Ms. Meredith continues…
Asking Better Questions
For me, teaching is an ongoing practice where I am constantly learning how to do it better – to be a good teacher is to always be a student. In particular, understanding that when a student cannot do what you ask them to do is not about oppositional behavior or a refusal to cooperate – it is because there is a failure in communication somewhere. This simple understanding changes everything – to fix the problem, then, requires studying the student, and trying to fix the gaps in communication. Ed Sprunger has a lot to say on this subject, starting with “the first thing a teacher must understand is what the student understands. The primary way we adults discover what the student understands is by asking questions”. One of his favorite questions is “how do you know that”. For instance, I give an instruction to use the third finger, but the wrong finger is used. Instead of saying “that’s the wrong finger”, you can investigate what the child knows by asking “how do you know that is the third finger?” Questions such as this reveal so much more than simply correcting, because it allows me as the teacher to discover what the child knows and also allows the child to increase their own knowledge base and ability to correct themselves.
“Children sometimes get bothered by questions, because in addition to thinking that they should always have an answer ready, they also think they were supposed to have thought of the question in the first place. I tell students that the questions I ask are batteries, and it’s my job to supply them. It’s not their job to have all of the batteries – we work together to light up their brains”. [Helping Parents Practice]