Because seminars are meant to be engaging conversations, questions are absolutely vital. It is often much easier to respond to a question than it is to a statement, and many shy students find it easier to participate by asking a question than sharing an opinion. When the students prepare a text, always have them generate questions. This process will also create more interest in the topic or text because the students will tap into their own curiosity. In the beginning, push for quantity so that students can practice asking questions, and later focus on the quality of those questions. The quantity helps students develop fluid thinking habits and the quality helps them better engage with the material.
When I’m first working with a group of middle school students, I often assign them one page of text and ask them to write twelve questions. For many students this will be a difficult challenge, simply because they do not have adequate practice asking questions. Later, I will transition toward quality by teaching them about specific types of questions and eventually ask them to bring in 1-3 questions that could qualify as opening questions.
With practice, the students can develop habits to investigate the world around them with greater awe and wonder.
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