Ethics

Principles

Podcast 12 – Becoming Inquisitive by Learning About “Skinny” and “Fat” Questions

Today, I talk about a lesson plan focused on helping children become inquisitive, which is the first step in becoming a problem-solver and being able to take an active, solutions-based approach to life.

To do this, children need to understand that there are different kinds of questions and that they can start to identify and ask such questions. Thanks to a teacher I worked with a few years back, Kylie, I learned about “skinny” and “fat” questions (or you can use “thin” and “thick” if you prefer). Skinny questions don’t take much thought or research and can usually be answered in just a few words (e.g. yes/no or simple answer questions like 1) How cold does it have to be for water to freeze or 2) Where is the hottest place on Earth?). Fat questions, on the other hand, are high-quality inquiry questions that make us think, often have to be researched in detail, and need a lot of explanation to answer in full (e.g. 1) How does the water cycle work or 2) What causes a tsunami?) Fat questions are the kind of questions we want children to be asking throughout their lives because fat questions are the kind of deep-thinking questions that they should be asking about the world around them in order to become problem-solvers. The ability to ask higher-order inquiry questions promotes critical thinking and lifelong learning well beyond this lesson.

This lesson can be used with children of all ages and it can easily be adapted (or differentiated, in educator lingo). I share some ideas about how to do this in the podcast. This lesson is intended to help children understand, become empowered, take action, and finally reflect on how they can use questions and inquiry to learn. Furthermore, this lesson gives children the foundation to be able to identify and use patterns and details, value diversity, and observe and interact, which are principles that can be used in a variety of aspects of learning and life. Finally, this lesson is what is called “interdisciplinary” in that it exposes children to knowledge and skills in many subject areas including reading, writing, and math (and perhaps more, depending on what topic you chose for the questions and what follow-up the child does regarding the questions asked).

Lesson Title: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Identifying and Asking Skinny and Fat Questions

Objectives: The child will be…

  • Exposed to the idea that there are different types of questions
  • Able to identify simplistic, lower-order thinking questions (skinny) and more complex, higher-order thinking questions (fat)
  • Able to create different types of questions

Materials:

  • Paper (ideally large size, maybe even poster size)
  • Markers
  • 2 Containers (or something to help a child distinguish and put things into two categories)
  • Question Cards (I have created some to use as an example, but if your child is not interested in animals than create your own question cards using mine as a guide. Just be sure to include both skinny and fat questions on the topic of choice. I also highly recommend including pictures on the cards.)
  • Optional reflection questions

I look forward to reading your comments about this lesson plan. Hopefully, over the coming weeks you will get a chance to try this lesson and share your reflections with me and others in our community. If you have any questions about using or adapting this lesson to meet the children in your life, please post it in the comments section or use the “Contact Me” tab to send me an email directly.

Resources mentioned in the show:

0012 – Question Cards to Post

0012 – Reflection to Post

Discussion

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