Better Questioning with Gradual Release


I believed myself set. My bookmarks linked up to plenty of 3 Act tasks. I worked them regularly into my classroom. But, how were those tasks getting launched? This question was not one that I thought about much. Students were engaged and exploring mathematics. Then, I watched Steve Leinwand roll out a task and I was sent back to the drawing board. Where? In the questions.

Take time getting to that big question that students are going to chew on. What do you notice? Get them involved! What do you wonder? Get students looking for questions and thinking about possibilities. Can you let us know why you are thinking …? Throughout this process students support their statements. “I notice that the objects are 3-dimensional.” what do you mean by that? These probing questions help students clarify their thinking while also allowing me to gain a better feel for background information. Looking back, I can think of numerous instances where the “word” that I was “searching” for was provided and I never questioned if the student had any idea what that term actually meant.

Gradually releasing a task requires a bit more of a set-up. I’m still trying to work out how much to provide at once as the task is unveiled. At the same time, it’s always possible that we will take a left turn at some point based upon what the students come up with and that’s ok. It takes more time to set students off on the task but an incredible amount of information can be collected and when students finally get going they are primed and seem to have a stronger understanding of the context and that big, meaty question.