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Looking to Boost Student Engagement? Hooking Students through Questions is the Answer

The effective use of questioning in the classroom can lead to higher-level thinking and increased engagement.

In order to engage students, it’s imperative to capture their attention. We know the important role curiosity plays in creating effective learners. Posing the right questions and encouraging students to develop their own questioning strategies will enhance student engagement and carry the thirst for knowledge far beyond the walls of the classroom. Here’s how to get the right questions embedded in your curriculum.

Essential Questions

The name says it all on this one. Essential Questions are the foundational stepping stones that are the force behind those big ideas and life lesson takeaways. When students see an overarching concept that connects all the day-to-day studies, they start to grasp the bigger picture. With essential questions there is no single answer and certainly no single-worded answer.

Essential questions beget more questions which inadvertently deepen the interest and the focus of the learner. Looking to grow your essential question repertoire or brush up on the basics? You can find a great collection of free resources including daily doses of essential questions and videos at essentailquestions.org.

Teacher-Generated Questions

Teachers are the posers of the essential questions and the innumerable secondary questions and follow-ups that relate back to it. While there is a time and place for recall questions, to truly engage all learners, a move toward higher-level questioning is a must. When a student is able to simply recall an answer, the learning window starts close. By posing open-ended and more “unanswerable” questions, the true window to learning begins. Students become seekers of knowledge and generators of new questions as they work toward solutions.

As teachers, we need to help students appreciate the importance and power of questioning. Larry Ferlazzo shares a thought provoking video clip and accompanying writing response that illustrate the power of knowledge that comes when we have the ability to question. Nudging students with thought-provoking open-ended questions and helping them formulate their own inquisitive channels will truly bring a lesson and concept to life.

Student-generated Questions

In a typical classroom, teachers can ask hundreds of questions in a single period. When students are merely the question answer-ers, it can start to take away from that curiosity drive. We must encourage students to be the question askers and knowledge seekers.

"Once you have learned to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know." 
- Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner

While the role of teacher as questioner is an important one, it certainly can’t be an exclusive one. A boost in creativity and a push toward higher levels of thinking can be ignited when students are the ones posing the questions. Justin Tarte shares the importance of praising great questions over great answers and perpetuating true learning. Keep students on their toes by tossing What if… into the mix when they feel they have arrived at a solution.

Questions help students become active participants. As they engage in the curriculum by taking it beyond recall and the literal, effective learners emerge. The only question now should be How do you plan to infuse the right questions in your classroom?

As you can see, by using the lenses of reliability, relevancy, and references, a resource roundup can come to life with just a few key strokes. Turn blind searches and information sifting into time well spent gathering applicable activities and lesson components. When you start with the proper filters, you can quickly create a resource roundup that can be used for years to come!

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.


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