Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I was introduced to Dan Meyer's 101 questions (click here) last spring and have begun to use them in my classes.  I use them as an introduction to an outcome, or even just an activity during a class.  It is amazing how teenagers (grades 9 - 12) filter their questions in front of their peers.  They don't want to appear "stupid" or "silly".  I have been trying to teach them that we ALL have thoughts and questions when we see something and they are not stupid or silly.  I will ask random students to tell me the first question that came to their mind when they saw the picture.  It can be like pulling teeth!  I'll get "I don't know".  I tell them that they must have a question when they look at the picture and they'll finally say something.  Usually I'll get a couple questions and then the next person will say they had the same question as someone else.  Doubtful...  I do find the grade 9 students are more open than the grade 12 students.  I ask my students if they have younger siblings or relatives and if those youngsters drive them crazy with their "why" or "what is that" questions!  I tell them that I have a 4 and 7 year old and they are ALWAYS asking me "why is that...", "why can't I...", "what is that..." etc.  I get to the point where I tell them that is enough questions!   However, I feel bad about this as I feel we, as adults, stop kids from having thoughts and an imagination.  I tell my high school students that I want them to stop filtering their questions and just ASK the question that is in their head.  By the end of the year last year the students were getting pretty good at this.

And now I've started over.  I have new classes and new students and I feel like I'm pulling teeth again with them!  The first go at this a week ago was not overly successful.  I think I had three questions from the class for a picture.  Tomorrow I will be doing two new pictures.  I decided tonight to ask my 4 and 7 year old what questions they have when they saw the pictures.  They were super excited to help me out when I told them I was going to show them grade 12 math (even though it's not directly grade 12 content)! 

Here is the first picture I showed them (we are starting set theory tomorrow with venn diagrams as a big part of the learning).   The link can be found here
Right away my 7 year old says "we're doing these in math (she's in grade 2) and this is sorting".  I couldn't believe it!  My grade 12's better have a clue!!!! Haha!  She then went on to say she knows why the middle guy is there "because he has a keyboard which is the yellow and he holds his instrument which is the blue"  Unbelievable!  Anyways I asked my kids to ask me questions about this diagram.  Here is what they came up with (even my 4 year old had questions!):
Why is there only one animal in the yellow?
Why different groups?
Why are there different animals?
Why are there three animals?
Why is there one animal in each color?
What is this sorting?

My kids had so much fun with this.  We did two more pictures and they wanted to keep going!  I told them we would do some more another day. Once again I got tired of their questions :(  Why do we do this as parents and teachers?????

Tomorrow I am going to see what my grade 12's come up with and then I'm going to share the questions my kids had with them.  I will remind them that they too, were once full of questions and that those questions are still in them.  I want them to become comfortable asking the questions.  We'll see if they can come up with more questions than my kids did!


  1. I think this is a fantastic way of handling the hard task of getting the students to ask questions. I am guilty of wanting my 8 and 3 year old to try to commit to silence at some moments. They are full of energy and questions which become overwhelming at times. However when I get to school, I want my students to almost be a burst of questions and inquiries. I feel like one learns the best through questions, so what better way to get the students involved tan questions, ponders, and observations. I try to retain my aggravation with my kids, because they too deserve to gain knowledge, so I will not hinder their educational journey by "shushing" them. I expect my kids as well as my students to ask questions to fill their spirits.

  2. I try to be patient with my own kids, but it can be tough when they fire "why" at you for an hour!!!! It was a good reflection for me on how I'm one way at home (and I'm sure many are) and another at school and why it is a struggle at school - those kids have been told to be quiet and now we are telling them to ask... confusing!!!! Thanks for your comment.