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What's the Big Idea?

  • Title:What's the Big Idea?: Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking
  • Author:Jim Burke
  • Publication Date:February 2010
  • Grade Level:6-12
  • ISBN:9780325021577
  • Publisher:Heinemann

Why a book about questions? “Because when students’ instruction is organized around meaningful, clear questions,” writes Jim Burke in What’s the Big Idea? “they understand better, remember longer, and engage much more deeply and for greater periods of time.”

Jim shows how making essential questions the center of your teaching can ease the tension between good teaching and teaching to the test while giving students dependable, transferable tools for reading, writing, thinking, and participating in the real world. Going in depth on his own units for frequently taught books, Jim shows how to plan lessons, units, and even entire courses around big ideas to help students:

  • grapple with content and deepen comprehension through reading, writing, and discussion
  • make learning stick by connecting it to texts, to students’ experiences, and to the world
  • clarify and extend their thinking by learning which questions to ask and when
  • improve school and test performance by honing academic language and skills.

“Although no one thing can ever be the solution to all problems,” Jim writes, “this book demonstrates the ways in which questions can address your concerns and develop in our students the mental acuity and fluency necessary to succeed in school and at work, as well as to achieve a sense of purpose in their personal lives.” The only question now is, Are you ready to change your students’ learning and lives?

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Author Bio

Jim Burke is an English teacher at Burlingame High School, California. He is the author of several books for Scholastic Teaching Resources, Heinemann and Corwin Press.

Barry Gilmore is the Middle School Head at Hutchison School in Memphis, Tennessee. A National Board Certified Teacher, he taught English and social studies for nearly twenty years. Awards for his teaching have come from NCTE, TCTE, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Tennessee Holocaust Commission.

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