Effective Use of Open-Ended Questions

In our most recent SST meeting we took a close look at some of our students who we worry may have slipped through the cracks.  As part of this conversation we thought long and hard about some of the reasons as to why these kids may have been overlooked as ‘struggling’ students.  One point that was raised is that perhaps the “checks for understanding” that are happening in classes aren’t truly checking for understanding.  How often do you ask a question that could be answered with a one word response?  Is it a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer?  The use of open-ended questions in the classroom is a practice that sounds a lot easier in theory than it really is to implement.  Kids take time to process and answer, sometimes the answers are repetitive or seem like ramblings, often times we fell like we need to rush to get through the day’s lesson and we don’t have time for long-winded answers.  All of these things are common feelings to experience when pushing students to answer open-ended questions.  However, forcing kids to process their thoughts through a think-pair-share or by writing their answers and then sharing ensures that kids don’t just hitch-hike their way through class and slip through the cracks.  In this write-up from the Marshall Memo you will find a more in-depth discussion of how to use open-ended questions as well as the importance of doing so in the classroom.  This article was written in relation to elementary classrooms but there isn’t one word of it that doesn’t apply to our middle school classes…enjoy and let me know what you think.

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