Curiosity At a Distance

With so many theatre houses and concert arenas closed during this pandemic, as well as musicians, dancers and artists on lockdown themselves, spectators can still enjoy watching eye-catching costumes, awe-inspiring choreographed footwork of both modern and classical steps, listening to hope inducing opera spring from the mouths of some of the most well known voices, straight from the the heart of the pandemic, or their favourite tunes of some of the most popular modern artists giving concerts from their own living room.

Museums have been forced to shut their doors to the physical public, only to open their world wide doors to anyone with an internet connection, offering for so many, what would otherwise be impossible both economically and practically- an opportunity to visit their galleries, stroll through centuries of artworks and history, freely.

Every day we are told of new gifts to the public by way of artistic or cultural means. And what a wonderful way to inspire curiosity among our students.

I’ve talked about QFT before, but I haven’t done a post on how it can be adapted to the virtual classroom remotely, and the time has come.

Inquiry based learning is a fancy way of describing how learning comes from questioning. When you think about it- when we ask a question, we are way more interested in hearing and learning the answer than if someone else (like the teacher) asked it. And with foreign language, kids are so much more interested in learning about the language itself, the culture and people surrounding, the history and so much more, if they come up with the question themselves.

As the name itself implies- the Question Formulation Technique offers students, parents, anyone really, an easy to follow format for coming up with questions in a safe and trusted environment. Questions that could become research questions for an essay in 8th grade, or perhaps for a PhD, or questions from parents and teachers about their kids’ learning. I like to use QFT to introduce cultural concepts in my classroom.

The current Pandemic got me thinking about ways to use all the free cultural resources as mentioned above (and many listed below) to our inquisitive learners’ minds. After all, we don’t want kids to ever stop questioning, and what a better opportunity to practice it with parents!

For example- if students were to watch the National Ballet streaming a Frida Kahlo ballet “broken wings” for free (Wednesday April 22!) – have them jot down their questions as they watch along with parents perhaps. Questions could include anything from the music, the costumes, the dance moves- their interpretation of the performance, ANYTHING. If students are taking a virtual tour of a museum- have them pick a room or painting and ask them what they notice. Ask them what they wonder. They could pick an artist and find out everything they can about them- but the kinds of things that interest THEM.

A nice add on to the favourite painting directive for a genius hour type project, or just for fun, would be to choose a painting and recreate it- either with objects found at home, or even dressing up. Here are some great examples and tips for recreating “ART” at home. Where does the curiosity come in? Why did the student choose this piece, what was it that spoke to him/her? What did they wonder? Let them tell you-

It would be important to have introduced the QFT before hand, but even if you haven’t- Here are some general things to keep in mind when explaining to the students.

1- There is no right or wrong question or wondering. Each and every question has value, just like each and every student has value.

2-If conducting QFT in the target language, this is not the time to correct grammar or punctuation. Let the questions flow freely.

3- QFT is not a competition! It’s not about asking the most or the ‘best’ questions. There is no such thing.

4- Write every question or statement exactly as it comes out.

After students have jotted down any questions from watching or listening to whatever you’ve “assigned”, they would then come back to the virtual classroom ready with their questions or statements. From here, the teachers would facilitate the rest of the process. For the collaborative piece, students can get into their breakout groups on Zoom, BBB or whatever your LMS allows to discuss in groups their noticings, wonderings, questions, comments and experiences.

I’ve outlined the QFT process HERE for your convenience. Now- getting back to how to use it remotely!

Above I mention the Friday ballet. Here is a list of other FREE cultural entertainment/wonderings.


Andrea Bocelli: Music For Hope – Live From Duomo di Milano

Metropolitan Opera of New York City offers free nightly screenings

Arts and Museums

Here is a QFT activity I’ve designed to go along with Frida Kahlo’s Blue house. (In Spanish). I can write up a quick one in English for anyone that may be interested.

One link for so many… the Prado, the Louvre, Moma, the Uffizi gallery, State Hermitage Museum, National Gallery of Art, the British Museum, and so many more…

Would love to get some feedback on how you envision and use curiosity with the kiddos.

Please join our Cultivating Curiosity for WL classroom group for many more ideas and FREE resources!

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