Bottoming Out

How to Be Amazingly Good at Asking Questions

How much of a push do you push your gifted students? How deep into a subject do you expect them to go? How deep do you expect them to go before they bottom out?

I ask those questions, because those are the ones I am asking myself lately. One aspect that I am having my students do with their projects is to have them do a dry run presentation with an adult before they do their final presentation with me. One teacher in my building made the comment that it seemed like my students really worked hard and dove deep in a project. This teacher also asked me how I get them to do this level of work, when they don’t do that kind of work in some of their core classes. I told him that I think our students our students are being superficially challenged, but not to dig deeper into a subject. I suggested that being challenged and diving deeper are two different things. He disagreed which is where our conversation ended. I believe that students can be challenged and not dive deeper into a subject, and vise versa. I feel that to as teachers we need to do both challenge and encourage diving deeper in extension projects.

Which leads me into this post.

Yesterday, I talked about the fostering the love of learning. I try to create a classroom that is exciting, and open to learning. I try to create units I think my students would like. BUT…do my students bottom out while doing their projects? I am not sure if they do to my satisfaction.

One element of my class I feel is really important is asking questions. I feel that my students do better with a facilitator type classroom than in a teacher centered classroom. In a facilitator classroom asking the right questions is vital. Here is a few things that I am working on to help me help my students to bottom out.

  • Don’t ask simple one word questions.
  • Ask questions that move students from factual to conceptual.
  • Ask questions that help students to make connections to prior knowledge about concepts and skills. 
  • Give students time to respond.
  • Ask follow-up questions.

Asking the right questions is only part of this process of bottoming out. It is important for facilitators to ask deeper questions, but it is also important to give students the direction, materials, and skills to go deeper on their own. Facilitators need to show students how to find valuable resources. Honing research skills is a life long skill that will help them in life. Linked with that is organizing materials so they can see connections and directions.

One aspect that I am incorporating in to my classroom is using mind maps. Mind maps can be very helpful when figuring out the parts of a project. Students can ask questions and link those questions to other questions or places to look to the answers. Mind maps are so versatile and can be used in so many different ways. I am not sure why I haven’t really done this before.  There are also mind maps apps for the iPad, or google tablets. There are also many different websites students can use that could be linked to their Google Docs.

Here is a few mind map resources.



Here is a great website for mind map iPad apps.

One thing that I tell the regular education teachers in my building that challenging gifted children doesn’t have to be a challenge for you. You don’t have to know the answers. Give them extension assignments. assignments that help them dive deeper into an area of what you are teaching. Give them a few questions to start. Let them develop their own ideas and direction they want to go, and let them be creative in the product they design. By placing fewer restrictions on them it will allow them to be free to look at ulterior view points, and look at facts from different angles.

It’s the same here in my pull-out program. I give them some direction. depending on the student I will do some scaffolding, and more direction. When giving extension projects or project-based (PBL) units it is important to know your students. It is also important to show students where their strengths are, and teach them how to make those stronger.

I go back to the question…how to get students to bottom out of an extension project or PBL unit? I don’t think that it is possible. I think there are so many roads in and out of a subject that the farther in you go, there is more roads you find. I think it is important to show students that there are many roads, and to explore the roads that lead them to the most success educationally and personally.

How much of a push do you push your gifted students? How deep into a subject do you expect them to go? How deep do you expect them to go before they bottom out?




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