Human Rights

Middle School English Lesson

General Info

Created ByJose Reyes
SchoolMiddle School
LocationMarlborough, MA
RoleSchool Administrator

About the Lesson

Subject Area
Lesson/UnitHuman Rights

Using the QFT

Place in the Unit/LessonBeginning
Brief description of the unitStudents read a variety of texts, including "Malala the Powerful" (a Scope article) and The Breadwinner (a novel by Deborah Ellis) to explore the essential question, "How does war affect children?" [Note: While I am an administrator, I implemented the QFT in the class of one of the teachers I supervise to model the strategy.]
Final QFocus"In January 2009, the Taliban ordered all girls' schools to close." [This was a quote from the Scope article "Malala the Powerful," which students had not yet read.]

Student Work

Student Questions

Priority questions in bold

Group 1

  1. Why did they shut down the GIRL schools?
  2. Why did taliban ordered to shut down girl school?
  3. Did the Taliban want girls to be educated?
  4. How do girls get their education now?
  5. Where will they go now?
  6. Will the girls be educated again?  (Changed question, How will the girls get educated? became a priority question.)
  7. Why does the Taliban not want girls to be educated?
  8. What will happen to all boys? 

Group 2

  1. Why did the Taliban close the girls school?
  2. Is their something wrong with the girls school? 
  3. Why did the girls school close in 2009?
  4. Why did Taliban close the girls schools knowing it was cold out?
  5. How did the Taliban close the girls school?
  6. What do you think the girls did after the taliban closed the schools? 

Group 3

  1. Why did they close the girls school? 
  2. Were they in control?
  3. Where did all of this happen?
  4. Why did this only happen to the girls?
  5. Why didn’t they shut down all of the schools?
  6. How did they get all the girls schools closed?
  7. Who are the Taliban? 
  8. What happened to the girls schools?
  9. What happened to the girls?
  10. Did the boys work and go to school at the same time?

Group 4

  1. Why did they do this?
  2. Where did the Taliban do this?
  3. What happen to the girls after this action? 
  4. What did the girls do to deserve this?
  5. How did this happen/pass?
  6. Why was it done in January in 2009?
  7. Did the girls have to stay home?
  8. Did the girls ever finish their education?
How did Students Use their Questions

I told students that each group would become “experts” on their chosen three questions and that as they read the article with their teacher, they would pay attention to any information relating to their questions and make a note of it.

What were your prioritization instructions?

I told students to choose the three most important questions that would help them understand the quote.

Student Comments

What did you learn?

  • I learned how open and closed questions are different and how they could be useful in different situations.
  • Open and close ended questions. How to change them to the other question type. It’s important to ask questions
  • An open ended question is a question that must be answered with details and sentences unlike close-ended sentences which is yes or no.
  • I learned the Question Formulation Technique.
  • How to mentally ask/answer questions and what types of questions you could ask
  • We went through with only one question and did so much with it.
  • I learned that discuss questions helps you see that is the answer or not the right answer.
  • I learned that there are two different types of questions. I also learned about how there could be Advantages and Disadvantages to questions.
  • I learned the difference between open and closed-ended question. The advantages and disadvantages of open and closed-ended questions.
  • I learned how to ask more complex questions
  • I learned the difference between closed and opened questions.
  • I learned a new way to figure out how to ask questions and to challenge myself and others.
  • I learned that in January 2009, the Taliban shut down girl schools.
  • I learned that you can change both an opened and closed questions.
  • I learned closed ended and open ended explanations.

Why is learning to ask your own question important for learning?

  • Because if you don’t understand something while you are learning than you could ask a question to understand it better.
  • So we’re not confused and get more details from the subject that the teacher might’ve not mentioned.
  • If I do not understand question I can get help on my level.
  • Because if you don’t know something you need to stand up and ask and how to do it in a proper and intelligent way.
  • It’s important because if you ask a question you are learning what you said and when you are saying more you learn what you are saying and if it right what you’re saying.
  • So you could understand things better and how you could use these questions in life.
  • Learning to ask your own questions are important for learning because asking your own questions teaches you things. It teaches you about life and shows you more.
  • Because if you need help with an explanation you can get one.
  • So you can think more frequently in life.
  • To see and review how it feels to have your questions on your paper and also it helps to make sure that you understand it.
  • Learning to ask your own questions is important for learning because if you don’t understand something and have to ask a question for it you should ask it your way.
  • It is important so you can memorize what you are doing or learning.
  • It is important because we need to make sure we understand our questions.

What did you like about the work you did?

