Teaching Idea: Question Counters

Travis Dixon Teaching Ideas 2 Comments

There's a direct correlation between questions asked and learning happening. This is one idea I'm trialing to stretch a few comfort zones.

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.

question coupons

These question counters are one way I’m trying to make sure I hear every voice at least once!

At the start of the lesson I’m going to give one question-counter to every student. The rule is simple:

  1. 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.

Bag of Tricks

Teaching is an ancient and a timeless practice and the simplest ideas are the best. Fingers crossed this one works 🙂

Comments 2

  1. Hi Travis, thank you for all this work you do. I’m currently doing my PGCE and its long distance. They ask that I always have a starter. However, I have either 45 minute or 1 1/2 hour lessons. I often show short videos or ask some questions to get them started but I was wondering if you could include some good starter ideas.
    I started with the cognitive core so that the students could get started with their IA’s as soon as possible, otherwise it gets a bit crazy with all the other subjects toward the end of year 2. I’ve given them lessons on methodology and they have chosen to look at the Ikea Effect. Can you think of any good starters to get them thinking about the introduction to the IA? Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and experience.

    1. Post

      Hi Veronica. In my Teacher Support Packs I have unit plans, with individual lesson plans, and each lesson follows my CHACER framework. the C is consolidation (recapping earlier lessons) and the H is a Hook – the kind of starter you’re looking for. You can download samples on the store, and if you download the IA preview you’ll get the first few lessons – what you’re looking for might be in there. Hope it helps.


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