A useful way of clarifying and reviewing learning and monitoring and creating engagement with the class is directing questions to the class.

When asking a discussion question, tell the class that you want at least five answers. When the first student provides an answer, say “That was a good start”.  Continue until you get at least five answers. This is a good technique to engage more students. There are more ideas on ways to call on students here.

If the students are in small groups, say something like, "whoever in your group 'has the longest hair' or 'whose birthdate is nearest the 17th' or 'who lives nearest the oval' will report".

To support those who feel self-conscious, call on two people sitting beside each other together. Collectively they might do a better job than asking two students separately. This technique works especially well if the students have to think about an answer.

One factor which can have powerful effects on student participation is the amount of time an teacher pauses between asking a question and doing something else (calling on a student or rewording the question).  Research indicates that students need at least three seconds to comprehend a question, consider the available information, formulate an answer, and begin to respond. In contrast, the same research established that on the average a classroom teacher allows less than one second of wait-time.  After teachers were trained to allow three to five seconds of wait-time there were significant improvements in the number of students responding and the quality of the responses.

On the other hand, too much wait-time can also be detrimental to student interaction. When no one seems to be able to answer a question, more wait-time will not necessarily solve the problem. Experts say that waiting too long  is perceived as punishing by students.

The amount of wait-time needed in part depends upon the level of question the instructor asks and student characteristics such as  familiarity with content  and past experience with the thought process required.  Student groups, varying with age and engagement, will have a different sense of what is a "long time". Generally less complex questions require less wait-time, perhaps only three seconds. Higher-level questions may require five seconds or more. With particularly complex higher-level questions some teachers tell students to spend two or three minutes considering the question and noting some ideas.

Developing routines in this area can make this a more effective learning activity for everyone.

Asking questions of the class.

Classroom Management

from the News & Views of

Anne Williams, Consulting Educator

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