No Series: Structure Learning with Essential Questions

Structure Learning with Essential Questions

Lesson Objective: Introduce units with engaging questions
All Grades / All Subjects / Planning


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What makes a successful question?
  2. How could you use "essential questions" throughout a unit?
  3. What is the effect of asking a question rather than stating an objective?


  • Private message to Mary Ann Pait

You can use the object and turn it into a question. The teacher in the video captured the attention of the students emediately. The students then started to answer the question. Theywere ready to learn.

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  • Private message to Danette Robinson

I like how the teacher started with an essential question. The teacher's object question about the egg. Love the answer the student gave. "The model is like our school, hard on the outside but, soft on the inside".

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  • Private message to faye bing
I like this video, because the teacher start out using high interesting question, then the student get involved immediately and they was motivated.
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  • Private message to Colleeen Fasciano
Question should pull students in, much like a topic sentence should pull the student in. The fact that this teacher include vocabulary that they can bring home and have a discussion about their day using their new vocabulary is a sure ice breaker when trying to get a discussion going at home. Kids should challenge parents as well.
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  • Private message to Mary Ann Pait

I believe discussing the school day in veryimportant. The student is able to talk to the parents and the parents talk to the student , not at each other. 

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  • Private message to adriana jahna
An essential question must be a high interest question and something that they can be directly related to. I like having questions that students can relate to or have an interest in because they are more willing to be engaged. We can use the questions throughout the unit by having a daily one based on what is being taught for the day so the students know what to expect.
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  • [00:00]
    Interviewer: Pretty much for any unit that I teach I want to start with an essential question. The

    Interviewer: Pretty much for any unit that I teach I want to start with an essential question. The essential question needs to be a very high interest question, and it needs to be something they can directly relate it to.

    When we studied chemistry at the beginning of the year our core question was, “How can I make new stuff from old stuff?” When we studied astronomy our question was, “Are we alone in space?” These are just big picture questions.

    Thinking about why do I need to wear a helmet when I ride my bike.

    In this unit our question was, “Why do I need to wear a helmet when I ride my bike?” We’re exploring the ideas of force in motion.

    We’re modeling that collision using an egg. Somebody remind me why is an egg a good thing for us to use when we’re doing this model?

    Interviewee: It’s a perfect model because it’s the same as our skull. It’s hard in the outside, but it’s soft in the inside.

    Interviewer: It’s just something where right away we can kind of pull them in, give them something that they’re familiar with to talk about.

    Interviewee: The momentum the cart had transferred to the egg.

    Interviewer: I want them to think of science as something that they can do, and something they should think about in their day to life. I don’t want a theoretical discussion to remain theoretical. We need to have the theory, but really I want them to be putting everything that we’re talking about into their day to day context.

    If I give them that framework they’re much more likely to go home—in fact they’re extremely likely to go home and talk to their parents about what they did today. What I’m really hoping is that they’re excited about what we’re learning, they’re understanding the scientific concepts and that they’re gonna feel comfortable practicing using the vocabulary.

    [End of Audio]

School Details

KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy
1430 Scott Street
San Francisco CA 94115
Population: 374

Data Provided By:



Mike Rettberg
Science / 8 / Teacher


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