A routine for generating and transforming questions

1. Pick an everyday object or topic and brainstorm a list of questions about it.

2. Look over the list and transform some of the questions into questions that challenge the imagination. Do this by transforming questions along the lines of: 

- What would it be like if...
- How would it be different if...
- Suppose that...
- What would change if...
- How would it look differently if...

3. Choose a question to imaginatively explore. Explore it by imaginatively playing out its possibilities. Do this by: Writing a story or essay, drawing a picture, creating a play or dialogue, inventing a scenario, conducting and imaginary interview, conducting a thought experiment.

4. Reflect: What new ideas do you have about the topic, concept or object that you didn't have before?
Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
Formulating and exploring an interesting question is often as important than finding a solution. This routine encourages students to students create interesting questions and then imaginatively mess around with them for a while in order to explore their creative possibilities. It provides students with the opportunity to practice developing good questions that provoke thinking and inquiry into a topic.
Application: When and where can I use it?Use Creative Questions to expand and deepen students’ thinking, to encourage students’ curiosity and increase their motivation to inquire. This routine can be used when you are introducing a new topic to help students get a sense of the breadth of a topic. It can be used when you’re in the middle of studying a topic as a way of enlivening students’ curiosity. And it can be used when you are near the end of studying a topic, as a way of showing students how the knowledge they have gained about the topic helps them to ask ever more interesting questions. This routine can also be used continuously throughout a topic, to help the class keep a visible, evolving list of questions about the topic that can be added to at anytime.
Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?
Before using Creative Questions you might want to ask students what they think makes a good question. Then, when you show the Creative Questions, explain that this routine is a tool for asking good questions. Start the routine by providing a topic, concept or object– Sudan, medieval punishment, a stethoscope, genetic engineering. Ask them to use the Creative Questions to generate a list of questions about the topic or object. Initially, it’s best to work together as an entire group. Once students get the hang of the routine, you can have them work in small groups, or even solo.

After students finish generating questions, ask them to pick one of the questions to investigate further. Encourage students to explore it by imaginatively playing out its possibilities. Writing a story or essay, drawing a picture, creating a play or dialogue, inventing a scenario, conducting an imaginary interview, or conducting a thought experiment are just some of the possible ways for students to find out about their questions. At the end of the exploration process be sure to take time to reflect on new insights and ideas about the topic, object or concept.


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