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How to Use Wild Hog Questions in the Classroom

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator
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Eighty percent of what we do as learning engineers is ask questions. Because this is such a big part of what we do to inspire learning, we should do it really well! I began thinking about the research I have done that says that we have a long way to go before we can say that we ask questions really well, and then I thought of the wild hogs in Texas. There are millions of them. They are definitely not endangered and are frankly on the nuisance list. What if the way we ask questions was as tenacious, energetic and prolific as the wild hogs?

That's when I came up with the acronym WILD HOG for classroom questions. It stands for: Written Intentionally for Learning Depth and Higher Order Genius. (I've got to also give credit to my family for helping me come up with this.)

What I have seen in my own professional career as a learning engineer is that most of my questions to students fall into two categories: 1) off the cuff, (in Texas we would say "shot from the hip") and, 2) mostly low-level, knowledge-based questions. I would like to say that I am proficient in both of these strategies, but I am painfully aware that these two strategies are not as effective as I would like them to be. It is a chore to keep everyone attentive, discipline problems emerge, and students daydream and doodle while I try to pull information out of them one at a time. This makes me wonder why I continue to use them if they are not effective? The answer is that they are easy and take no prior effort. That is where WILD HOG Questions come into play.

Thinking Ahead

Using the WILD HOG Question method requires that the questions be created before the lesson is taught while in the planning stages. I find it very difficult, to come up with thoughtful, engaging and Higher Order Genius questions while I am teaching. It's kind of like trying to build the airplane while you are flying it. Paying attention to who is on task, what learning progress they are making, and how to motivate those students who may not be engaged, all get in the way of my thinking processes for fabricating excellent questions that show what students know and incite them to put things together in their brains.

To create WILD HOG Questions, while planning the anticipated learning, it takes just a few more minutes to create a list of questions that progress from easy to difficult, moving up Bloom's Taxonomy. Having the questions already created so you know where you want to go with the lesson and how you want to get there is the real power of effective learning design.

Writing the questions in advance for Learning Depth and Higher Order Genius also allows you to create questions targeted for particular students or groups of students (this is nearly impossible to do on the fly while you are trying to inspire learning). Finally, when you take the time to think about exactly what questions you want to ask students, you can anticipate their responses and better control the flow of the learning activities.

The Benefits

Designing WILD HOG Questions before you teach means you can avoid zombie questions (I'll write about these later) and you can maximize the number of students engaged by planning purposeful opportunities for students to interact at higher levels. With WILD HOG questions, students ask and answer questions from their elbow partners, seat mates, corner buddies, and debate teams rather than simply listening to the teacher ask one student at a time (and we know who those students usually are).

Done right, WILD HOG questions will help students answer questions completely, effectively, problem-solve and discuss deeply learned concepts. What are some excellent questioning techniques that you use to inspire learning and engage your students? Please share in the comment section below.

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Comments (11) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Jufminka's picture

What a great read! The Englisg language allows the forming of the GREATEST acronyms! Helas, Dutch language... not so much.
I teach wonderful kids in primary school and am SO passionate about asking questions and getting kids to ask great ones ... I made a website AND an iPad app solely about that! :-) Hope you forgive my self promotion here - but would really love feedback on the app or site...?

Peggy Welch's picture

Great resource for Science teachers to develop activities promoting great questioning/higher order thinking: 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Task Based Discussions in Science by Cartier,Smith,Stein,Ross

Amber Alaniz's picture
Amber Alaniz
7th Grade English/ESL Teacher in Houston, TX

Dear Jufminka,

Thank you for posting! I visited your site and absolutely LOVE your work! One problem: I am on Android and PC--is there any chance you can make your resources adaptable for this platform? On a side note, I spent some time in Amsterdam and Rotterdam last year and your society is a dream for educators...thank you for sharing!

Debbie's picture
middle school technology teacher


How did you create your iPad app? Are you a programmer or did you find some kind of software to use? I found a way for my students to create Android apps for through AppInventor but every resource for creating iPhone and iPad apps seems to cost money. Thanks.

Kay Butler's picture
Kay Butler
HS Mathematics and MS/HS Pre-Engineering teacher, from South Louisiana

May I please use your pig on my question sheet?!?!? I also want to create a "HOG WILD" set of question cards with that little pink pig on them. So, your permission to use your pig would be greatly appreciated! I have always been a firm believer in developing mathematical thinking through questions. Ever since one of my students told me that she realized she was asking herself the same questions during homework that I asked them during class (and it was helping her!), I've been trying to get more of my students to do that. So, after reading this article, I thought it would be cute to make a set of question cards with that little pig on each card. They could be used as "random questions" during small group or whole class discussions, or as scaffolding questions for students as they're working on their CW / HW. Thanks! Kay

Peggy Mangovski's picture
Peggy Mangovski
Secondary Computing & Technology teacher from Newcastle, Australia

examples of Wild Hog for non iPhone users?

Kay Butler's picture
Kay Butler
HS Mathematics and MS/HS Pre-Engineering teacher, from South Louisiana

Thanks! I ended up finding one I could use.

LoriAnne Evanko's picture

I agree, and as a former principal required my teachers to pre-plan their questions. We moved from Blooms Taxonomy to the Depth of Knowledge questioning, not so different from each other. I also had my teachers chart their questions on chart paper and display. This was done so that the students could see what they would be asked and to help the teacher remember to ask the questions as we all know lessons do not always go as we plan. In addition, in NYCDOE we had a lot of people coming in to observe my teachers so if they did not hear the questions asked they could see what level the questions were at. I think even more than the teachers asking questions is teaching the students to ask questions. When I taught, the students had to choose questions from Blooms Taxonomy for their collaborative activities. As a principal, my teachers were taping the DOK stems to the students desks to help them guide discussions and ask higher level questions.

Bill Klemm's picture
Bill Klemm
Neuroscientist, author, professor, speaker

Yes, yes, good practice. A related idea is to have students ask a question and then as homework or group work develop and defend an answer. I developed this idea in an on-line computer conferencing system, the now-defunct precursor of Google Docs. It won an international first prize for the "Best New Idea in Distance Education."

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