Quality Questioning Strategies
Motivation+Engagement+Rigor=Student Success
April 2013

I know April is a busy month for you.  For most of us, we are trying to make sure we are getting all our content in before testing.  Please remember to take a moment everyday, take a deep breath, and remember your true reason for teaching.  After the February newsletter, I received lots of questions about my newest book on Rigor for Students with Special Needs.  The manuscript is totally finished, and in the hands of my publisher for printing.  It looks like an early June release, but I'll definitely let you know a more official date next month. 


Don't forget there are almost 100 free resources on my website.  Start with the Free Resources Tab and go from there!

Finally, who do you know who might benefit from this newsletter?  Please forward it to them and remind them they make a difference, just like you do.

Quality Questions:  A Foundation for Rigor 


The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.

Alice Wellington Rollins 



     I cannot stress enough how important it is to plan your questions.  You may adapt them during the lesson, but simply "going with the flow" will not help students understand the content at a rigorous level. When teachers carefully craft their questions, a higher level of understanding is achieved than when all of the questions are spontaneous.

     Next, construct questions that ask students to think critically and provide support for their answers. Higher-level questions that have more than one right answer require students to stretch their minds. There are several models for questioning, including Bloom's Taxonomy, Webb's Dimensions of Knowledge, and Costa's House of Questions.  Googling any of these will provide a wealth of information.

     Finally, differentiate your questions. All students need to feel successful. For some, that means answering simple, open-ended questions correctly to build confidence. But then, they will need to move on to more complex questions. Know the level at which each student needs to be challenged and use that information to customize your questioning.

Principal's Perspective

When observing in teachers' classrooms, take a look at more than the higher order questioning.  How do students respond?  Do they answer with lower level responses? Does the teacher probe and extend the answer, or just move on?  These are critical aspects of a rigorous classroom.  
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Tips for Teachers


Be sure your questions are clear.


Ask yourself, "Does my question require students to demonstrate true understanding or is it just a memorization question?"


What do you do if a student doesn't respond correctly?  Do you move on to another student, answer the question yourself, or use probing and guiding questions to help the student demonstrate understanding?  It's important to help a student understand, rather than moving on.  Using pair-shares prior to asking individual students for answers is a more effective way for students to demonstrate understanding. 


Use question stems (such as "what if", "why might", or "which would") as starters for students to create their own questions.  





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