Saturday, October 19, 2013

Source Work and Essential Questions

This summer I participated in a couple of Twitter chats with Grant Wiggins (@grantwiggins). These chats focused on the idea of structuring lessons around Essential Questions. While I have structured my Western Civ ‘mini essays’ around big questions, I want to work on starting a unit with an Essential Question. Up to this point, I have only introduced the mini essay big question AFTER students have worked with sources.

Introducing the big question AFTER students have worked with sources, rather than before, goes against the best practices discussed by Wiggins and SHEG_Stanford.

Why have I introduced the question after the source work?

Part of the reason, I think, is that I am trying to incorporate source work into ALL, or most, of my lessons, often multiple sources. As a result, I am always finding, editing, and writing questions for sources that I want to use, often the night before a lesson. It is difficult to write an Essential Question (EQ) if you do not know the big picture of what sources you will be using.  And I find that it is much easier for me to write an EQ after I have looked at the sources. Curious to hear how others approach this process.

Now, for our next unit, I am thinking an EQ that emphasizes the varied experiences, both positive and negative, of different groups during the English Industrial Revolution.
What will be my question? One possibility: Who benefitted and who struggled as a result of the technological changes that occurred during the English Industrial Revolution?

What am I going to do to make this experience with an Essential Question more meaningful?

I definitely want to begin the unit with students thinking about the EQ, having them express their initial reactions to it and generating sub questions that will help them grapple with the larger question.
I will elaborate on this post when I finish grading...!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joe,
    I think it’s a great idea to start a unit with EQs. For example, when we started Canadian history since 1914 I gave the students the EQs: How did Canada change the war? How did the war change Canada? (Would work for most any country methinks, and a number of time periods) This gives the kids the opportunity to start thinking about what sorts of changes were happening at the time, lets me know what they know, and lets them make some predictions. As we work through various topics throughout the unit, battles, key figures, technology, homefront, women, etc, I refer back to the key questions and ask, where does it fit and why. The EQs frame the unit. Now in the 1920s and 1930s, the EQ is did the 20s really roar, and were the 30s really dirty? Of course, the kids will figure out that the answer depends, on who you were, background, financial status, occupation, etc. Again, as we discuss each topic within the unit, we circle back to the questions, so they can organize their info and their rationales.
    For the bigger picture of the entire course, we focus on our enduring understandings. I just posted a pic on twitter of our revised ones (new curriculum this year, and a guided workshop by Allison Zmuda). The EQs, of course, feed into the EUs (and the abcdefgs).

    The EQs are a combination of standards and your focus. Can the IR be considered progress to the working class of GB? Why/why not? What impact did the IR have on the following: class structures, women, children, etc? How can a technological event cause fundamental and lasting social, economic and political changes? What is the relationship between technology, the acquisition of wealth and liberalism? Can the effects of major economic and technological change in any era be limited and controlled, or will these effects bring global consequences that go beyond the expected? (the last one from a simulation activity I like the last three because they could apply to any era, from IR on, and could be a great springboard to get kids thinking about how technology, and historical patterns, are relevant to their lives.

    Cheers, Colinda