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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring is Coming! Using QFT with second graders

Happy First Day of Spring!  Although you might not guess that spring is beginning with the 15" of light snow we received over the past few days, spring is coming.  To celebrate spring's arrival, in two second grade classes at Union Elementary School in Montpelier, we used our senses to find signs of spring in Hubbard Park.  We were helped by the Question Formulating Technique, which was developed by the Right Question Institute.  First students thought of as many questions as they could in 2 minutes about the statement, "Spring is Coming!"  Here were the parameters:

1.  Only ask questions.
2.  Any statement will be turned into a question.
3.  No analysis of questions or answering them.
4.  Write questions as they are stated.  

Here is the list that we generated:

 We walked the mile through town up to our "Base Camp" to investigate signs of spring that are on their wa.  Here are a few students diligently recording their observations at their sit spots.  They found snow melting, warm breezes, soft moss, buds beginning and much more.  Sitting quietly and observing proved fruitful for generating more questions about what's going on in the little microcosm of the sit spot. 

When we returned back to school, we revisited our questions from earlier in the morning.  Can you see the extra questions we asked?  Students focused their questions and were much more specific.  In the early morning, questions were broader, such as, "Do you think it will be warm," and "Why is spring coming?" 

After being outside and everyone sharing the signs of spring that they saw, smelled, heard (lots of birds!) and felt, the questions that the questions generated were more specific and demonstrated higher thought processes.  For example, one student asked, "Why is the grass orangish-brownish after the snow melts?"  Immediately after, another student asked, "Why is grass green in the summer?"  Since we wrote these questions on the flip chart, they will be saved and teachers can return back to discuss and answer these questions!  It's a perfect opportunity for authentic, engaged learning. 

These second graders are savvy researchers, too.  When I asked how they could answer their own questions, one boy stated, "You google it!"  They also knew to look in books, talk to their parents and teachers, ask the librarian for help, and much more.  

Here's something I observed at my sit spot!  It looks like a cross between a frozen inchworm and a tiny birdpoop.  I wonder what it is?  How did it survive the winter?  How did it remain sticking to the stick throughout the winter?  Oh, the questions that arise...


  1. This is such an exciting and inspiring post to read. It's also wonderful to see your great adaptation of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT). It's brilliant to have them ask questions before venturing outside and then give them a chance to come back and ask new questions after returning. Just wonderful.
    I noticed your modification of the Rules for Producing Questions into 'parameters.' But, did you really mean "Write questions as they are answered". I am guessing you meant "exactly as they are stated/asked."
    Great work!

    1. Yes, we mean exactly as they are stated adn asked. We don't answer the questions when they are stated,or even change them. We have the students look at their questions after we have generated that big list and choose their "favorite" or most important question. When they do this we tend to see which questions are repeating themselves our are similar to others. we honor each question as it comes up for the students!

  2. Thanks for catching that slip-up, Dan! I appreciate your comment and changed the statement to reflect how the rules for producing questions should actually read, "...exactly as they are stated." What is your involvement with QFT?

    1. Luz Santana and I and several others started the Right Question Institute many years ago. Since our book came out 18 months ago we've been thrilled to see educators like you all using the QFT. It would be great to share your important work and great documentation on our Educators Network at rightquestion.org. Hope we hear from you!