Asking really good questions
Really good questions and prompts for dialogue often require thinking about in advance.
You might find it helpful to keep a record of useful questions, and share them with colleagues. There are a number of ways to do this, including:
- invite students to elaborate: ‘Say a little bit more about…’
- echo their ideas to help students clarify their own thinking: ‘So you think that…’
- use non-verbal invitations: eye contact, tilt of the head, nod, smile, raised eyebrow(s)
- make a personal contribution from your own experience: ‘I remember…’; clarify ideas: ‘I can tell this is the case because…’
- make a suggestion – this encourages students to offer their suggestions or build on yours: ‘You could try…’
- encourage students to reflect on topics rather than simply look for the most straightforward or obvious answer: ‘I sometimes think that/wonder if…’
- offer information or make an observation on a topic: ‘It might be useful to know that…’, ‘It might be helpful to remind you of…’
- speculate on a given topic: ‘ I’m puzzled by that too…’, ‘What I’m not sure about here is…’, ‘I wonder what that means…’, ‘I’m not sure about the implications of that for…’
Another strategy is to let the mistake or wrong answer go on to the whiteboard and wait to see what happens. Students almost invariably spot the error!
Remember that questioning can be used therefore to check students’ understanding before, during and after activities and questions, which are used as prompts or starting points for thinking.