In this lesson we will go over ways to improve questioning strategies in a classroom. We will focus on those methods designed to decrease student anxiety as well as develop student interest in a particular topic.
Types Of Questioning
For many students, being called on in the classroom evokes a whole range of emotion. Some students check out until they hear their names called, while others may be hoping not to hear their names at all. Though it may make students anxious, questioning during class time is a way of checking for student understanding without having to resort to quizzes and tests. After all, as educators, we want our students to do well on such assessments.
In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at a number of approaches that allow teachers to quickly check for understanding, while making sure that student engagement remains high.
Cold Calling is perhaps the oldest of all teaching techniques. It is likely that Socrates taught the likes of Plato by using Cold Calling. Cold Calling is simply calling on someone at random to answer the question. Perhaps no other technique is as guaranteed at maintaining student attention. However, it can be tweaked to avoid the problems that we discussed earlier.
Like I said earlier, when a student’s name is mentioned, some students may zone out completely. Therefore, some experts suggest putting the student’s name at the end of the question. That way, you maintain the attention of the entire classroom throughout the delivery of the question.
No Opt Out
Still, there is a chance that you could hear those three words teachers dread hearing: ‘I don’t know.
‘ What do you do? After all, this student has just interrupted your flow of presentation. Still, not knowing is a cry for help, so give the student assistance. At this point, begin using the principles of a questioning technique called No Opt Out. A student who claims not to know the answer may be off the hook for the rest of the class.
However, with No Opt Out, the teacher has a number of options available. A teacher can offer a bit of a hint to push the student’s understanding, or simply offer to come back after making the question a teaching moment. It is crucial, however, that the teacher does come back to the student. Simply saying ‘I’ll get back to you’ and then forgetting is letting the student off the hook without checking for understanding.
More Social Practices
Both No Opt Out and Cold Calling are designed to keep students in their desks with their attention focused on the front of the classroom. However, there is an opportunity for allowing students to discuss their understanding with their classmates.
By using the idea of Turn and Talk, students can look at the person next to them and discuss the points for understanding. Meanwhile, allowing students to work in pairs and present their work, such as in Think-Pair-Share, means that instead of checking for the active understanding of one or two students per question, you can now check for the active understanding of a much higher percentage of the classroom in a given moment. In this last example, the sharing portion allows for pairs to present what they think, and how they got there, to the class as a whole.
Still, there are even opportunities with increasing questioning to get students up and moving. A great example of this is with Four Corners.
Each corner of the room is assigned an answer choice, and students congregate in the corner of the room that aligns with their own thinking. Once there, they can discuss how they arrived at that particular answer. The opportunity to get up and get moving will be an added treat for many students. Finally, you could select a member of each group to present their findings for why they went to a particular corner of the room, reinforcing understanding by hearing the correct answer as well as common remedies to mistakes made by others.
In this lesson,we took a look at different types of questioning techniques, focusing especially on Cold Calling, No Opt Out, Turn and Talk, Think-Pair-Share, and Four Corners. Cold Calling and No Opt Out will often be the most common methods used in a typical classroom, but even then can be changed in order to make them much more productive and engaging.
This is done especially by making sure that students don’t know the target of a question until after it is asked and recognizing that saying ‘I don’t know’ will result in being asked the question again later. Turn and Talk as well as Think-Pair-Share offer more social opportunities, allowing students to talk through their answers. Four Corners couples that social benefit with the added treat of being allowed to move about the classroom.