Asking questions is critical for ensuring that students comprehend the material and keeping them engaged in different learning activities. Likewise, as educators, we need to enhance our strategies on how to teach students to ask questions.
This is vital to students’ capabilities to accept and process content and information, as well as encouraging autonomous and critical thinking. With our ability to ask effective questions, as expected from us, we can somehow teach our students to develop their communication skills and teach them to ask questions which are effective and creative.
The Essence of Effective Questioning
“There’s nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child.” Frank A. Clark
Every child has the right to education. Likewise, they have the right to ask questions and make clarifications. Children, with their playful minds, are often curious. They contemplate why things happen and it makes the learning scenario really fun and exciting.
Ultimately, teachers like us should learn amazing tips on how to teach students to ask questions. My first year in the teaching profession was spent in elementary school. Yes, I handled the kids and it was really meaningful. I saw a beautiful opportunity in front of me. I thought I was ready and I was excited to have a wonderful beginning. I was wondering exactly where to begin.
As I entered the classroom, I could see excited faces. Some would even approach me while walking towards my desk. I was amused by their great innocence. Their openness and playfulness made me feel years younger than my age. The quality of their innocence made them extremely beautiful.
The immersion into the teaching profession really required skill and a strong determination, I caught myself pondering. It’s really a world away from my comfort zone as an ordinary citizen of the world. Making extensions of my patience and my ways certainly made a big difference.
However, it’s totally different when you are in front of teens and grown adults. I have an invincible feeling that most students are afraid to ask questions because they are too shy or they find difficulty formulating questions. Hence, there is a great need to help them develop the habit of questioning.
Let’s make an extra push to help our students present themselves to achieve success. Likewise, as teachers, let us also learn amazing tips on effective ways to teach students to ask questions.
<<So, how do you encourage your students to ask questions? Check out our additional inputs below.
On Making Students ‘Sensible Questioners’
Sharing ideas in the classroom is not only about presenting views and making explanations. It is also about asking and inquiring. The ‘noticing’ and the ‘wondering’ have to be taken into consideration to promote productive learning.
Our students should enjoy the underlying benefits of asking questions. It always pays to prompt interest in how the brain works. Teaching our students to ask questions is encouraging them to be active participants in the learning process.
As a teacher, it is of deep interest to hear from my students. Thus, I always make a way to have each of my students be heard. I manage the pacing of the lessons very well to make sure they catch up and I differentiate instructions to make sure I cater to them all! For me, their ideas and opinions are essential to make them more independent learners.
The more they ask questions, the more they are on track with their learning goals. Their questions give me clues of their mindset as learners and I find this important in achieving their goals.
The Importance of Asking the Right Questions
The classroom will become a lively learning environment if the occupants are active and interactive. What causes boredom in some of our classes? The passive attitude of our students may cause longer hours in the classroom. Telling them what to do instead of asking them how to do it will less likely motivate them to participate.
This eventually leads me to the idea of developing my student’s skills in asking the right questions. Instead of showing them an array of events, I guide them to the ‘hows and whys’. This is a creative push to help students achieve something every single day. Their inquisitive minds explore for answers.
Most people think that it is the task of the teacher to always ask questions. It is true that teachers should develop the art of questioning but not for the sake of occupying the whole teaching process of asking questions.
Why is it important for students to develop their skills of questioning? It is because most classroom settings aren’t traditional anymore. The 21st-century classroom emphasizes the idea of having independent learners.
Students monitor their understanding and expand their thinking if they ask questions. It is a great manifestation that they are indeed learning. They have to develop new ways of thinking about concepts, issues, and solutions.
We, teachers, are not the center of attention anymore because we have long become the facilitators of learning. We are not the owner of the stage of information anymore.
As we unravel our students’ potential and as we help them achieve their learning goals, it is necessary to make learning really engaging by not feeding them information but by providing them opportunities to interact with the learning materials. Hence, their interests are sustained and their participation is improved.
