Wednesday 10/04/2017 – OPENING: 15 minutes

Back by popular demand, that’s right folks, it’s time for another game of “What’s the Big Idea?”.

Today’s game has us reading an article from Seth Godin, specifically, “Fear of Bad Ideas“. We’ll dig in as a class, and each table will take a different section to restate in their own words so we can really break down the article and ensure we understand it’s message. And from there, I feel sure we’ll come up with some pretty fantastic Big Ideas.

LESSON – 40 minutes

Image of the Challenge Based Learning framework.

CBL Framework, From Digital Promise


We need to practice turning Big Ideas into Essential Questions.


  1. Big Idea
  2. Essential Question
  3. Challenge



Essential Question

Yesterday we talked about the difference between Open- and Closed-Ended questions. And we clarified the role that each plays in Challenge Based Learning.

Closed-Ended questions are called Guiding Questions in CBL, and we dig into those during the Investigate phase.

But for our purposes today, it’s important to understand that open-ended questions are the form that our Essential Questions take. And that’s what we’re working to develop today.

So, once we have our Big Idea, it’s time to figure out how we’re going to explore it. What line of inquiry will we follow to really dig into it? That’s where the Essential Question comes in. So what is an EQ? We know it’s open-ended, but what else? Again, Grant Wiggins provides some insight…

“A question is essential when it:

  • causes genuine and relevant inquiry into the big ideas and core content; TABLE 1
  • provokes deep thought, lively discussion, sustained inquiry, and new understanding as well as more questions; TABLE 2
  • requires students to consider alternatives, weigh evidence, support their ideas, and justify their answers; TABLE 3
  • stimulates vital, on-going rethinking of big ideas, assumptions, and prior lessons; TABLE 4
  • sparks meaningful connections with prior learning and personal experiences; TABLE 5
  • naturally recurs, creating opportunities for transfer to other situations and subjects.” TABLE 6


I bolded the word ‘relevant’ above because, while all of the above provides good insight about what an EQ is, none of it really matters if the question isn’t RELEVANT TO YOU. So, one of the key things to keep in mind about Essential Questions, is that they help connect the Big Idea to something that matters to you. If the question doesn’t generate some personal interest, it’s not likely to motivate you to explore it deeply.

Creating EQs is not easy work, but it’s critical, so we’ll continue to practice it.

Some examples, using the Big Ideas above…

Big Ideas

  1. The global food supply is at risk.
  2. Blood is thicker than water.
  3. The world’s sea levels are rising.

Essential Question

  1. How do my eating habits contribute to global food insecurity?
  2. In what ways do people in my family value each other? Or…What is a family?
  3. How would a 10 foot rise in sea level impact my life?


  • Essential Questions connect the Big Idea to our own lives.
  • EQs are thought-provoking and engaging.
  • EQs are open ended…no single, simple, right answer.

Quote of the Week

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”


This Week’s Agenda

20 Questions

CBL: Engage Phase, part 1

Get to the Source

CBL: Engage Phase, part 2

What’s the Big Idea?

CBL: Engage Phase, part 3

HOM Reflection

CBL: Engage Phase, part 4


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