SOLS:2012.12 Essential Thick and Thin Questions

Our district has has been working on creating a digital curriculum. Some questions that we ask as we write a unit: What essential questions will be addressed in the unit? What do we our students to know?

Questioning is a comprehension strategy we spend a lot of time talking about with students.  We teach students the art of questioning as they construct meaning in their reading and daily lives. We talk about questions a reader asks before reading a text, during reading, and after. For the past few years we have emphasized “deeper” questioning. We talk about thick and thin questions. Thick questions (inferential) are those questions that the answer comes from your inferences. You have to go beyond the text…read between the lines.  You have to think before you give an answer…synthesize. analyze, determine importance, and evaluate the words in the text and use your background knowledge.  this is in contrast to thin questions. Answers to thin questions are right in the text. In the past few years we have emphasized inferential questions. I’ve gotten the impression that finding answers to literal questions is not as important as finding answers to inferential questions. Teaching thinking is important stuff now.

Where is this leading to? Yes, again to RUNNING. I’ve only have attended three running classes but I already know what essential questions I need to ask.  And they are not inferential questions. The most important answers I want are from those thin questions. The answers make all the difference for me as a runner. Can I call myself a runner yet? A better name would be a jogging shuffler.  Educators, we have underestimated the value of literal questions.

My recent “thin” questions that are ESSENTIAL and MEANINGFUL for me:

Is the route flat?

Is there any elevation higher than 1 inch?

What is the weather like? Is it windy?

Will I be running against or with the wind?

Are there dogs on this route? Do I have mace?

Do you talk when you run? (No talking for me. I need all of my focusing power to get through the repetitions of running and walking.)

Heavy traffic? (Do I have to watch for cars?)

Are there many stop signs? (I might not be able to get going again if I slow dow.)

What’s the temperature? (60 degrees means: still cover my ears.)

Thin questions can be more important than the thick questions!

Hanoch PIven has created glimpses of some of his favorite athletes. One highlighted athlete is Jesse Owens who took home four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He showed Hitler. The book is full of interesting facts on several athletes and each page has this line: Athletes are made of _________. Jesse is made of get up and go.

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3 Responses to SOLS:2012.12 Essential Thick and Thin Questions

  1. elsie says:

    You have a point with the thick and thin questions. I guess we have to relate the content to the thin questions. Good thinking! I love Piven’s books, I will have to look for this one.

  2. Tam says:

    You have a point there with the thin questions. I have to admire your stamina with your running. I remember a few years back, I was having therapy for a sciatic nerve and told the therapist I could no longer run. She said she could teach me, but I never went back. Keep the faith.

  3. Debbi says:

    Oh, yes! Those thin questions have great relevance! Without them, we cannot make the inference. Without them, we are drawing conclusions without fact. Your questions require the details so that you can INFER your chances of making the run successfully. Go thin! 🙂

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