Get your students truly engaged by giving them opportunities to ask questions and implementing these tips!
Have you ever planned a lesson involving a class discussion that flopped? Have you ever heard crickets after presenting a prompt? Classroom discussion is a great way to develop a variety of 21st century skills including not only communication, but also critical thinking. Students become more engaged and their curiosity is captured. The key to success may be easier than you think: questions!
An essential part of sparking any discussion and keeping it rolling is getting your students engaged by having them ask questions. Questions allow students to dig deeper, explore, and correct misconceptions. What is unfortunate is that many students do not feel comfortable asking questions. Use these tips to encourage more questioning from your students.
1. Create a Safe Environment
Often students do not ask questions because they are afraid or uncomfortable. Ensure that your classroom is an environment in which students feel secure. Set some ground rules for your students that include respecting all questions, valuing all questions, and utilizing active listening. Practice asking questions at the start of a new unit by having your class think of as many questions about the new topic as they can. Write them all on the board without answering them. Keep going until they run out. This is a great first step to getting your students comfortable and thinking outside of the box.
2. Praise All Questions
As an extension to creating a safe environment, be sure to give positive praise to ALL questions. This includes both the questions that are deep and those that are a little off track. By providing praise, you will encourage the questions to continue. Select some questions as inspiration for your next lab or project. Use a student question on your next test. Show your students that asking questions is valued in any and every way that you can.
3. Teach How to Ask Questions
Sometimes student may not know how to start to ask a question. This is true for both younger students and those in high school! You can assist your students by posting question starters in a visible place in the room. These stems can include “why does…”, “how does ____ work”, and “what is the difference between…”. Another great way to teach questioning is by modeling asking questions to your students. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy is a great place to start.
4. End with Student Reflection
While encouraging your students to ask questions is a great first step, ultimately we want it to become a habit. This is where reflection comes in. At the end of a great questioning session or class discussion, ask students to take five minutes to reflect on how questioning helped their thinking. This may even lead to new questions and curiosity that will keep them engaged in the future.
Follow these tips in your classroom to encourage your students to ask questions. Not only will they be actively participating, but they will be more motivated to learn. Find out more about improving your students’ communication skills here!