We have to acknowledge the students’ role in the learning process so they will learn effectively. But for most of us teachers, a handful of day-to-day simple acts of encouragement increase the likelihood that our students gain confidence in sharing their views and ideas.
Simple questions like, ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘How did it happen?’ Really, it makes more sense than asking, ‘Who made it happen?’. Let me share amazing tips to teach students to ask questions to make your class discussions engaging and productive.
7 Tips on How to Teach Students to Ask Questions
1. Make Use of Inquiry-based learning and Experiential Learning
In an inquiry-based learning style, students are allowed to explore learning materials. Therefore, they are trained to express themselves by asking relevant questions and sharing their ideas through small group discussions.
On the other hand, using experiential learning in the classroom is a big help, too. It is learning by doing. As the students interact with the learning material, they are making their first-hand experiences count. Both inquiry-based and experiential learning styles have benefited students of all ages.
The more students explore the learning materials, the more they make learning meaningful. More oftentimes, with all the distractions in the classroom, as teachers, we also feel overwhelmed with how students receive learning instruction.
Aiming to make students benefit from learning, as teachers, we really extend from simple memorization of facts to deeply engaging the students in different activities. Our students may not say a word, but with our caring attitude, they have in their hearts thankful messages. It can be noticed in their actions. We just need to feel them and talk to them.
2. Promote Critical Thinking
Students of the 21st century are aiming to become critical thinkers. Practically, our students need to express their curiosity into sensible questions. Therefore, they have to be taught not only how to ask questions but also how to formulate the right questions, thereby promoting critical thinking skills.
As teachers, we have to keep in mind that we should not only be sharing with the students the information they need. Let them be heard in your classroom. Let’s keep ourselves offstage. This will help students to become more independent learners.
To develop the higher-order thinking skills of our students we need to re-evaluate our skill in using Bloom’s Taxonomy by Benjamin Bloom. It is a way of challenging our students in a constructive manner. As we consider the levels of our students, it is equally important to classify the learning objectives we set for them to accomplish interaction.
Allowing our students to express themselves fully and to make them the center of the educational process as it should be, will really make a difference. Turning our students into critical thinkers is also making them good at questioning.
As we empower students to be more involved in the learning process, we are helping them become problem solvers and decision-makers. Open-ended questions help students start an interactive discussion.
Let me show you an example of how to benefit from the power of using open-ended questions. As an English teacher, I always indulge my students to read stories of varying levels of difficulties.
It’s a common scenario in an English class. But how do I engage my students? Will asking them ‘what’s the title of the selection’ make them think critically at the beginning? Obviously, the answer is NO.
Let’s admit it. Asking basic informational questions will make learners with difficulty speak out. But, as teachers, we should not stop right there. By asking questions with no single right answer, we are allowing our students to think creatively and analytically.
As I introduce the learning material, a simple question like, “what do you think about this”, will lead my students to create many options. Although I can’t do away with traditional question words such as who, what, when, and where, for these are the basics, I feel the great need to ask open-ended questions to sustain the interests of my students.
As our students question us on why things happen, we have to make them feel how happy we are with their participation. Let’s get more interested in their views. This will add up to their confidence to ask questions.
3. Ask Open-ended Questions
Open-ended questions are very important in classroom discussions. By giving students something to think about, we are giving them the opportunity to think and to react. I believe asking open-ended questions to students will help them figure out answers that will eventually lead them to ask questions for interaction.
So, to arouse their curiosity, I would usually ask them to make guesses of what the story could be about based on the title and illustrations if there are any. This, in a sense, makes my students think critically.
With the simple analysis of the title, as to what the story could be about, students are allowed to share the reasons behind their thoughts. As our students answer open-ended questions, we are actually developing their language and vocabulary skills.
Because it has been a problem for students, especially for non-native speakers. Using the English language for some is quite a challenge. Some students really find it hard to use the language. By asking open-ended questions, our students take on the challenge of expressing their thoughts and ideas.
