No Series: Closed or Open: That is the Question

Closed or Open: That is the Question

Lesson Objective: Students work in an assembly line to learn economic systems
Grade 7 / Social Studies / Jim Knight
14 MIN


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How would the use of a graphic organizer enhance this already stellar lesson?
  2. Note the scaffolding technique of repeat, rephrase, and reduce. When should you ask closed versus open questions?


  • Private message to Jessica Vineyard
I loved this lesson, and the warm-up activity was stellar!
Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Leyla Ford
I absolutely love the warm-up activity. What a brilliant way to illustrate different systems! Thank you very much!
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Mary Branham
I love the "Phone a Friend" technique! The activity at the beginning of this lesson is wonderful too!
Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Carol Tyger
Carol Tyger Your anticipatory set was sooo motivating. I'm going to use Repeat, Rephrase, Reduce (scaffold)-"Call a friend"
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Diane Lee
Loved seeing the coaching and the teacher's openness. Especially liked "repeat, rephrase, a friend." Lucky kids to be with this engaging teacher.
Recommended (0)

External Resource Materials


  • Transcript for Closed or Open? That is the Question with Chris Korinek Moderator/Korinek/Knight

    Moderator: [00:00:09] Chris Korinek is a first school,

    Transcript for Closed or Open? That is the Question with Chris Korinek Moderator/Korinek/Knight

    Moderator: [00:00:09] Chris Korinek is a first school, middle school social studies teacher working in a North Chicago suburb. Mr. Korinek has asked instructional expert, Jim Knight, to observe him and provide feedback on his planning and how to better structure his questioning of students to enhance their participation. [00:00:24]

    Korinek: [00:00:24] I’m always looking for ways to improve. I’m always looking for ways to better my practice, to be able to reach my kids, to be able to involve my parents, to be able to really create a learning environment that’s set up for higher learning and performance and results, I guess, so. [00:00:42]

    [00:00:43] Ladies and gentlemen, here we are today. We just finished up our unit on ancient China, and now we are going to be taking part in a little activity. [00:00:50]

    [00:00:50] And you want the kids to be not only learning the content that you’re providing, but doing it in a way that’s efficient and also somewhat enjoyable. If you can harness those two things, it always makes for a well-rounded lesson. [00:01:04]

    [00:01:05] I am starting up a company. As you can see on the board, it is Korinek Kool Catz. Now I have hired all of you as my employees, and you guys are going to be producing the Kool Catz for me, all right? [00:01:17]

    Knight: [00:01:18] Here’s where you explain the activity. This is what I thought was great. [00:01:21]

    Korinek: [00:01:22] You all notice that you have a tab on your desk, right? Labeled one through ten, now if we look at model up here, each person is going to be making a different part of the cat. The first person who has a one on their desk is going to draw the head, so you’re going to be making the circle for the head. The two are going to be making the ears. Okay? [00:01:42]

    Knight: [00:01:42] So what you did is you draw the diagram, then you pointed out you’re number one, you’re number two, you’re number three. Everybody knows exactly what they’re doing and then when you let them loose, there was no chaos whatsoever. Cause if you didn’t do that, it would fall apart pretty quickly. [00:01:57]

    Korinek: [00:01:57] All you need to do is you need to make five Kool Catz. Once you are done, you will raise your hand. I will come inspect them and then afterwards, obviously since you’re working for me, you deserve a payment, right? You have to get paid for your work and so, as a result, I have M&M’s as the payment which you will get. Okay. And go [00:02:14]

    [00:02:15] Remember it’s not a race. All I need is the product. Okay? [00:02:19]

    Child: [00:02:20] Do you like the curves or the boxes? I like the curves. All right, we’ll go with the curves. I like the curves. What is this? Look at the nose. [00:02:27]

    Korinek: [00:02:27] Once they finish, I’ll stop the clock and see where time was. So finish up. It took us 2 minutes and 44 seconds that time. Okay? Now, we’re going to do this again. As a business owner, that production is a little too slow for me. So here’s the deal. It is a competition. It is a race. The first team to get done with their five Kool Catz will receive a stipend of 5 M&M’s a piece. Okay? But the team that silently raises their hand says that they’re done, and then we’re not going to be—because this is going to come down to the wire. I’m telling you right now, it’s going to be a very close finish. [00:03:01]

