Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!
In a world that is full of distractions, including information overload and overshare, how can teachers break through to students?
One answer…ask crazy, challenging, catchy questions (Qs).
Weave your crazy, challenging, catchy Qs into your school day plans.
Use them as surprise attention-grabbers when the class’ energy seems to be fading.
Connect the Qs to lessons that facilitate the learning process.
For example, lead into a science lesson by announcing that you’d first like to take a few moments to look at a tree.
Trees may be totally unrelated to the science lesson at hand, but your announcement will direct students’ focus as you present a spectacular picture of trees.
Ask the Q…”What can we learn from a tree?”
One answer…something about the elements of weather and diverse habitats.
Point to your picture and ask the Q again, with more specificity, based on the trees that you are showing.
“What can we learn from these pine trees here?”
Guide students’ answers with some elaboration…“Think about the elements of weather. In what kind of climate do you think these trees grow?”
Later, when you will not disrupt the flow of your science lesson, show the photo of the trees again and use the picture to encourage kids to think beyond science exploration with another challenging question…
“What besides trees and related sciences does this photograph make you think of?”
One answer could be…the beauty of nature.
Then ask, “How can we express the beauty of nature?”
More catchy questions…“What art form will you choose to express the beauty of this photograph?” Plan writing time or other art activities based on students’ answers.
Besides Qs and answers, there’s more than one lesson here…
Lesson #1: Questions often lead to more than answers. They often lead to other questions.
Lesson #2: No subject is isolated. Every study opens up connections to other subjects.
These are good lessons to learn as a foundation for critical thinking. Asking crazy, challenging, catchy questions strengthens students’ critical thinking skills – an important component of “21st century education.”
Break through to students with a wide range of crazy, challenging, catchy questions, and add some fun to the mix…
Hold up a toy expandable coil and ask the funny, crazy Q…”How is this toy coil like your mind?”
Answer…It can stretch like your mind when you expand your thinking.
Elaboration options around this question include…
“Why is it important to stretch our thinking?”
Here’s another fun and catchy Q…
“What’s in the box?”
If you tape a sign that reads Smart Box to a decorative box, you open the lid (pun intended) to asking all kinds of crazy, challenging, catchy questions to break through to students…
questions that connect with the core Q…”What’s in the box?”
One answer could be…a smartphone. If you have one, place your smartphone inside your Smart Box just before you introduce this activity to your class.
Pose the Q. Open the box. Hold up your smartphone. Call it by name. Then…
ask another Q…”Is the phone smart on its own?”
Answer: No, of course not. The phone had to be programmed and manufactured by people who are smart, and so on.
Put other surprises in a decorative box for students to discover when you ask the catchy Q. What’s in the box is a versatile question; the possibilities are endless.
Try a trick Q (dated, but still relevant) that has to be asked aloud – not read by guessing students…
“What’s black and white and read all over?”
Answer…the newspaper. Even though this old trick Q originated when newspapers were paper only, the answer still holds true for online editions.
Related discussions may include summarizing the history of the printing press, the development of color print, and the fact that in some parts of the world newspapers are still published in
black and white.
Continuing in literary learning circles, challenge kids by asking another catchy Q…
“Is handwriting important in today’s digital world?”
Some school systems are wrestling with this question.
Some kids think it’s crazy that pens were once made from feathers and dipped in ink jars for handwriting.
When you pose this challenging, catchy Q to your class, clue kids to the fact that some children today in schools in need throughout the world have no paper, pencils, or pens for writing at all.
Speaking of pens and pencils, here’s a challenging, catchy and timely question that may be suitable for older elementary students…
“Is a pen or pencil more powerful than a weapon?”
Of course it’s important to break through to students by asking age-appropriate questions.
You know your students and their needs. You know your community. Choose what correlates with your curriculum and your goals.
Challenge yourself, as well as your students, with new questions.
Adding a sprinkle of crazy and catchy Qs to your teaching strategies can help you and students meet the ever-increasing challenges in our world today.
Please send comments about how you break through to students.
Talk with you again soon,
Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet