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Questioning for Student Engagement

Now that your students are back from the Holiday Break and are (hopefully!) done dreaming of sugar plums, candy canes, and gifts… it is a good time to re-look at student engagement in your classroom. A good place to start is making your questioning count! According to the book Class Acts there are three types of questions that are typically seen in classrooms:

  1. Assessment Questions:  Questions where we are asking for concrete pieces of information that can be verified and quantified. The downfall of only using assessment questions is that you usually only get a response from one student so you are not verifying all students understanding. 
  2. Open Questions: This is most common question type. The more open questions we ask, the less responses we get. This is sometimes called “fishing for answers.” The downfall of open questions is that you have more call-outs and shout-outs and your fastest students usually always get to answer first.
  3. Engagement Questions/Statements: These types of questions task students in specialized ways “to ensure maximum participation or lead students into deeper levels of thinking.” Engagement questions often involve student signals (for instance: “hold up your right hand if you think the answer is X minus 3, and your left hand if you think the answer is X plus 3”) and motivate students’ involvement in a response as well as requiring a response. 
Questions You Want Students to Answer Type of Question Ways to Re-phrase for Engagement
“Raise your hand if you can name the parts of a flower.” Assessment “Show me with your fingers how many parts there are in a flower. Whisper to your neighbor what those are.”
“Ellen, what is the capital of Utah?” Assessment [Raise hand to indicate stop.] “Now think. What is the capital of Utah?” [Lower hand.] “Everyone?” [Snap fingers for choral response.]
“Which spelling is correct?” Open “Here are two different spellings the dictionary gives. Stand if you think option 1 is preferred. Stay seated if you think option 2.”
“Which of the seven continents would you most like to live on?” Open [Photos of continents in room.] “Stand by the continent that you would like to live on.”

Now is the time to re-look at the types of questions being asked to make sure we are engaging ALL students in our classrooms. 

Information taken from
Class Acts: Your Guide to Activate Learning

 By: Gary Forlini, Ellen Williams, and Annette Brinkman. 

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