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Questioning and Discussions in the Classroom :)
January 02, 2014

Questioning and Discussions in the Classroom

How do I get students to ask meaningful questions?

How do I get students to lead a discussion?

These might be the two questions I receive the most.

In my head they go hand in hand.

One cannot happen without the other.

When I think about discussions, I think about preparing the students to step out of their comfort zone and become the leaders of the classroom.

On the flipside, the teacher becomes a coach… steps back and allows the children to try their new craft of discussion.

When planning this into your lessons – think of it as a procedure.

There are several steps to getting student led discussions started.

First, make sure your kids know what a question is.

It sounds silly – but how many times have you asked your class, “Are there any questions?” and you get a story.

Then, start releasing your control and let the students ask some basic questions.

When I first started this – I would get up out of my rocking chair at the end of my lesson and let a student sit in the chair and ask the rest of the class, “What was this lesson about?” and that student would facilitate the review.

Next, it’s time for all of the students to start asking questions.

I promoted this by using an exit ticket at the end of the lesson and having the students write down questions they still had about the topic.

This practice helped the kids think about different questions about lessons.

It was very eye opening because I thought it would be easy after all of the above steps – but it wasn’t.

It took some work.

I would strategically use the questions to begin the next day’s lesson.

The student who wrote it would sit in the rocking chair and ask the class.

This gave students the opportunity to ask their questions in a structured way.

Finally, you begin to ask the students during lessons, “What questions still need to be answered?”

This step ties in all of the above procedures, and once you get it rolling, it can be magic.

But – your work isn’t done.

The kids are asking questions, but a discussion isn’t just a big pile of questions – there’s air in the conversation, give and take, and many people involved.

So, the last procedure to begin implementing is the “3 before it can come back to me” rule.

Here’s how it works: Someone asks a question, the teacher says, “What do you all think about that?” and a student replies. That student then calls on another student to agree, disagree or add to the thought. This student then calls on the third student to agree, disagree or summarize the statements.

Once the students know that they will be calling on each other and that anyone is fair game to be called on – there will be more engagement and the conversation will be much richer.

Students also naturally give each other wait time, or think time, which promotes deeper understanding and more responses!

Here’s the complete procedure:
  1. Make sure the kids know what a question is
  2. Have the students begin asking basic questions
  3. Use exit tickets to get all students to write questions about content
  4. Start using, “What questions still need to be answered in this lesson?”
  5. Have 3 students respond to a question before you comment or intervene
So, I hope this helps and I’d love to hear your stories.

If you want to share your progress, visit my Facebook group and share away!

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