To Teach, To Question

What does it mean ‘to teach’? What role does questioning play in your interaction with students?

To teach is to impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something.

To question means a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information or a matter requiring resolution or discussion.

How much of your school day is actually teaching? What knowledge and skills do you impart?

How much time do you spend questioning? What questions do your ask, when do you ask and why?

Questioning each and every student is a vital part of every school day.

Why? Questions stretch and lead students thinking to develop new ideas, take risks and problem solve.

Three questions to ask your students to keep them actively thinking and making decisions.

1. What Do You Do Now?

You have finished ‘teaching ‘ at the beginning of a lesson.  Don’t tell the students what they need to do next. Ask them!

Now, what do you need to do? If you know come up and tell me and then get organised and start.
You will be amazed at the ideas they come up with? Leave the resources and any written instructions in a handy spot. It’s a treat to watch students get up, read what to do, use their initiative and get going. 
Risk-taking and independent thinking takes place.
The majority of students will know what to do. Prior knowledge comes into play. Often students will make decisions that you didn’t expect. Eg Choosing a partner to work with, presenting the work in a different format or selecting different resources to use.
Tip: What do you say/ask those students that are unsure?

More questions to ask. What could you do to find out? Can you see someone who knows what to do? What information could they give you that will be useful? What could you do now to find out? Lead through questioning rather than telling.

Student A must be brave, be prepared to use their initiative, interact with another student and ask questions. Student B will feel knowledgeable and proud knowing they have been selected to lend a hand.

I have observed so many students ‘teaching others’ and imparting knowledge using this practise. It is a wonderful way to build relationships.

Teachers often remain on the stage providing more detailed instructions and asking more questions. Have you noticed students getting restless at this stage? It’s easy to get caught up giving yet more instructions, keeping students  sitting and waiting. Let them go, let them think, let them take a risk and let them problem solve.

One small question, (What do you do now?),  can lead to all kinds of interesting and exciting outcomes.
2. Come and tell me what you have to do? 

After you have provided the task instructions ask students to come and tell you what they are going to do. That way they know that you know, that they know what to do!

3. Now What?

After students have finished their work ask, What are you going to do now? (See Choosing Time for further details)

More Question Opportunities:

Working on Inquiry Projects
Always rove and question every student during the Finding Out and Gathering Information Stage of the Inquiry Process. Move them forward with their thinking. What else can you add? Tell me what new information you have discovered? What’s your opinion about this fact? What will you do here that shows you understand this information?
Mathematics Time:

While students are working during maths its time to gather data for your records through questioning and observation. Note: Correct students work as they are actually recording. This is instant feedback.
Tell me how you got this answer? What did  you do here? What did you know to do this? Jot down a quick evaluation on to their page of work.  Yes I see you understand this process. Yah!

Idea: Only Teach – Impart knowledge
As you are teaching a group of students resist the urge to ask questions. Are you teaching or questioning.  Yes questioning provides feedback to you but most times only a small sample of students provide feedback due to the confines of hands up. This holds up your teaching, interrupts your flow.

Why are you asking questions anyway? What’s the reason behind the questioning when you are teaching new ideas and facts. Is it to keep students with you, focused on the knowledge you are imparting.
Tip: How else could you keep them ‘with you’ as you demonstrate and teach new facts and skills?

  1. Use visuals, objects, books,
  2. Get students up to teach with you.  Often teachers are on the stage doing everything, like a performer, while students sit passively on the floor or in their seats. Use their knowledge and skills to assist you in the teaching component of the lesson.


Let a student video you as you teach new skills and knowledge. Students who feel they need that extra bit of teaching can come back and watch the video. (Great time to evaluate your own teaching.)
Rove and Question:

As students are working rove, question, teach, praise, provide feedback.
What’s this about? What could you add? Tell me how you worked out the solution to this problem? What will you do next? How will you do the next part?

Questioning shows you care about your student’s thinking and their ideas. You want to expand and stretch their knowledge and skills, lead them in new and different directions with their ideas, find out what they already know and develop independent thinking and problem solving. You are not providing answers but leading students to the answers by using relevant questions.

Yes you are a teacher but you must definitely be a questioner!
Never let a chance go by!