+ Questioning Techniques in the Classroom

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From Sandra Rief’s great book on reaching ADHD students (see below) :

To increase student response opportunities, as well as forestall chaos, here are some suggestions for whole group and unison responses.

  • Direct Instruction technique 1 :  Students are trained (by modeling and practice) to respond in unison at a signal.  Best when there is only one correct answer, and it is short.  Students are trained and then focused to be looking at the stimulus — the teacher — who is holding a hand in the air.  Teacher gives “think time” before lowering the hand to signal “respond!”  You might offer a follow-up question: “How do you know that?”
  • Direct Instruction technique 2“Point-tap” when focussing on a visual stimulus with, for example, a list of words or math facts.  The teacher points, gives “think time” and then gives a verbal signal (e.g. “What word?”) followed by a pointer tap next to the word.  The tap is the signal to respond.  [Direct instruction techniques greatly increase students’ rate of response; they can also be immediately corrected and practice continued.]
  • Variation for reducing impulsive responses:   Tell students that when they know — or think they know — an answer to visually signal by putting their thumbs up.  Once a number of thumbs are up, call on individuals, or ask for a unison response.
  • Hand signals for Whole Group responsesFor example, thumbs up/thumbs down (or open hand/closed hand) from students could indicate “yes/no,” “agree/disagree.”  Finger signals — students might hold up a designated number of fingers to match their answers to the numbered list on the board.  One teacher recommends a “Fist of 5” technique as a pre-assessment tool to find out what students already know about a topic.  After asking “How well do I know this,” students show five fingers to mean “really well,” one finger to mean “not at all well.”
  • Write-on tools other than paper: Individual dry erase boards and colored markers or chalk boards can stimulate students who resist pencil and paper; after answers are written, teacher says “Boards up.”  This is good for any content area.
  • Pre-made response cards:  Try a)  cards with single-hole punch held together with a metal ring; b)  cards held together with a brass fastener and opened up like a fan; c)   single cards of cardstock or construction paper divided into sections and printed with a choice of responses (student might place a clothespin on the correct section).  [Note: students should have the response written on both sides of the card/paper, so both teacher and student can see which has been chosen.]  Selected examples: vowel sounds (a,e,i,o,u); parts of speech; math processes; final punctuation marks; social studies terms or concepts; literary terms; multiple choice (a,b,c).
  • Vary the method of calling on students:  To ensure all students in class get an equal opportunity to respond, write each student’s name on a deck of cards or tongue depressors and draw them out to call on students.  (Let them know that previously called on names may sometimes be re-called on, so they don’t tune out.)  Or: say “Everyone wearing earrings, stand up… this question is for you;” or “Everyone who has six letters in their last name may try to answer this question;” or “Anyone who has a birthday in January, February or March may answer this one…”  Students have the option to answer or pass.

 Always build in enough “wait time.”  At least five seconds and generally more is required for students to process many questions, gather their thoughts and be able to express them.  Think/pair/share techniques offer a chance for students to try answers out before being asked for individual responses — this automatically builds in extra “wait time.”  Try re-phrasing, ask probing questions, and wait longer for a response.  Ask students if they need more time.  Tell students who can’t answer right away that you’ll come back to them — then do so.

“Special questioning” procedures can be set in place for particular students.  Make special arrangements with certain students in private to help bolster their self-esteem.  Tell the student to raise his  hand with a closed fist, and agree that will mean you won’t call on him at that time.  If he raises an open hand, you will make every effort to call on him right then.  [This technique is reported to be helpful in changing peer perception of individuals who seldom raise their hands.]

source: Sandra F Rief’s wonderful book “How to Reach and Teach Children with ADD/ADHD: Practiced Techniques, Strategies and Iinterventions.”    Second edition, published by Jossey Bass Teacher . ISBN 0-7879-7295-9.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com 

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