Nov 28

Reflection Challenge- Week 3

Week 3

Let's look at questions

Reflective Practice is a great way to develop your teaching. This is the third in a series of five videos, helping you to reflect on your practice in an objective and specific way. This week, a task to help you investigate the questions that you ask....

Hi, I’m Jo Gakonga from and in this series of videos, I’m asking you to record your online classroom practice and reflect on it with the help of some data-led exercises. In the first video, I asked you to record a lesson and last week, I challenged you to make a note of who does the talking in your class. This week, I want to give you another way of looking at classroom talk more specifically. We’re going to investigate the questions that you ask. Questions are a really important part of classroom interaction, obviously and it’s useful to consider the different types of questions we use. We’re going to look at two aspects of this today – open and closed questions and display or referential questions.

Let’s start with open or closed. Open questions are ones that invite a longer answer – they usually start with Wh type question words – What did you do at the weekend? How do you like to learn English? Why do you want to go to university? Closed questions are ones that generally have short answers, yes or no type things or questions with a specific answer- Are you from Japan? Do you like chocolate? What’s the past tense of ‘go’? You probably know this.

Another aspect of questions are whether they are display or questions. Display questions are the ones that you already know the answer to. They’re ‘teacherly’ questions. I know that the past tense of go is ‘went’ but I want to know that you know. They’re testing questions. Referential questions, on the other hand, are the ones that you don’t know the answer to – If you won the lottery, what would you do?

Now, often closed questions are display questions and open ones are referential, but this doesn’t have to be the case. ‘Have you ever eaten homous?’ is a closed question, but I don’t know the answer, and ‘why do we say ‘won the lottery’ when we mean ‘in the future’? This is a display question, but an open one.

So here’s a closed display question for you- which of these pairs will elicit more talk from your learners?

Yup- that’s right. But before we go on- this is important- Open questions and referential questions will tend to make people talk more but I don’t want you to go away thinking that one kind of question is better than another – they’re not. All kinds of questions have a purpose. Closed display questions are really useful for checking understanding, for example. What I want you to do is be aware of the questions that you are asking, so that you can choose the kind of question that’s appropriate rather than using the default option.

So, what I want you to do this week is to listen to 20 minutes of your recorded lesson again. It could be the same 20 minute extract or a different one- and I want you to make a note of all the questions you ask in a grid like this. Listen carefully and count up the totals at the end. What do you think? Are the questions you ask appropriate to the situation? If not, how do you want to try something different? As always, feel free to let me know and I’ll see you next week for another observation challenge!
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