A typical secondary level classroom on any given day in any particular subject will include questioning as a method for learning. The challenge is, however, the degree of effectiveness in its use. I visited many classrooms while I served as a curriculum specialist and I tried to understand why teachers fell into the "question trap."
Scenario One- a teacher asks a comprehension question, hands go up, teacher calls on a student who had hand raised, student answers question and teacher moves on with the lesson.
Scenario Two- a teacher asks a question, hands go up, teacher answers his own question and moves on with the lesson.
Scenario Three- a teacher asks a comprehension question, student answers, teacher moves on with lesson without follow-up higher level question. Let's look at why all three scenarios are "question traps:"
Scenario One: I challenge you to stop asking questions of students that are pretty sure of the answer, that is, those who raised their hands. Unless it is a "friendly reminder" of the answer, a teacher's job is to seek those who need to know. But if the teacher only calls on students with their hands raised how does he know who needs help?
Scenario One could look like this- a teacher asks a question, hands go up, teacher ignores hands and directs students to "answer question with a nearby partner." (ALL students answer question!) Teacher randomly calls on a partnership and they answer. Teacher encourages class affirmation or rejection of answer. Discussion follows or lesson continues.
Scenario Two: I challenge you to stop answering your own questions! Are you asking and answering for expedience? Are you tired of just hearing wrong answers or "I don't know" answers? Is it a habit? Please allow students to do the hard work of thinking and be confident that, in the long run, making students work for an answer will make them better thinkers! Wait time is hard for teachers to include because they think it's "waste time." Don't fall into this question trap!
Scenario Two could look like this- a teacher asks a question. He states clearly that he will give students time to think and at an appropriate time, asks follow up questions that may lead those who are unsure to the answer. Discussion follows or lesson continues.
Scenario Three: I challenge you to start asking follow-up questions that lead to higher level thinking! If we want our students to think only at basic knowledge and comprehension levels, then proceed with asking only basic level questions. Create the follow-up questions before class begins so that the questioning is deliberate and intentional. Be the Socrates of your classroom and encourage all students to answer questions with you, to you, and with each other.
Scenario Three could look like this- a teacher asks a low-level question. Students answer (see above) and immediately teacher asks a follow-up question that reaches, for example, application of information or judgement of information. Move up the ladder of Bloom's Taxonomy, always pushing students to think deeper.
For ways to enhance questioning in the classroom, click on the "Questioning Protocols" button.
I was asked a critical question from an instructional coach: "Are your students reading, writing, talking, and thinking in class every day? I answered, "Yes, of course!" But then I began to reflect and my answer became "most of the time." Then, after reviewing my practices in the classroom, my answer became "some of the time." Luckily, I was in a school that had a six strategy innovative instructional model called the Common Instructional Framework developed by Jobs for the Future. Later, another model, NCNS's Aligned Instructional Strategies, in my opinion, improved on the former. Let's look at these strategies, but a reminder that strategies are only as good as the teacher using them. Strategies are the guiding principles that promote excellence in the classroom and protocols support strategies. Let's look at the strategies:
The Collaboration Strategy generates focused groups, enables students to communicate, both as speaker and listener, exposes them to other points of view, and maximizes engagement. Individual accountability within the group is paramount for true collaboration to exist. Click on "Collaboration Protocols" for additional ways to make collaboration easy in the classroom.
The Discussion Strategy is a process by which both speaking and listening skills are taught and valued. It promotes collaboration and questioning skills as well. The suggested ratio is 80% student talk to 20% teacher talk. Click the "Discussion Protocols" button to enhance classroom talk!
The Feedback Strategy provides both teacher and student perspective on performance in relation to goals sought and meaningful ways to improve. Data collection, formative assessments, and student self-assessment are examples included on this page. Click on "Feedback Protocols" for additional methods and strategies.
The Questioning Strategy assists students to connect concepts, make inferences, increase awareness, encourage creative and imaginative thought, aid critical thinking processes, and generally helps students explore deeper levels of knowing, thinking, and understanding. Click "Questioning Protocols" for more information and specific protocols to use.
