Friday, September 30, 2016

Ask Me a Question

The next time you open your class for questions, do not use the phrase "Do you have any questions?" Change it to "Ask me a question."  It has been a really fun ride for me this year.  Let me explain where I got this idea and how I've used it so far.

This was My Daughters Idea

I have been seeing the statistics going around twitter regarding the amount of questions that a teacher asks compared to the amount of question a student asks.  It concerned me.  Soon after this I told my daughter and my wife about the statistic that I was seeing:  Teachers ask 200 questions per week and the average student asks 2 questions per week.  I continued to tell them that my students had not asked very many questions that very day.   My daughter listened and then suggested I should require my students to ask a question.  I thought that was brilliant.  I decided to use it the next day when a colleague Rachel Fruin @rachelfruin suggested I use the phrase ASK ME A QUESTION.  So there it began.

My First Experience 

I immediately used this technique in class the next day.
My students were working independently on a few problems when I set the Ground Rules.  I told my students that I was going to require them to "Ask a Question" when I was walking around to each person.  I also said that if they did not have a math question, that they could ask any other (appropriate)  question that they liked.  One way or another, they would have to ask me a question.  
It was amazing.  I had really good questions for the most part.  Most of the questions were math related.
  • I gained a whole new appreciation for some of my students who usually are silent.  
  • I could tell that this was freeing to some students who were embarrassed to ask a question previously.
  • It was really fun to dialog with the students. 
  • I actually had a conversation with most of my students that day.  Which was unusual. 
  • Some questions were related to math but not necessarily about a concept.  IE Why does the slope formula start with the second point?  That was a cool question.  
  • Many of the non-math questions were superficial.  Some were complex and not easy to answer.  One of my students asked if I would take 3 trillion lions or the Sun in a fight?  Where do they think up this stuff?  

My Second Experience

The next time I used this technique was within a whole class experience.  I presented a topic that was complicated.  I asked for questions and no one had any.  (They probably had some but were a little nervous to ask)   Then I told them that they had to talk to their partner about a possible question they would like to ask.  Then I said "Ask me a Question."  Then I called on students at random. Here is what I found.

  • The questions were vague at first
  • Other peoples questions helped refine the new questions.
  • I didn't answer all of the questions.
  • When I didn't know the answer, I told them so.  
  • Some students said they didn't have any questions.  I just came back to them after someone else asked a question. 
  • The same questions were being asked in different ways.  This told me that A) They weren't listening when someone else was asking a question or B) They really don't understand what is going on.  This helps me to know where the class stands on their understanding level.
  • The class really did have a lot of questions but needed the structure to ask questions freely.

Overall, I would really encourage you to try "Ask me a Question" sometime soon.  What do you think?  What have your experiences been with this?  


Lisa Winer said...

I like that! Simple and easy. I will try it!

Mermaid of Brooklyn - Wendy Menard said...

Ditto - can't wait to try this tomorrow! I've been staring at my lesson plans, feeling frustrated, and truth be told, a bit bored - which probably reflects how my students feel. This is definitely going to jazz things up!

Dave Sladkey said...

Thanks Mermaid! Let us all know how it goes.