Saturday, February 1, 2014

Who's got the Q-Focus?

I am celebrating my colleagues this week. Part of my job that I absolutely and positively love is coaching other teachers!

This week I had the privilege of watching Theresa implement the Question Formulation Technique(QFT)strategy. The QFT  strategy is an instructional strategy that teaches students to ask their own questions. As part of our districts COACHING program, as well as a district book club, we have all been encouraged to read the book Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana and try the strategies in our classroom. I have to be honest, that when Theresa and I tried reading the book together, but we both struggled to get through it. At first we thought, how can this pertain to our grade level? It seems like this is geared towards older students. However, thankfully, we were WRONG! 

Make Just One Change recognizes two facts:
  • All students should and can learn to formulate their own questions
  • All educators can easily teach the skill as part of their regular practice
What is so cool about this process is that it teaches students the importance of asking their own questions through a step by step process. Asking thoughtful questions is such a sophisticated task that many students struggle with. But the simplicity of the process engages and encourages students of all academic levels to ask higher level questions. Not only that, but students must also evaluate their questions for level of importance and recognize when a question is an open question or a closed question. The teacher becomes the facilitator of the group while students are taught to think for themselves! 

Theresa started her lesson with the Q-Focus statement "Revolutionaries change the world." She had this statement in the middle of a large easel paper so the groups of students to write their questions. She reviewed the rules, set a time limit, circulated through the groups and we both watched as the level of engagement and rigor rose in the room!

Theresa's excitement about trying out the QFT strategy was evident in her positive encouragement with the kids. Her excitement spilled over to the students! They were all anxious to share their questions and ideas!  In the groups I visited I heard students taking ownership for their learning and taking part in really thoughtful discussion. I loved hearing the students say, "Well, I think that is an open questions or a deep question. What do you think? Maybe we should keep that question as a back up? Let's get a consensus! Hey, you know what this reminds me of? The Revolutionary War- there must be problems revolutionaries solve! What do you think?" Listening to those conversations brought me chills and I just wanted to jump and down for the students!

 I also felt extremely proud of Theresa for taking a risk and working out of her comfort zone. She was animated in her teaching and she really pushed her students. Watching her teach, reinforced to me the effectiveness of our COACHING process as well as the effectiveness of in school professional development. The peer observations we are able to experience in our school really do bring out the best ideas, conversations and collaborations when working with another colleague. Learning from one another is truly the best professional development and one of many ways that teachers can have a positive impact on our students' learning. 

After watching Theresa, I was able to bring what I learned from her lesson to a co-planning session with another colleague, Greg. In his 5th grade class, we are going to present the students with the cover of Sophia's War and the statement, "Through conflict characters in literature and real people are changed." Based on Theresa's experience, I am so looking forward to watching the 5th grade students work through the QFT process! 

Theresa's classes "most important questions!" The students will revisit these questions throughout their currently literacy unit. The students' questions will guide the students learning1!  

Here's to another #nerdlution week of taking risks! 


  1. That's the strategy we learned in our workshop a couple of weeks ago! I tried it with 4th graders this week. Found they need work in making more "weighty" questions. They weren't all closed ?, just not much weight to them. Also found generating and going over questions took a little over 15 mins. All of this was before the lesson even began. Makes the overall lesson too long. Bugs/kinks to work out. Doing the lesson again with 2 more classes this week. We'll see what gets improved upon! We'll have to keep each other updated :)

  2. Thanks for sharing this strategy! I especially appreciate that your post is detailed enough that I can go and try this in my own classroom next week.

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  4. We've started the Q Focus in the library too. Fits perfectly with research lessons, promotes accountability, ownership, engagement and collaboration.

  5. Yes, we would love to share this our website! Please shoot me an email or provide me with your email address and I'll reach out to you.

    @Michele I would recommend you join the network at Some educators have modified their Q-Focus to get more of the types of questions that they're interested in getting from their students. Also, sometimes teachers go through the process as one entire class period (especially the first time), so that students have ample time to go through their questioning and reflect on the process. But many others use as it a "do now" activity thereafter.

    Great discussion!