The Reading Strategy promotes the idea that building reading skills is a continuous process. Incorporating reading and skills to improve reading creates a sense of expectation and importance for students. Reading must be included in all secondary subjects. Click the "Reading Protocols" for specific reading strategies.
The Writing Strategy is a process that promotes critical thinking and is not content-specific. These strategies help students to develop expressive language skills and fluency as well as train students to process information. Writing should be included in all subjects, including mathematics. Click "Writing Protocols" for ways that will improve learning via the written word.
I believe that every professional in the business would agree that time in the classroom is finite and valuable. So why do we sometimes give in to the "group work" mentality? We've all had times when it easier to put students together and let them work through problems, questions, or even to start homework before class ended. Our instructions are minimal ("get into groups no larger than four and do problems 1-10 even only"). Sometimes it goes well and other times you may wonder why in the world the students were not working. It's time to go "beyond group work."
Collaboration in the classroom is planned, organized, and with clear objectives in mind. With prior planning it can also be spontaneous. How? Early in the semester create and assign teams, trios, and groups of four. These group assignments do not need to be by name. For me, I used gem names for groups of four (pearl, garnet, diamond, emerald, etc.), trios were numbers (1,2,3), and teams were letters (A Team, Z Team, etc.) While groups of four were set, trios and teams could change. For example, “Get into trios with a one two and three-your choice.” Provide students with a sticker to remind them of their groupings and ask them to place it on their folder for the class, but make sure you have the master copy just in case a student forgot to bring their folder. A sticker would have their name, their gem group, their trio number, and their team letter.
Of course, these can be modified based on personality, academic strength, etc. But the important thing is to plan it, assign it, and stick to it.
When you want students to work in groups, be very specific in directions. (“You will be working in teams today, I want As to work problems 2,4, and Bs 1,3,. Do not share your work yet. At the designated time, A you will work 1, 3 and B you will work 2,4. When time is called, share answers and work through problems if there is a discrepancy.”
There’s a lot going on here. First, the burden of all of the work is not on the “smart” student, a major complaint of high-flyers. For collaboration to really happen, each student has a specific part of the whole assignment. Students must talk to each other vocally explaining how they arrived at their answer. Second, the teacher is monitoring the students. This is critical, especially at the beginning of the semester. As the semester progresses, allow students more freedom because they know what is expected. Finally, for true collaboration to take place, each member of the group must be dependent on others with the group; otherwise, some students slide while others work hard. Make sure students are held accountable for their efforts- as an individual and as part of a team.
There are plenty of ways to teach students (37) that include collaboration as the main strategy. Click on Classroom Protocols, then Collaboration, and start exploring. If you like what you see, let me know. Do you have a strategy that you would like to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words are so powerful, just take the word informal. For many, informal means “casual” and casual means unplanned, off-the-cuff, and spontaneous. Following through on that thought, if the words “informal” and “assessment” are joined, there may be a misunderstanding that informal assessments are unplanned, off-the-cuff, and spontaneous too. Truly, to maximize time with students and to use informal assessments properly, deliberately planning informal assessments throughout the lesson is a must! When teachers insert an informal assessment before, during, or after a lesson, the first question that comes to mind is what is the purpose of the assessment? Is it to measure a student’s progress or to check understanding or to allow students to monitor their own learning? An informal assessment must have a primary purpose, otherwise, time is wasted! The protocol below is a standard in many American classrooms and if used properly, the K-W-L chart can provide mountains of data, for both teacher and student alike:
K-W-L CHART (Feedback, Writing, Discussion)
Description: K-W-L, a classic graphic organizer designed by Donna Ogle, connects prior knowledge with new information for maximum learning opportunities.
Application: This chart can be used as an assessment of learning.
