how I am developing responisibility & ownership & how can I take my learning to the next level


take time to have them thinking a/b their thinking & their learning


“the search for meaning is at the heart of motivation” – Hopkins 2010, p.19

its not a/b the teacher asking better questions its ab the students thinking-the students are worth pursuing & then creating their own questions 


bulleted descriptions of graphic- share with students

other ideas that affinity mapping created for us…If you begin with the end in mind- Student will know & understand where we are-where we are going- why we are going- and how we are going to get there

do they KNOW what they are trying to learn

need a rubric, need a criteria for success, need feedback- “no learning, just doing” 


need a goal, formative assessment to measure towards goal- PBL- start with 1 question!!

college/life eligable vs. college/life ready

“telling is not teaching” we cannot learn for students- they must do the learning themselves- Jackie

THINKING vs. REMEMBERING- “it is more important that they know how to get there, not what it is they are getting to”- Kisha Woods


Frame Questions– “Create a classroom culture of thinking”

-Determine content focus

-consider instructional function

-stipulate expected cognitive level

-match to social context

-polish grammar and word choice

(rubric in book- pg.19-20)

what is the rubric for an “acceptable” answer 

-content mastery


-cognitive levels

-interactions w. peers

re-culture your classroom- makes questions about THINKING

knowledge is not enough- IM LISTENING TO YOUR THINKING

“power words” activity-language levels- Howell

They have a job- that job is to think!- Jackie

“que students what you want by the types of questions you ask”- Smith






“THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS AROUND HERE” -use book ideas & collaborative ground rules to begin to bult






CHAINING- ROBERT MARZANO- ask a question, wait (thinking), call on student to respond, then link it but I have a student repeat their understanding, go around the classroom and have a conversation that is chaining- active listening- respecting- active repetition- “reinforcement is the mother of memory”- Jackie

“listening with respect” – thinking through learning

set the climate for the questions- Jackie

Visual Synectic (4 corners)


4 pictures- which best visually represent the charecteristics of good questions- (think, write, move, collaborate small group, come back-discuss all corners large group)


my initial reaction- Key Largo! So much to discover, so many depths! 


(when doing this activity with students have them write down which corner they are going to before they move so they don’t just follow friends- Sattes)

connect something you know with something you like- this connecting of 2 things that are so unalike- gives a unique perspective 


abstract to concret

theinking aloud happens


remembers and keep thinking about it longer and connecting it to other things- CREATING DEEP MEANING, UNDERSTANDING, SOMETHING TO COME BACK TO & BUILD OFF OF.

making connections- establishing relevance- describe thinking the same as questions

which one best represents your collective thinking- working with a group is essential for this



e-clicker app: great for polls, prior knowlege, quick low-level blooms, focus, guided question


Case Study/Bloom’s Revised

Content/Question Focus- aligned-relevant-connected

Knowledge Dimension- factual-conceptual-procedural-Metacognitive 



What is my question asking them- knowledge wise? where does the question fall on Bloom’s? How can we critique eachother’s questions? Build stronger questions?

“the more you can ask a question that overlaps 2-3 of these areas (of Bloom’s) the more strong the question & the more deep engaged thinking will occur”- Sattes

pg. 25- The Reasons we ask questions

what is the purpose of this question? pg. 25

Remember- recalling & recongnizing facts

Understand- essence to know a subject or term inside and out 

Apply- execute & implement- more rigorous and transfer into a different situation

Analyze- gateway to critical thinking- differentiate, question, experiment, test, inference through analysis 

Evaluate- making judgements a/b core standards a/b checking the facts- making a judgement in the end

Create- taking prior knowedge, info and experience to develop something original 

ask departments evaluate your questions

data- show it works

Nobody can do it for us. We must collaborate with eachother & create quality questions that support thinking & deep engagement. 

Checkout Thinking Through Quality Questioning:Deepening Student Engagement

So, PLN I ask you: how do you frame essential questions in your classroom? How do you collaborate with fellow teachers to create these questions? How do you approach teachers who are not collaborating and/or implementing these types of questions into their classrooms? What are your success stories with quality questions? Where are you going with questioning now?


