Essential Questions

Essential Questions by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

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Sometimes distinct areas of my life overlap.  This is one of those times.  Who knew I’d find inspiration for my blog in the required reading for one of my education classes?  I love when things like this happen.  When I first read this article, I immediately saw the potential for a series of blogposts, each one exploring an essential question, of course.

For those who don’t know, I am currently working on completing a teacher certification program that will allow me to teach Spanish and social studies at the secondary level (grades 6-12).  Add in my interest in all things relating to language, and it isn’t surprising that I will be focusing on the essential questions in those subject areas:  world languages, history and social studies, along with language arts.  I may add in a few from art as well.  Here are a few questions that left me inspired to write.  Please keep in mind that I did not come up with these questions as they are taken verbatim from the article above.  I’m not exactly sure how I will use these questions here on my blog, but they are worth noting.

Essential Questions in History and Social Studies

  • Whose “story” is this?
  • How can we know what really happened in the past?
  • How should governments balance the rights of individuals with the common good?
  • Should _______ (e.g., immigration, media expression) be restricted or regulated? When? Who decides?
  • Why do people move?
  • What is worth fighting for?

Essential Questions in Language Arts

  • What do good readers do, especially when they don’t comprehend a text?
  • How does what I am reading influence how I should read it?
  • Why am I writing? For whom?
  • How do effective writers hook and hold their readers?
  • What is the relationship between fiction and truth?
  • How are stories from other places and times about me?

Essential Questions in World Languages

  • What should I do in my head when trying to learn a language?
  • How can I express myself when I don’t know all the words (of a target language)?
  • What am I afraid of in hesitating to speak this language? How can I overcome my hesitancy?
  • How do native speakers differ, if at all, from fluent foreigners? How can I sound more like a native speaker?
  • How much cultural understanding is required to become competent in using a language?
  • How can I explore and describe cultures without stereotyping them?

Essential Questions in the Arts

  • What can artworks tell us about a culture or society?
  • What influences creative expression?
  • To what extent do artists have a responsibility to their audiences?
  • Do audiences have any responsibility to artists?
  • What’s the difference between a thoughtful and a thoughtless critique?
  • If practice makes perfect, what makes perfect practice?

Meta and Reflective Questions

  • What do I know and what do I need to know?
  • Where should I start? When should I change course? How will I know when I am done?
  • What’s working? What’s not? What adjustments should I make?
  • Is there a more efficient way to do this? Is there a more effective way to do this? How should I balance efficiency and effectiveness?
  • How will I know when I am done?
  • What should I do when I get stuck?
  • How can I overcome my fear of making mistakes?
  • What have I learned? What insights have I gained?
  • How can I improve my performance?
  • What will I do differently next time?

(McTighe & Wiggins, 2013)

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