I recently asked our new (phenomenal) instructional coach to help me out with the questions I am asking students. She came in three different times, during a language arts focus lesson, a math focus lesson, and our calendar time.
I have thought a lot about questioning during calendar and expected to find that I asked much better questions during that time than I did at other times. What she noted and our discussion was highly enlightening. (This was about a month ago and I’m still mulling it on a daily basis.)
First of all, I can’t say how helpful this was. I could have videotaped my lessons and watched them to explore my questioning, but I think I would have been distracted by so many other things, even if I managed to stay just focused on me in the videos! Our instructional coach wrote down all the questions I asked. Having that list to review was perfect.
I was thrilled to see that I encourage my students to explain their thinking. When a student shares their thinking I ask for others to agree or disagree. We’ve established a routine so students do so and explain why. I spent a lot of time early in the year working on this during calendar. Looking at the lists, I found that it has spread out through our day. Good news.
On the downside, I ask a lot of really basic questions. Not yes or no questions, which had been my fear, but questions which don’t dig too deep. I have some concerns about Bloom’s taxonomy but I have been reviewing some resources based on it in the hopes of pushing my students’ thinking more. The prompts and sample questions are helping me do a deeper analysis and plan questions accordingly.
One thing I’ve learned over a decade and a half of teaching is that I’m never going to reach my bar. I’m really proud of the strategies I’ve taught that result in my students explaining their thinking independently. But now I need to make that thinking more complex. The benefit of these years is that over time I build skills and routines. In a couple of years I expect my students will be explaining their more complex thinking!