Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Questions in the Classroom

We all know how important questions are in the classroom. Just for a minute, imagine your class without a single question......It would be different, huh?  Some questions we'd love to be rid of- "Can I sharpen my pencil?" "Can I get a drink?", "Why does he get to do that and not me?"  You know the questions I'm talking about!
There has been LOTS of research conducted on Questions in the classroom.  I recently read a paper by Kathleen Cotton, titled "Classroom Questioning".  This paper contains information from 37 different research  documents.  
Some of the general findings were:
1.  Students in classrooms where questions are asked have higher achievement gains.
2.  Oral questions provide more learning that written questions. 
3.  Asking questions frequently is positively related to learning facts.
4.  Questions that require students to focus on most important facts aid in comprehension, as opposed to questions that do not relate to important information.

So obviously, questions are important, right?  Of course they are!  
Now let's look at higher cognitive questions and lower cognitive questions.  Higher cognitive questions are those that ask a student to draw upon their knowledge and create an answer.  These types of questions call for extended and strategic thinking.  When we ask students to critique, compare, prove and analyze, we are asking higher order thinking questions.  Questions that involve recall, reciting, labeling, matching, and recognizing are lower level thought processes.  Both types of questions have their place in the classroom, but we have to remember to ask a good mixture of them.    
Ms. Cotton summarized the finding on higher and lower cognitive questioning.  here are some of the points she made:
*On average, 60% of questions are lower level, 20% are higher, and 20% are procedural.
*Lower cognitive questions are more effective than higher level questions with young (primary level) children, particularly the disadvantaged.  {This surprised me!}
* Simply asking higher cognitive questions does not necessarily lead students
to produce higher cognitive responses.
* Teaching students to draw inferences and giving them practice in doing so
result in higher cognitive responses and greater learning gains.
She also discussed wait time.  Wait time is the time a teacher waits after asking a questions.  In my classroom, we call it "think time".  If we, as teachers, rush to explain what we just said, what good does that do the students?  This is an area I made a conscious effort to work on this year.  Sometime, I have to make myself be quiet so they can think!  From the research Ms. Cotton gathered, the average wait time is 1 second.  Imagine if you only had one second to think before someone demanded an answer from you!  
The research show:
* For lower cognitive questions, a wait-time of three seconds is most positively related to achievement, with less success resulting from shorter or longer wait-times.
* There seems to be no wait-time threshold for higher cognitive questions; students seem to become more and more engaged and perform better and better the longer the teacher is willing to wait.

In my state, questioning plays a part in the teacher observation rubric.  Here's another reason to work on questioning...ha!  My principal circulates the building often.  We never know when she will pop in and I am used to that, but when she walks in and SITS DOWN all of my awesome question words fly right out of my head! AHHHH the nerves set in and I feel tongue-tied!  I recently found something you may be interested in, if you are ever in a sitch like that- they are called A.S.K. Cards.  Actively-Seeking-Knowledge.  ASK.  
These cards are from CM School Supply.  I like them for many reasons-they are thickly laminated, come on a ring, English and Spanish, and provide various levels of questions.  The cards have open ended questions, how and why, problem solving, predicting, classifying and comparing, and creative thinking questions.  The cards are built on research based practices that are listed on the last card.  The set is only $9.99.  Click the images above to view them on the website.  These cards would also be great for a sub of educational assistant to use with your students.  
If you'd like a chance to win a $50 gift card to CM School Supply, so you can get your own set plus a lot more, click {HERE} for the giveaway!
Don't forget- I'm having a blogiversary giveaway going on this week!  Click {HERE} to enter!

 “Disclosure: I received complimentary products for review.  All opinions are my own and this is not a compensated post.”


  1. Wow, what a great post!! Thank you so much for sharing this. I always try to ask open-ended questions throughout my lessons, but these cards look fabulous! Definitely going to enter your giveaway and check them out.

    Thanks again!
    Jungle Learners

  2. Love it!! Just entered your giveaway! Congratulations on your anniversary!! :)

    Mrs. Beattie's Classroom


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