5 Tips to Kickoff this week’s Questioning & Discussion -Apalooza

1. What will you ask? Plan your questions in advance. Know your objective and plan questions that will support students’ deep understanding around that objective.

2. When will you ask? If you plan to ask two questions during a read aloud, sticky note them in the text. Maybe you are interested in students discussing their opinion about a topic you will dig deeply into during class. You may want to ask once in the beginning of class, and again toward the end of class.

3. Encourage thinking. One sure fire way to avoid critical thinking is to ask a question, and immediately begin accepting rapid fire answers from a sea of waving fingertips you’re pretty sure are attached to students in your class. How will you ensure students think before they speak? Will you give them 30 seconds of silent think time? Will you ask them to stop and jot on a sticky?

4. Honor their ideas. So, you’ve created a situation where all 25 of your students have stopped and really thought about how a pink square of chewing gum would change after 10 minutes of saliva rich, horse-like chomping. They thought!! There was smoke coming out of their ears, their sticky-notes are full and their sitting at the edge of their seats! Now what? Which two students will share in the 3 minutes you have? How will your choice impact student motivation the next time you ask a question? Consider a participation structure from the New Teacher Center’s Oral Language Development Website like a Turn and Talk or a Write-Pair-Share, with the idea that those who are doing the talking are doing the learning. (No pressure!!)

5. Encourage Listening. One of the reasons discussion is such an important skill, is because as life-long learners, we seize the opportunity to learn from someone each time we engage in a discussion. If we truly want our students to learn to do the same, we must teach them to listen. (I laugh every the teacher in the the Turn & Talk video describes what turn & talk looked like in September~ she is SO right!!) One way, is to encourage students to share out after they discuss in partnerships or small groups. Here’s the secret, “Boys & Girls, I’d like you to think about what interesting, new ideas your partner shared with you during the conversation you just had. Who heard something they hadn’t yet considered and would like to share with the class?”

I can’t wait to hear how your Monday goes! Remember, we’re thinking about one domain each week. All of this deep thinking around questioning & discussion will take about 5- minutes of actual instructional time… Play with it all week- make it your own- adapt it for your students… I wonder how different if will look by Friday!

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Author: Alicia

I am convinced that the best way to improve educational outcomes for students is to support and empower teachers. I have been a teacher in Rhode Island for eleven years and am returning to my classroom after two years on full-release, supporting beginning teachers. This work is amazing and my learning never stops! I have learned so much about schools, learning, teaching and the power of collaboration.

4 thoughts on “5 Tips to Kickoff this week’s Questioning & Discussion -Apalooza”

  1. Thank you for posting all of the videos in your last post! I’m going to try the turn and talk tomorrow during my read aloud. I really want them to get “what are the characteristics of a good friend?” I don’t think they’ll say much if I ask that though… We’re reading Freak the Mighty right now and the kids love it, so I definitely think this is the time to get them talking.

    1. Hi Lee!
      Well, it seems that you already have a clear purpose in your mind, so that’s a great start! I noticed you mentioned the fear of students not saying anything at all which is something all of us fear! The teacher next door to me once said, “I asked them to turn and talk, but they didn’t say anything….now what do I do?” Let’s face it….we’ve all been there! So, I think we all need to take a step back and remember that academic conversations don’t just magically happen. We really need to teach and model what this looks like for students and give them immediate feedback as they begin to engage in conversations with their peers. I’m wondering if maybe you gave students some “think time” to jot their thoughts on a post-it before engaging in the turn and talk, they may be more likely to participate. Perhaps, posting questions around the room and having students take part in some “wall talk” where they can silently record their thoughts with a marker on chart paper and/or respond to others’ thoughts might ease them into more formal face-to-face conversations. I’ve also seen “snowball fights” where students respond to a question on a piece of paper (anonymously) and then they get in a circle and throw the crumbled papers or “snowballs.” Next, students share out what their “snowball” says and then others can agree/disagree, etc. Again, it’s “safe” for students to respond because the “snowball” is anonymous. Hope this helps, Lee. Anxious to hear how things went for you.

      PS….Great book choice! I haven’t had a class yet that hasn’t loved that book! 🙂

  2. Hey Lee! I love that you know where you are ultimately heading!!! That is the key. Don’t get bogged down by the level of every question you ask, instead follow your instincts a keep thinking about exactly what you are… “will they have much to say about that?” I love the text you’re reading- in my 6th grade class it’s a huge hit. Maybe there are two different places you can stop in your reading and ask students to consider a perspective less considered like, “What do you think Tony D was thinking when he did that?” or “What might have motivated Tony D to do that?” It sounds like you are going to be making the most of this week! Please let us know how it’s going!

  3. Hi Lee!
    Well, it seems that you already have a clear purpose in your mind, so that’s a great start! I noticed you mentioned the fear of students not saying anything at all which is something all of us fear! The teacher next door to me once said, “I asked them to turn and talk, but they didn’t say anything….now what do I do?” Let’s face it….we’ve all been there! So, I think we all need to take a step back and remember that academic conversations don’t just magically happen. We really need to teach and model what this looks like for students and give them immediate feedback as they begin to engage in conversations with their peers. I’m wondering if maybe you gave students some “think time” to jot their thoughts on a post-it before engaging in the turn and talk, they may be more likely to participate. Perhaps, posting questions around the room and having students take part in some “wall talk” where they can silently record their thoughts with a marker on chart paper and/or respond to others’ thoughts might ease them into more formal face-to-face conversations. I’ve also seen “snowball fights” where students respond to a question on a piece of paper (anonymously) and then they get in a circle and throw the crumbled papers or “snowballs.” Next, students share out what their “snowball” says and then others can agree/disagree, etc. Again, it’s “safe” for students to respond because the “snowball” is anonymous. Hope this helps, Lee. Anxious to hear how things went for you.

    PS….Great book choice! I haven’t had a class yet that hasn’t loved that book! 🙂

What do you think?