Questioning Tips and Tricks
Asking good questions at the right time and in the right place is a learned skill—one that will require time and attention throughout your teaching career. Here are some tips and ideas that will help you make your classroom (or any subject you may teach) dynamic and intellectually stimulating.
Back and Forth
Thousands of teachers engage in a practice that I refer to as verbal ping-pong: the teacher asks a question; a student responds. The teacher asks a question; another student responds. The teacher asks a question; another student responds, etc.
Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it? But it happens all the time. When a student answers a question, there's absolutely no response from a teacher. Most teachers tend to accept student answers without praise, encouragement, criticism, or remediation. One educator refers to this as the “okay classroom”—one in which the teacher is nonresponsive and nonencouraging.
Students need specific feedback to understand what is expected of them, correct errors, and get help in improving their performance (see How Students Learn). If all we do after getting an answer to a question is mumble “Uh-huh” or “Okay,” our students are not getting any specific feedback. Equally important, this nonresponsiveness from the teacher tends to inhibit both the quality of responses as well as higher-level thinking abilities.
When you ask a question and get a response from a student, be sure to always give some kind of response to that student. The response should be one of four kinds:
Remediation is a teacher comment that helps students reach a more accurate or higher-level response.
Praise. “Congratulations, you're on the right track!”
Encouragement. “Hernando, I really liked how you pulled together all the information about Saturn into your answer.”
Criticism. “No, that's not correct. You forgot to carry the two.”
Remediation. “Sarah, your answer wasn't quite right. Think about how Sylvester felt when he was a rock.”