Process: Have a topic in mind before class meets. Direct the students to create a three column chart (Label column one “K,” column two, “W,” and column three, “L.”). Announce the topic and remind students to write the topic at the top of the paper. Give instructions and allow thinking time: 1) List everything they Know about the topic; 2) Write everything they Want to know about the topic and set-aside; and 3) after the lesson, reflect and write what they Learned about the topic. Ask students to be thorough in the last column and discuss answers and/or turn-in as an informal assessment.
Ogle, D.M. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading in expository text. Reading Teacher 39 (6), 564-570.
As a new teacher I mistakenly thought that if students were busy, learning was happening. Indeed, I was the queen of classroom activities and students seemed to learn and enjoy my class. In reality, however, my students were "busy," but not actively engaged and my scores proved it. I realized that "busy" wasn't enough! As a member of the early college system, I was challenged by these questions, Are my students reading, writing, thinking, and talking in my class everyday? Are they allowed to have experiences that include working as individuals, but also as a member of a group? Are they held accountable for their work or lack thereof? Consider looking at your practice through the lens of active engagement versus students just being busy. If you are anything like me, you will be amazed. The protocol below has all of the active engagement elements listed. Enjoy!
It's easy to be frustrated at the numerous "trends" in education. Educators are constantly bombarded with new ideas, new vocabulary, and yes, new policy. It seems that just when teachers have mastered understanding and implementation, the trend loses its luster and a new one replaces it. One educational trend in particular, differentiation, has inspired both love and hate. Critics say it's an impossible goal to customize every lesson for every learner.
Advocates claim that each student deserves to be taught at the correct level of difficulty; otherwise, it's a futile endeavor. I am going to ride the fence on this one and say both positions have merit. Critics have a point about the overwhelming feeling teachers get when they begin to think about personalizing lessons. To make matters worse, PD on the subject can be confusing, intimidating, and guilt-ridden. Supporters believe that a teacher can be more intentional in planning lessons that benefit the maximum amount of students. Most “new” ideas in education begin with a perceived shortcoming. In the case of differentiation, could it be that years ago most high school teachers lectured, assigned homework, and gave a test at the end of a unit and moved on to the next unit? I know that was standard for my high school experiences! Even if you are uneasy about the "differentiation situation," take a look at the protocol below. With the help of Bruce Campbell, I have listed ways to incorporate differentiation in the classroom.
TIER TIME (Writing, Reading, Discussion)
Description: Comprehensive in manner, Tier Time outlines various approaches to differentiation within a classroom. Author-teacher Bruce Campbell encourages teachers to use more than one approach within a lesson.
Application: Tier Time is appropriate for all classes and levels of students.
Process: Examine the six different approaches:
Campbell, Bruce. “Using Tiered Activities to Differentiate.” 2nd Annual SDE National Conference on Differentiated Instruction: Theory Into Practice. Las Vegas, NV. 18 July 04-21 July 04.
Happy New Year! I hope your winter vacation was all that you needed it to be and more! As for me, I went to the local movie theater and enjoyed escaping reality for two hours, well, really, two and a half hours because of the previews. It hit me that movie patrons are captive to the previews and not only do they provide interest in upcoming movies, previews also include advertisements and subtle (and not so subtle) reminders about appropriate behavior within the theater. This simple marketing method works and since students are part of the movie-going pop culture, incorporating a preview slide deck at the beginning of each class or each week will give students something comfortable and meaningful to view as they settle in for the day’s lesson. Just think of the possibilities of converting marketing methods to the classroom!
SLIDE DECK (Feedback, Discussion, Writing)
Description: Just like movie theaters use a slide deck loop as patrons enter the theater (The loop features things like movie facts, advertisements, trivia, and reminders.), the Slide Deck is used to focus, remind, and inform students as they enter the classroom.
Application: Use the Slide Deck in any subject as a class starter either daily or weekly depending on focus.
Process: Create an attention-getting slide deck of five to ten slides that will loop as students enter the class. Include slides related to the course material, but also items such as multiple-choice questions, quotes from a reading, a picture with a “What is this?” question, fill-in-the-blank statement, and/or important announcements that outline upcoming deadlines. If available, post the Slide Deck for students to use as an additional resource.
