Sunday, March 1, 2015

Questioning and Discussion Techniques

Observing teaching and learning is extremely exciting at Monteith Elementary!  I continue to notice amazing questioning and discussion techniques, recognizing that teachers are eliciting information to support student reflection, while challenging deeper level thinking.  Teacher are asking questions, coupled with visible thinking strategies, that are empowering students to understand content and be active participants, understanding that learning is not a spectator sport.  Questions I am noticing are similar to an article I once read: Five Powerful Questions Teachers Ask Students via @WordLib and @edutopia:

  1. What are you thinking?
  2. Why do you think that?
  3. How do you know this?
  4. Can you tell me more?
  5. What questions do you still have?

These questions generate thinking, to support a deeper understanding, rather than simply recalling information. I am also noticing deeper level vocabulary that is connecting to target learning goals. Teachers are allowing students to “describe, explain, and interpret”  information, utilizing the Depth of Knowledge Wheel (DOK wheel) as their guide.  I have noticed a differentiated approach, where classroom discussions are spanning the continuum of DOK activities, throughout the duration of the learning process.  Amazing teaching and learning continues to take place at Monteith!  

A few years back I was inspired to think deeper, about the importance of classroom discussions, due to observing a student presentation lesson that truly empowered the class.  The activity allowed for students to lead the discussion in a way that was meaningful to them.  During individual student presentations, children were reminded that they should complement the presenter, provide respectful suggestions, connect their ideas and ask thoughtful questions.  The teacher was more of a facilitator of learning, rather than a lecturer of information. This gave a purpose for listening during the presentation and allowed for multiple student voices to be heard during and after each presentation.  What an amazing experience for learning!  The results were twofold, it increased the likelihood for student engagement, while supporting respectful relationships between students.  It was a great lesson to witness!  

Try it the next time your students are presenting to each other.  I would even suggest that teachers, in collaboration with students, create and post an anchor chart to help facilitate these ideas:  

  • Complement classmates – I like the____ because… I enjoyed reading your____ because… Great topic because... You did an amazing job on ____ because…Your presentation was terrific because… I learned a lot from your presentation because...

  • Provide respectful suggestions on classmates work/idea – I agree/disagree with ____ because… I wonder... I noticed… I think… Maybe you could add ____ because… Have you ever thought about…

  • Connect classmates work/idea to your own or another person’s work/idea – This reminds me of… I remember this idea from… I have seen this idea before when… Our ideas are similar because... I learned about this before by reading... This reminds me of a TV show I saw because...

  • Ask Questions – I wonder… What is the easiest/most challenging part… Why do you think that… Can you tell me more about… Would you change anything… How did you find out… What inspired you... Where did you find...

Teaching your students these skills will enhance your classroom discussions and empower all students to be intellectually engaged in the lesson.  Remember, the one doing the most talking is usually doing the most learning.  Continue to support positive and intentional questioning and discussion techniques, promoting opportunities to respectfully connect and learn from each other.  

If you are looking for additional ideas to spark your instruction then check out 6 Learning Methods every 21st Century Teacher Should Know.  The first method on the list is Inquiry-Based Learning.  This learning process is based on inquiry and asking questions of discovery, while exploring new ways to learn content, which will continue to enhance your questioning and discussion techniques.  

It is always a pleasure to learn new skills during classroom visits. I encourage you all to watch each other teach and share the great things that you observe. I hope you find this information helpful, supporting a new idea or something you want to get back to using!  

Thanks for all you do!  


  1. "Tell me more ..." - three POWERful words! Thanks for sharing your insight.

  2. Those are powerful questions!

    We have an anchor chart of accountable talk stems for students to use when having discussions with partners and groups. It's great to hear students think more about what they are being asked or how to respond to a classmate's view.

    1. Tweet me a pic of your anchor charts. I would love to see and share them. Thanks for reading and making a comment! Have a great week.