The Power of Questions in Lesson Planning

The Power of Questions in Lesson Planning

Because much of my work these days is based in geospatial technologies, the notion of questions and problem solving is common among my colleagues’ discussions; however, that’s not the same elsewhere.  As you plan your next year’s activities, perhaps we need to examine the right questions.

When you’re creating and planning experiences for students in the classroom, I like to consider the top questions that remind me of my English teacher days and teaching short story anatomy.

WHO: author, audience, subject

WHEN: context, history, time, year

WHERE: place, era, region, location

HOW: methods, plans, philosophy, organization, structure

WHY: purpose, explain, analyze, think, investigate, research

WHAT’S NEXT: plan, propose, conclude, consult

WHAT IF: suppose, conclude, plan, conjecture, imagine

And, ultimately the big question gets answered, “Why do I need to know this?”


What Do GIS and Short Stories Have in Common?

What Do GIS and Short Stories Have in Common?

These two concepts might not be considered close cousins at first glance but surprisingly they have quite a bit in common, making GIS an excellent tool for telling and analyzing stories.  A few years ago I shared this concept at the Esri Education International Users Conference.  Given the improvements in online mapping and the uptake of story maps, I thought a reprise of this concept was in order.

So…most US literature classes do a nice job of presenting the short story and its anatomy, pictured here. Some of my favorites from William Faulkner, O. Henry, W. W. Jacobs or Edgar Allen Poe are staples of the classroom and give easy ways to teach the anatomy and begin to understand problems and how we might craft and retell our own stories more efficiently and elegantly.










Many students have difficulty relating to these stories and cannot fathom creating their own.  Tools like GIS give those students ideas and wings to be creative and still present compelling facts. Visualizing this concept (see below) is powerful for student uptake.

GIS problem solving graphic










I believe that this notion of connecting ideas that we already teach with 21st Century tools will give our students skills, experiences and simply…give them something to talk about when they are stuck.

This also gives some great opportunities to integrate Common Core Reading Standards with GIS. (I’m presenting about this in July at the Esri Conference.)

Also check out what Sugata Mitra has to say about school and learning in TED talks.  My favorite quote from his talk…“It’s not about making learning happen.  It’s about letting it happen.”

Here’s hoping that you spend your summer letting learning ideas happen as you prepare for the next year’s adventure!

Feel free to share your cool thoughts and ideas too!