The Ten Commandments of Questioning in the Classroom

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  1. 1. The Ten Commandments of Questioning in the classroom It is estimated that teachers can ask up to 500 questions a daybut how many are actually any good? Measure up against these ten commandments of questioning. 1. Thou shalt track thy habits Find out what your habits are by recording a lesson you teach, or asking a colleague to tally these habits. Do you favour one side of the room to the other (hint: we tend to)? Do you ask a mix of genders? Do you only select those students who make eye contact? All of this tacit teaching can be incredibly revealing. 2. Thou Shalt Stop Answering Thy Own Questions Around 65% of questions asked by teachers are answeredby the teachers themselves! Develop an active awareness of this habit by informing students you will suffer a ne for every question you answer yourself. I nd press-ups work well. 3. Thou Shalt Use A No Hands Up Approach Occasionally We all know those cloudholders whose hands are forever in the air, but what about those students who dont have the condence to put their hands up, yet want to contribute. Forget lolly sticks and instead seek these students out, smile and ask them for an answer. 4. Thou Shall not Accept I Dont Know As A Response This is one problem which needs careful addressingletting a student off the hook by moving on lets them believe that you accept their approach. Instead, ask them to repeat the question, and then talk them through how they might nd an answer. 5. Thou Shalt Indulge in Wait Time We can as teachers start panicking if responses dont come thick and fast, but it is recommended to wait between 3
  2. 2. seconds (for closed questions) and 10 seconds (for open questions) before a response. Remember, if its a good question, it should make them think, so give them some thinking time! 6. Though Shalt Employ Carrots and Sticks Build in rewards and motivation for answering questions in the classroom, and indicate how participation in the lesson leads to better outcomes. Set more resistant participants the challenge of answering at least one question per session. 7. Thou Shalt Measure The Attention Span Here are two quick rules of thumb: less than 75% eye contact from the class; mix things up. Another rule: the attention span of you class is roughly their age in minutes. If you are questioning for longer than this, what are you hoping to achieve? 8. Thou Shalt Avoid Anchors Weve all had a lesson where one student says a totally unreasonable answer, and every answer after this seems attached to it! Backtrack as soon as you can and dissect why this answer is wrong, otherwise you have a great danger of losing them all. 9. Thou Shalt Make Your Questions That Simple This doesnt mean challenging, this means simple to understand. The test shouldnt be understanding the question, but trying to nd the right answer. It is far better to let them encode an answer than decode your question. 10. Thou Shall Not Ask The Same Question Repeatedly If youve asked it more than three times, has it really gone in, been heard or even understood? Rephrase your question, or go back to the stage before to ensure all the class understand what it is you are asking. This is an condensed extract from the book, Hands Up: Questions to ignite thinking in the classroom, written by Stephen Lockyer and available from Amazon.