Questioning Strategies

Here you will find questioning strategies outlined by Christenbury in her book Making the Journey: Being and Becoming a Teacher of English Language Arts.  We may just discuss some of these strategies, while others you may be asked to practice them in your literature circles, or perform them in their classrooms and report your findings:

  • Complete questions ahead of class so that students’ prior knowledge, difficulty of question, and clarity is considered (214).
  • Pay attention to wait time, allowing more time for students to process (212).
  • Ask students to repeat their answers rather than repeating them for them (213).
  • Use student answers to build on the discussion (213).
  • When students give short answers use follow-up questions such as “What do you think,”  “How is that true?”  “Give us an example,” and “How would you compare your answer with John’s…?” (215).
  • If a student’s answer is incorrect point to a passage in the text and ask how it relates to their position (215).
  • Have students write questions for discussion, study, quizzes, and tests (216).
  • Turn student comments into questions for other students (216).
  • Use games such as Twenty Questions, Solve the Situation, What’s the Question, Picture Perfect, or Breaking the Code in order to improve student questioning skills  (216).
  • Question frequently and ask questions that are: “(1) clear, (2) purposeful, (3) brief, (4) natural and adaptable to the level of class, and (5) thought provoking” (346-7).
  • Stimulate discussion by using declarative statements, declarative restatements, indirect questions, and imperatives (355).
  • Avoid questions that are yes-no questions as they waste time and usually are a lead in to the real question.  They also are too easy to guess correctly and then the teacher does not get an accurate read on the student comprehension (349).
  • Avoid tugging questions that are designed to get a student to add to their response. It is best to provide support rather than continue to try to elicit the correct answer (350).
  • Avoid questions that ask the student to guess which can encourage students to answer carelessly.  Guessing can be valuable if the goal is to have students theorize or stimulate the imagination (350).
  • Avoid leading questions/ rhetorical questions so students come to respect the importance of the questions posed (351).

We will also consider other instructional strategies that are outlined in Weinstein’s book Secondary Classroom Management: Lessons from Research and Practice.    In order to overcome some of the negative side effects of teacher-led discussions, she suggests looking at ways to distribute participation so that everyone would have a chance to participate by following a pattern such as using a seating chart or round robin and minimizing callouts that might work in favor of more confident students.  We will discuss preferences and frustrations with the various strategies you as teachers currently use to manage class discussions.  We will also discuss ways to provide more time for students to consider their answer, such as allowing them time to write down their thoughts before a discussion or having them talk to a neighbor first.  This decreases the intimidation for those students who are shy or lack confidence and accommodates those students who need more processing time.  To assess understanding, Weinstein suggests using the thumbs up or down method for students to show they agree or disagree with a statement or they could answer as a chorus.  She also offers the idea of a “steering group”– a sample group of students that will indicate when the class is getting the point (219).  Finally we will look at incorporating student-led discussions and explore how they may act as facilitator or moderator to make sure that some students’ don’t dominate the conversation and the discussion stays focused.

Christenbury, Leila. Making the Journey: Being and Becoming a Teacher of the English

            Language Arts. New Hampshire: Heinemann, 2006.

Weinstein, Carol Simon. Secondary Classroom Management: Lessons from Research and Practice.  New Jersey: McGraw-Hill, 2006.


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