The English Teacher

The Third Level 'Why'

This technique is useful at times to help students to see questions that they may be assuming the answers to through long habit. I read it years ago, and if anyone knows where it originated, I would be glad to give the author credit for the concept.

This is a dialogue with the class. Have the students open their notebooks to a general notes page. Then have them write the following questions and answers.

First hold a pencil [or other object'] between your fingers, over the floor and say:

QUESTION: What happens when I open my fingers?
[Students give reply],
ANSWER: The pencil falls.

QUESTION: WHY does the pencil fall?

QUESTION: WHY do you think that it is gravity??
[Don't let the students write the answer' to this question in their notebooks. This is the third level why, and it is intended to show that we have been conditioned not to look for certain answers, as if they were fact. For instance, the fact that we have been told that pencils fall because of gravity keeps many of us from ever re-examining the cause of objects falling. We learned this answer as children and usually never re-examine it. In the same way, our conditioned attitudes keep us from re-examining various concepts in literature and elsewhere in life.

Therefore, this little exercise helps students open up to look at something that they are working on with 'new eyes.'

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