In a recent blog post on ways to encourage good questions, a teacher and his students reflected on the many different types of questions and what makes some better than others. As part of this conversation, students discussed the difference between “skinny” questions, those that require a one word or yes/no answer, and “fat” questions, which contain more depth of thought and broaden students’ thinking skills.
In today’s academic world, the emphasis on preparing students for standards testing often means more and more classroom time spent drilling facts, and as a result our questions are getting skinnier and skinnier.
In everything we teach, our students need to be exposed to a healthy mix of both “skinny” and “fat” questions… skinny to reinforce what they’ve learned and solidify factual knowledge, and richer, fatter questions to help clarify their thinking and stretch their creativity.
This week, give yourself a weigh-in and notice the kinds of questions you ask your students. Are you presenting a healthy balance of “skinny” and “fat” questions, or could your inquiries use some more depth? Try fattening up “skinny” questions by adding words like “describe” or “explain why.”
As a reminder, print a list of prompts to keep by your desk. Better yet, post these on the wall and encourage students to use these in their own conversations!
- “Do you agree with…”
- “What would happen if…”
- “What do you mean by…”
- “How did…”
- “What caused…”
- “Why did…”
- “How would you feel if…”
- “Explain what you’re thinking…”
- “What do you notice about…”
- “What if…”
Do you have helpful prompts to add to this list, or thoughts on asking good questions in the classroom? Please share by commenting here!