In a previous post about ‘Asking Good Questions’ I highlighted the work of the Right Question Institute which is dedicated to making it possible for all people to learn to ask better questions and participate more effectively in key decisions. I want to follow up in this post by pointing to an example of how their Question Formulation Technique (QFT) can be used to engage students in topics related to African American History Month.
“Black history month is a great opportunity to celebrate the many accomplishments of Black Americans. It is also important to closely examine these accomplishments and their surrounding context.”
History Detectives: Voting Rights in Mississippi, 1964 is a lesson that incorporates QFT as a part of a lesson on voting rights in the 60’s. The lesson is framed by:
Democracy demands that all voices be heard.
People in Missisisippi have risked everything for the right to vote.
- Was Freedom Summer necessary to secure voting rights?
- Why hasn’t suffrage been universal throughout U.S. history?
- How do you fit into the story of maintaining voting rights for all in the United States?
As part of setting the context, students were asked to generate every possible question they could imagine in response to the Question Focus – People in Mississippi have risked everything for the right to vote. The instructions for this section of the lesson:
Have students, working in small groups, generate every possible question they can imagine related to this statement. There are no wrong questions. They should not discuss the questions — simply list as many as possible. For example, “Why did the risk everything?” “What did they risk?”
Once the groups have at least 15 questions each, have students review their lists and pick the three questions that are most important to them. Explain that these are some of the questions they can explore as they engage in this lesson.
The lesson ends with a performance task that asks them to travel to the future, to the year 2060 to work as historians researching the history of Mississippi. You can see the whole lesson here.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become charter members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
You can find teacher resources here.