De-Labeling: An Exercise in Identity

This post is a response to several questions I have recieved about how my students created their “labels” for this video –> The idea behind this exercise has several levels. I wanted to create an open environment where my students felt understood, respected & could express themselves. I hoped to give them tools to better understand the complexity of identity, definitions, labels, etc & in this understanding they would claim ownership of themselves not by how anyone else saw them, but as how they saw themselves. Oh, the complexity. Then hopefully we would be creating a deeper understanding of themselves, their peers (first within class & then extending out to the community, country, & world). The purpose of the exercise is to give students a platform to gain a greater understanding of themselves & eachother & begin to build the class community & norms off of this exercise, and also be able to look back at this exersice & the images & video we created to get back on track. I have extended this exercise to join with my 11th graders 1st semester project of “defining America” & have created an impromptu google document of the logistics of the de-labeling exercise. I will be posting how this exercise goes with my students this year with the additions, etc. Any suggestions, critiques, etc are gladly welcome and I encourage you to share how you tackle this topic in your own classroom. (google document project outline) The building of this document is in the works, so be aware of unorganization, over-wordy tendencies & grammatical errors πŸ™‚ 


IDEA Digital Organizer 2011-2012 Proposal

This is my submission to the IDEA digital organizer position. Please highlight the glog & choose view full size to review my IDEA digital organizer application. The question/answer proposal is in video format. If you are unfamiliar with Glogster please highlight & click the boxes/videos to access the information included in the application- very easy to navigate but wanted to add directions just in case and thank you for taking the time to review my submission.

Empathy: The 21st Century Skill

The Alan November session titled Empathy: The 21st Century Skill made me believe that ISTE11 was everything I had imagined it could be. The immensity of the amount of sessions available, the enormity of the conference center, & the inconsistency of the size of the session rooms all combined for some “not so up my alley” sessions. However,with this being said, seeing Alan November speak with such conviction & passion made me completely aware of the absolute necessity to define, understand, & embed Empathy into my classroom. According to wikipedia empathy is  translated literally as feeling, and is the capability to share another being’s emotions and feelings. Can we all just sit & ponder this for a moment. Thanks. Now lets begin to apply this term as THE 21st century skill. The weight of both this definition & its place in society as THE skill necessary for 21st Century citizens is enormous. November gave examples of global projects gone wrong (mainly because the educator was not fully aware of another nation/person’s take on the issue, subject, content etc that the student was working within & therefore did not give the student the necessary skills to create not from an Americentric perspective, but rather from a global perspective & not only from a global perspective but a fully-aware global perspective in which empathy dwells at the forefront. November argues that while educating/learning from a globally aware perspective is not always as easy of a place to get to, it is both possible and necessary. Below are some of the most notable statements/ideas IMO from the session.
Notable Quotes/Ideas from the session

“teachers need to think globally across their curriculum its not hard, know the root zone database & authentic dialog” -Alan November 

 the root zone datebase can be found here –>  -search with countries using the root zone database 

“all i know is there are 2 versions of the truth, but the point is I have to get a different understanding than what my own country is giving me.” -Alan November 

TED-Sam Richards-A Radical Experiment in Empathy “start with empathy, it all begins with empathy, take yourself out of your shoes & put yourself in the shoes of another person”

“but the point is I have to get a different understanding than what my own country is giving me, we need to GLOBALIZE THE CURRICULUM.” -Alan November
—> to prepare globally competent students we must teach them to understand global empathy across the curriculum
“starting in kindergarten every classroom should be a global collaboration center” -Alan November 

“grab a hashtag, meet people, create an authentic global connection”-Alan November 
—> November goes onto to argue that twitter is way to make this happen. He discussed the Egyptian Revolution and the hashtags #Egypt #Jan25 as example to where students can get true, authentic, global dialog. 

“build an international network based on passion of interests” -Alan November 

“passion’s skill quality is empathy” -Alan November
–> put more passion into learning & if we connect kids to authentic conversations- more passion is what is going to be a result & not only will students be consistent, & question they will go above & beyond through outlets like twitter. 

