Engage Students With Exemplary Essential Questions


Why Is A Lesson Essential Question More Effective Than An Objective?

Chances are that if you have been in education long enough, you have been asked at least one time or another, to display the standard(s) you are currently teaching on the board for students to see. The rationale behind posting the standard on the board is to ensure students understand the learning goals of the lesson, right? Through my classroom teaching experience, I didn’t find this to be true. What I found to be true was that objective was really for me, the teacher. My students did not seem interested in the objective I posted on my board. It wasn’t until I started transforming objectives into Lesson Essential Questions that I noticed increased engagement and transference of learning in my classroom.

In the field of education, student engagement has many definitions. Peter DeWitt states that authentic engagement occurs when “students do more than just answer a question during a session of “sit and get.” It means that they have a dialogue with us, and ask questions at the same time they’re engaging in giving us an answer. It means that students are talking as much as we are.” A highly effective and engaging Lesson Essential Question jump starts lively classroom discussion. Although the Lesson Essential Question is introduced at the beginning of the lesson, it is not forgotten about throughout the lesson. The Lesson Essential Question is discussed from beginning to end of a lesson. This provides students an opportunity to do more than just answer the question at the end of the lesson. High quality Lesson Essential Questions keep the lesson focus on inquiry instead of merely answers. It provides them the opportunity to have a dialogue with their peers and teacher, pose new questions that arise from the Lesson Essential Questions, and make meaningful connections to prior learning and experiences.

Lesson Essential Questions are not only used to engage students, but they also help students transfer their learning. Once standards are unpacked to determine what students will need to “know” and “do,” teachers begin to ponder what Lesson Essential Question could be used to glue the learning goals of the lesson together. Lesson Essential Questions are used to frame the lesson. They help students make sense of the most important ideas within the curriculum. Lesson Essential Questions help students see the bigger picture in what they’re learning as well as assist them in making connections between topics.

Although Lesson Essential Questions are not considered to be a research-based strategy, they have proven to be an evidence-based strategy. According to exemplary school evaluations, teachers in 97% of exemplary schools began lessons with questions and had students answer those questions at the end of the lesson. When created and used effectively, Lesson Essential Questions increase engagement and transference of learning.

Are you using Lesson Essential Questions now? Help your colleagues see the difference and share how using Lesson Essential Questions has changed the engagement in your classroom?

Don Marlett

Don has been an educator for 20+ years. Before joining Learning-Focused, he taught High School and Middle School Science and was a school administrator. Don has participated in school evaluations focused on implementing High Yield Strategies. In addition, he partnered with various state DOE to support leaders as well as present at numerous conferences hosted by multiple leadership organizations in Florida, NC, Ohio, WV, TN, and KY Don leads product development, provides leadership training and coaching, and coaches educators in the implementation of the High-Yield strategies.

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