Using Sources to Guide Questioning
In this lesson, secondary students will create questions about a specific topic based on background knowledge from analyzing a variety of sources.
|SUBJECT:||English / Language Arts
|GRADE LEVEL:||Middle School
|OBJECTIVES:||Students will analyze a variety of sources through the lens of inquiry.
Students will explore background knowledge on a topic to help them create questions they want to answer.
Students will answer an overall question about the main topic.
|MATERIALS:||A way to project/share questions created as a group
A physical or digital way to record and share individually created questions
|TIME NEEDED:||Three to five class periods
Using Pear Deck (or other means), students share their background knowledge of the topic by answering questions like:
- What do you think the digital divide?
- What do you already know about the digital divide?
- What does the digital divide make you think of?
Each day, students interact with a different type of source on the given topic. Pick as many or few sources as you have time to explore. This will determine how many days will be needed for this lesson. Students can read/view/listen to items independently or with the whole group.
Day One: An article from one of the library databases
Day Two: An article from a website
Day Three: Pieces of artwork/political cartoons related to the topic
Day Four: A TED talk on the topic
For each of the sources, students answer the following (you can adjust to fit the needs/skills of your students):
- Is this a trustworthy source? Why/why not?
- What bias could this source/author have on this topic? Why?
- What bias could the audience have about this topic? Why?
- What is the main point of this source?
- What evidence is provided to support this main point?
Students work independently or in small groups to answer these questions.
Discuss answers and additional perspectives/insights gained from the source as a whole group.
At the end of each class period, students write questions they still have about the main topic after exploring that day's source. These questions can be crafted individually or in pairs/groups, but they will eventually be shared with the entire group, as they will be used later on. We used a shared slide deck in Google slides, but there are many possible ways to submit the questions.
After the students have finished typing in their questions, go through them as a group. If wording needs to be adjusted based on the discussion, do so right then on the slide.
Here are some of our Day Three questions:
- How is geographical context important when examining the digital divide?
- How would fixing the digital gap benefit different groups of people?
- How has the issue of the digital divide changed over time?
And some of our Day Four questions:
- How does the digital divide affect health and education issues?
- How did the government target internet access of different racial groups in the past and how are they still recovering from it?
- Which areas/locations in the United States, and the world in general, are most affected by the digital divide?
Students re-examine the questions created in the previous lessons. As a group, go over each question in the slide deck again.
Students will select one overall question that interests them. They can choose one from the list, they can revise a question on the list, or they can craft a new question not already shared.
Once students select their final questions, they will explain why they chose that question and provide possible search terms they can use to find sources to answer their question. This can be done as a group in class, if time allows.
Possible Next Steps
Students can use their selected question as their focus for a short independent research paper. Students can then locate 4–6 sources that help answer their question. Their selections can include one of the sources shared in class and one from one of the school's databases.
Students create an annotated bibliography for each of their chosen sources that includes answers to each of the five questions listed in the Examining Sources portion of this lesson. Provide work time during the search process so that students can seek help if needed.
Have students meet individually with you or their teacher (if you are collaborating) prior to beginning writing their research report to discuss the sources they found and how well they answer their question. Some students may need help refining their search terms or reworking their question, if they had difficulty finding sources.
Formative feedback can be given as students share/explain their questions for specificity and nuance. Assessment can also be based on the final question and on how well the resulting research report addresses that question.
Get more ideas about engaging students in the process of questioning in Courtney Pentland's editorial, "The Art of Asking Questions" and in her Elementary School lesson, "Asking Thin and Thick Questions."