Welcome to the second in the series on using the Super Six in the Music Classroom. This blog post is about something we as educators do instinctively—ask questions. We ask questions for many reasons—to keep students on track, to ask them what they are doing when they are distracted, to check for understanding and for many more countless reasons! We are also asked sooooo many questions—questions that are trivial, necessary and even very important and perplexing ones.
So I ask another question—Why is the use of Questioning so important in the Super Six? Think about it for a while? Why?
The main reason we ask questions is simply to get an answer to something we don’t know? Isn’t that why?
Well yes, but what if we asked students to answer questions they already knew the answer to? What would be the point? What information would that give us? Would we be moving our students forward? Probably not, but if we got the students to create the questions— well the results would be different!
The research about Questioning tells us one simple thing—if you can create the question, you can answer it! It’s not rocket science, we as teachers know this because we are the ones usually creating the questions—and we of course can answer the ones we create, so by getting students to create them aren’t we checking for understanding too?
For more information about using Questioning in your teaching here are a couple of useful links
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Here are my top 10 Questioning Activities
This is a technique that all of us should be familiar with—Blooms Taxonomy, but quite a few years ago I had an “aha” moment. After trying many different ways to engage a year 7 Music class full of Gifted students, I read a book called “Classroom Instruction That Works” by Marzano, Pickering and Pollock– it changed the way I approached teaching from that moment on! It has a lot of really great ideas that are based in research that has been proven to work in real classrooms. One idea I applied from the book was about Questioning (Chapter 10). It discussed in the book, about focusing questions on what is important and using Higher level questions to provoke real thought processing in the classroom. So back to Blooms—it was a familiar starting point. We had just finished a Unit of Work on The Orchestra, and I wanted the students to be involved in the assessment process. I showed them how to create questions using the Blooms worksheet pictured above. Then I told them that they would be writing the questions to their own test! Well, they thought they would pass this test with flying colours—they had control, they were writing the questions! The students wrote their questions at each level of Blooms—I collected the questions, and chose the ones that were appropriate for the texting process. Each level was weighted differently—lower level questions only worth a single mark, higher level questions were worth more. Test day came—the students still thought they were would pass—they wrote the questions! Well, they were disappointed, only a few passed the test because they struggled with the higher order and more creative end of the taxonomy. It also showed me that there were gaps in what and how I was teaching.
I still use this method of Questioning today—again more for me to check about what my students know and what level they are working at, and then I use this information to target what I need to do in order to help them get to where they should be.
- Question Tic Tac Toe
This one is both a favourite of mine and of the students. This is a simple one that can be used with any type of text—informative, narrative, even with score reading or listening activities. In the Music in the Movies unit of work, I have used it with the text on Film Music. Students like this one as they think they only have to do some of the work, but depending on the person they are working with—it might be harder than they would do independently. This activity asks students to write a separate question using the words in all 9 of the boxes. Once the questions are written, students choose 3 questions, in a row, for their partner to answer—they don’t answer their own. This can create quite a stir as students really try hard to trick and “outdo” each other by making the questions harder than I would!
Link to Music in the Movies here
- Question Web
This is another fall back favourite of mine. In the Pioneers of Rock unit of work, students read some biographical information on Fats Domino. After reading the information students create questions—using the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How prompts. It never ceases to amaze me how each class will produce different questions based on their own prior knowledge. This is a simple and quick activity that gets students involved very quickly into the lesson. What I really love about using this activity, is that I can say to students at the beginning of the lesson—there won’t be much writing today, so we should get onto the instruments quickly, so lets read this information and write some questions and then we can move on. The students agree and think that they are some how getting off lightly—but I know that they are actually getting so much more out of the text and information than if we just read it and answered some questions that I had made up previously.
Link to Pioneers of Rock here
- Questioning Before, During and After– Listening
This is an activity that I tend to use more with my Senior classes, mainly because I want them to be more independent in the process. I use this activity in two main ways—for Listening activities and Performance Reflection lessons.
