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Greg McVerry

Questioning Techniques

8 min read

Resources From around the web on using in the classroom

The Chalkboard Splash:

This TPT requires that students respond to a prompt and then find any open spot on the chalkboard or whiteboard where they can record their responses. In order to make this activity run smoothly, where students aren't needing to wait for each other, students should be asked to try to limit their answers to 15 words or less. See the next two activities for examples of how you might use this activity.

The "Pause, Star, Rank":

This technique works well at the conclusions of lessons or units that have packed in quite a bit of information or concepts.  It allows students to pause and review all the things that they have learned by reading over their notes and reflecting on what the essential concepts are.

Here are the steps for Pause, Star, Rank:

1) Pause: Review any notes that you've taken during this unit.

2) Star: Place a star on the concepts that you believe were the most important for understanding the unit.

3) Rank: Number your top three concepts and be ready to explain why they are your top three.

Once students have been given a suitable amount of time to star their concepts, alert them that the time for placing stars on important concepts is coming to a close, and then ask students to rank their top three starred concepts. After students have been given a suitable amount of time to rank the concepts, they should then get into pairs or small groups in order to share their top three concepts and explain their rationales for selecting their top three. You can cap off this activity with a chalkboard splash where students summarize their number one concept (using fewer than 15 words) and write the number one concept anywhere on the chalkboard or whiteboard. This can then be a springboard for a mini-review led by those concepts that students selected as the most important.

The A-Z Sentence Summary:

This technique provides a quick and easy way to have students wrap up what they've learned. At the end of your lesson, pass out one A through Z magnet or die-cut to each of the students in your class. Ask students to wrap up what they've learned in one sentence using the letter they've been assigned as the first letter of the sentence. Then, call out the letters in alphabetical order. When each letter is called, the student who was assigned that letter should read their sentence out loud for the class to hear. Duplicate letters for classes with more than 26 students. We also use this activity as a chalkboard splash, where students attach their magnets to the chalkboard or whiteboard and write their sentence. As a wrap-up we'll often ask students to work with their table groups to come up with categories for the summary sentences.

Using activities that require total participation not only is more interesting for students than a traditional teacher-directed lesson would be, but it also puts the responsibility on students to actively focus on what they are learning, and repackage it in a way that demonstrates deep understandings.

Response: Ways to Cultivate 'Whole-Class Engagement'

The purpose of a Socratic Seminar is to achieve a deeper understanding about the ideas and values in a text. In the Seminar, participants systematically question and examine issues and principles related to a particular content, and articulate different points-of-view.Socratic Seminar

  1. Ask students to seek out the evidence:
    • What kind of evidence did you find?
    • What makes you think that...?
  2. Ask students to explain:
    • How would you explain this?
    • What were some of the causes that led to...?
  3. >Ask questions that relate concepts, ideas, and opinions:
    • How does that compare to...?
    • What did other people discover or say about ...?
  4. Ask questions that encourage your students to predict:
    • What will you do next?
    • What will happen if you...?
    • What could you do to prevent that ?
  5. Ask students questions that encourage them to describe:
    • What did you do?
    • What happened?
    • What did you observe happening?

Practicing Effective Questioning

Providing daily opportunities for questioning builds confidence in students’ ability to craft their own questions. During question breaks in our literature and history units, for example, students can write down questions they have, and can also do so during verbal or digital discussions with peersEstablishing a Culture of Questioning

Depth of Knowledge Chart

Level 1. Recall and Reproduction: Tasks at this level require recall of facts or rote application of simple procedures. The task does not require any cognitive effort beyond remembering the right response or formula. Copying, computing, defining, and recognizing are typical Level 1 tasks.

Level 2. Skills and Concepts: At this level, a student must make some decisions about his or her approach. Tasks with more than one mental step, such as comparing, organizing, summarizing, predicting, and estimating, are usually Level 2.

Level 3. Strategic Thinking: At this level of complexity, students must use planning and evidence, and thinking is more abstract. A task with multiple valid responses, where students must justify their choices, would be Level 3. Examples include solving non-routine problems, designing an experiment, or analyzing characteristics of a genre.

Level 4. Extended Thinking: Level 4 tasks require the most complex cognitive effort. Students synthesize information from multiple sources, often over an extended period of time, or transfer knowledge from one domain to solve problems in another. Designing a survey and interpreting the results, analyzing multiple texts by to extract themes, or writing an original myth in an ancient style would all be examples of Level 4.

Using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge to Increase Rigor

Indeed, keep having kids read text, and definitely engage them in discussions of those texts, but form your questions — not on the basis of standards or skills lists — but on the basis of the texts themselves. Your questions should lead kids to think deeply about a text and to come away with a coherent and lasting memory of its content and aesthetic qualities.

Reading should be about that; not about answering particular kinds of questions, even if the questions vaguely resemble the ones on your state assessment test.

Where Questioning Fits in Comprehension Instruction: Skills and Strategies

A traditional teacher-led question-and-answer ap-proach that is widely used is recitation, or the Initi-ate-Response-Evaluate (I-R-E) model of questioning (Mehan, 1979). Although this model can be an effec-tive way to check for factual knowledge or recall, it typically does not encourage higher-order thinking.

Questions that ask for more evidence:

How do you know that? What data is that claim based on?

Questions that ask for clarification: Can you put that another way? What do you mean by that?

Linking or extension questions: Is there any con-nection between what you’ve just said and __? How does your comment fit with ___ earlier comment?

Hypothetical questions: What might have happened if ___?

Cause and effect questions: What is likely to be the effect of___?

Summary and synthesis questions: What are the one or two most important ideas that emerged from this discussion? What remains unresolved or conten-tious about this topic?

An example of teacher questioning that supports thinking and discussion is the K-W-L strategy, which helps students learn from expository text in any co n-tent area (Ogle, 1986). Using this strategy, the teach-er models for students how to create a three-column chart, labeling the first column K, the middle column W, and the third column L.

Question the Author (QtA) is a reading comprehen-sion strategy that actively engages students with a text by asking them to pose questions of the author while they are reading, rather than after they read. In forming their questions, students become engaged in the reading and solidify their understanding of the text. QtA teaches students to critique the author’s writing, challenge the author, recognize the author’s perspec-tive, and understand why the author made choices.

The National Reading Panel (2000) examined 203 studies of reading comprehension instruction and found the strongest scientifically-based evidence was for asking readers to generate questions while read-ing. Self-questioning was the most effective strategy— asking readers to generate questions while reading improves reading comprehension.

Guided reciprocal peer questioning (King, 1990, 1991) is a strategy in which students question one another about the content they are learning, using higher-order, open-ended question stems that then become the focus of a structured, small-group discussion. Fol-lowing a mini-lecture or an assigned reading, the teacher provides a set of generic questions stems and asks students to use the stems to generate questions about the content of the lecture or the reading.

Reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1984) is an interactive teaching strategy that supports students in improving reading comprehension. It uses four strate-gies that the teacher needs to model over a number of sessions and that demonstrate how an expert reader uses comprehension strategies to understand a text: Predicting what the reading is about

Clarifying words and phrases that were not un-derstood during reading Generating questions about the text

Summarizing what was read

Deeper Learning through Questioning

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