    Knight: [00:03:02] I just love the way you’re building their excitement there. It’s going to come down to the wire. Let me tell you it’s going to be close, but you’re careful to tell them, but we have to have our inside voices here and not be too loud. [00:03:09]

    Korinek: [00:03:09] Sure. Sure. [00:03:09]

    [00:03:09] Are we ready? [00:03:10]

    Child: [00:03:09] Yeah. [00:03:11]

    Korinek: [00:03:11] And go. [00:03:12]

    [00:03:13] I got to ship them out. My customers want them. [00:03:16]

    [kids working and talking 00:03:16 – 03:20]

    Knight: [00:03:21] And I was sitting over here, and it was exactly the same. I mean they were—they couldn’t be more engaged. They were a 100 percent engaged. Every kid was locked in. They were doing it. [00:03:29]

    Korinek: [00:03:29] Great. [00:03:29]

    Knight: [00:03:30] One of the most powerful ways to get kids engaged in an activity is have them compete with other people. I mean people talk about cooperative learning and cooperative learning is great, but when you have a competitive, I mean they’re in. [00:03:40]

    Korinek: [00:03:44] Competition is definitely healthy but I think that it’s a matter of how you approach it. I think that it has to serve a purpose and you can’t just have competition for the sake of competition. It has to lead to something better or greater. [00:03:54]

    [00:03:55] It took you guys 42 seconds to finish. So you got your five Kool Catz done in 42 seconds. All right, I wanted competition. You could see that there was really good competition in that, but the overall quality of the product wasn’t that great. So, we’re going to do it one more time. Only one team can win this time, but it’s going to be a little bit different. Not only am I grading on speed, okay. After you’re done, I’m going to come through and I’m going to inspect the quality of your Kool Catz. So even if you don’t finish first, continue. So now it’s about speed, but it’s also about quality. All right. Everybody ready? On my mark and go. [00:04:31]

    Knight: [00:04:32] So to me they were working together as a team, and although it was competitive, there was a sense of real collaboration. [00:04:36]

    [Kids working 00:04:36 – 00:04:51]

    Korinek: [00:04:52] Stop. All right, so you guys are done second, and they’re finishing. Okay so I’ll check these first, and then I’ll check yours and then I’ll check this team. First time through, we have 2:44. The second time was 42 seconds, and the third time was in a minute—or was in the middle between the two, 1 minute 11 seconds. If I look at these, I notice that this mouth is really wide, so I can’t accept that one. That mouth isn’t working. No I’ll accept that one. How is he supposed to walk if his feet don’t touch the ground? And the winner with the Kool Catz competition for this round is the following team. [00:05:28]

    Child: [00:05:30] Oh wow. [00:05:31]

    Knight: [00:05:32] [Laughter] They are eating out of your hand. Every kid is turned towards you. Did we win or not? I mean they were totally eating out of your hand. [00:05:40]

    Child: [00:05:42] Oh wow. [Lots of talking 05:49]

    Korinek: [00:05:49] What you guys just did, is you took part in three different economic systems. We’re going to go through all three, and I’m going to determine which time you guys went through the assembly line and which model of the economic system you guys did. All right. So the first type is the market economy. In this type of economy, the decisions are made by the individuals. Meaning that it’s based on trade and competition. [00:06:10]

    Knight: [00:06:10] If you just told them that stuff, that’s one thing, but because they did the activity, it’s more likely to stick. I’m not a real expert on memory, but what I do know is what I remember, I remember because it’s attached. It’s anchored in something. [00:06:21]

    Korinek: [00:06:21] That’s one; essentially planned economy, because usually when a central government alone makes the decision. Okay so the government decides what’s being made. The last one; mixed economies. Now this is a combination of the free market, but it also has a limited government involvement to it. Let’s go back to the first now. Which of these three types of economic system do you think you guys did? Yeah Danny? [00:06:45]

    Child: [00:06:46] Essentially planned. [00:06:47]

    Korinek: [00:06:47] Okay why? [00:06:47]

