Step Inside the Matrix

Thursday, December 19, 2013
brought to you by Lori

One of the many strengths of my district is that it constantly strives to offer relevant and timely staff development. As a part of the district's Instructional Specialist program, I get to meet with colleagues and collaborate on a regular basis. Recently, we studied a book together surrounding one of the biggest buzz words in education--RIGOR. 

Reading Barbara Blackburn's book caused our IS team to have some important discussions. Most importantly, we came to the conclusion that rigor is nothing new, and it is simply an intimidating word for good, engaging instruction. When we thought about strategies or components that make a lesson rigorous, we quickly dispelled myths that rigor simply equals hard. On the contrary, one of the notions that we continually returned to was the idea of student engagement and holding all students accountable for thinking. 

Sounds great, right? But here's the rub, that's way easier said than done. But here's a wonderful little nugget that I took from Blackburn's book. Because it is scaffolded, because it promotes 100% participation and engagement, and because it is student-centered [Look at all those educator buzz words!], the Question Matrix is one of those rare strategies that works really well across content areas to help students create their own questions. 

The Question Matrix is a 6x7 grid that takes typical question stems: What, When, Where, Which, Who, Why, How...

...and pairs them with increasingly complex verbs: is, did, can, would, will, might.

Blackburn suggests cutting up the matrix like the picture shows above and giving the whole bag to a group of students. Each student draws 3 cards and uses the question stems to generate questions about...well...anything you're working with.

Here are a couple of ways that I'm thinking about using the Question Matrix:
  • Second semester, we will read To Kill a Mockingbird. I can see the Matrix as being a great alternative to a typical reading check quiz that typically hovers around the comprehension level. 
  • Today, I was just talking to Suzanne about To Kill a Mockingbird and how it has so many wonderful "one-liners" that don't really become clear until the end of the novel. The Question Matrix could be a great activity to move students to understanding those pivotal moments in the novel and their connection to other parts of the book. For example, I could provide a group with the quote, "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Rather than me simply telling them that the mockingbird is a symbol for innocence, the Question Matrix could guide them to ask questions like:
    • Who might be a mockingbird?
    • Why might it be a sin to kill a mockingbird?
Isn't that beautiful, and you know what? I am so NOT ABOVE manipulating the Matrix. If I want to toss out the lower-level options, I can and will absolutely do that!
  • This one is a little less conventional and slightly gutsy, but I'm excited about it and am willing to give it a try. I want to use the Matrix as a peer revision activity. So often kids read each other's papers and offer no genuine commentary. Maybe...just maybe the Matrix will lead them to ask good questions of each other! Imagine it with me...
    • How will you explain that?
    • What can make that part better? 
    • Why did you say it that way?
Hmmmm....isn't that a rigorous way to take a quiz, a rigorous way to discuss theme, a rigorous way to revise? See there! Rigor doesn't mean more and more challenging. Rigor means roping 'em all in to do their absolute best...even if you have to manipulate them just a teensy.

If you'd like a copy of the Question Matrix, click here for a FREE downloadable PDF ready for you to print, laminate, and cut.

Step inside the Question Matrix, and let me know how you use it!

Don't forget! Today is your last day to enter to WIN your very own copy of Notice and Note.  We're so excited to share it with you! Check back tomorrow for our winner. AND...don't forget to check back on Monday to see what goodie awaits you for next week's give-away. If you're a regular reader of our blog, next week's giveaway is an absolute must have!

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