Lesson Plan: What Makes a Question Interesting?

Two characters engaging in awkward conversation

Discussions are the bread and butter of most of my lessons. This lesson plan lets the students tackle the anatomy of an interesting question.

I’m a big fan of economist Steven Levitt’s podcast People I (Mostly) Admire. An episode in which Levitt interviews his two daughters made me prick up my ESL ears. Here’s why: One of Levitt’s daughters, Amanda, has written a book with 149 open-ended questions for “anyone with social anxiety or anyone who is very introverted and has a difficult time getting to know other people”. Whether you experience social anxiety or not, the questions in the book more often than not result in deep conversation — or at least conversations that don’t drop dead after thirty seconds of “well, I don’t really know. Anyway, what do you think?”. The book has become a go-to for icebreaker discussions in my classroom. In fact, I’ve used it so much that I’ve decided to compile a long list of questions of my own.

Short Lesson Plan:

  1. Have your students answer and talk in groups about the sample questions available on caniaskyouaquestion.com.
  2. Let students share what they thought about the questions.
  3. Discuss what makes a question interesting, i.e. why certain questions kindle conversation and others don’t.
  4. Have the students come up with three questions of their own.
  5. Regroup and share questions.

Disclosure: I’m not in any way affiliated with either Steven or Amanda Levitt. I’ve used questions from the book in class and my students have enjoyed it. That’s all.

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