Teachers know from their training and experience that questioning plays an important role in today’s instruction. Modern lessons are fast-paced and interactive, with teachers asking a lot of questions. Questions account for [about] 80 percent of classroom talk and that some teachers ask more than 100 of them per hour! Because this instructional strategy dominates class time and because students are active during the lesson, there are more chances for management problems to arise if teachers do not follow good questioning techniques.
Classroom management problems occur under two circumstances during question-and-answer sessions. First, if students are dissatisfied or bored, they may exhibit offtask behavior as a way to let the teacher know that the instruction is failing to meet their needs. Generally, students are not asked whether they like a lesson, so misbehavior is their only recourse for providing immediate feedback to the teacher. Second, students may misbehave if they are unclear about the expected behavior. Exchanges between teachers and students occur quickly during a question-and-answer session, and teachers seldom make explicit the way they want the class to respond. Thus, students act out because they are unable to “read the teacher’s mind.”
1. Write out some questions when planning the lesson. Generate questions that are clearly written, appropriate for the students’ ability, and sequenced in a logical way. To go a step further in their support, teachers can project the planned questions on a screen using overheads or PowerPoint slides. By doing so, all students can see them on the screen and hear the teacher asking them. In effect, the instruction becomes clearer and multisensory by providing both auditory and visual input.
2. Establish your expectations for behavior before beginning the questioning period. Teachers may want to remind students to raise their hands, listen carefully to classmates’ comments, and respect one another’s right to self-expression. Clarifying the ground rules reduces confusion and helps everyone know how to act.
3. Call on a variety of students. Teachers can keep students’ attention by calling on them randomly. Because the learners are uncertain about on whom the teacher will call, they will remain attentive. Effective educators know that they must interact with all children by the end of the lesson and that they must keep all children engaged for maximum learning to occur.
4. Cue students before asking the question. Cueing the class before asking the question can minimize disruptive outbursts. For example, call on a specific student before asking the question.
5. Ask questions that are the appropriate level for each student. When students feel success, they are more inclined to persist with a task. To help them feel success, the teacher should tactfully ask questions at the appropriate level.
6. Ask questions that elicit positive or correct responses. Students will remain motivated and more willing to remain intellectually engaged with the teacher if they feel positively toward the information and can answer the teacher’s questions correctly most of the time. Students generally will not disrupt the lesson if they are feeling successful.
7. Provide students with sufficient wait time after asking a question and before responding to their comments. Students must first hear the question and decide whether they understand it. Second, they must recall the information from their memories. Third, they must consider whether their response will be accepted; and, fourth, they must decide whether the teacher will praise or rebuke their response. When teachers increase the amount of wait time, the length of the responses increases, the responses reflect higher-level thought, and the failures to respond decrease.
8. Vary the way students respond to questions. Responding verbally is the most common way for students to answer the teacher’s question. An alternate approach is to ask everyone to jot down an answer before calling on a student. The act of writing makes the question-and-answer session more multisensory. Requiring students to record their answers encourages wider participation by the class and reduces management problems because students are too busy writing and do not have time to misbehave.
9. Vary the person who responds to the questions. Rather than the teacher always responding to the students, another variation is to ask classmates to respond to one another’s responses. This approach promotes positive social interaction by encouraging respectful listening. It also involves more people in the lesson and creates a more interactive exchange between individuals.
10. Respond to every answer and correct errors. Listen carefully to students’ comments and maintain a high ratio of positive to negative verbal feedback. Respond to every answer and offer specific praise. By doing so, teachers show their students that they value their ideas. As a result, students will be more inclined to behave because they know that they are respected.
11. Ask follow-up questions. The goal of a question-and-answer session is to get everyone to talk, and one way to foster more discussion is to ask follow-up questions. Teachers can elicit more discussion by asking students to justify or explain their reasoning. Asking “why” questions promotes higher-order thinking.
12. Encourage students to ask questions. Teachers must take deliberate steps to get their learners to ask questions. Once the classroom culture of questions has been established, students then will feel more comfortable asking them.
Excerpt from “12 Questioning Strategies that Minimize Classroom Management Problems” written by Nathan Bond.