#AMLE2013Day2 – Questioning

As I dive back into my notes, I’ll post some highlights and important ideas that I want to use in my classroom. On day 2 I attended Spence Rogers’s session How to Use Questions to Engage and Teach All. I fully expected to get into another session or two, but this one ended up taking up the entire post! I hope some of these ideas hit home for you in terms of how we ask questions of our students.

Instead of using the traditional model of initiate-respond-evaluate in which we get one answer from one student and assume that all students understand, we need to hold every student accountable.

Spence put it like this: we should teach as if we were a coach. If I was coaching a basketball team that was getting ready for our first game, I would want to make sure we had the basics down. “Let’s see if we know how to dribble. (Pull out a popsicle stick from a canister.) Bill? Will you dribble down and back for me? (Bill dribbles successfully.) Ok, looks like we got that down! Time to move on!”

Questions that are important enough to be asked are important enough for everyone to participate and learn good answers. Rogers’s big idea was Total Directed Learning, which says all students find, record, learn, and say the complete correct response. Instead of saying, “What is…” say, “Learn…” This does not let students off the hook who do not know right away. They must learn the answer by searching, discussing, or reading.

iStock_000003401233XSmall-300x199“Make sure everyone around you can tell me…”

Instead of calling on one student, call on all students. Of course we will not be able to hear every single voice, but teachers know who to watch and read lips of! And when students use complete answers, the words are very similar to each other. Make sure everyone has acquired and written the same complete sentence in an area in order to be on the same page.

The class then can repeat the sentence three times in order to get all involved and to allow the teacher to check for understanding of all. Don’t be afraid to play it up and act like you have a superhuman gift that allows you to hear and separate all voices in your head either. Also, keep it interesting and have a little fun with this by using different voices to repeat the answer:

  • Like you are talking to a three-year old
  • Write it with a finger and say it as you write
  • Say it like you are really angry
  • Like you’re falling off a cliiiiiffffffffff…..
  • Like you are completely in love with the answer
  • Or in any voice that you choose!

I was a little skeptical at first with the repeating of an answer like that until we did it. I can still remember that e = 2.718, and the AMLE conference was almost two months ago!

Unfortunately many students are held back by fear in the classroom. They do not want to be embarrassed, and when we give a wrong answer that is exactly what happens. In fact, we become incapable of learning for up to 20 minutes due to the adrenaline caused by the fear and embarrassment of giving an incorrect answer. Having the confidence of a group making sure everyone is on the same page is one way to combat that.

The deflected question is another way to avoid fear. Allow the student to put the pressure on someone else with questions like these:

  • What did you hear as an answer to that question?
  • What would someone else in the room say the answer is? This way the student should say, “I heard someone say…”
  • “What will the next class struggle with the most?” This one is my personal favorite. We all know that when we get to the point where we ask, “Any questions?” that the room is going to be completely silent for as long as we choose. By asking for advice one what the other class will think is the most difficult concept or idea from that day, we are allowing the question to be deflected to another class. Brilliant!

So what would the teacher in the next room find most helpful about this post?