Monday, January 15, 2018

Open-Ended vs. Closed Research Questions

If you live in Texas, 2nd and 3rd graders are expected to generate open-ended research questions. In 2nd grade, they do this with assistance, but by 3rd grade, they're expected to write their own. Closed questions typically have one answer and open-ended questions have multiple answers. Open-ended questions should encourage students to use critical-thinking skills. Well, I don't live in Texas, but research indicates that we have to get students asking questions.

How do you teach a child to generate these types of questions? Typically, how and why words are a good place to start.

You'll want to model how to create open-ended questions. One of my favorite teaching quotes is by Dr. Rich Allen. He said,  "If you're not modeling, you're teaching something else." That's so true! 

In my 25 years of teaching, I've used the QAR (Question, Answer, Relationship) strategy and Thick and Thin Questions. Typically, these lend themselves well to fictional stories. A quick Google search should yield you a plethora of ideas that are ready to use. I didn't have much luck finding information on open-ended vs. closed research questions, so I wrote this blog post to help you (and me) get started.

The last four questions are content related. I'm planning to present this idea to my 2nd graders and let them generate their own questions for our next science or social studies unit. Then, I'll take some of their questions to create a question sort for them.  Whoever is doing the most work is doing the most learning. This question sort will make a wonderful center idea! 

Closed vs. Open Question Examples:

Closed:  Who is the author of ______?
Open:  Why do you think the author wrote _________? Use details from your research to support your answer.

Closed:  What is Project-Based Learning?
Open:  How can Project-Based Learning benefit students?

Closed:  How many snow days are built into a school calendar?
Open:  Why is it important to have snow days built into the school calendar?

Closed:  Who is ________?
Open:  What kind of person is ______? What evidence do you have that leads you to this conclusion?

Closed:  Do predators help the ecosystem?

Open:  How do predators help the ecosystem?

Closed:  What is a magnet?
Open:  How are magnets used?

Closed:  What is soil?
Open:  Why is it important to have humus or topsoil in a garden?

Closed:  Where do alligators live?
Open:  Why do alligators live in warmer climates?

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