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Motivating students through effective questioning
Rapp and Katrina Arndt, authors of Teaching everyone: An introduction to inclusive education , have coined the term "recruit their interest."  Essentially, teachers should plan to invite students into the learning process. In part, they select and choose the appropriate activity for their students which result in an exciting, intriguing, and thought provoking learning experience. Although motivating students or getting them interested in what you have to say or do can be a challenge, one strategy, effective questioning, provides teachers with opportunities to create student-led discussions. Effective questioning can increase opportunities for students' deeper understanding of content. To get started, consider these techniques to motivate students while improving your questioning skills.

Wait-Time : Rowe (1986) suggested giving students time to respond. Fast forward forty-plus years and it's still a tried and true strategy. On average, teachers wait less than one second for students to respond! By increasing that time up to three to five seconds, the gains are promising. Although this concept is not new, many instructional leaders find it works to increase correct responses, decreases the famous "I don't know," and increases academic achievement. Students need to process what they hear, develop a response based upon given information, prior knowledge, and the opportunity to clarify and consult with peers before giving their "final answer."

Feedback : J ohn Hattie (2008) states that one of the most powerful influences on student achievement is f eedback.  When you give feedback in the form of a question, it allows students to elaborate on their understanding. Feedback does not have to be "Yes, you're correct" or "No, you're wrong." Rather, it should be an opportunity to conduct formative assessment of what a student knows. For example, "Tell me how you got that answer?" or "Would any other response be accurate? Does anyone have another option?" By giving feedback in the form of a question, even Alex Trebek would be impressed!

Apply Bloom's Taxonomy Consider using  Bloom's Taxonomy to increase the rigor of your questioning. Use higher order thinking questions that require students to manipulate bits of given information. This higher level of thinking not only allows students to demonstrate what they know, it informs you of their understanding of what your are teaching. Sample question stems include: "What assumptions ..., What are the alternatives to..., or How would you test  ... ?" Many online websites provide a variety of sample charts with question stems that you can post and use during planning or instruction.

There is no magic strategy that works for all students all of the time. Having a variety of tools enables teachers to plan lessons that exciting, intriguing, and thought provoking. Motivating students through effective questioning is one technique to add to your toolbox. For more information on using wait-time, giving feedback by asking questions, and using Bloom's Taxonomy, contact Phyllis L. M. Haynes at

References :

Rowe, Mary Budd. (1986) Wait time: slowing down may be a way of speeding up!  Journal of Teacher Education 37.1, 43-50.

Hattie, John (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement . New York, NY: Routledge.

Forehand, M. (2010). Bloom's taxonomy. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. 41-47.

Low tech tools: A resource at your fingertips
Sticky notes are a great low-tech tool in the classroom. Use them for labeling, filling in the blank, sequencing sentences, writing down important ideas, masking questions or problems on a worksheet, placing them under a line of text while reading, making instant words walls, or drawing symbols for on the spot visual supports. Sticky notes can also help students with reading comprehension. They can use one color note to highlight important ideas, another color for character descriptions and yet another color to highlight unknown words.

A reading frame is another great low tech tool for helping students focus on important information on a page.  To make your own reading frame, cut a window out of an old file folder.  The size of the window will depend upon the amount of information you want to highlight.  Reading frames can be used to focus attention on math problems, tables and charts, or even be sized to highlight sentences or paragraphs while reading.

Highlighters can be used to highlight certain phrases or main ideas. To adapt them further add something onto it to  make it  easier to grasp.  This could be a tennis ball, model magic or even a foam hair roller.

For more low tech ideas in the classroom review this website or check out one of our many Low Tech Tools for Inclusive Education (LoTTIE) kits from our library.

Library spotlight: Notebook foldables
Are you looking for other ways to connect students to the content?  Are students overwhelmed with all of the information they need to know?  You should consider using foldables with your students. Foldables help students  organize  and process information learned during lessons. The T/TAC  at VCU library has a plethora of notebook foldable masters from Dinah Zike in the following content areas: English/ language arts, math, (grades 2-10), algebra, geometry,  US  history, biology and earth science.  

Stop by our library to check out these and other instructional resources. Our office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm. Can't make it into the office? Some library items can be placed in the mail or delivered to your school.  Call us for more information.

Please note our office will be closed for winter break from December 21-January 3.

VDOE's Training and Technical Assistance Center at VCU
700 E Franklin Street, Suite 140
P.O. Box 843081
Richmond, VA 23284-3081