“its amazing how many kids dont know that they are being given an american point of view” -Alan November <— how you find schools in england (an example of how to give students authentic information)

Eli Pariser- Google in the Bubble – google tracks and tallies how you search the more you search the more google controls you so what happens is the more you search the narrower your field of perspective becomes…

***this is phenomonally dangerous! to teach child how to search well, how to get other points of view, as the search engine they use for homework narrows their perspective of how the world works it is the opposite vision! 

“how do we teach children to overcome the bubble that google puts over every students head” -Alan November

So, as educators-aware educators who want to ensure that we are not only practicing empathy but are giving our students the skills necessary to not only understand empathy & practice it, but to be able to search for it & apply it as well, we must begin to take the steps necessary to give our students the resources to do this authentically. Sam Richards say that he tells his students  “to step outside of their tiny little world, & step into the tiny little world of somebody else-and then do it again, and again, and again and then suddenly all of these little tiny worlds come together in this complex web and then build a big complex world and then without realizing it, you’re seeing the world differently- everything in your life has changed-and that is of course what this is all about. Attend to other people’s lives, other people’s visions, listen to other people, and enlighten yourselves.” The powerful of this statement stands for itself- & if we can create this belief within ourselves so much so that it becomes the core of being & thus directly effects our teaching, and then support our students with the resources, ideas, questions necessary that they too adopt this way of living-then maybe, just maybe we can create the change and ensure that Empathy, is indeed the skill of the 21st century. 

Also, consider this —> 

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margret Mead

How do you approach empathy in your classroom?  



Never Settle.

“You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”-Steve Jobs 


Schoology How-To (ish)

I have been tweeting about schoology the past year & after meeting them at ISTE11, proudly converting some #edchat & #sschatters to schoology & setting up a skype how-to with some fellow tweeps I decided I should do a quick run through to put out there as to why I am such an avid supporter of schoology! The video below was made using camtasia’s screen recorder. It is impromptu & I am slightly all over the place mainly because I believe in this site & app so much that I knew I could not begin to fit all of the features I use into one video! Please feel free to contact me via twitter if you have any questions! Thanks for your interests & viewing. Comments are always welcome. 

View on »


ISTE11- On to the next one…


Ok, I have officially realized that I will probably need to do a blog post on each session to truly do each justice & work through them properly…

before I begin my rambling 2 things 1. I am only focusing on the positives, highlights & how I feel each session can best be implemented b/c I fear that without this focus I will write a book titled something like “Super pumped new techy fireball of a teacher’s take on ISTE11” vol 1-3 therefore I am trying to focus myself and remember Dr. Fredrickson’s constant comments on my college papers that I should “work on my over wordiness” haha, yeahhhh Doc…I came out wordy so not too sure on how to begin that life change but here’s to trying!  Oh, & 2. I am disgustingly fortunate to have 1:1 macbooks & i touches in my classroom (thanks in HUGE part to a board that believes in the absolute necessity for technology integration in a 21st century, globally connected students life) so I am not assuming all readers have this but for my own sake,sanity & reflection purposes I am writing from this perspective. Too Wordy?!?! You are crazy Dr. Fredrickson! (insert understanding of sarcastic comment here please) 

whooooo & now I will begin! 

Digital Portfolios- David Niguidula- How They Transform Schools 

(Niguidala co-authored a couple chapters in 21st Century Curriculum)<a href="“>

My immediate take away: Digital Portfolios are a must for 21st century learners. I fully understand that some schools do not have the computers necessary to complete online digital portfolios but if you do, YOU NEED TO BE DOING THIS. (those caps are mostly directed at myself to get going!) I will post the link to my evernote’s from this session but some of the highlights (with my 2 cents added) will be listed below

1. “It is not about the students just knowing the standards, it is about them understanding the standards & then using them in an effective way” <— that best compliments & supports their individual learning styles, ideas, questions, journey etc. 

He showed a simple way of listing the standards & rubric, project checklist etc. beside the project in the students portfolio & then had the students reflect not just on the project itself, but how that project, or answer, or essay, or reflection, or drawing, or whatever each student CREATED supports/shows their understanding of the standard itself. **For me this aspect of the student taking true ownership of the standard & how it is represented in their work is absolutely crucial in support of an independent learner. (especially one that needs to be able to see a not so up-to-date standard & not only understand it but understand WHY it can be used as a catalyst for individual understanding, discovery, creation, etc)

2. “it is the best way to see where a student started, then where they went & where they ended up” <— oh hey, its not about the destination so much as the journey. I want to be an educator that takes my students on the most purposeful & challenging journey possible. (this is how you show the journey you and your students took) I also think the element of the students going in and explaining why the project is relevant is amazingly powerful in both creating a full circe understanding & also giving them ownership of their work & thoughts.

