Essential questions

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    My district is changing the way we structure our curriculum to follow the format used in Understanding by Design (Wigins and McTighe) so we are being asked to come up with our “essential questions” for each concept we teach. Is anyone else doing that? Would you be willing to share some sample questions? I’m trying to get a handle on hwo to structure the questions so they are relevant to the skills we are teaching.


    Colorado has inquiry questions, same thing I think, that come along with the standards. Here is a link to CO’s 3rd grade standards.

    There are also Evidence Outcomes (new buzzword), Relevance and Application, and “Nature Of”. Here’s a sampling.

    Concepts and skills students master:

    1. Perform from memory and use simple traditional notation

    Evidence Outcomes 21st Century Skill and Readiness Competencies

    Students Can:

    Use correct vocal and instrumental techniques when singing and playing instruments (DOK 1-2)
    Recognize and follow conductor’s beat patterns and gestures (DOK 1-3)
    Perform expressively for peers in a large or small group setting (DOK 1-3)
    Play and sing simple notated melodies (DOK 1-2)

    Inquiry Questions:

    Why is it important for ensembles to work as a team?
    Why is it important to understand conducting patterns?
    How does identifying patterns help with memorization?

    Relevance & Application:

    Following a conductor’s beat leads to a synthesis of visual and auditory stimuli.
    Understanding the physiological aspects of correct posture, breathing, and technique leads to an understanding of the biological aspects of good music production.
    Music software can be used to assist in memorization.
    Performance skill can be isolated and adjusted using audio and/or video devices to record, compare, and/or evaluate the result of different techniques.

    Nature Of:

    Musicality is the ability to perform and respond to music in meaningful ways.


    There is a new Wiggins and McTighe book on EQs alone.

    some I like: What can songs tell us about our history? How can I sing better? or What makes good singing? How can songs help us work?
    (then you get to the how-to instructional songs that give directions, songs that create a mood for a certain kind of work, songs that are for work – eg a sea chantey for rasing the capstan, hauling the bowline, etc. the paddling of the French voyageurs, the hammer or saw feeling trees, sorting the ric and chaff, chain-gangs, etc.


    We are using that this year. I try to pick a big over-arching them for the nine-weeks for that grade and center my essential question around that. For example, second grade’s question is ‘How can we classify different instrument families?”

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