Embrace the Unknown... Ask Questions!

A problem

A while ago I created a post entitled 'Do Children Ask Enough Questions in Lessons?'. I had started asking each of my pupils to make a note during the week of any relevant questions they had. I was surprised at how difficult this was for them all, regardless of their age, ability or personality. 

I had designed the practice diary with my pupils in mind, and was hoping the 'Comments' section would encourage them to be even more engaged with their music in between lessons. But often, the book would come back the following week looking something like this:

'L.B. Sharp' is an abbreviation of 'Let's be sharp', the name of a piece of music. I encourage abbreviation so younger children can write quickly and the whole task doesn't need to become a chore.

Clearly, my pupils were using their book, but hardly any of them ever wrote down questions! I found this baffling... 


One can speculate as to why these children and teenagers were finding this tricky. Perhaps they weren't used to asking (written?) questions at school?  I do wonder about the increasing prominence of targets at school and the measuring of a child's 'success' against a pre-charted series of milestones. With this kind of systemised learning, where is the opportunity for the child to carve out their own path, to learn things in the order that makes sense for them and to allow their own questions to propel them into new uncharted territory? Are children being taught to actually ignore their own curiosity in order not to make any time-consuming tangents? Wouldn't that be sad?!

It's pretty much impossible to determine why my pupils didn't seem to know how to write questions. All I knew is that I wanted to show them how to. So I did.

Moving Forward

Several months on, I have been working with my pupils on how to ask questions. We've discussed the reasons questions are important, and the kinds of things that questions can achieve. We discuss how questions can be fine-tuned, and I praise them for being curious:

"WHY DOES the tapping game help with 'willow tree'?"
"Good question! Willow tree has some of the rhythms and coordination patterns from the game."

Most importantly, I want my pupils to continue to understand that questions are really useful if they're having difficulty with something. I want them to learn how not to give up or panic if they're unsure, but to embrace the stage of learning in between not knowing and knowing; they can use their own curiosity to help them develop. When they start to seek out information, they are take control! 

Here is a selection of some of the questions my pupils have written in their practice diaries:

- Please can you help me with The ACE song?
- Are exercises like 'The Manatee Parade' part of the exam?
- Can we do some more duets please?
- Why do you use that book for beginners?