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Discussion-Based Questions – Three Ways to Add Them to Your Curriculum

May 28, 2017 3 min read

Before we dive into the three ways to add discussion-based questions to your curriculum, we think it’s really important that you understand what they are and why they are integral to creating a challenging curriculum for your students. Essentially, discussion-based questions (DBQs) are thought-provoking, open-ended questions that can be used in any unit of study. They are not just ELA specific, but can be used in any discipline. Through DBQs, students are encouraged to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize (those Bloom’s Taxonomy levels we’ve always striving for!). In a nutshell, DBQs get students to think – which is what we really want!

Alright, let’s dive in. Here are three ways to incorporate DBQs into any curriculum you are covering (and yes, we use all of these in our classrooms consistently!).

1. Essential Questions:

Seriously, a game changer! If you do not have an overarching essential question for each of your units, you and your kiddos are missing out on some incredible learning. Check out our blog post here that walks you through exactly what Essential Questions are and how to incorporate them into your curriculum.

2. Discussion Task Cards:

We love using these with our short story and novel units, but they can be used with anything! Simply set up your DBQs on small cards and distribute to students for use in a class discussion. It’s up to you how they will interact with the cards – you could do partner discussion, small group discussion and then presentation of the questions, individual responses and then partner share, the possibilities are endless. *Remember, these are NOT simply comprehension questions. These are questions that get students to think about the text and use evidence to support their claims. 

Here’s a sample question we used this week with our 5th graders for an informational text article to support the short story, “Thank You, M’am”: In your opinion, what is the author’s strongest piece of evidence he/she uses to support the claim? Why is it the strongest?

When creating your task cards, we suggest having a title (i.e., the title and chapters of the novel that the questions correspond to) and a number on each card. This way, you can easily organize your cards for future use. Laminating them will allow for long-term use in the classroom, too 🙂

If you’re looking for something that’s ready-to-go, feel free to check out the different task card sets we use in our classrooms on a weekly basis. They’re perfect for any novel, poem, short story, or informational text article.

These Critical Thinking Task Cards are perfect for use with a novel, short story, or poem.
These Informational Text Task Cards are perfect for just that – informational texts!
3. Socratic Seminar:
We use Socratic Seminars ALL THE TIME with our students! We type out our DBQs for the set of chapters of the novel we’re on (or the short story we’re reading), give them to our students the night before to prepare, and then sit back and watch them discuss and analyze like mini-college students! (It’s a little more involved than this though!) Not sure how to set up a Socratic Seminar? Check out this blog post that walks you through it! For now, here are some questions we used for “Thank You, M’am” that can at least give you an idea …
  • Do you think Roger has stolen from someone before? Or is this a first-time offense? What quote could you use from the text to support your claim?
  • In your opinion, will this experience change Roger’s lifestyle? Do you think he will continue stealing from others, or is he a changed person? Why? What quote from the text makes you think so?
Hopefully these three suggestions help you get started with incorporating more discussion-based questions in your classroom! If you want to read up on this a little bit more, we highly suggest the book The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core (please note this is an affiliate link).
Looking for some more ideas to help strengthen your ELA curriculum? You might like these blog posts as well:
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Discussion-based questions (or text evidence questions) can be a huge game changer in your middle school and high school classrooms! Definitely a great post to check out to help you improve your reading and writing curriculum!
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