This week I was working with a teacher who wanted to get students to deepen their level of questioning when reading. The students were skillfully asking questions that helped them predict what might happen in the text, but this teacher wanted to get them going deeper - wanted to get them asking questions that would lead them to make inferences about the characters' motivations, the author's purpose, the greater themes in the book, etc. During our conversation I shared a protocol that I had come across on the blog A More Beautiful Question. The protocol is called "The 5 Whys".
The idea behind the process is that you can get to a deeper understanding of your initial question by asking "Why" five times. While this article shares examples from the business world, I don't feel there is any reason we can't apply the same reasoning to questioning in our classrooms. You could start with a question such as "Why did the character do that?" and go from there. The 5 Whys could also serve as an anticipatory set when launching a new unit of study. The more opportunities we build in for our students to engage in deep questioning, the better we will be preparing them for problem solving in the future.
Quoted below is the post "Ask Why 5 Times":
"I’ve known about “The 5 Whys” for a while (I mentioned the 5 Whys in my last book,Glimmer), but I was reminded of them recently by AMBQ collaborative team member Bill Welter. He wrote:
'Toyota shifted the Japanese car market in the 1980s with an emphasis on quality. Factory workers were encouraged to ask ‘Why?’ at least 5 times. The ‘5 Whys’ technique is still the foundation of quality programs around the world. (Too bad about the recent quality issues at Toyota—maybe they forgot to ask the questions that made them famous.)”
This process of asking 5 whys is not just applicable to making cars—it can be used in almost any type of creative endeavor. It can even be used to make sense of your own life. The design firm IDEO, which is a big practitioner of the 5 Whys methodology, offers this as an example of how asking 5 whys can help you dig down to a deeper truth.
One might ask, Why stop at five? Why not just keep asking why endlessly? The answer is that you will drive the people around you insane.
As you go forward with your instruction, consider using the 5 Whys technique of questioning to help your students dig deeper. Let me know how it goes!
On a different note...
Digital Text Bins - Ever wonder what to do with all of the digital text you accumulate throughout a unit? Want a way to organize your digital content so you can locate it in the future and make it easy for students to locate? Check out this post for some organizational ideas.
Here are a couple of management articles that might be of use to you at this point in the year.
Are You Making Your Most Difficult Student Worse? - This blog discusses how treating certain students differently, such as walking on eggshells around them, may have adverse effects.
How To Stop Misbehavior Before It Starts -
I am an elementary instructional coach for the Sioux Falls School District.