Tina sent me this from the new video course she is writing. It is from the first section called “Foundations of CI Instruction” and is a lecture on questioning techniques. She asked me to post it here so she can get feedback and ideas from the group. Here is the text that needs critiquing:
I used to question individual students frequently in class, and was even praised for it by my administrators and colleagues who came by to observe my teaching. I would say, “Danielle, what did I just say?”
However, I have since dropped that practice in favor of whole-class questions. Why did I drop something that adults love to see teachers doing? Because I felt it was not in the best interests of my students.
For one, sometimes a kid could not tell me what I had just said. So, they felt bad. When really it was my fault for losing them. Now I just assume that if they do not get 100% of what I am saying, I am OK with that as long as they are getting the overall message and purpose of the class.
Also, it raised students’ affective filters. Students quickly learned that I had a pattern of calling own individuals to check their comprehension. Some were very nervous and fearful about this, and understandably so.
Finally, I found myself using individual questions as a bludgeon for classroom management. I am not proud of this, but I assume that it is just basic human nature. I would call on kids that I thought had tuned me out, to shame them. Calling on the whole class takes away that temptation and I have had to learn other ways to reengage students who are not tuning in to class.
Questioning the whole class also helps get everyone involved. You establish a back-and-forth with the class, in order to help them engage with you. Asking questions also lets you formatively assess students’ comprehension. It also allows you to gauge the students’ level of engagement with the instruction. In a proficiency-oriented classroom, we are not focused so much on delivering certain content as on conveying interesting, understandable messages in L2 that our students want to read/hear. Therefore, we can feel free to switch topics/activities if student responses to our questions indicate waning interest. We never want to hear signs of boredom or that “This Is Lame” edge in students’ responses.
About every two or three utterances, and sometimes more frequently, I like to stop and ask a whole-class question or a series of questions. These are done with a kind of “teacherly” air, as one might do in a Social Studies or Science lecture.
Often I will ask the class, “X en anglais?” if X is a word that I am not sure that they comprehended. If the response is strong, then I do a literal little happy dance right then and there. If it is weak, I establish meaning before moving on.
If I do not get a good response from the class, to any type question, I assume that they did not understand the question. I will clarify meaning (repeating, gesturing, emoting with my body/voice, pointing to a visual aid, asking the class to translate, etc.) and then
You can ask anything as long as the kids understand the question, but here are some kinds of questions that serve me well are:
X in English, class?
Either-Or: Is this shoe blog or purple?
Either-Or-Or: Is this shoe blue or purple, or blue AND purple?
How many, and give possible answers: How many shoes are there? Three shoes or two?
Review facts questions: What is the dog’s name? Is the shoe a Nike or a Sketchers? What sport does JahAllah like to play?
I see no need to worry about how many different kinds of questions we are asking. I mean, I doubt the science teachers are counting how many either-or versus review questions they are asking. What I think we should worry about is asking questions frequently enough to keep kids engaged.
When the class is just starting out, it is good to give them a lot of either-or questions so they can use what you said in the question to formulate an answer.