Step 7: Guiding Questions


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  • For every generalization/understanding in a unit there should be a set of Guiding Questions that direct students’ thinking from concrete facts to abstract understandings. Answering these questions helps students reach the conceptual generalizations (essential understandings) that are ultimately the goal of instruction. There are three types of guiding questions: provocative, conceptual, and factual. Provocative questions (also called Compelling Questions) engage students by providing a line of inquiry that is both authentic to the discipline and relevant to their own lives. Conceptual questions allow for understandings that are transferable across time and space; they will guide students’ decision making beyond the classroom walls. Factual questions ground the lesson in content, providing students with the background knowledge they need to make informed decisions.

Generalization: Leadership and individual rights and freedoms can drive the outcome of conflicts.

Guiding Questions
  • How do different types of citizen action influence the outcome of conflicts? (C)
  • What types of laws create the most conflict between citizens and the government? (C)
  • How did abolitionists influence the institution of slavery in the United States? (F)
  • How did the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz influence policy regarding equal treatment of Native Americans? (F)
  • Is breaking the law ever justified? (P)
Generalization: Citizens who exercise individual rights and freedoms can achieve changes in laws and business practices.

Guiding Questions
  • What are the rights listed in the First Amendment? (F)
  • How have picketing and media coverage affected the decision of businesses? (F)
  • How did the Cherokee Indians use citizen action to gain rights in North Carolina? (F)
  • What laws or business practices have been changed as a result of citizen actions? (C)



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  • As you write guiding questions for each generalization in a unit, ask yourself the following questions:
    • What questions will foster inquiry, understanding, and transfer of learning? (provocative)
    • What questions will focus my students on the concepts that they will need in order to form generalizations? (conceptual)
    • What questions will guide the content knowledge used to facilitate these understandings? (factual)
    • Do I have a mix of factual and conceptual questions as well as 1-2 provocative questions?
    • Does each of my questions guide the student to arrive at the generalization for which it is referencing?
    • Do I have any questions that would be best asked in a specific lesson plan and not the unit?


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  • There are three different types of guiding questions that are derived from the generalizations that you create for your unit. Click on each one to see an example.

  • After reviewing the overview and the examples provided for you, your next step is to take your generalizations and begin generating guiding questions for use in your conceptual unit plan. Remember that these questions may change and develop as you further refine your unit!


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