Storytelling with “Questioning and Problem Posing”

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This blog post is part of an ASCD partnership with Wonder Media. To see all blog posts from Wonder Media on the 16 Habits of Mind, you can click here. 

It’s an American pastime in schools that will never lose its value and interest. This activity builds social skills, increases attention, and develops effective listening. Storytelling, that’s right, the one activity that brings nostalgic memories from our days on the carpet while listening to an intriguing story. No matter what, curiosity and imagination always leads to questions. Even as little listeners, we always generated questions, to figure out what was coming next in the story, or to gain insight or clarification.

“Effective problem solvers know how to ask questions to fill in the gaps between what they know and what they don’t know.”

– Dr. Art Costa and Dr. Bena Kallick, The Institute for Habits of Mind

After winter break, students are back in session getting into routine. Story time is a staple within the class enjoyed by all, but getting focused on the story takes some questioning, in order to make sure everyone is on the same page. To get the ball rolling with some great questions, the teacher shows the WonderGrove Learn Habits of Mind Animation “Questioning and Problem Posing.” In this episode, Chris decides to be a detective in order to find a missing globe that has disappeared from Ms. Flowers’ room. Chris begins by questioning the students in his class to get some ideas about who may have took the globe. When this approach doesn’t work, Chris realizes that he should be asking more powerful questions that will get thoughtful responses. For example, he asks, “Why might someone take the globe?”

Now, students are ready to start applying effective questioning and problem posing to other parts of their day, like reading a book during a session of story time. Story time and catching up might/could look something like this:

Teacher: Now that we are back from break it is important for us to really understand what’s going on in our book. We need to ask some powerful questions that will help everyone understand.

Student: You mean like…who is the main character?

Teacher: Yes, knowing who the main character is in the book is important. Although, a more thoughtful or powerful question might be, “What characteristics does the main character have?” or “Why might some people in the book like or not like the main character?” These are questions that give us a better understanding of who the character is.

Student: How about this question, “After seeing the way the main character acts, why do you think other characters might have a problem with him?”

Teacher: Yes, that is a great question. It allows us to explore the problem between the characters. That is a great example of questioning and problem posing.

The teacher has presented and reinforced the habit of “Questioning and Problem Posing” in an effective way for students to grasp. Through the video, students were able to capture the importance of asking “powerful and thoughtful” questions in order to solve a problem. This transferred over the act of storytelling and being able to ask questions and problem pose.

As educators, our goal is to provide students with effective ways of learning and thinking.  We strive to create opportunities to help students grow and develop strategic habits for their academic success. Questioning and problem posing is a habit that extends far beyond the classroom. Students are more likely to display this behavior if we cultivate an environment that welcomes questions and problems to delve into on a daily basis. We create an opportunity for our students to ask the right questions, pose problems, and direct themselves on a path to success.


Dr. Daniel Vollrath serves as an educator and a United States Professional Development Trainer with the Institute for Habits of Mind. Daniel provides consulting to school districts around the nation on how to infuse the Habits of Mind into everyday teaching and learning within the classroom. His expertise is documented through a doctoral study titled Developing Costa & Kallick’s Habits of Mind Thinking for Students with a Learning Disability and Special Education Teachers (2015), which has gained attention within the world of special education, specifically in the areas of inclusive learning environments and 21st century skills development for students with learning disabilities.

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