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It is better to know
some of the questions
than all of the answers.
James Thurber
1894 - 1961, American humorist

Teaching with questioning

What are some procedures and strategies
for using questions in the classroom?

  1. Define vocabulary and practice its use in discussion
    Relate terms to common experiences or general usage
  2. Be mindful of engaging the entire class
    Build a chain of contribution, responses, reactions, alternatives, divergence, etc.
    Randomize questioning in order to keep all students engaged
  3. Create a non-judgmental environment
    Build confidence and logic
    Keep a conversational tone
    Direct "big picture" questions to holistic learners; detail questions to sequential learners
    Give space to introverts: they prefer listening and digesting but can summarize, often with insight
    Allow for alternative responses: some may illustrate answers with images, music, even motion
  4. Be honest: admit that you don't know all the answers
    Follow up as soon as either you or your students find further information
  5. "Set the stage:" ask questions with elementary or known content
    Use establish facts and opinions as advanced organizers
    Build on issues and examples they can identify with
    Keep questions that test recall of facts (who, what, where, etc.) in the introductory setting
  6. Build an argument, or track toward a conclusion
    in a cooperative, explorative effort
    Avoid digression or isolated points
  7. Prioritize questions that "work" facts (c.f. Bloom)
  8. Model active listening to student responses
    by summarizing in your own words the content or gist of their answers
    Expand on the exercise by calling on fellow students to do same
  9. Allow students intentional time for thought processing in answering
    Create the pause for a thoughtful response rather than expect an immediate reply
  10. Allow for unexpected turns that suit the purpose and invite gestalt!
    Use shock or disruption to shake up a rather boring experience
  11. Balance the need for breaks at 20 minutes with keeping momentum and arriving at breakthroughs

Build small group exercises modeled on questioning

Pair learners and begin with a set of questions to be answered (eliminate "yes/no" options)
Limit response time
Merge to incrementally larger groups
Reporters from merged group report
Provide for peer feedback and class discussion

See also:

Guided notes
Teacher-prepared hand-outs that outline or map lectures, but leave "blank" space for key concepts, facts, definitions, etc. As the lecture progresses, the learner then fills in the spaces with content. Guided notes help learners follow a lecture, identify its important points, and develop a foundation of content to study and apply

Socratic Method: Teaching by asking, a guided exercise
An example developed by Rick Garlikov, who taught binary arithmetic to a class of 22 third grade students by only asking questions! When the class period ended, at least 19 of the 22 students had fully and excitedly participated and absorbed the entire material.


Curricular guides and resources:

Using feedback in the classroom | Teaching critical thinking | Bloom's taxonomy |
Teaching with questioning | Preparing guided notes |
A curricular idea! | Curricular resources and guides |
Learning Exercises & Games | Exploring learning styles |
Constructing true/false tests | Constructing multiple choice tests |
Constructing essay exams | Cross language resources including digital translators |
Online Learning/eLearning books and resources for teachers