Honeycutt, B. Three Focusing Activities to Engage Students in the First Five Minutes of Class
Last week I read an intriguing article on "Exam Debriefs" by Maryellen Weimer, PhD in the online magazine Faculty Focus. Dr. Weimer challenges instructors to make testing a learning opportunity instead of just an entry in the grade book. This is innovation at its finest. Traditionally, teachers will "go over" answers from a test/exam, either in total or only the answers missed. (How tedious it must be for the student to review things she answered correctly!) While some may have questions about the implementation; for example, how to grade both quickly and efficiently or how to keep students from cheating, the notion that learning can happen from an unlikely source (exams and tests) has merit.
DOUBLE-TAKE TEST (Feedback, Writing)
Description: Based on an article by Maryellen Weimer, PhD, a Double-Take Test allows students to correct their own tests giving them opportunities to learn material missed during study or to clear up any misunderstandings of the content. It can also be used as a measuring stick for the effectiveness of a student’s study methods.
Application: Use this two-stage testing method for multiple-choice tests in any subject.
Process: Create a multiple-choice test with a separate answer sheet. Before administering the test, decide corrections format. (Will students make corrections independently or in a group, during class time or at home?) Review the guidelines with students: 1) Read question, review answer choices, select best answer, and mark answer on both test book and answer sheet; 2) at completion, submit answer sheet and keep test book; and 3) follow format instructions and review answers in book, make corrections, and submit next class meeting. Score both test book and answer sheet awarding two points if answers to question are correct on both, one point if answer was correct on one but not the other, and no points if answers to question are incorrect on both. (If cheating is a concern, avoid “at home” corrections and provide time the next class meeting for students to make corrections.)
Weimer, Maryellen (October 19, 2016)
Feedback is one of the greatest tools a teacher can wield to help students improve, but teaching students to look at their own learning and adjust has double the power. Consider teaching students ways that they can check their work and you will give them a gift of gold! Here are two examples:
LEADER OF MY OWN LEARNING (Feedback, Discussion)
Description: Students keep track of their own learning by keeping a data record and reflecting upon it. “Research shows that when students track their own learning and data, they take ownership of their learning, have intrinsic motivation, and perform better on high-stakes tests.”- Kristine Nannini
Application: Use of a student-generated data tracker with reflection tool allows students to monitor and adjust their learning at any given time.
Process: Explain the purpose of a student data tracker and that it is not optional. At the beginning of the course, remind students to enter data as they receive grades and to comment when needed (improvement strategy or reminder to retest, etc.). To make students accountable, occasionally require students to present tracker for a graded assignment.
STEP BY STEP PROJECT CHECK (Feedback, Writing, Collaboration, Discussion)
Description: Similar to the KWL chart, this graphic organizer specifically targets steps in a process or project in a meaningful and deliberate way.
Application: Use this graphic organizer when student accountability in a multi-step process or project is desired.
Process: Hand out graphic organizer (Addendum VV) to students (individual or groups) at critical points in a project. Tell them to describe what they have accomplished thus far (discernment) and what they need to do next (prioritization). Only after the priorities list has been accomplished will they reflect on how they did it (accomplishment). Ask for students to turn in sheet and use as a formative assessment. If students are struggling with the project, direct them to review the priorities list.
The traditional high school math class can be tedious. The teacher asks students to take out their homework and then review some or all of the problems students had difficulty solving. Questions to ask the teacher: What are all the students doing who answered that particular question correctly? What if a student doesn't feel comfortable sharing he had difficulty solving the problem? What if students are delaying the lesson by seeking help with problems they know how to solve? What if the teacher is working harder to solve the problem than the students? Student accountability, engagement, and interaction with fellow students can reduce symptoms of a tedious classroom. Special thanks goes to visiting Jamaican teacher, Keno Kerr of Cross Creek Early College, for this engaging mathematics-centered protocol.
