Start the School Year With Questions

It’s so familiar, some might even call it cliché: the “What I Did This Summer” essay.

(Did I hear a yawn?)

Whether they spent it far away or close to home, students have insights to share from their time spent away from school.

Lately, though, I’ve wondered about inviting students to create questions from their summer experiences instead of the typical show-and-tell. And, of course, the school library media center is *the place* for questions.

By asking students to develop questions, we can start the process of inquiry early in the year. We also open connections between their out-of-school experiences and their time in the classroom. Finally, it’s an opportunity for us to learn more about students’ interests and perhaps even their struggles.

My family was lucky to have a busy summer complete with learning, leisure, and a bit of travel. There are any number of families we know who spent the summer moving due to foreclosures or welcoming family members in need of shelter. From my own experiences as well as sharing with friends, I can imagine a pool of questions including:

-Why are sea turtles endangered? How are we protecting them?

-Why is the public library closed earlier in the evenings than it was before? Who made this decision? Why?

-Why do people in the Amish community not drive cars or have their photographs taken?

-What summer camps can I attend next summer? How can I find help paying for them?

-How are video games made? How can I learn to make my own video games? (or apps, or videos, and so on)

-Why is the local bookstore (or other business) closing? What does it take to start a business or stay in business?

-What are some free or cheap activities in my community? (This may be especially helpful for people who have recently moved.)

-Why do some items float in a pool or lake while others don’t?

-How does lightning form? Why do we seem to have more storms in the summer months? Why is summer so hot?

-Why did Kate DiCamillo write Because of Winn Dixie? How did she write it? Does she have other books like that one? Does she have a dog?

The lives and interests of students shouldn’t be dropped or hidden at the school door. Their summer experiences shouldn’t be just an essay to read and or a check in the grade book. When students get back to the school library media center, they can extend those summer memories into questions and opportunities to pursue topics that are personally meaningful and interesting.

Of course, we can help by modeling questions out of our own experiences.  What are some of the questions you brought back from summer experiences?

Elizabeth Friese

PhD Candidate

Department of Language and Literacy Education

University of Georgia

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Posted on August 17, 2011, in Ideas, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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