How to Ask Better Questions By Annie Forest

Posted on Posted in Teacher Stories

Teachers ask a lot of questions. According to research done by Leven and Long in 1981, typical teachers ask between 300-400 questions per day. With a school year of 180 days, that means by the end of your thirteenth year of teaching, you could hit one million questions!

With all of those questions being asked, how can we make sure we are hearing from all of our students and how can we make sure that we are asking the best questions?

In a traditional classroom set-up, it is usually difficult to hear from every student. Using a technology tool, such as Recap gives you an opportunity to hear from everyone in the class. In addition, students have the think-time they need to synthesize their response. Students that might be more shy about speaking in class will feel less in the spotlight if they are answering a question into their device instead of in front of the whole class.

Asking good questions is essential to making the best use of this tool. You are probably asking just one question so you want to make sure you get the most out of it! Try these steps to develop your best question.

Step 1: Determine your purpose
While there are many creative ways to use Recap as a tool in the classroom, let’s focus on using it for asking assessment questions. There are three types of questions you might ask: pre-assessment, checks of understanding, and reflection. Questions you ask will look different depending on your purpose.

Step 2: Develop a question to bring out students’ thinking
Prediction/Pre-lesson/Background Knowledge
These questions are asked before a concept is taught. They will give you an idea of students’ background knowledge or opinion on a concept. They might start with these sentence stems:
What do you think about…
What do you think will happen…
What do you know about…

Checks of understanding
These questions are designed to give you formative or summative information on students’ level of understanding of a concept. For these questions, you want to make student thinking visible. It’s best to avoid yes/no, multiple choice, or a simple recall of information. Instead ask students to elaborate in their explanation. Think about starting the questions with words such as:

Reflection questions are designed to get students to think about the lesson or make a connection with the learning or content. Some ideas for reflection questions are:
What questions do you still have?
What do you want to know more about?
What was the easiest/hardest part of the lesson today?
Name a glow (high point) and a grow (area for improvement) from the lesson or unit.

Step 3: Anticipate responses and misconceptions

After you have developed your question, think through what students’ might say. What type of answers will show you students have background knowledge, understanding, or are reflective? What type of responses would reveal misconceptions that you would use to plan for instruction? While you will probably never be able to predict all possible student responses, this is an important step to developing your ability as a teacher to ask good questions.

As with any skill as an educator, your ability to develop good questions grows as you have more experience. However, no matter if you are on question one or one-million in your teaching career, following these three steps and reflecting on your practice, you will be able to ask better questions to your students.

Check out Annie’s Recap Pioneer Profile