EX1: Student Special Questions

2a: Creating an environment of respect and rapport
Students ask questions on any topic and you eventually answer them all throughout the year. This can be both a powerful tool to build rapport and/or a short lesson they will always remember.

Educator: David Brighton
School: Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Appropriate for Grade Levels: Secondary
Content area(s): All, this is not curriculum specific.

How does this lesson or technique improve student learning?

Students are more engaged learners when they know their teacher cares about their personal life. The question cards promote a positive climate by treating students as individuals and supporting and encouraging their unique questions.

What does it look like in my classroom?

Timeline: You control this. Periodically answer questions throughout the year.

On the first day I hand out a 3×5 card to every student and ask them to write their name on the card and the ask me three questions on any topic and give them 5 minutes to think and write them down. As they think I encourage them to ask anything they’ve ever been curious about. Why the sky is blue? What is the 53rd digit of Pi? I let them know that I will not mention who asked which questions so don’t be embarrassed. Some students don’t engage and ask silly questions. Some try to stump me. Some students ask incredibly insightful questions. I use the questions to fill gaps that come in scheduling. When the lesson ends 5 minutes early my class wants me to answer more questions. Students really enjoy this activity.

The key to this activity (why it works so well for this component):

The questions are fun for everyone. One student tried to stump me by asking what their Mother’s middle name was, so I waited until after parent/teacher conferences (of course I explained why I was asking) and he was shocked when I read the question and answered Nancy. Some questions lead to very engaging conversations with the class. Sometimes they even become writing prompts for class. The key is that students know you care and enjoy the interaction.

Supporting materials

Artifacts to gather for evaluation

  • The question cards can be included
  • Class work that was generated from the questions.

The Danielson Connection

Student “Question Cards” build a rapport of respect and personal connection between you and your students. The anonymity of the questions lets students participate without fear and creates safe classroom environment. The reading of the questions allows the teacher to demonstrate how the questions can be answered in a respectful manner.