68. EVERYBODY TO THE BOARD! (Discussion, Collaboration, Writing)
Description: An adaptation of Chalk Talk, this highly engaging approach provides students not only an opportunity to be accountable as an individual learner, but also as a team.
Application: Everybody To The Board! can be used to assess student understanding, increase participation in discussions, and/or to review homework. The protocol is perfect for math but can be adapted for other subjects.
Process: Have specific problems in mind before class meets. (If using as a review of homework, ask students which problems posed difficulty.) Determine if there is enough space at the chalk/white board for every student to work at the same time. (If not, arrange for one mini white board per student.) Before using this protocol for the first time, give the following directions: 1) move to the board or get a mini white board when the teacher says, “Everybody to the board;” 2) write first name at the top of the working area; 3) listen and write the problem down underneath name or copy the projected problem (all students work on the same problem at the same time); 4) work the problem as an individual, showing steps; 5) at teacher’s signal to stop, switch places with partner, standing in front of partner’s problem; 6) study partner’s steps and answer; 7) explain the steps to the originator of the steps/solution, either agreeing with the answer or challenging the solution; and 8) repeat process with partner. At appropriate time call on a random team to share with the entire class, asking for other team’s feedback (Was the solution correct? Is there another way to reach this answer?) Direct all students to move to another location with new neighbors and repeat process with a new problem.
Keno Kerr, CCECHS
I am going to shock a few teachers out there when I tell them that our innovative model wants students to be engaged and talking in class 80% of the time which means only 20% is left for the teacher. Think about it, 20%! While we may never reach the nirvana of 80-20, it should give us pause as to how much we dominate the discussion in class. Direct instruction is necessary, but how many opportunities are missed or how many behavior problems occur because students sit passively listening?
Facilitating student talk is a skill that must be honed. Start small and work your way to the magic numbers. We want each student to be actively involved in class so that their confidence in articulation increases. Students need to be good at both speaking and listening. Both teacher and students are accountable:
How do we know that student talk is taking place? What is the evidence? Ask:
ASK THREE BEFORE ME (Questioning, Discussion)
Description: This is a student-centered procedure focusing on student self-reliance.
Application: Use this procedure as a guiding doctrine in the classroom.
Process: Teach students that at certain times when they are working on an assignment and have a question, they must ask each other rather than asking the teacher first.
Last week I moved houses. There was fun, drama, and an occasional pity party, but all-in-all, I realized I needed it. I transferred this idea to teaching and it made me think about all of the educational moves I made in my nearly twenty years. I took a serious risk about ten years ago when I heard that my district was adding an early college to the system. It was going to be located at the local university and the entire program was just starting. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that moving to this school would change my life, but it did! Just one year later, I became the district's Teacher of the Year and that opened other doors of opportunity. That original move, as scary as it was, was the best thing that happened to me as an educator. I still reap the rewards.
Moving to another school or even a different classroom in the same school can spark a renewed sense of purpose. Moving can also force us to trim our collections of materials or resources, get more organized, or even use more technology! Look at a move as an opportunity rather than the hassle that it is and you will be settled sooner than you think! Good luck!
This protocol is wonderful and it involves students moving. Take a look:
STAND-SEEK-SPEAK (Collaboration, Feedback, Discussion, Questioning)
Description: This protocol allows students to think individually before thinking and explaining together.
Application: Use this activity to practice a concept just taught or as a review. It can be used in a mathematics course.
Process: Create a set of questions. Ask first question, requiring students to answer it on their own. (Give them a time limit, depending on the difficulty of the question.) Once time is called, ask all students to stand. Direct them to raise their hands when they have found a partner and assist students that still need a partner. Have partners discuss their answer(s) to each other or help solve if the problem was unfinished. Instruct students to stay where they are to solve the next question and to find a new partner, repeating the process until all questions have been asked and answered.
Alison Thetford, M.Ed