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"Because when students' instruction is organized around meaningful, clear questions," writes Jim Burke in What's the Big Idea?, "they understand better, remember longer, and engage much more deeply and for greater periods of time."
Jim shows how planning around essential questions eases the tension between good teaching and teaching to the test, while giving students tools to:
grapple with content and deepen comprehension
make learning stick by connecting it to texts, to students' experiences, and to the world
clarify and extend their thinking through questions
improve achievement by honing academic language and skills
"Questions can address your concerns and help students succeed in school and at work," writes Jim, "as well as achieve a sense of purpose in their personal lives." The only question now is, Are you ready to change your student's learning and lives?
The question Jim Burke has always tried to answer is How can we teach our students better? He began this search at Burlingame High School in California, where he still teaches. He shared his experiences in bestselling Heinemann professional titles such as The English Teacher's Companion, Reading Reminders, and Writing Reminders as well as through Heinemann Professional Development Services. Later, he founded the English Companion Ning, described by Education Week as "the world's largest English department." Jim continues to find and support best practices by serving on national commissions, such as the Advanced Placement English Literature and Language Course and Exam Review Commission, and as a senior author on the Holt McDougal Harcourt Literature series.
Why Do Questions Matter in Curriculum? 1
Sample Unit 1 An Intellectual Rite of Passage 22
Engaging Students with Essential Questions
Sample Unit 2 Spirited Inquiry 46
Creating Questions to Access a Challenging Text
Sample Unit 3 Natural Curiosity 74
Using Questions to Explore Relationships
Sample Unit 4 Meaningful Conversations 130
Essential Questions as a Way into Required Texts
Using Essential Questions to Design Your Own Units 154
Some Final Thoughts
Appendix A Of Mice and Men Chapter-by-Chapter Reading Notes and Questions 162
Appendix B The Academic Essentials Planning Grid 169
Appendix C The Big Questions 170
Appendix D Designing a Standards-Based Curriculum 176
Appendix E Unit Planning Sheet 180
Works Cited 181
Study Guide 184
Posted May 14, 2010
This book, like every other by Jim Burke, contains both theory and practice. He begins by describing why a unit centered on questions works for any grade and then tells stories from his own classroom. I used this as a junior-year English teacher, and I think this could be used by a teacher of both junior high/middle school and high school. He encourages use of books and visual texts. Also, he imagines a unit well-rounded with both reading and writing to learn.
I'd recommend ordering the book and visiting Heinemann's website for companion resources. They've given copies of the planners, questions, and graphic organizers available for download.
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