4 Great Tips To Encourage Your Students To Ask More

Any Questions? Hundreds that are racing through students' minds but they'll probably ask none. There are many reasons to why students aren't asking questions in the classroom, but it's important that they do in order for them to learn better. By providing adequate time for students to digest what was taught and ask questions, by making the question asking process anonymous, or by validating questions and concerns that are asked by students can be a great way to encourage students to ask questions.

'Do you have any questions?'

This could be one of the most frequently asked questions by teachers in class. And the response from students?

(silence)

If you're a teacher lucky enough, you might at least get some shaking heads (which are hardly even noticeable because your students dare not even make the slightest body movement) or if even more fortunate, maybe some 'no' (which can't even be treated as whispers) from your students.So the conclusion is - most students, if not all, don't like asking questions. Why?

Students have already gotten used to answering questions instead of asking questions. That's because for most of the time, they get rewarded for a correct fabulous answer, but not a good question. On top of not having a good reason to ask, students somehow have reasons to not ask. What if my question sounds stupid? What if the answer to my question was just mentioned in class? What if my friends already knew the answer? ... Then there's no point asking! Having a sea of worries, students just eventually give up asking even if they really have doubts in mind. And that's tragic! Asking questions is how students can learn - by clarifying conceptual problems, how they can evolve - by asking out of the syllabus, and most of all, how they might end up generating new ideas that hadn't existed before.

As you can see, it's very important for students to stay curious and seek necessary help. So how can we encourage them to ask more? Here are some tips.

Tip 1: Provide adequate time for students to think and ask

What usually comes after 'Do you have any questions?' ? If we're in sync, you should be thinking of an assumption - **'If no, let's move on.' . However, assuming students won't raise any questions right after asking if they have any will only stop them from inquiring. Students won't know if you, the teacher, are in a hurry to 'move on' into teaching new stuff - they're afraid that their questions might interrupt the lesson. That's why if you're earnestly inviting students to dig deeper into the topic, you should provide them with enough time to process the materials and to think of what to ask. During the pauses, teachers may continue chattering to keep the classroom lighten up as some students dare not barge into silences.

Tip 2: Make it anonymous

As simple as it sounds, teachers may try to create opportunities where students can ask questions anonymously. After trying Tip 1, even though there might be some brave students who are willing to raise their questions when being given enough time to think, some students might still be too shy or under too much peer pressure to ask in front of the class. Teachers may provide students with some sticky notes in class and encourage them to write anything on them - be they questions, ideas, or any of their wonders. After collecting the sticky notes, teachers can provide answers to the inquiries and if possible, lead new meaningful discussions related to the questions in class. This way, students can learn more without struggling whether asking in class will make them look weird or feel uncomfortable, and teachers can at the same time, turn questions into teachable moments.

Tip 3: Value every students' question

Just like how you value students' answers, you should value students' questions equally. Think of why students start to enjoy giving response to teachers' questions. They treat answering questions as a challenge to themselves and what's more important is: hitting the bullseye is always a cool thing. This is a great time to showoff their cleverness and wit. In the same way, if teachers start to celebrate every question students asked, students will begin believing that by asking a question, they are catching the teacher's attention and strengthening their presence in the classroom. Here are some encouraging phrases that teachers may try out:

  • 'That's a good question.' - Try to start by praising students regardless of the quality of their questions, but praise them for their bravery of stepping out of their comfort zone to ask.
  • 'This is a very important question.' - Try to relate students' questions to the teaching materials and show students that they are playing a vital role in their own learning.
  • 'This will be covered soon!' - If students are able to hit something relevant to what you're going to teach, you may try to praise their ability to forecast the flow of the lesson!
  • Any phrases with positive and encouraging vibes will also do! 😎

Tip 4: One-on-one show and tell

Despite being given enough time to think (Tip 1), or being given a whole new channel to ask anonymously (Tip 2), or being encouraged and valued (Tip 3), still, some students feel that teachers are unreachable. That's what leads you to this tip! The traditional 'Ask in front of the whole class' or 'Ask the teacher after class' can be rather intimidating for certain students. But your students will definitely feel more at ease when they are to ask their neighboring classmates. You just have to follow the steps below for setting up a one-to-one show and tell session:

  1. Pair students up.
  2. Assign one as student A and the other as student B.
  3. Student A will ask one question. Student B will try to answer the question.
  4. Repeat step 3 by swapping the roles of each student.
  5. If any questions were unanswered, the pair may together approach the teacher for help.

You know what? When kids are at the age of 2, 3 and 4, they ask their parents an average of 100 questions per day. But as they grow up, the inquiries fade. And yet, curiosity is not something that should be kept within a person. Asking teachers questions should never be something 'weird' or 'lame' or 'hard' to do. Hope reading this will help fellow teachers encourage your students to ask more.