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How can I form strong guiding questions?

Creating Standards-Based Guiding Questions

In addition to helping students ask better questions, you can create better guiding questions by aligning them with standards. Begin at the end. What do you want your students to learn? What standards are you trying to cover? Form questions based on the standard.

Scenario: Imagine that you need to teach the following social studies standards. The first is a performance standard, and the second is a content standard:

B.8.8 Identify major scientific discoveries and technological innovations and describe their social and economic effects on society.

8.5 Learn about the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877.

Building Guiding Questions

Now frame a guiding question that addresses both the performance and content standards. Also, make sure you ask questions that have many possible answers and require research and analysis.

  • "What invention had the biggest effect in the Civil War?"
  • "What kind of weapons did soldiers use in the Civil War?"
  • "How did non-military technology shape the Civil War?"
  • "What medical practices were used in the Civil War?"
  • "How did medicine improve during the Civil War?"
  • "What one technology from today would a Civil War soldier most want?"

Using Guiding Questions

By framing a guiding question that combines a content standard with a performance standard, you can make sure that the inquiry that students do stays on topic. You can also provide students the chance to choose which of the possible guiding questions they want to pursue. If you provide five questions, you can end up with five groups, each working to answer one of the questions and report what they find to the class.