And out of curiosity, these students will also ask for clarifications along the way. This is ultimately the essence of using open-ended questions in our discussions. Follow-up questions will also make our students think analytically.
As we make use of small group discussions and guided learning, we are encouraging our students to take the benefit of collaborative work and efforts.
As they work together, they help build each other’s ideas and come up with a conclusion. Most importantly, the manner of doing it really matters.
There’s a big tendency that our students are brainstorming with their group mates and this builds the framework of developing their confidence to ask questions.
4. Make the Learning Environment Really Stimulating
Our students are often curious about things. They want to express their interests and concerns in so many ways and they just don’t know how to do it.
Well, teachers, we can always come in the way to guide our students. Our bulletin boards inside the classroom can capture students’ concerns.
With our creativity, we can make the classroom environment really engaging and interesting.
What should students see on the bulletin boards? Pretty well, don’t feed them with too many broad concepts.
As I put up my bulletin boards, I allow my students to help me. I make them feel that I need their ideas and assistance.
Interactive bulletin boards make our students think! The more engaging our bulletin boards are, the more our students get interested and develop hands-on learning.
5. Designate a Spot in Your Classroom for a ‘Parking Lot’
Have students post their burning questions! Get our students out of their seats by creating interactive bulletin boards that allow them to express themselves.
Yes, I let my students write their questions and post them in the parking lot. I visit the parking lot on a daily basis.
It’s also a way of tracking how my instructional delivery is as well as knowing where my students are in their learning goals.
I know that these students have a lot to share and to ask. Questions in the parking lot should be answered the next day in the form of a brief recall.
I involve my students in figuring out the answers, hence they are discovering and recalling the answers with the best efforts they have.
6. Ask Thin and Thick Questions
Our students should know how to distinguish the difference between thin and thick questions. A thin question has one definite answer and will not allow our students to think deeply.
These include the basic Wh-questions which I think should not be eliminated because they bring out the attainment of prerequisite knowledge and skills in the lower levels.
In contrast, thick questions encourage our students to make an analysis before they give the answers. In helping our students to ask questions, they have to know what type of question to ask. As we go along, we should make our students ask questions like, ‘what if’, ‘how would you feel’, ‘how and why did it happen’, and more other thick questions.
<<< Explore the art of questioning
7. Display a Positive Attitude And Allow Democracy
Getting students in the habit of questioning requires a positive attitude of the people around them. Asking questions should not only be the habit of teachers as what most people think. The skill of questioning should also be developed by students. We as teachers can do a lot to help them.
Students are not merely recipients of this information. They should be taught how to process their learning by allowing them to explore and experiment.
In a small group discussion, students learn how to collaborate among their peers and come up with answers or solutions to the problems.
This is democracy! Students are allowed to go about the essentials of learning and create their own patterns without drifting away from the essentials of good behavior. Of course, as teachers, we are always making our moves to always instill discipline no matter what.
We may be allowing our students to be themselves from time to time but they should always be reminded to do things in a manner. On my end, I make my students comfortable. I make them feel welcome. It is questioning from the heart as we teach them from the heart.
The accommodation of their questions makes them feel that it’s alright to bring out their ideas too. The more comfortable students are in the classroom, the more they are willing to be heard. Questioning is a habit of a curious mind as they say.
Curious students often notice even the slightest of things. However, there are students in our class who are content with reserving their questions to themselves.
What do they lack? They lack the confidence to talk and to share their views before the class because they’re afraid to be ridiculed.
Everything considered, the language of Anatole France that “The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards,” reminds us of the role our students have in the art of questioning.
There’s an increasing need for students to participate in classroom discussions to make learning more meaningful and satisfying for both teachers and students. Therefore, our students should not only listen to us all the time. I know that most of us are aware of the importance of interactive learning.
Do you have anything in mind to actively engage our students in learning content? How do you come up with student-generated questions? Keep us posted and let’s collaborate to allow our students to enjoy the benefits of asking questions!