Shine Trader Limited

A question that teachers should ask as often as possible

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Imagine you’re back in school: math class. Your teacher has a math expression on the whiteboard, and he wants a student to come up and solve it. You volunteer because you already know the answer. It’s a complicated equation that requires you to multiply, divide, add and subtract. You jot down the correct answers and turn to go back to your desk when your teacher interrupts and says, “Don’t forget to show your homework!”
Asking quality questions is critical to engaging students and continuing deep learning. It’s very common in certain subjects for teachers to ask students to explain how they arrived at a certain conclusion, but I spent some time incorporating this concept into my social studies and reading classes.
There are several useful techniques that can cause problems
I’d like to add one more specific question to the list of techniques that can deepen thinking and increase engagement: Asking students, “How do you know… ?”

Shine Trader Limited
Shine Trader Limited

Asking the question after the student has given an answer prompts deeper reflection in many ways. Students should not only consider evidence and alternative answers, but also support their ideas. It moves the initial problem from simple recall or recognition to higher level thinking. In addition, it helps me as a teacher to ensure that my students understand the concepts and can prove their answers.
An example from my classroom
When I used the projector to show the students a map of the Middle East, I asked the question, “What is the relative position of Afghanistan?” One student replied that Afghanistan is right next to Pakistan. I instruct students to discuss with their elbow partners and decide whether they agree and how they can determine whether the answers given are correct or incorrect.
I asked another student, “Do you agree with [Student 1’s] answer? If yes, how do you know?” The second student replied that the map showed Pakistan and Afghanistan were next door to each other. I further asked, “But how do you know this is the relative position we’re talking about?” The second student had an Epiphany: “Oh,” they replied, “because relative position is about nearby things, and Afghanistan is close to Pakistan.”
I went back to Student 1 and asked them if they were thinking about this question when they answered and if they had anything to add. The first student agreed, adding, “I could also say Afghanistan is in the northwest of Pakistan, not nearby.”
The whole class is drawing pictures
I have now spoken directly to two students and indirectly to all students. At the same time, I have made the rest of the class aware that they need to know this as well, and reviewed the definition and application of the concept of relative position. This dramatically increases the amount of participation and participation — especially if paired with something like Think Pair Share or Elbow Partners — and helps me formalize assessments of more students. It also establishes the norm that students need to actively listen and pay attention to their peers’ answers, as they may be next to get follow-up questions.
This approach can also help students use logic instead of rote memorization and find relationships between concepts, as in this example:
Suppose I asked my students which came first: the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Student 1 says Pearl Harbor was the first. “It was 1941, and the atomic bomb was 1945,” they said.
I further said, “Yes, but without looking at the date, how do you know that Pearl Harbor must have happened before the atomic bomb?” The second student chimed in, “Oh, because Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, and the atomic bomb ended the war.”
The students struggled to create an answer to the question by combining previous knowledge with existing knowledge. This type of work requires them to use logic and discover relationships between details, rather than simply memorizing information. You can also use “How do You know?” “Get the students involved in some historical detective work. Come up with a hypothesis and ask them to judge whether the situation is possible or impossible. For example, “John will be 45 in 2021, but he claims to remember watching the moon landing live on TV. Is that possible? How do you know?”