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a two-way transfer of ideas. This can best be facilitated by
the use of a planned questioning strategy involving only four
general types of question. These questions, however, must be
used in sequence to get the most benefit. Here are some general
rules–of-thumb that should apply to ALL questioning strategies.
1. Be patient.
NEVER rush a question. If you don’t have time to do it
correctly, don’t do it. This is especially true with new
students who have never had the opportunity to participate at
this level. Someone has always told them what and how to think.
They are afraid to voice their opinions until they think they
know what you want them to say. If you have prepared your strategy
correctly, they won’t know what your opinion is. They
are on their own and must think for themselves. This is often
quite painful. In effect, when you ask a question, wait as long
as necessary to get an answer. The student must start from scratch
and think about it before venturing an answer. WAIT! (I know,
this is hard on you too. In most cases, all you can think of
while waiting is how much valuable time is passing.)
2. Having posed
a question, repeat it occasionally while you are waiting, but
DO NOT CHANGE THE WORDING IN ANY WAY. The change of even one
word can (and will) short-circuit the answering process. The
student will notice it and wonder if the question has changed
and if the thought process needs to change as well. This is
one good reason for writing down each question – so you
3. Be accepting
of answers in the beginning. This will also be hard on you.
The first responses you receive may be so far from what you
wanted that you feel compelled to correct the student immediately.
DON’T! It will put a stop to any further interaction.
The student will think, “I’m dumb. My answer wasn’t
good enough.” Or, the student may think, “I thought
that was a good answer but the teacher wanted to argue. I won’t
fall into that trap again.” There is a time and place
for eliciting more correct answers, but you need to wait for
4. If you are
in a classroom setting and writing the student responses on
the board, DO NOT PARAPHRASE what the student said. If necessary,
say, “I didn’t quite get all of that. Please say
it again.” or, “How can I say that so I can get
it all on the board?” Then, write exactly what the student
says. It verifies and justifies and rewards the student for
OK! Are you ready
for the questions?
The first type
of question is the OPEN QUESTION.
The Open Question is designed to allow everyone to participate
at any level and to elicit a large body of information on which
to focus later. An example of an Open Question dealing with
some of the Legendary Texas stories could be:
do you think were some causes for the Texas War for Independence?”
you think were some reasons for Anglo-Americans to move to Texas?”
DO NOT be satisfied
with only one or two answers. The rest of the discussion depends
on getting a large body of information with which to work. Remember
to accept ALL answers, no matter how off-target they may seem
at the time. You can correct that later.
One open question
often leads to another open question that focuses attention
on one of the responses. So, we can call it:
Question is also open, but directs attention to a particular
topic and is usually a response to one of the answers elicited
in the first type of question. For instance, you might ask:
that the Mexican government was one of the reasons for the Texas
War for Independence. In what ways do you think this was a reason
for the war?”
Or, you might
that the availability of land was one reason why Anglo-Americans
came to Texas. In what ways do you think this was different
than what was found in the United States?”
Again, you can
elicit a large body of information and follow many open questions
with focus questions, bringing in even more information for
the mind to work with. Notice, however, that as the questioning
progresses, it asks for more specific response.
Then comes the
third type of question.
This is where
you break into really higher cognitive processes. The student
is asked to compare and/or contrast two or more concepts, feelings,
relationships or ideas.
using the two general topics we’ve talked about above,
you might ask:
ways might the causes of the Texas War for Independence and
the Anglo-American arrival in Texas be related?”
you account for the fact that many Tejanos fought beside Anglo-Americans
for Texas independence?”
This will probably
be the place where you get rid of extraneous material you gathered
in the open questions. Ask for the relationships. The students
may see some that you never thought of. At the same time, they
may see how something they suggested earlier really doesn’t
fit with how the topic has progressed.
The first few
times you try to create this kind of questioning strategy, it
will not be easy. This is a learning process for you as well.
However, after a few tries, both you and the students will get
to where you enjoy it. Trust me and trust the process. It works.
Some real plusses for this process is that it not only takes
the teacher out of the role of always telling the student what
to think, but it also gives the student the satisfaction of
participating as a supplier of information on which the lesson
is built, rather than just as a recorder of facts.
Now comes the
Believe me. After
you’ve perfected your questioning, you’re going
to start getting more response from the students than you can
easily handle. You and they may get so carried away with the
exhilaration of the process that you run out of time. DON’T.
Always save time for the Capstone Question. This is where you
allow the student to summarize for his/her understanding and
bring closure to the discussion. The question itself is usually
very simple, but it might take a lot of time for the student
to process it.
on our discussion, what can we say about the Texas War for Independence?”
we summarize the relations between Mexicans and Anglo-Americans
your turn. If you want to try your questioning strategy on me
first, there is a link you can click to send me an e-mail. It
may take a while, but I WILL respond. Choose any story you want;
tell me what it is so we’re on the same page, and send
me two examples of Open Questions, Focus Questions, Interpretive
Questions and Capstone Questions based on that story. Then,
for each of your questions, give me some possible answers to
your questions. Remember that you need to have in mind some
of the more obvious answers on which to build your continuing
questions. Establish a dialog with me about what you’ve
done, and when we’ve hammered it out, with your permission,
I’ll share some of them with others who access the site.
Trust the process.