Slow Down and Ask the Right Questions: Building Depth and Complexity into Pre-AP and AP Classrooms

slow down I will never forget the first time I drove my parents’ car on the freeway as a teenager. The thrill of freedom was mixed with a terrifying sense that I was moving much faster than my experience merited.

A massive, speeding ball of steel combined with a new teenage driver is a frightening prospect.

Thankfully, despite a speeding ticket and a fender bender, my early driving experience passed without major incident. What was once new and terrifying is an everyday occurrence about which I do not give much thought.
Driving on the freeway is, as the old saying goes, just like riding a bike.

In complete contrast to a new driver experience, today’s learners are approaching information and media hard-wired for speed. This generation is the first to be known as digital natives. They have only known a fast-paced, media-saturated environment where information can be accessed with a few taps of a finger.

In the 1-hour course “Building Depth and Complexity into Pre-AP and AP Classrooms,” Bob Iseminger describes the effect of this speed on today’s students and explains how to help them to slow down and go deeper.

Mr. Iseminger has over 25 years of experience in public education as a classroom teacher, math resource teacher, and coordinator of a gifted education magnet center. He has worked in both urban and suburban settings at the elementary and middle school levels and in a consulting capacity with high school students.

Our Students are Wired for Speed!

In order to effectively apply strategies for depth in the classroom, we must first understand how media is really impacting students and, secondly, how our brains are wired to learn.

slow downToday’s students are bombarded with information. While regular-scheduled TV viewing has declined, total media consumption among young people has increased to 53 hours a week. Most of them own a phone or iPod and only 3 out of 10 report having rules about how much time they spend.

The ramification for students and teachers lies in how they are able to relate to and analyze information in the classroom.

  • Students are mentally unable to slow down.
  • While being bombarded with a constant stream of information, they do not have the skills to determine what is important and what is irrelevant.
  • Encouraging students to analyze information below the surface is becoming increasingly difficult

How to Train the Brain

There are two ways that our brains process information. The left side of the brain experiences information auditorily and sequentially. The right side tends toward the visual and spatial processing.

The Auditory/Sequential Learner:

  • Thinks primarily in words.
  • Sees the details.
  • Has strong critical thinking skills.
  • Does well in arithmetic.
  • Is well organized.

The Visual/Spatial Learner:

  • Thinks primarily in pictures.
  • Sees the big picture.
  • Has strong creative thinking skills.
  • Does better with math reasoning than arithmetic.
  • Creates unique methods of organization.

While most of us tend to be stronger on one side, both modes of learning must be engaged in order for learning (acquisition and retention) to be whole.

“How well we remember the things we learn depends on how well engaged both hemispheres were when we first learned it.”

Mr. Iseminger focuses on strategies that engage both sides of the brain, get students moving in the classroom, and encourage face to face interaction.

Is There a Right Way to Ask a Question?

Depth and Complexity 3Maybe there is not a right way, but there certainly are strategies that we can use more effectively for questioning in the classroom to lead our students into deeper analysis.

Mr. Iseminger points out that around 50 percent of classroom time is used asking questions. Therefore, having clear strategies for how to ask good questions is an excellent investment of time and effort. Good questioning strategies invite students to delve more deeply into content and lead them through the process of inquiry.

At the conclusion of the course, you will have the opportunity to try some of the questioning strategies through two activities: Traveling Talk and Take a Stand. Both activities can be replicated in your classroom across subject areas.

Get ready to ask some great questions and apply these strategies to your classroom. “Building Depth and Complexity into Pre-AP and AP Classrooms” by Bob Iseminger will inspire you and motivate you!

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Mobile Ready Professional Development GDid you know that this course is mobile ready? That means you can complete the course on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or any other mobile device!
Photos courtesy of Flickr via Thomas Anderson and