Questions to Ask Our Students Right Now: Hooray for Monday

March 29, 2021

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

Last week I encouraged school leaders and teachers to collect data from students to use as a starting point for reimagining schools and classrooms. This week we’re adding more questions for you to ask your students. A great place to start is What I Learned During the Pandemic, a recent Washington Post article in which 17 students, grades K-12, share what they’ve learned this past year.

The Post reporters ask, “How do you feel about going back to school in-person? What have you learned about yourself…and your teachers over the last year? What have you missed? What are you most looking forward to this school year?” and many more questions.

Here are more to add to the list – adapt as needed depending on the in-person/fully remote/hybrid status of your students:

Early Childhood

  • How is learning at school the same as learning at home? How is it different?
  • When you get home from school today, what are you going to tell your parents/the adults in your home about what we did in the classroom?
  • Did you learn any new songs during remote learning?
  • Did you eat any new foods this year?
  • [Following a lesson on imagination…what it is, what it does…] Is in-person school the way you imagined it would be? How is it like you imagined? How is it different from the way you imagined?
  • What makes you laugh when you learn at home?

Elementary

  • What is the best and worst thing about online learning? What’s the best and worst thing about in-person learning?
  • What do you feel your teacher has learned about you so far this year? What else would you like your teacher to know?
  • What have you learned about your teacher this year? What else would you like to know?
  • What advice do you have for your teachers?
  • How did you get to school today? Is it the same, or different, from the way you got to school before the pandemic?
  • Do you listen to any music while you are learning at home? If so, what kinds of music help you learn best?
  • What’s your advice to make a mask feel as comfortable as possible?
  • What’s the best joke you’ve heard lately?

Middle School

  • Which aspects of remote learning should we preserve going forward? Which aspects of pre-pandemic learning should we preserve going forward? What should change?
  • What do you feel your teachers have learned about you so far this year? What else would you like your teachers to know?
  • What have you learned about your teachers this year? What else would you like to know?
  • What advice do you have for your teachers?
  • How did you decide whether or not to return to in-person schooling?
  • How can your teachers help support your mental wellbeing?
  • What skills have you developed to help you interact with other people online? In-person? What skills would you like to strengthen?
  • What music has influenced you this year?
  • Do you daydream? Do you think there is a connection between daydreaming and learning?
  • If you were in charge of the classroom, what would you do to make learning interesting for all the students?
  • What makes you laugh?

High School

  • What could we do to make in-person school better now than it was before COVID?
  • What do you feel your teachers have learned about you so far this year? What else would you like your teachers to know?
  • What have you learned about your teachers this year? What else would you like to know?
  • What advice do you have for your teachers?
  • How can your teachers help support your mental wellbeing?
  • What skills have you developed to help you interact with other people online? In-person? What skills would you like to strengthen?
  • If you could create a playlist that captured your experience with remote learning this past year, what would be on it?
  • How did you decide whether or not to return to in-person schooling?
  • Have you found any intersections between humor and learning?

ALL Grades

  • What have you learned this year that you can teach others how to do?
  • How have you used math this year, outside of school?
  • What have you learned about the US government this year, outside of school?
  • What have you read this year, that hasn’t been assigned by your teacher? Why did you choose to read it?
  • How has science helped you understand the world this year?
  • What do you know about vaccines and how they work? What would you like to learn about them?
  • Did you engage in any artistic endeavors this year – drawing, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, knitting, writing poetry, etc?
  • Did you learn to cook anything new this year?
  • Do you have any advice for staying physically active during online learning? Do you have advice for teachers to make sure kids stay physically active during the school day as we return to in-person learning?

Whether you ask students some or all of these questions, informally or in a structured manner, listen intently to the answers. Students’ experience and expertise can help us a lot in crafting useful lessons and in rethinking the way we structure school. Consider sharing what you learn with others and looking for trends across your school.

Listening to our students will ground us. Their insights remind us who the work is for, and why it matters that we get it right. 

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