A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to know that how I questioned kids in the class was not particularly effective. I always seemed to notice ‘the evident’ kid – you know the one. Big personality, or quick to answer, or fearless even if they didn’t really know. That kid. But what about the others? What about the quiet one, the shy one or the ‘I know but I’m not doing it” one? How was I to make sure everyone was asked – and no one avoided participating?
I was lucky enough to read a few books, talk to a few teachers and try out several things to change my ways. So now in my class one of the first things I say is “Please don’t raise your hand.” And so when a student asks why…here’s what I say:
Pair then Share – As a student you will always get to practice or test out your response with your partner first. You will have time to try. You will also have time to ‘investigate’ – using your notes or a dictionary - to find a possible answer. Having time to do this means that your input alone will not be on the line and that you both can work towards an answer if you need to.
Anyone could be asked – Your name is written down on a popsicle stick in a bag on my desk. When I look for responses I will draw one. I won’t call on you because you were ‘off task’ and caught my eye. I won’t use your name as a punishment. However, if your name comes up, I will expect you to be ready to answer.
Answers not Avoidance – When I call on you its with the idea that you will be answering. “I don’t know” doesn’t get you off the hook. No, I will put your name aside and ask you to show me (by nodding for example) when you have found your answer. If you still not sure I will help you, with hints and examples, in finding the answer. Even if another student helps out you will be asked to give the final full answer.
The art of questioning is, for me, a journey and I am nowhere near the end! Do you have something that works well for you?