How can we be sure that students are actually thinking and not just parroting back what we have already taught them? This is much more difficult than most teachers realize. We often assume they are analyzing or evaluating when they are just repeating our analysis or someone else’s evaluation.
One way to guarantee genuine reasoning is to engage in hypothetical or future questions.
Mathematics: What if we change the sign here? What if we were playing with bigger numbers? How would that change the way we solve the problem?
History: What if the Christian Reconquista was unsuccessful in Spain and Christopher Columbus was actually Muhammed Columbus? What impact would that have had on history and our world today?
Language Arts: What if the main character had made a different decision at a critical point in the story? How would that impact the structure or plot?
Science: What if the temperature of Earth rose 1 degree Fahrenheit over a five-year period of time? (from Marzano’s Art and Science of Teaching)
Is this nothing more than a hypothetical game that wastes time? No. Depth of understanding comes from reasoning through something.
What is your learning goal today? How can you add this question to your lesson:
What would happen if…?

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