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Encouraging Questions in the Classroom

A good teacher makes a difference to young lives by opening up a world of knowledge and discovery on a daily basis. Whilst structured topics, lesson plans and your individual wisdom are key to an effective learning environment, young children should also be encouraged to ask their own questions. This is easier said than done due to many pupils being shy or lacking self-assurance, so here are some tips for getting them to express their thoughts and make enquiries that could greatly strengthen the lesson for everyone.

Read stories together

Starting with a classic approach, a group reading session is a great way to tempt children to ask questions. What they ask could be anything from the meaning of a difficult word to clarification of an unexpected plot twist – whatever the case, a shared narrative gives everyone the opportunity to ask a question that will help to bring the subject matter to life.

Create a wonder wall

This has grown in popularity in recent years, as it’s an easy way for even the quietest students to contribute. Simply place a board on the wall where they can stick post-it notes presenting their questions, which can either be about all kinds of things or themed around the curriculum. You can then answer the questions any way you wish, such as a short session each morning or perhaps a dedicated slot on a Friday afternoon before home time.

Use thin and thick questions

There are many types of questions, and a simple way to explain this to children is the idea of them being thin and thick. A thin question could be one that has a yes/no response, or which is easily answered by searching on Google or picking up a reference book. Thick questions, on the other hand, can go into great detail and may sometimes have multiple answers. Some teachers encourage pupils to only ask thick questions in class, as it acts as a means of starting interesting discussions. Others prefer to only have thin questions asked, as they’re quick to answer and therefore don’t disrupt the flow of the lesson too much. If in doubt, adopt a happy medium.

Nurture a communicative classroom culture

All of the methods above are highly effective and can be combined to inspire curiosity, confidence and conversation in all students. However, at their core is the need for pupils to feel that they’re not only allowed to ask questions in class, but actively encouraged to do so. This lies in the roots of how you teach – whilst discipline and respect are crucial, a teacher should also be friendly, open, patient, energetic, fun, supportive and fair. When this is in effect, young people will feel more comfortable around you and the questions will start flowing – just make sure to be prepared for some interesting concepts, as children can come up with fascinating conundrums.

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