How to SOLE
asking the big questions
In the Question Phase, the educator introduces the Big Question and shares some background or a short story around the question. Important to note is not to lead students to an answer or in any way reveal what they should learn. As a tip, it's a great idea to start each session with an explanation to the group of how the SOLE works:
- Get into groups (of around four)
- Find yourselves a computer
- You can move groups at any time
- It's okay to share your learning with other groups
- You can move around and talk freely
- I (the educator) will be quiet most of the time
Students self organize into their groups. In some cases, teachers have found that the process runs better when they assist in the formation of groups. From this moment, the educator simply let's the adventure begin! Students begin exploring the big question, jumping on computers and searching for answers. In some cases, open and supportive questions may help, and very important, offer encouragement. For the most part, educators should remain invisible. Yet, it's not unusual to run into a few challenges, ranging from one child being excluded to an entire group not working on the task.
In most of these situations you should be encouraging and remind them about the ground rules, like being able to change groups. You can find more advice for dealing with challenges on this website. The more comfortable you become in letting the children run the session, the easier it should be to remain invisible, and let the learning happen. If your students have not done this before you may watch them struggle to figure out the process. It is important that you let them figure it out on their own. You should only intervene if they are way off task and creating an unsafe learning environment for themselves or others.
As one educator described it:
I was really nervous about doing it initially and had concerns about how the students would interact with one another. However what surprised me was that the students corrected each other and created an environment where they each showed off what they could do --especially when we had good questions the students were amazing in finding solutions and using the information to answer these questions in ways I never thought they would do.
Each group now presents their discoveries. This is one of the most important elements of the session as it gives them a chance to think more deeply about what they've found out, and how they discovered it.
You should use this time to get excited about what the students have learnt, praise their discoveries and encourage debate between them. Ask the groups how they found their answers and what they think went well - as well as what they could do differently next time. Even if they haven’t answered your big question, or have drawn the wrong conclusions, they can learn a lot from talking about how they got to that answer and learn from other groups who took a different approach.
And with that, you're now ready to try out your first SOLE. It may seem a bit daunting, but it's as easy as you've just seen. And remember our community is here to help each other, so if you have concerns or challenges, visit the community area of the site and someone will be there to help you. And pretty soon you will be a SOLE Leader yourself and you will be able to help others.
Common Problems and Solutions
Problem: One student complains about their group
Solution: Educator reminds students that they can change groups at any time
Problem: An entire group is not working on the task at hand
Solution: Remind the group that they will be expected to present their findings towards the end of this session
Problem: A group presents an inaccurate or irrelevant answer
Solution: Encourage other students to challenge the answer (e.g. "did anyone find anything different?) and then initiate a conversation about why they might arrive at different answers, linking to the reliability of sources
Problem: Students complain because someone else is using the computer
Solution: Remind students that they can change groups at any time. During the review ask students how they felt about sharing computers and discuss future solutions
Problem: Students have trouble reading material they find online
Solution: Since students have different reading levels, encourage them to consult with other groups who might have more able readers or who might have found more accessible sites. Encourage perseverance and finding alternative solutions. Always ask students to explain their findings in their own words rather than reading directly from a source
Problem: Students seem to find a quick answer and then just mess around
Solution: Encourage students to move around and see what other groups have found, if they have different information can they incorporate that into their answer or explain why? Ask them whether they are confident that the answer they have is accurate, considering the sites they used