Literacy ShopTalk

"Prepare self-directed learners to think critically about the messages received and created by media.”

Is Questioning Fundamental To Being Human?

Written By: Paula Neidlinger - Aug• 27•14



“To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education.  Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, the facts from fiction.”  ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


Remembering when………….

Most of us probably remember our first day of school.  Unlike many children today, I was promoted immediately to first grade because I was too tall for kindergarten.  I was only 4 at the time- and turned 5 at the end of September.  Regardless of my age and abilities, it was determined I would be better suited for first grade.  I had just recently moved to Denver, Colorado, as I was a severe asthmatic, which forced relocation for my family.  My parents were both music teachers, so I was left to walk to school alone on my first day in downtown Denver.  I was tall, so apparently my parents weren’t too concerned.  I wasn’t asked to pose for any pictures, nor was the celebration of entering school plastered on social media.  Nevertheless, I remember everything about my first day.

Once again, a new school year is upon us, coupled with new challenges, new ideas, and new standards.  In addition to integrating new standards this year, I am co-teaching two new classes/subjects – Humanities and Interactive Media.  Furthermore, we are incorporating Canvas as our LMS, integrating shared inquiry, and focusing on a “growth mind-set” at @TEAMLJHS.

How do we “put it all together”?……. Is Questioning Fundamental To Being Human?

Yes, questioning is fundamental when thinking about our own thinking.  My new literacy journey this year is the integration of Shared Inquiry within the Humanities classroom.  Utilizing the foundation of Shared Inquiry through the @GreatBooksFnd program, students are reading critically through close reading, sharing thoughts and opinions Socratically, and questioning their own thinking.

What is Shared Inquiry?

Shared Inquiry requires students to perform three basic tasks, which promotes richer thinking through reading, discussion, and writing.  These three tasks include: re-reading, questioning, and collaboration.  Although all types of questions are encouraged within Shared Inquiry, interpretive questioning propels discussion, as there is always more than one answer, which can be supported with evidence from the text.  Interpretive questions drive Share Inquiry discussion, as students are encouraged to generate their own ideas, cite evidence to support those ideas, and respond to each other through extended questioning based on their own curiosity.

Shared Inquiry Discussions foster:

1.  Close Reading– Before discussion, students read the selection twice, examining the text more closely the second time.  Students are encouraged to annotate as they respond to the text with questions such as, “What surprised you?”….. and “What did you find interesting?  Once discussion begins, students are required to cite and explain details in support of their ideas.

2.  Collaboration-  Initially, I guided the students in discussion by posing questions based on the text.  As the process has evolved during the past two weeks, students are now creating their own focus questions based on the text and their own curiosities.  Additionally, students are challenging opposing ideas constructively through text-based evidence.

3.  Reflective and Critical Thinking-  Shared Inquiry is a process, which begins with a problem and moves to a solution through reflective and critical thinking.  Students must compare and contrast opposing texts and judge whether the evidence provided is substantive.  In addition, students are able to consider all ideas that have been brought to the table and interpret the evidence through their own logic and thinking.  At the conclusion of the process, students explore and document their ideas, thinking, and evidence through the writing process.


Review:  Shared Inquiry Sequence

*  pre-reading

*  first reading

*  sharing questions

*  vocabulary

*  second reading

*  shared inquiry discussion

*  writing and curriculum connections

Yes, questioning is fundamental when thinking about our own thinking.  Shared Inquiry is a reflective process. Students’ critical thinking develops through close reading, questioning, collaboration, and writing.  After only two weeks of Shared Inquiry, students are constructing focus questions and citing evidence based on their own curiosities.

The process has thrown me a few foul balls as well.  Leading Shared Inquiry requires practice and a change in mindset.  Most of Shared Inquiry requires asking spontaneous follow-up questions through the questioning and collaborative process.  Learning how to develop interpretative questions about a text initially, is a necessary skill.  Shared Inquiry is a journey of the mind…. in search of answers.


Have you incorporated Shared Inquiry into your classroom?  Share your stories.


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