From Objective to
Promoting Higher-Order Thinking
What are Essential Questions?
Our Understanding – 1 to 5
Thinking in Essential Questions vs.
Traits and Examples of Overarching
Why are questions valued over
Develops responsibility on the part of the
Provides an opportunity for parents to
become an integral part of learning
Relieves anxiety for some students
Working Definition of EQ
Define Essential Question
Is there anything you want to add to your
definition after viewing the video?
Define Essential Questions
Set the focus for the lesson or unit
Initiators of creative and critical thinking.
Focus on key concepts implicit in the
Overarching Essential Questions
Open-ended questions requiring students
to use prior knowledge, new
information, and individual
Encourage analysis, synthesis, and
One to three per unit
“Big” questions students should be able to
answer at the end of each unit
Why Essential Questions?
"Essential questions are important because they connect
classroom work to the large and enduring issues that
affect our lives.
They are the links that make expeditions relevant,
connecting the curriculum to actual concerns that young
They also provide an invitation into critical thinking,
providing chances to coach young people to think
clearly, precisely, accurately, and reasonably about
things that matter" (Umphrey, 2005).
Getting Started with Stepping
Concrete with specific correct answers
The student-friendly objective turned into a
Different questions every day or two
Reflect Bloom’s Remembering and
How can I tell if a question is
solicits evaluation of data
helps students conduct analysis through
makes students produce original ideas
rather than predetermined answers
encourages critical thinking not just
memorization of facts.
“Is my Question Essential?” Activity
What should the EQ classroom
Overarching Essential Questions
Supporting Questions (Stepping Stones)
Student-friendly objective turned into a question
Somewhat closed questions to solicit facts and build
Criteria for Essential Questions
Easy to understand
Posted in the classroom
Learning to Write Stepping Stone
What is your teaching objective?
Write the objective as a question.
Do you need smaller key questions?
Rewrite if necessary to make sure learners
understand the question(s).
How do we present Essential Questions to
Traditional – Board, Overhead, Handout,
Oral, Online, Student-Generated
• How could the use of high quality
overarching essential questions change
the way my students approach learning?
• Two minutes
(1996). From now on. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from FNO.org Web site:
(2002). Writing essential questions. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from
myprojectpages.com Web site:
(2004). Themes & essential questions: Framing inquiry & promoting critical
thinking. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from Greece Central School District Web
(2005). Essential questions. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from The Question Mark
Web site: http://questioning.org/mar05/essential.html
(2008). Essential questions. Retrieved August 1, 2008, from Spartanburg School
District 3 Web site: http://www.spa3.k12.sc.us/essentialquest.htm
Nellan, Ted (2008). What is an essential question?. Retrieved August 1, 2008,
from The Nellan Family Jewels Web site:
Wiggins, G., What is an essential question?. Retrieved August 17, 2008 from Big
ideas, an authentic e-journal: Web site: