Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hip Hip Hooray! 15 Days of K! - Day 12

Oh my! It looks as if I am in great company with the fabulous bloggers that have been here before me!  It is quite an honor to be among this talented group of teacher/bloggers.  And thanks to Mary for letting me help you celebrate your return to Kindergarten! 
Kindergarten is a great place to grow up.  I spent quite a lot of time there, so I know how important those early years are to a great foundation.  I definitely grew as an educator during my Kinder years! 
If you have spent more than a day or two as a kindergarten teacher, you know that even the best teachers learn something new every day!  Teachers are not born with that innate ability to always know the right answers or even how to ask the right questions.
The longer I teach, the more I realize how important my questioning skills are.  I am convinced that teachers should never say anything that a child can say…in other words, teachers should know how to ask the right questions so that children can grow and learn from the process of answering them.  And while it may be true there are no dumb questions; we can say for sure that there are good questions and better questions.
For instance, think about what kinds of questions might typically be asked during a math class.  Often those questions might have only one answer and require limited strategies to answer.  As teachers, I think we should strive to ask the kinds of questions that allow students to explore multiple avenues to arrive at the right answer.
Good questions should require students to do more than recall a fact or demonstrate a skill.  They should be open-ended and require a deeper understanding of the topic.  Students who are required to think, reason, and justify their answers can construct their own meaning and develop new mathematical ideas.  Their conceptual understanding becomes more evident.
Remember Bloom’s taxonomy? It was newly revised in the 1990’s by a student of Bloom's to reflect the 21st century learner.  We typically look at the bottom of the triangle as requiring the lower level thinking skills, and the top as requiring higher level thinking.  The same can be true for our questioning skills.  The less powerful questions are likely found at the bottom of the triangle while the more powerful and deeper thinking questions are at the top.
So how do we become better questioners?  Well, it takes practice.  And yes, we will make a mess of it from time to time.  Good questioning skills do not happen overnight.  We must make a diligent effort to think about our questions before we ask them; even plan them ahead of time.  Soon it becomes second nature to think before we speak. 
To help give you a little cheat sheet of good questioning prompts; you can download this free Question Ring.  It’s a great aide to have by your side during math when the questions just won’t come.  Cut them out, hole-punch them, and slip them onto a ring, and you are ready!
Asking better questions doesn’t come without a few bumps in the road.  When we ask “Why?”, the likely response is for students to assume their answer was incorrect.  It takes a bit of practice before students are comfortable with explaining their answers, whether the answer is right or wrong.  You may even have to model your thinking a time or two to show them how it’s done.  But soon, you will see the benefits of asking better questions…from the great responses you receive. 
Get into the habit of asking better questions…the answers may surprise you.
Thanks for reading along and be sure to visit my blog. I'd love to meet you!
Dr. Penny Messick is an Instructional Specialist with the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI).  She spent 25 years teaching K-2 and is a strong supporter of inquiry based learning.  She spends most of her days providing resources and professional development for elementary teachers across south Alabama.  Penny blogs at www.teachthemath.com.  She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Need to revisit Day 1-11? Click on the picture below.
 Stop back by tomorrow for Day 13 of our 15 Days of K Celebration!
Only a few days left!


  1. Thank you for sharing!! Love the freebie!

    First Grade and Fabulous

  2. Thanks for the advice and freebie!

    Strive to Sparkle

  3. Thanks DeAnne and Crystal! Glad you found it useful! :)

  4. I couldn't agree with you more Penny. I taught Elementary ESL students and always strived to ask higher order thinking skills. Thanks so much for sharing this.
    LMN Tree

  5. I appreciate your vote of confidence Arlene! I so agree! Thanks :)

  6. Thanks for sharing! This is definitely something I think I can work on in my own class :)

    Kindergarten Smiles

  7. I'm your newest follower and a brand new blogger. I would love for you to check out my blog -

    Teaching Maddeness

  8. Asking the right questions are so important!! Thanks for this post!

    The Learning Tree

  9. Thank you for sharing!

    And great point about asking "why?" I'm a homeschool mom, and the first few times I asked my daughter why she gave me a particular answer, I had to specifically point out to her that I wasn't saying her answer was right or wrong - I just wanted to understand how she chose it. It only takes a few times like this, though, before they realize you're not just shooting them down!


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