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Lesson Planning Using Essential Learning Questions

Lesson Planning Using Essential Learning Questions

Author: Katie Hou

This lesson will provide learners with an overview of creating lesson plans that emphasize essential questions and how those align with assessment.

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Hi, and thank you for joining me today to discuss lesson planning using essential learning questions. By the end of today's tutorial, we will be able to answer the following questions. What are the characteristics of lesson planning with essential learning questions? And what are some tips and strategies for using essential learning questions?

Let's begin with an essential learning questions recap. Remember that essential learning questions describe the content with a question. They also set the instructional focus for a unit or lesson. They encourage creative and critical thinking. And they're focused on key concepts of the curriculum. Try to remember that using essential learning questions helps promote discourse amongst students.

And their open-ended with no clear-cut right or wrong answer. It's a way to allow students to explore the topic at a deep level. And it's actually an offshoot of Understanding by Design, but it doesn't have to necessarily be used with Understanding by Design. You can use essential learning questions independent of that lesson planning framework.

All right, so let's look at essential learning questions applied to a lesson. Remember that essential learning questions help support the understandings and curricular learning goals of the unit. They drive instruction and are aligned with assessments.

Here are a couple examples of essential learning questions. When is division most useful? How have ancient societies influenced math as we know it today?

As you can see, these essential learning questions are open-ended. And they're going to provide discourse. There's really no right or wrong answer for the role of geometry in architecture.

They're also going to really allow for critical thinking. So how have ancient societies influenced math as we know it today?

There is to a certain degree, a right or wrong answer for that one. But we can still think critically about it and be creative with our responses. I also want to talk about the role of technology with essential learning questions. Technology can be used to enhance the understanding of the questions.

And an example of this is a virtual trip to an ancient society to consider its influences on math. So for example, a group might have a virtual field trip to ancient Sumeria and look at the way that they influenced math that we have today.

A couple of non-examples of essential learning questions. What are the steps for long division? And name one influence ancient Sumer has had on math today.

These are non-examples because they're too specific. For example, the last one-- way too specific. I don't want to have just ancient Sumer. I want to know all the ancient societies. Or if I do want to have ancient Sumer, I want to have more than one influence.

And then with question 1 and question 2, there are right or wrong answers. This doesn't provide for discourse or critical thinking. It's actually at the lowest level of the thinking skills, according to Bloom's taxonomy.

So let's reflect quickly. Why must essential questions be open-ended?

Next, do you think you can ever make an exception to the guidelines for open-ended questions? Why or why not?

And now I want you to generate one essential question for a unit you're currently teaching. A couple of tips for creating these essential learning questions. After identifying the main understanding that you want students to gain from the instruction, think about the main concepts that you should be investigating.

Also, consider questions that would stimulate thought and promote inquiry and discourse among students. That's the really most important part-- inquiry and discourse and critical thinking.

Remember to keep the questions open-ended and ensure that they align with the identified curricular goal you would have thought of stage 1 of Understanding by Design.

So to review, we talked about what the characteristics are of lesson planning with essential learning questions. And we also talked about some tips and strategies for using essential learning questions.

Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section will be super helpful. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. Each link includes a brief description so you can easily target the resources you want.

Thank you for joining me, and happy teaching.

Notes on "Lesson Planning Using Essential Learning Questions"


(00:00-00:16) Introduction

(00:17-00:57)Essential Learning Questions Recap

(00:58-02:34) Essential Learning Questions Applied

(02:35-03:02) Reflection

(03:03-03:35) Tips

(03:36-04:06) Conclusion

Additional Resources

Learners Should Be Developing Their Own Essential Questions

This post from Dr. Jackie Gerstein's blog suggests that students generate their own essential questions. Scroll down to read the six steps she encourages to empower and engage students in owning their learning.

All About Writing Essential Questions

This handout provides helpful strategies for crafting essential questions. In addition, example essential questions from many subject areas are provided for your review.

Structure Learning with Essential Questions

In this video, you will learn the qualities of effective questions. You will also learn the impact of beginning a lesson or a unit with a question rather than an objective.