The notion of “partnering” when it comes to lesson planning should feel like a huge weight lifted off teachers’ shoulders. Partnering places the learning emphasis on the student, thereby unburdening the teacher from preparing extensive lectures, handouts, and worksheets. Instead, says Prensky, lesson planning should become all about “translating the content of lessons into the questions you will ask,” which will let the students discover the information on their own. These questions fall into two categories: Overarching questions (the lesson objective) and supporting questions. Prensky gives these examples:
Big Question: “Why does the Earth move, and in what ways?
Supporting Question: “What is precession?”
Your questions should be “why” and “how” questions that are open-ended and complex to answer. Prensky says that the best questions have multiple answers and every student should be required to come up with one solid position.
If you’re having trouble coming up with guiding questions, Prensky suggests reversing your textbook. Try turning the chapter names or subheadings into questions, but be careful not to pose questions with only one answer or ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
The most important (and some would argue, the trickiest) part of planning comes in connecting your lessons to each student’s passion. Prensky warns that this can be difficult and is not always possible in every lesson. However, the more students are encouraged to discover how to make a real-life connection to their own interests, the more committed they will be to the discovery process.
Here is a short video explaining the difference between open-ended and close-ended questions. She’s talking about teaching college students, but this technique could be applied to any classroom situation.