Tuesday, March 18, 2014


One of the most powerful questions teachers can ask is, “How did you know that?” If one child knows the answer and you ask them to THINK OUT LOUD and explain their reasoning, then it will help the other students scaffold to a higher level. You can use this strategy with pre-k children, 4th graders, or grad students. It works with a reading lesson, math, science, or social studies. Now, don’t be surprised when you start asking that question if they shrug their shoulders or respond, “I don’t know?” PAUSE! (Another great questioning strategy I’m not very good at.) Don’t say anything. Wait! They’ll eventually come out with something and then you can give them positive body language and say, “Good thinking!” Asking children to explain their thinking is good for the responder because it helps her clarify her thoughts. That child also serves as a constructive model for the other students.

Here are some other “tips” for asking good questions.

Open-ended – Ask open-ended questions, rather than “yes” or “no.”  
Convergent questions have one answer, but divergent questions encourage students to make new connections and think outside the box. 

Phrase Questions Clearly – Focus on one aspect at a time.

Acknowledge Responses - Avoid judging answers by repeating their response. “Good thinking!” “That’s close.” “I never thought about that before.” “Kiss your brain!”

Probe – Extend students’ thinking by having them clarify an idea or support an opinion.

Give Time - Help children think about what they want to say and provide for individual differences by asking children to smile if they know the answer. Allow 3-5 seconds of think time.

1-2-3 Tell – Ask a question and then slowly count, “1, 2, 3.” When you say, “Tell,” the children all say the answer.

Whisper & Release – Children whisper the answer in their fists. When the teacher says, “Release,” the students open their fists.

Connections – Demonstrate how to touch index fingers to indicate that they have made a connection in their brain. This will engage children when classmates are answering a question and let you know that they understand.

Now, here’s a question for you! Want to learn more about improving your questioning strategies? Come back tomorrow for another exciting episode!