Series Reading Like a Historian: Reading Like a Historian: Focus Questions

Reading Like a Historian: Focus Questions

Lesson Objective: Use focus questions to guide historical inquiry
Grades 9-12 / History / Inquiry

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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What makes an effective question?
  2. Why is it important to gather evidence for both sides?
  3. How is asking a focus question different from stating a lesson objective?

15 Comments

  • Private message to Raymond Woodard

This is a very rich and stimulating teaching and learning method which leads to the igniting of discussion as well as iluminating the minds of students to participating in the teaching/learning process.  In addition, students are kept highly engaged.

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  • Private message to Raymond Woodard

A focus question allows the teacher to bring the student to the point of achieving the objective of producing

or getting the big idea or the overarching idea in a text or discussion.

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  • Private message to Danny McKinney

Teachers refering back to primary documents to form responses.

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  • Private message to gwen purvis
Focus questions spur thinking, set up debate and stir up the class, while lesson objectives are boring sentences acting like titles. I liked the way this video set ended, with the inclusion of all instructors.
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  • Private message to Misty Tucker
I have been using this strategy quite a bit this year in my US History class. For one, it helps me due to the fact that my background knowledge is not as strong as it is in other content areas. This allows for the students and myself to be investigating together, and to have rich discussions. I have seen growth in my students abilities to read primary source documents and pull meaning from them, and to think more critically about the information that they are reading.
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Transcripts

  • Reading Like A Historian: Strategy – The Historical Question
    Program Transcript

    Shilpa Duvoor (Interview):
    So I think a really effective approach

    Reading Like A Historian: Strategy – The Historical Question
    Program Transcript

    Shilpa Duvoor (Interview):
    So I think a really effective approach is to, like, pose a controversial question, or a question that really can have different answers.

    Valerie Ziegler (Interview):
    And so, when you pose that question to the class, that’s, sort of, the grabber: this is why we’re here today.

    Ziegler:
    And the question is: “Was the U.S. planning to go to war with Vietnam before the Gulf of Tonkin?”

    Shilpa Duvoor (Interview):
    You first need to start with an inquiry question that is—that has a rich amount of answers, and then you would give out the primary source documents that they would use to, like, gather evidence for both sides.

    Colglazier:
    Our question that we are focusing on is “What is the true story of the March on Washington,” trying to have a complete picture of it.

    Will Colglazier (Interview):
    So the question hooks the students so that they have a purpose to the class. By having this focus question, they know the direction of what they have to do, and they understand that the answer’s not going to come from me, but it’s going to come from documents, it’s going to come from the history itself.

    Ziegler:
    Now, again, our focus is going to be, “Was President Johnson going to go to war anyways? Was it really this event, the Gulf of Tonkin, or had he already planned to go to war?”

    Valerie Ziegler (Interview):
    And I would say that I’ve seen a change in their interest level in history, that instead of it being these facts that we memorize, it’s this, “Wow, we’re gonna solve a mystery,” or “We’re gonna answer some sort of question.” And so, usually when I put up the question, you know, they’ll be, like, “Oh, look at the question today,” and that drives that excitement.

    #####

School Details

Lincoln (Abraham) High School
2162 24th Avenue
San Francisco CA 94116
Population: 2046

Data Provided By:

greatschools

Teachers

Valerie Ziegler
William Colglazier
Shilpa Duvoor

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