Art of questioning


Questions are powerful tools that develop understanding or other high-order skills. Questions help students to think for themselves and to create their own learning, to practise using their prior knowledge and to develp new understanding. On the other hand, teachers have the opportunity to check immediately and correct. Questions also help us to get feedback on the learning progress and ensure that students don’t get lost.

We are going to distinguish skinny & fat questions and introduce comprehension-checking questions:

  • Skinny questions: these questions only require that students recall facts, they are used to reinforce early learning, what the students can or cannot remember.

In the lesson plan «The little paper boat» if we ask:

T – What were Peter & Jack playing at the park?

S – They were playing football.

  • Fat questions: let students practise the high-order thinking skills, in order to answer them, students need the ability to sift through the memory and choose only the relevant information.

T- If you find a magic little paper boat, where will you go?

S- I will travel to the epic Monkey Island.

Finally comprehension checking questions (CCQ), they are really useful after instructions, have you ever used «Do you understand?» and everyone said «Yes, we do» but students don’t have any clue of what’s going on…

Imagine that you want students to read a text, look for five answer, and finally to check their answers with their groups. First you introduce the task and modelling an example, now it is time to start but before …CCQ!

T – Do we have to read the text?

S – Yes, we do.

T – Do we have to answer the five questions with our partners?

S – No, we don’t.

T – Do we have to answer the five questions by yourself?

S – Yes, we do.

T – Do we have to check the answer with our partners?

S – Yes, we do.

T- Ok, any questions? So, let’s go!

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