How to ask questions in the classroom?

by / Monday, 18 November 2013 / Published in Teachers Tips







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Sometimes it is hard to get feedback as a new teacher. Standing in front of a classroom can be intimidating enough without adding the feedback of mentors and seasoned teachers. Even though some of us may not want to hear constructive criticism, we realize it is absolutely necessary to make our teaching skills grow and flourish. One advice I once got had to do with the way I asked questions of my students. According to my mentor I would pose a question and only wait a beat before answering it myself, thus depriving my students of the opportunity to engage with me. After her gentle comment, I have learned to allow my students to think and answer by asking better questions and giving them some time.

Many experienced teachers would agree that in order to open dialogue in the classroom we need to ask the right questions. Doing this is not only about the proper questions, but also the ones that will be thought-provoking for our students and will make them ask some questions of their own. Below are some thoughts about the best kinds of questions.

Simple questions

Teachers don’t need to make a question confusing when a simple one will do. So try the basic questions first if you are seeking to improve your inquisitive efforts.

1- What are your thoughts?

This simple phrase cuts our own soliloquy and gives the students a direct instruction to apply what he is learning and apply it to new information using their understanding.

2-Why do you think that?

This is a perfect follow-up to the question above. It encourages students to dig deeper as to why they expressed that opinion to begin with.

3-How do you know this?

Answering this question forces the student to apply the new concept to prior learnings and relate them to each other, thus increasing understanding.

4- Would you tell me more?

This question encourages students to explore their answers even further and continue to find supporting arguments for their opinions and ideas.

5- What other questions do you have?

Instead of asking “do you have any questions?” which only invites “yes” or “no” as an answer, by already submitting to the possibility of questions the student may be inspired to share any questions and clarifications he may have regarding the subject being discussed.

A special question I love asking is one I use in response to a student’s “I don’t know” answer. To that, I respond- “If you DID know, what you would say?” Amazingly, this follow-up question always elicits responses from my students.

Asking the right questions is not enough to engaging your students in conversation. It is also important to allow them time to think about their answers. There isn’t a magical amount of time to stop and let them think, it will depend on the age of your students, the material and their personalities. In this instance you can only control yourself but staying silent until they decide to actively participate.

Always make sure your tone reflects the fact that you are asking a question. You want to make sure your pupils understand you are not making an affirmation, but rather asking for their thoughts. If you want to ease your children into the habit of answering questions, you may try for them to do it in pairs before having them venture to speak in front of the whole class. Just pose a question and ask them to turn to their neighbours for discussion.

What thoughts do you have about questions in the classroom? What recommendations would you share?

Please add your thoughts in the section below.

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