3. “We have to teach them how to reflect by modeling reflection” <– this will open the door to student ownership of their work- “your purpose is what counts” 

4. A quick overview of a process to take with a project within the digital portfolio…Focus Lesson- Formative Assessment throughout- Students create work (make sure they have a checklist, know the expectations, create their own expectations, allow holes for INDIVIDUALITY TO SHINE, and questioning to occur)- summary of the work- reflection of the work- presentation- GIVE THEM A PURPOSEFUL AUDIENCE, NOT JUST THE TEACHER & CLASS (think bigger- use twitter, other social networking sites, consider ways for their work to get published, etc)

5.End of the year- have students chose their “best work” & repeat the aformentioned process–this is where I believe an extensive audience can really give the students an authentic connection to their work 

6. Have other teachers (if you are Social Studies, have Science, Math, English etc) teachers be part of the review process of the students Social Studies project. This was so interesting to me, & would love to incorporate this aspect, again with opening up the audience & showing students real-world scenerios <– “This not only makes teachers hold up their side of the bargain but also allow teachers to look at the student as a whole” how great to get to see how your students think, work, operate etc. in other contents!!!

7. “Give the students an audience” – whether it is parents, other teachers, colleges, administrators, students in Oregon or New Zealand the “digital portfolio truly allows a project to come full circle” <– I cannot help but think how great this will be for me when I try my hand at the  and other ways in which I am trying to give my students the global connections necessary to ensuring their learning journey is successful. 

8. The beginnings of a “professional portfolio” This is just the beginning of how great digital portfolios can be in the classroom. I would ideally love for my students to have a digital portfolio in each one of their classes, for all 4 years of high school (or even from 7th grade on) How cool to have this digital representation of your learning growth to present in a college or job interview. How self-fulfilling to see “just how far you have come” & better yet envision how much further you can go. The benefits for both students & educators alike are truly endless, especially when considering effectiveness, feedback, physical evidence of learning, & reflection. 

9. Resources I plan on using to begin my digital portfolio journey (management, not necessarily project creation wise b/c that is a whole other post)for the upcoming school year are in this particular order —> My class is virtually centered around    (which I am a huge supporter of & working on a blog post on for you nay sayers out there πŸ™‚ students each have their own profile within their class and will use this site to see their class calendar, agenda, discuss, access documents, videos, images, project checklists, email, blog, collaborate, share,etc. etc. etc. but I have decided that their actual professional portfolio will be built on because it is “the easiest way to post & share everything” I’ve used every type of blogger out there & for me posterous really is the easiest & most efficient. (as is schoology, it makes edmodo & booooodle look like a 8 track & a record) & don’t get me wrong I love vintage things but not when my students digital citizenship is involved! (also both of these sites have awesome free apps that allow students to post discussions, & blogs) I also plan on using the touch & mac app to open up more oral discussion, reflection etc, this just seems like the easiest way to get their voice out there, & again is free. 


Overall, digital portfolios are completely necessary in giving students the platform necessary to not only having an effective purpose for their work but also in supporting them in a globally & digitally connected society. Some of the questions I walked away from the session with (b/c ISTE sessions are on speed & there is little time for face-to-face questions posed & answered) I would love to hear any responses that you all have…

How do you get other teachers & administrators on board with digital portfolios & what are they best ways to teach colleagues how to use them? 

How do you find the time to ensure students are given plenty of time to not only complete the project but also to reflect, present to their audience, etc?

How do you create project questions that connect multiple standards but also give students the freedom to add in their individual questions, ideas etc. 

Where does cooperation & collaboration fit into this, how could students cross-curriculum projects? 

andddd here is the link to my evernotes from this session you are welcome to read, copy, share, etc. evernotes can be found here —>

on to the next one…but before, please consider this in how we teach- (posted by @MaryAnnReilly)