    Child: [00:06:48] There was no incentive to work harder because there was nothing saying that you need to get this done fast. You just need—[00:06:53]

    Korinek: [00:06:53] Exactly, but you knew that when you were done, you were going to get paid. Right? You make your cat, you get paid, and that’s it. So there’s no incentive, perfect. [00:06:59]

    Knight: [00:06:59] Those kids will always remember that little game you did with the Kool Catz, and the critical thing is for them to make sure they stick it with the different types of economies, so they remember first activity, second activity, third activity; here’s what their lights—I had a thought about maybe one way you could even make the connection more—is that okay? [00:07:15]

    Korinek: [00:07:16] Yeah of course. [00:07:16]

    Knight: [00:07:16] All right and so what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at the defining characteristics of different types of economy. Then you say, okay, in the first one how efficient was it? Well it wasn’t very efficient. So was it efficient, you’ll probably say efficient. No. And you can even say, who thinks—what do you think? Let’s hear some opinions here, tell me, do you think that was efficient? Was it the most efficient one? They say, no it took us two and a half minutes, and you go through each of these things. Okay, what as the incentive. Everybody’s going to get paid. There’s no big deal so there really isn’t an incentive here. Okay. Was there control? And you go all the way through. Then you go to the second one. Okay on the second one, how was the efficiency? Well we got it done pretty quickly. So they fill in the little diagram with you, and you have a conversation about every box, and you fill it in. Then you come back and you said, okay this one, this is what’s called is it free economy? [00:08:05]

    Korinek: [00:08:05] It’s a market economy, yeah. [00:08:07]

    Knight: [00:08:06] Market economy and then in the second one, we talked about a—[00:08:11]

    Korinek: [00:08:10] Command economy. [00:08:10]

    Knight: [00:08:10] Command. And then we have mixed. [00:08:13]

    Korinek: [00:08:13] Yep. [00:08:13]

    Knight: [00:08:14] And I think if they fill that in, my sense is it might deepen the stickiness. [00:08:19]

    Korinek: [00:08:19] It not only keeps students on the same page, but it allows them to really critically think about what are these characteristics, having them individually laid out, you can look at—go one by one and really kind of piece out and then formulate some conclusions based on the lead up to it. [00:08:31]

    [00:08:32] Right so if we had to guess about which economic system fit China, which one? If we had to just take a stab? Yeah? [00:08:38]

    Child: [00:08:38] I think it’s the market economies because it seems like they do everything so fast and like they’re not actually—[00:08:45]

    Korinek: [00:08:45] So it’s all about mass production, right? Getting everything out, shipping it over. Now if you said all three of these, you would probably be correct because China is very unique because it’s in a mixture of all three types. [00:08:57]

    Knight: [00:08:58] One thing, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about is questioning techniques. So what I want to run by you is some ideas about questioning, and then you can tell me if it makes any sense or not. Okay? [00:09:05]

    Korinek: [00:09:05] Sure of course. [00:09:06]

    Knight: [00:09:07] I think an important question to ask is what is the purpose of the question? Is the purpose of the question to check for understanding? Or is the purpose of the question to encourage dialogue and conversation in the classroom? If the purpose of my question is to check for understanding, then I would use right or wrong question and close-ended question. Then close ended means that they can’t go on forever. There’s a point where they’ve answered the question. [00:09:31]

    Korinek: [00:09:31] Sure. [00:09:31]

    Knight: [00:09:32] An open question is one that you can answer it forever. You know if I said what’s your favorite town in Michigan and why, that’s an open-ended question. If I said name every town in Michigan—[00:09:47]

    Korinek: [00:09:45] That would eventually cut them out. [00:09:47]

    Knight: [00:09:46] That’s closed-ended question even though they might talk a lot. Whether it’s open ended or closed ended, whether it’s right or wrong or opinion, it’s not about is one of them better than the other. It’s that there are times when you would ask an open-ended question. There are times when you ask a close-ended question. You just get different outcomes. [00:10:00]

    Korinek: [00:10:01] Now of these three, if we’re looking at the United States right now, what type of economy do you think that the United States has? Any guesses? Mattie what do you think? [00:10:09]

    [00:10:10] A mixed economy why? [00:10:11]

