The Question of the Day: Not Just for Primary Classrooms

In many primary classrooms I've visited, the Question of the Day (QoD) is as much a part of the daily routine as is morning meeting, read aloud, and unabashed nose-picking. (I kid. Not really.) On websites such as Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, the QoD is as benign and as devoid of substance as a meringue cookie (no disrespect to merengue cookies), as evidenced by the following examples:

Do you have a teddy bear?

Do you like French fries?

Have you ever seen a rainbow?

Of course, one could argue that I'm being somewhat unfair, as I have no context with which to judge these questions; they very well may be used to prompt students' thinking about that day's read-aloud or perhaps in anticipation of a classroom discussion around the topic of...French fries. From a literacy perspective, the questions may be chosen for the purpose of encouraging to practice using a specific word-attack skill or strategy.

In my experience, however, the best QoDs have been used for the purpose of jump-starting meaningful conversations, reinforcing important concepts that were previously discussed, or for signaling a new activity or discussion topic by activating students' prior knowledge. In my colleague Becky Wright's kindergarten classroom, where she and I have been engaged in co-teaching an inquiry about single stories and stereotypes around gender, the Questions of the Day have reflected such purposes. Some of the most recent ones that Becky has posed to her students include the following:

   

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In Kitri Doherty's fifth and sixth grade classroom, the Question of the Day is similarly used to extend important ideas and concepts or to engage students in self-reflection:

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While there have been many useful ideas and suggestions offered to teachers regarding how to begin a day or a class ("soft starts"--or as my colleagues call them, "mindful mornings"-- come immediately to mind, which you can read about both here and in Smokey Daniels' book The Curious Classroom), the Question of the Day is an enormously flexible addition to any kind of "start" that, when used thoughtfully, can enhance the learning of students of all ages, not just those in primary classrooms.

Some thoughtful examples of how to use the QoD at any grade level include:

  • Asking students to reflect on what they feel was the most "important" part of the previous day's read aloud (and why);

  • Providing a question as a catalyst for later discussion of a real-world event or issue (for example, Kitri and I used the QoD to begin a discussion about the recent controversy over this H&M ad);

  • Using questions to help the members of the classroom community continue to get to know one another throughout the year;

  • Drawing students' attention to a new concept that they will be learning about by activating their background knowledge (e.g., "Do you know the difference between a mixture and a solution?")

I've often wondered why many of the kinds of things we value in preschool and kindergarten--e.g., an emphasis on play, consistent attention to social-emotional learning, visual literacy practices-- don't continue to be valued the more we move up into the older grades. The Question of the Day is, in my view, one of those practices that, by virtue of its rich potential and limitless possibility, should be a fundamental component of any thoughtful educator's teaching toolbox.

What possibilities can you envision for using the Question of the Day in your classroom or learning space? Please share your thinking in the comments!