12/19/17: Ask me at least 2 questions

We need to stop asking “Do you have any questions?”. It’s not inviting, most of the time the teacher doesn’t give me enough time to think of a question, and I know a lot of people are too scared of asking questions in fear of sounding dumb.

It’s hard to get accurate feedback from students. All the students could be nodding their heads but that doesn’t mean that they completely understand what we just talked about. My partner told me that at his leadership retreat, he learned about questioning skills, and told me about “Ask me at least __ questions” and “What are your questions?” as alternatives to “Do you have any questions?”. With these alternatives, you are already assuming that they have questions and it doesn’t risk the student sounding dumb if they have a question. Through experience in the past 2 years, the latter question doesn’t seem as effective as the former, so I’ve stuck with the former.

In the beginning, the students seemed a little weirded out with the question, but as it became more normalized, students felt more comfortable. I started to get higher-level thinking questions, such as “What if we had three numbers?” when I introduced the Euclidean Algorithm to find the greatest common divisor, or “Why do we consider two bases in the trapezoidal area formula but not in the parallelogram area formula?”

This statement forces students to think of questions, and if they had a question to begin with, they feel better with asking since we are not moving on until the class asks 2 questions.

Side note: do NOT give in to silence. There is going to be awkward silence bit if you give in, it just shows students that all they have to do is not talk for 5 seconds and then you’ll move on. DO NOT GIVE IN. There were a couple times where I had to wait a minute until someone spoke up but it shows that you are serious. Even if they completely understand the topic, make them think of higher-level questions. Sure, some may argue that we wasted a minute of class time, but isn’t it worth it if it leads to a higher-level question that a student is curious of?

One other approach that I sometimes have students do as a replacement is to have them debrief in their groups for 1 minute. This gives them an opportunity to either go over the problem again, or ask each other questions that they are scared of asking in front of the entire class. During this time, I am walking around the room so students can pull me in and ask a question personally as well.

Overall, assume that students have questions (because they most likely do). “Ask me at least __ questions.” is way more inviting than “Do you have any questions?”.

So, with all this said, ask me at least 2 questions. I’ll wait. 🙂