We know that the right question can spark the curiosity of our students and propel them into meaningful and productive discussion. I am sure we have all experienced that wonderful teaching moment when the whole room comes alive because of a question you posed. How can we harness the power of questioning and use it more often in the classroom? Over the summer I read Questioning for Classroom Discussion by Jackie Acree Walsh and Beth Dankert Sattes.
The reading reminded me about the importance of questioning in our classrooms as a way: 1) to create a student-centered classroom, 2) to spark the interests of our students, and 3) to allow them to wrestle with ideas and hear multiple points of view.
The authors begin their book with the question: Why should we place greater emphasis on questioning for discussion in our classrooms? In short, here are a few reasons:
- Increases student engagement
- Improves learning outcomes
- Promotes higher levels of thinking
- Develops speaking and listening skills
- Adheres to Common Core State Standards (for Literacy and Math Practices)
- Adheres to NGSS standards
- Adheres to the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework
- Makes connections among disciplinary knowledge
- Develops a life skill important for working with groups
- Is critical for becoming active participants in a democratic society
REFLECT: How often do you use questioning and discussion in your classroom? Do you balance teacher-guided discussions with student-driven discussion? Do you equip your students with the tools to successfully engage in productive discussions?
Quick Tips and Tricks:
- Teacher typically:
- Models, scaffolds, coaches (remember to set norms/ground rules…consider creating these together first)
- Uses quality questions as a tool for inquiry
- Frames one question to focus the discussion, then questions further only if students seemed perplexed
- Doesn’t respond to every student comment which allows students to critique one another’s thinking and ideas
- Relinquishes a bit of control and allows students to take their thinking in the directions they choose
- Plans whole group and structured small-group discussions
- Provides scaffolded response templates for students (this is one way to differentiate!)
Want to learn more? Read chapter 1 here and check out this infographic on the five steps to meaningful classroom discussions.
Perhaps you have been thinking more about how to include Listening and Speaking Standards into your classroom? Questioning would be a great strategy for a lesson study focusing on these important standards. Talk with your colleagues and contact me to set up a planning time!