For the Listening activities I ask students to look at the performer/composer that we will be listening to. I ask them to write down two questions they have before we listen to the music. While listening to the music they are to write two questions they think would suit the music—ones they think they could answer, for example is it a better music sample for Pitch, Duration, Tone Colour, etc… After listening to the music I get them to discuss in small groups what they think the question for the music should be, then after the discussion they come up with two questions. We then discuss these questions as a class, decide which one we will use, then the students complete the question that was decided upon. In the discussion the reasons why they think it should be one type of question or another and this is where the students demonstrate their real understanding—the discussions can get quite interesting and sometimes I have given in to letting them choose out of two different questions!
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- Questioning Before, During and After– Performance
Like the one above, it is the same idea, just used in a different and more reflective way. This is one I use more with my Elective Music students from years 9-12. I use it after they have completed a performance assessment as a reflection tool. Sometimes the students do this independently, and sometimes we look at a couple of performances as a class. Next week I will be doing this with my Year 11 class, they did their Performance exam at the end of last term, and I haven’t seen them since because of the holidays. Before they watch the performance, they write two questions about their performance, questions like What did I do well? Where did I go off track? As they watch the performance, they answer their own questions, and write another two questions that they think of. These types of questions are usually- What can I do to improve my technique? How can I change that section to make it more interesting? At this point I ask them to discuss with someone they are comfortable with about their performance, they come up with some suggestions for each other. I ask them at this point to write two questions that I can help them answer, and this then becomes the starting point for future directions. This is a very powerful strategy that has gotten some real results in the past!
- Box Car Build
I recently used this one with my Year 7 students when we started to look at The Guitar. After reading the information about the Guitar, we wrote down four facts from the text. After this, the students then had to write a question where the fact was the answer. This proved quite difficult for some of my classes—but we all got there in the end.
- Power of Three—Listening
This one is similar to the Before, During and After activity. I use it more with my elective classes, again as a way to get them to generate the question. This time they listen to the music and write down three things that they hear—anything they think is important. After the music is finished, I give them silent time, then we listen to the music again and they write a three sentence description. Once we have finished listening the second time, I give them more silent time to write three questions that they think they could answer about the music—again with a focus on the Concepts of Music. We discuss as a class which question, then once a question is chosen, they answer the question with usually 4 more listenings.
I have also used this activity with Performance, but more about a demonstration from something I had for a particular reason. This way we as a class look objectively about a performance and connect it to marking rubrics, and discuss ways how to avoid the same problems, etc…
- Thick and Thin Questions
This is an activity that I usually teach later in the unit of work, mainly because by then we should have a bit more information to draw upon when writing our questions. For this activity, I have to remind students about the difference between the two types of questions, essentially thin questions have their answers in the text and thick questions require more information that just what is in the text and these should be an extended response. This one also goes really well with the Blooms activity—it shows students what level they are working at, can they only create thin questions? Or can they create and answer the thick questions? Again the differences in the types of questions that each class creates always amazes me!!!
- Reflection Questions
These questions I like to use at the end of a lesson, some of you might like to use as Exit tickets. I simply have the tasks displayed and I ask the students to complete them in the back of their book. I know I need to use this one more often, mainly as I can check for understanding. When I do use this activity, I like the students to do this in silence—I want to know what they know, or the questions that they have so I can use the information to make plans and adjustments for future lessons.
- The 5 Whys?
This activity I have used in so many different ways, in so many different classes! It could be a whole Blog Post in itself!
The 5 Whys are simple—start with a question, answer it, then ask why? Do this 5 times—at the end you will get a more detailed answer to the original question that is really at the heart of an issue. The question below is one I use with all my classes when they start getting “ratty” and they have lost focus.
Why is it important to work hard in class?
To get good grades
Why is it important to get good grades?
So you can get into University
Why is it important to get into University?
To get a good job.
Why is it important to get a good job?
To get a good pay cheque.
Why is it important to get a good pay cheque?
So I can pay for things for my family and we can live the life that I want—I don’t want to struggle like …..
And the conversation goes on.
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Until next time
Julia from Jooya