Question-driven lessons are by far the most effective way to cause learning and the students that ask the most questions tend to achieve the highest.
But if your students are anything like mine, there’s always a few who like to hide in the shadows and never ask questions, or they struggle and toil away on their own thinking that it’s their responsibility to learn the material and asking a question would show weakness, stupidity, or that they weren’t listening. For whatever reason, I never hear from these kids and it’s damaging for a few reasons:
- it’s inhibiting the development of the teacher-student relationship and rapport
- it’s preventing the development of confidence and a proactive approach to learning
- it’s standing in the way of them accessing more knowledge
When my students come back tomorrow after autumn break I’m going to try a new strategy to get students in the habit of asking questions.
At the start of the lesson I’m going to give one question-counter to every student. The rule is simple:
- They return their counter when they ask a question.
I might even keep track of students who still have a counter at the end of the lesson and then give them two in the next lesson, while everyone else gets one.
I don’t plan on doing this every lesson. Just every now and again, maybe once a week or so.
I don’t expect students to ask questions during whole class discussions as I know this can be daunting, especially for introverts. But during the lesson when they’re trying to comprehend or understanding something new, I really want all my students to develop the confidence to take responsibility and step out of their comfort zone and ask for something clarified. Even if it’s as simple as “what does … mean?”
Since losing my classroom and having to become a nomad roaming from room to room, my “bag of tricks” has actually become a literal bag of little tricks. I’m hoping the “did-you-ask-a-question-counters” will be as practical and as simple to use as the:
- “how-much-do-you-understand?” traffic-lights
- “here’s-our-problem-for-today” key question whiteboard title
- “can-I-have-your-attention-please?” bell
- “you’ve got x amount of time…” timer
- or the good ol “let’s-make-random-groups” playing-cards.
Teaching is an ancient and a timeless practice and the simplest ideas are the best. Fingers crossed this one works 🙂
Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.