Beginning to Close History Fair with the Question Formulation Technique

Wrapping up History Fair isn’t just a flurry of cutting and printing… it’s an important time to reflect and bring closure as we end a long, rigorous, and important process. Inquiry is the driving force of what NHD projects do, and we need to circle back and reflect how that skill has driven our work both implicitly and explicitly. This was also a convenient time to check and see how strong our understanding of the theme is.

We used the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to begin closing out our History Fair unit. The QFT is an instructional strategy which encourages students to ask questions. More than that, students are taught what kinds of questions reflect comprehension and which return more information. This video is a long example but demonstrates the full strategy:

There are 7 steps in a QFT lesson:

  1. Establish the rules (3-5 min).
  2. Share the prompt (1 min).
  3. Ask questions as a group (5-8 min).
  4. Refine questions (3-5 min).
  5. Prioritize questions (3-5 min).
  6. Identify individual top 3 (1-3 min).
  7. Reflect (5 min).

Below is the prompt we used, and questions a few groups of generated:

Even better, here’s a sample of a group of students discussing the value of a question and whether it’s closed or open. It’s a nice example of the kind of questioning and collaboration this strategy encourages.

Students enjoyed the lesson and found it valuable:

“I thought that it was really helpful and was going to help Izzy and me work on our project because it gave me a new perspective on how to read our project.”

i really liked it and i feel like it helps give me a better understanding on how to ask certain questions just not on history fair but along with other topics”

It is a great lesson to teach people because it gives them something to think about their project and how to make it better.”

“I thought this lesson was fun and paid off and fun to do in groups with classmates/peers.”

It changed the way that I view the project and I now have a better understanding of what we need to have in the project about the stand and what makes sense.”

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How can Parents Help students successfully finish History Fair projects?

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hurricane” is a fairly accurate portrayal of 7th graders finishing their History Fair work. It’s also an incredibly lame attempt for me to encourage kids to “write their way out.” 

Entering the home stretch of History Fair is a flurry of activity. Unfortunately, the volume of work makes it impossible for me to give kids timely feedback at the rate they’d like. So, students are going to need the help of each other, their ELA teachers and How can parents help their students finish this project?

  1. First suggestion is to have your child read their labels out loud. This might sound silly but any repetition, errors with conventions, and language use should be apparent.
  2. Use a “peer evaluation form” to look for topic sentences, evidence, and analysis. A few other questions are on that doc to help, too.
  3. If you’re feeling brave (and have some time), you can try Mrs. Defors’ ratiocination exercise. This something our “expert” kids have begun helping new students learn, but is difficult for me to separate from class to engage with. Feel free to see this blog post to read, then guide your child through the process.
  4. Read an excellent example of what writing looks like to have an idea how to do this well. (Thanks Emma and Gillian!)

I will make every effort to give students additional feedback prior to History Fair. But students shouldn’t wait or make any excuses that I’m not available on an immediate and individual basis. Design of this project has facilitated student work in a pretty clear way. PLUS, this website contains TONS of resources to help students clarify any confusion. Continue using Reflections, email, and help time at school (AM, PM and study hall) with any concerns.

Finally, students can expect feedback on these specific dates:

  • 7th and 8th Periods: Tonight!
  • 5th and 6th Periods: Wednesday
  • 3rd and 4th Periods: Thursday