Updated: Nov 3, 2018
Great lesson starts with questions. Is fire a living thing? This was a question used to start a lesson in Science. A lesson does not always have to start the grand announcement of the topic or learning objective or learning intention. It can start with a simple question to get the student wondering what is coming next.
Learning in lessons can be viewed as journey. You the teacher, know the final destination and YOUR effective questioning encourages children to think whilst you guide their thoughts through the learning intention.
Asking questions improves the rate of learning in lessons because questioning is not a one-way street. When you ask the students questions, what you are doing is modelling a process that students can and should use themselves. Good teachers encourage their students to ask questions. Teachers are not courier men or women; you don’t ‘deliver’ the curriculum. You facilitate learning and guide the students to an intended outcome. For example, if you want to teach your students about the continent of Africa, you can start with a question; ‘what do you know about Africa?’ or ‘what do you want to learn about Africa?’ or ‘How many continents have you visited or know about? Name them.’
As you can imagine, these questions can lead to some high quality discussions and by questioning the students this way, you may find out new things yourself!
Here are some strategies to promote good questioning in your classroom.
Plan for questions. If you don’t plan for questions, you may get side-tracked with other things that come up in the lesson. You can plan for questions by including key questions in your planning. A ‘QUESTION OF THE DAY’ display board can be used to plan for questions. The use of a display board works well because it serves as prompt/reminder to you and the students to ask the questions.
Ask a variety of questions. Use open and closed questions. When you use a closed question, follow up by asking for an example or an explanation.
Be concise and specific. Don’t ask ambiguous questions that are complex and the students are not sure what you mean. Use a series of simple questions to build depth and complexity of content.
Give students ‘thinking time’. When you ask a question, give students time to think about an appropriate answer. You can say, “I am going ask this question and give you some thinking time.” Giving students ‘thinking time’ will generally lead to better answers. Try not to fall into the trap of answering your own questions. When you do this, you are training the students to think that they don’t always have to try to answer your question because you will give them the answer anyway!
Receive answers graciously. When a student answers your question, be gracious and give them praise. For example, ‘well done, that is a brilliant answer’ or ‘well done for trying, however I want you to think about your answer again’.
Finally, don’t interrupt when a student is trying to answer your question. If you have a student that has the tendency to waffle on, give a time limit so that your expectation for the length of the answer is clear. For example, ‘tell me your answer, you have 10 seconds’.
Have you used some great questioning strategies in your lessons? Let us know!