How to Sign In
Engage Your Students
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

How Do I Phrase A Question That Will Get Students Thinking?


Agreed @lisa_boragine, pausing is so important.  I still don't think I do it for long enough.  I remember first learning about wait time back in the 90s and it really rung a bell.  I thought, "Yup - I don't do that".  Nowadays, if I pause and get nothing and then call on someone and clearly they're not getting it, it's time for "think-write-pair-share".  


Totally agree @lisa_boragine  I remember learning about "wait time" early in my teaching career. Care to share some thoughts about the art of calling on students without making them feel like you have put them on the spot. I could use some help with that.


In my technology classes I love to ask my students their ideas for a new app or technology device, after studying hardware and software concepts. What's coming next in the world of hardware and software? Not only are they super creative,  but they have to be somewhat feasible and realistic. It gets them really thinking creatively and critically about the concepts they just learned and hopefully excited about pursuing an IT profession! 


Rephrasing questions so students have to give more than a one word answer helps them to explore different ideas. If students feel they are in a "safe zone" for answering questions I think they are able to build more confidence.


Toward the end of the semester in Statistics we study how to understand the relationship between 2 variables, for example, study time vs test score, or alcohol consumption vs reaction time, etc. The most fun thing that spurs lots of conversation is the spurious correlations, those times when two measures seems to track each other but clearly are not directly related. I like to pose some of them as examples of real relationships and wait for the reaction, and then have the students try to explain what is really going on. For example, there is a relationship between the number of firefighters that were at a fire site and the cost of the damage caused by the fire. Or the population of storks in a town and the population of people. Both increase over time (storks do bring babies!) These are fun to play with, but really get those brains working on what is happening behind the scenes. If you want to see some funny ones, go here: Spurious Correlations.


@hante_judy Thanks for the link to that site. It really is a fun place to send students to really nail down the point that just about any odd two things can be significantly correlated. My favorite: the number of letters in the winning word of the National Spelling Bee and the number of deaths by venomous snakes.


This might be more appropriate for brainstorming, but it often leads to fruitful discussions. When introducing a new topic, I often ask my students what other people think. This creates a safety zone between the student and a potentially embarrassing answer. It also helps to identify preconceived notions, stereotypes, etc. I teach history so I might open a new topic by saying "What do you think comes to mind for most people when you mention the Crusades?" The responses they give are probably what's in their own heads, but since they are attributing it to "most people," they do not risk being mistaken. We can then turn the discussion to questions of where these ideas came from and the extent to which they are accurate or not.


That makes a ton of sense Donna (asking students what they think other students think). I've created a few online exercises in which I ask students to fill out survey questions about their own behavior but I'm going to use this approach too. Thanks for sharing.