Alexandra Mazza's Mini-Course: The Essential Question Approach to ELA Teaching


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Course Introduction

This course is designed for secondary English Language Arts teachers who are transitioning from traditional approaches to instruction to an Essential Question-based pedagogy.

The worst feeling in the world is when your students dread your class or are bored to tears by something you worked so hard to create. We have all been there, and it is not fun. Essential questions are your solution to this problem; they are the vehicles that transport students to their understandings of each unit. This course allows for you to see tangible strategies for how to design and implement Essential Questions into your very own secondary ELA classrooms.

Performance Objective

This course is intended to assist you in taking a unit that currently exists within your Secondary ELA curriculum and revamp it utilizing one rich, juicy essential question. You should begin this course with either an existing unit in mind that you feel needs a boost in student engagement or with a unit plan in mind that you would like to design utilizing this pedagogical approach. In this course, you will learn about the research that supports this pedagogical approach to teaching, explore the increase inquiry-based teaching has on student engagement and learn what truly makes an essential question essential. You will use all application activities to plan and design an essential question for your own unit. You will conclude the course by sharing your completed Essential Question a new or revised unit plan that leverages your essential question as the focal point!

Unit 1: "Buying In" to Essential Questions

Participants will explore the research that supports the notion that essential questions enhance student engagement.

Unit 2: The Three Pillars of Essential Questions

Participants will identify the unit they would like to revamp utilizing the essential question approach, explore the three “pillars” of effective essential questions, and identify the three “pillars” within their own unit.

Unit 3: Designing an Essential Question

Participants will design an essential question for their chosen unit.

Unit 4: Checking Your Essential Question for Engagement

Participants will come to an understanding of how to ensure their Essential Question enhances student engagement within the curriculum.