  • I liked the work I did because the examples were really good about what we were learning and with the group all the ideas gave us a better and new way to look at questions. It was really fun.
  • It helped me understand what we learned.
  • I liked that I was free to “ask away.”
  • I like that I was discussing it and started to get the point of it and to get the answer.
  • What I like about this work was learning new things.
  • It was interesting, fun, and also going to help me and teach me.
  • I liked that I had a nice group and that they focused well. I also like that I learned about questions.
  • I had fun learning a new way to view question without judging, answering, stopping, it was a fun way to learn a new way of doing questions and I had fun with Mr. Reyes.
  • I liked that we all talked about the things that we were liking or disliking.
  • I liked that how you can make you writing or talking better by using closed or open-ended questions.
  • We got to work in groups.

Teacher Reflections

Part of my challenge was that I was “borrowing” a teacher’s class and doing a lesson in isolation. They were about to read the Scope article “Malala the Powerful,” so the teacher and I had some challenges in terms of coming up with a QFocus that would help prepare students for the reading, but would be manageable for a single demonstration lesson. We decided that a quote from the article was the way to go. Originally we thought of the quote, “Some 132 million children and teens around the world do not attend school, often because they must work to support their families or because they have no school to go to.” But then we felt that the quote we wound up with fit more with the overall trajectory of the unit, despite some misgivings on my part that not all students might know who the Taliban were. (Students could always ask who they were, we reasoned.) In the end, I think the quote engaged students because it was provocative and short and would generate curiosity about the article.

The prioritization instructions and question use also posed some challenges. I could see how questions could be used, say, to jump-start a research project. What wasn’t so clear was how they could help prepare students to read an article, which was one of my constraints. I worried that students would be “shooting in the dark,” since they hadn’t read the article yet. I landed at using the prioritized questions to help groups become “experts,” so that they would use the questions as a focus for their reading. Given my constraints, I think that my prioritization instructions and question use did the job in the sense that students came up with diverse and potentially fruitful avenues of exploration, but I would like to study more how these questions guide their reading and whether there are other approaches to using the QFT to “prime” students for reading a text.

Seeing how engaged students were, I can’t wait to use this in other contexts.

I did not anticipate that going through the QFT with sixth graders would take two full 47-minute periods, and I even wish I had more time. One of the challenges was that at certain points, I wasn’t sure whether to give students time to discuss and then share out with the class. For instance, when it came to discussing the advantages and disadvantages of closed-ended and open-ended questions, I wasn’t sure whether to give time for discussion four times (advantages of closed-ended questions, disadvantages of closed-ended questions, advantages of open-ended questions, disadvantages of open-ended questions), twice (closed-ended questions’ advantages and disadvantages, open-ended questions’ advantages and disadvantages), or once. On the spot, I decided to give an opportunity for students to discuss then share out regarding the advantages of closed-ended questions, but then I realized quickly that things would get bogged down if I had them do this three more times, so I adjusted by letting them share out after each category of question, rather than have them share out after discussing each of the advantages or disadvantages of both types of questions.

I also did not anticipate the extent to which old habits die hard. I had thought that discussing the rules would be enough to prevent violations, but I quickly discovered that students wanted to judge, change, or discuss questions.

I found that many components took longer than I expected, partly because I stretched out the question-generating portion to allow some groups to generate more questions, partly because of the several points in the process where I allowed small-group discussion and sharing. In the end, I only had about five minutes for students to respond to the reflection questions. I was fortunate that this class met for two periods during the day I did the lesson (one period at the start of the day and one at the end of the day), but I feel the process got bogged down in parts and rushed in others.

I need to be more strategic in terms of when to allow for small-group discussion AND sharing with the whole group in order to balance the opportunity to engage in discourse while at the same time allowing for flow. For example, I feel the process got bogged down a little for the part where they discussed the advantages and disadvantages of closed- and open-ended questions. For some parts of the process, maybe it’s not as important for small groups to share out with the larger group. (Of course, it’s important to share out which questions were prioritized by the small groups.) In short, I need to get a better handle on pacing to keep things moving while still giving students time to engage in meaningful conversations. A corollary to this is to better plan key “junction points” in advance so that I know exactly when to have share-outs.

I also need to emphasize more during the discussion-of-rules phase the importance of sticking to the rules: “You are going to want to break one or more of these rules, but it is important to stick to the process.” I also need to do a better job of reminding students during the question-generating process of what they had just discussed in case they start to judge, change, or discuss questions.

I also felt that when groups presented their questions to each other, they did not feel invested in other groups’ questions, but because of the time crunch, I wasn’t able to do much to address this; groups simply presented but people weren’t really paying attention. With better time management, I can ask groups to take notes on each other’s questions. I also would like to have groups stick their chart paper on the walls and then present while other groups gather around with sticky notes. Listeners could then potentially use the sticky notes to either comment (“I hadn’t thought of that,” “Consider changing this to a closed-ended question”) or copy questions that they hadn’t thought of. (I realize that this might violate the rule against “judging” questions, but at this stage in the process, it might get students more invested in each other’s questions.)

Finally, I think it’s important to have more than five minutes to reflect. While I got useful information, I could have been more explicit about being as specific as possible by giving examples and explaining fully.