Spiral Questions to Provoke Thinking
Narrator: Spiral questioning is a way of getting students to think about the content they're studying in a sequence that begins with basic information and moves to higher levels of thinking and understanding. In Diana Jordan's lesson, she uses the following steps: observation, application, analysis, prediction, synthesis, and evaluation.
Diana Jordan: All last week, we were talking about physical geography. We talked about natural disasters—volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes. All of that comes back to the larger question.
Jordan: In this unit, for physical geography, our unit question is: Who has greater control? They already spent a week looking at natural disasters, plate tectonics, and such. And so this week, we were looking at how humans impacted their environment.
Jordan: So, your first image is this. I will hand this out and put it on the overhead. What I want you to do is, with the person next to you, I’ll give you 30 seconds to pull out the key details. What details do you think are the most important of what I'm about to put up? OK, so you can talk to the person next to you, and you will have 30 seconds to do this.
Jordan: And basically your goal as a teacher is to get your students to build to a higher level of thinking by starting at base-level questions and spiraling up to higher and higher level questions until you help them answer the larger unit question.
Typically it surrounds an image. For example, you could use a map, a picture, or a chart. And based on looking at that image, you start with questions like "What do you see?" and then you ask more interpretive questions like, "What does that mean?" And over this course of questions, you reach a higher level of thought. Now, in spiraling, for it to be effective, what you often do is use a series of images so that they’re connected.
Jordan: Describe to me what it is you see—remember, purely observation, no analysis. Just tell me what you see. Let me remind you what an observation is. I’m standing in front of you. A pure observation is that I’m wearing a jean jacket or I have black pants, not that I look like a teacher. So give me just pure observations. I’ll go around the room.
Jordan: Since it’s purely observation, students of all skill levels have an entryway into the lesson. They have a starting point.
Source: From The How To Collection: Instruction That Promotes Learning (DVD), 2006, Alexandria, VA: ASCD.