Wednesday, October 26, 2011


If you are a parent of a young child, isn't "Why?" a common question?

"Why?" is as
ked so often sometimes that you think the child is being intentionally irritating. And sometimes, he is. But more often than not, he is just asking something that comes naturally, especially with a particular age.

Children entering those middle school years tend to ask "Why?" about the simplest and the most complex. Chil
dren seek information. As teachers, we want them to seek information; we want them to ask those "Why?" questions. In turn, we need to return the favor and ask our own "Why?" questions.

Inquisitiveness is part of natural childhood development. And part of our responsibility as teachers and parents is to draw out those "Why?" questions. How do we do that? One way is to not directly answer the child's question. Instead, for example, respond to the question "Why is bird's beak is shaped like that?" with "Why do you think that bird's beak short and stubby?" Begin to lead the child's thinking with questions. "What does a bird do with his beak?" "What kinds of food could a bird eat with a beak like that?"

Leading a child's thinking is a responsible response for parents and teachers. After all, the word educate comes from the Latin "to draw out" which is exactly what Socratic teaching, or teaching with questions, is all about.

Socratic teaching, the most effective instructional method, helps the student learn by causing him to think. By responding to the student's question with the answer, the student is passive and has to do little thinking, but by responding to the student's question with another question that leads him toward the answer is effective teaching. This method helps the student figure out the answer and helps make that knowledge "sticky." Now sticky, that knowledge will begin to attract other similar bits of information which are assimilated by the student toward many "Ah-hah" moments.

All this gives credence to what E. D. Hirsch advocates: "The more you know, the more you can learn." One bit knowledge increases a child's literacy and leads to another bit which leads to another, increasing the wealth of his cultural literacy.

Teachers, as well as parents, should seek to fill those literacy larders so that students have the ability to become discerning thinkers, effective communicators, and lifelong learners.

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