Dr. Maryellen Weimer, discusses the value of good questions to promote productive discussions. Below is an excerpt from her book Classroom Communication: Collected Readings for Effective Discussion and Questioning:
"To realize the potential of a good question, we can’t forget that the power of a question to promote thinking happens in the interstice between the question and the answer—in that quiet space between the asking and answering. Most of us are in such a hurry that that space is short—typically less than 5 seconds, according to research."
5 seconds? It sounds like no time at all but for a teacher it can be the result of a smart decision, that is to say, the right question at the right moment. Seemingly casual questions can be a very powerful way of unobtrusively refocusing an off-task student. See below a technique showing how to use questions to refocus off-task students:
You gently approach one or more student but pay no attention to their
off-task behaviour. You simply ask a gently redirective question: ‘How’s it going? Do you need any help? etc; e.g ‘Sylvia, do you need me to check how you’re doing so far?’
You then leave the refocused student with an expectation of continued compliance:‘I’ll pop back in a minute and see how far you’ve got’
Very simple in theory but in practice it is not all plain sailing! Teachers tend to pay attention only to the disruptive behavior leading to a stressful classroom environment. As a teacher I can tell you it works marvels but it requires focus to your attitude and practice.What about trying it on your next lesson?