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When I first began teaching, each of my lessons followed the same pattern: question, answer, feedback. I believed that every student must have a chance to speak during each lesson. As I became a more experienced teacher, I began to wonder if this was the best way and decided to make a change.
My aim became to have more meaningful interactions with my students by focusing on one student and asking him or her at least 4-5 questions in a row, building on their answers with no predetermined reply in mind.
By changing my method of questioning and employing truly open-ended questions, I was able to teach my students how to communicate more successfully. I encouraged them to explain themselves and express their feelings and opinions. In order to do so, I stopped concentrating on giving everyone a chance to speak and started concentrating on the kind of dialogue that was taking place. I aimed to ask questions in such a manner that scaffolded my students’ learning and was truly effective.
This resulted in longer student talk time and more student led dialogues. Once the learners realized that their insights and opinions were valued, they were much quicker to raise their hands, challenge their classmates, share their ideas and pool their knowledge in a friendly manner.
Using this technique not only helped the students who were answering questions engage with the topic on a deeper level but also benefitted the non-speaking students since they were exposed to different ideas, and also developed a more abstract understanding of the topic.
Finally, asking open-ended questions and encouraging the students to be involved in the conversation decreased the number of discipline problems in the class. Previously, when the students knew that everyone was going to speak, they stopped listening after their turn. This technique ensures that the whole class stays engaged in the lesson, by introducing an element of mystery since no one (including the teacher) knows which direction the conversation is going to head in next.
How do you ask questions in the classroom? Which techniques work for you? I would love to learn more. Please share your experiences in the comments’ section.

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