    Knight: [00:10:12] Okay so you asked, I think, and then you said you could argue a different way, but I would probably call that a closed ended—[00:10:18]

    Korinek: [00:10:18] Sure [00:10:18]

    Knight: [00:10:19] - right or wrong question. [00:10:20]

    Korinek: [00:10:20] Yes. [00:10:20]

    Knight: [00:10:21] We’re checking to see if they got the information. [00:10:22]

    Korinek: [00:10:22] Right. [00:10:22]

    Knight: [00:10:23] If you wanted to at that point, if you asked an open-ended question, and you left it as an opinion question, you could get a lot more energy in the classroom, and the kids would have to do more thinking. But if you said which one of these economies do you think would be better, tell me why. I want you to discuss it with your partner for a minute, and then we’re going to have a conversation about it. You just throw it out there, and then they could all sort of explore the different kind of economies and give their opinions, and it would probably be a lot more lively conversation. [00:10:50]

    Korinek: [00:10:50] Sure, we have to give them—a lot of times as teachers, we sometimes don’t give them, I don’t want to say credit, but we just don’t give them enough—we just don’t appreciate their intelligence as much as we should. Whereas, we think that we need to more—where we need to facilitate to an extent that we’re essentially feeding them what we want them to know. [00:11:06]

    Knight: [00:11:06] right, well when you ask these open-ended and non-judgmental questions, what I think you’re doing is you’re letting them do the thinking. When you ask a close-ended, right or wrong question, what you’re doing is you’re checking to make sure that they’ve got it right, and there’s nothing wrong with either one. You want them to be able to memorize certain kinds of concepts, vocabulary, but when you want them to do the thinking, just a simple question like which economy worked best for our products, do you think and why. To leave it open and it’s going to promote thoughts. So for me, just the to think through carefully why am I asking the question? [00:11:42]

    [00:11:42] When it’s a check for understanding, close ended and right or wrong and quick. Lots and lots of questions. But when the purpose is to promote thinking and to have them do it, it’s a quick question, but it could take them several minutes to discuss it. I’m going to ask a lot of questions when I’m checking for understanding. I’ll probably only ask one or two when I want them to be doing the thinking part of it. It’s just important to think it through. What I usually do is just say, you don’t know who’s going to answer the question, but I’m going to ask the question. Then if the kids gets that the question and they struggle with the answer, it’s repeat, rephrase, reduce. First time when I repeat it, I just say the question again, you know. What kind of economy is the US economy? [00:12:26]

    [00:12:27] then if I rephrase it, I say well we learned about three different kinds of economies, and the U.S. is probably one of them, which one do you think it is. Then if they can’t do that, then I reduce it down to a smaller question, so I might say well I’m going to give you two choices. It could be this or it could be that, and you tell me which one it is. That little phrase repeat, rephrase, reduce; if I keep that in my mind, that’s a way in which whenever I ask a question, I’m kind of ready to deal with it. Then what you can build into if they’re still struggling, so you can say do you need to phone a friend. If you need to phone a friend, if they say yes, then you look around the class and the kids who know the answer go like this, like they’ve got a phone call, and you say okay well which one do you want to answer the question for you, and they phone a friend. So you can keep it going. It’s just a ways that’s—[00:13:10]

    Korinek: [00:13:10] No I like that because I mean it kind of tiers down as you go. As an educator, you always have to be prepared and to know if the kids don’t know, you can’t just stand there and wait for a response. You always have to have something in your back pocket that you can pull out, so that’s kind of a tiered step down model. I think that would be a good way to look at it. [00:13:27]

    [00:13:27] So that is that for today. I hope you guys enjoyed being part of Kool Catz. I think that you were very hard workers, and I appreciate it. [00:13:37]

    Knight: [00:13:37] I just loved watching the whole thing. I loved how into it the kids were. How much fun and energy there was, and I often say well would I want my kids to be in that class if they were at this school. I would absolutely love for them to be in the class. I thought it was just a joy to watch the whole darn thing. [00:13:51]

School Details

Wilmette Junior High School
620 Locust Road
Wilmette IL 60091
Population: 884

Data Provided By:



Chris Korinek
Social Studies / 7 / Teacher
Jim Knight


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