As teachers, it’s important to ensure our students are able to think critically and deeply about the topics they are learning. One classroom protocol that helps with this is the “3 Whys” from Project Zero at Harvard School of Education, which encourages students to discern the significance of a situation, topic or issue, keeping in mind global, local, and personal connections. Find the full classroom protocol here.
This routine can be applied to a wide variety of topics and activities, using powerful images, text, quotes or videos as launching points. It can be used early on in a unit when introducing a topic or later on when expanding on an issue. It can also help create a more personal connection to a topic that may seem distant at first.
The 3 Whys are:
Why might this [topic, question] matter to me?
Why might it matter to people around me [family, friends, city, nation]?
Why might it matter to the world?
When starting and using this routine, it’s important for students to have clarity about the focal point of the analysis. You might ask them why understanding social inequality matters to their community or why an image matters instead of making them answer both questions immediately. The questions should be answered one step at a time and if time allows, you can compare and group students’ thoughts together so they understand shared motivations for learning the topic better.
This protocol is an effective way for helping your students make deep connections between different perspectives – let me know if you try this out with your students.