A Questioning Success

When the randomizer that I use to call on students in my class picked on Janna* the other day, I could see the anxiety on her face.  “So tell us one of your notions about how heat works, Janna.  What are you wondering about?” I asked.

She quickly looked away and laughed nervously — and in that moment, I worried that I’d done the wrong thing by calling on her.  While it’s true that I’d reminded my students that my classroom was a “judgment free” zone when we are talking about our notions, I knew that I was asking Janna — a student who sometimes struggles with her schoolwork — to take a pretty huge risk by sharing in front of her peers.

“I don’t know,” she said.  “I guess I was wondering whether or not the wind pushes heat around somehow.”  

She looked hesitantly around the room, waiting for someone to laugh out loud or to cut her off or to put her down — but none of those things happened.  Instead, my students lit up with energy, curious about the idea that Janna had brought to the table.  I continued the conversation by asking students to think about how wind might be involved in the movement of heat — or in keeping things cool.  “Can you connect Janna’s notion to our lessons on how heat is connected to density at all?” I said.

Seems simple, right?  Just another kid asking just another question in just another science class?

Here’s the difference:  Janna — a student who doesn’t see herself as a questioner — figured out that it was safe to wonder in my room.  More importantly, she realized that the things that she is wondering about CAN energize our class — which means that she CAN be an intellectual leader among her peers.  She needed that.



*Bloggers Note: Janna is not this student’s real name.


Related Radical Reads:

Where Have All the Beautiful Questions Gone?

More on Student Questioning in the Classroom

Helping Students to Be Comfortable with Not Knowing [ACTIVITY]


5 thoughts on “A Questioning Success

  1. jenmarten

    I’m co-teaching an Intro to Ed class for high school juniors and seniors interested in becoming teachers. We just talked about questioning and making the room safe this morning. I will be sharing this example tomorrow as we finish our discussion on the pedagogical cycle of teaching. I love the way my PLN comes through with timely posts. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Glad you dig it, Josh —

      Sometimes I feel bad when I write about the same thing three times in a row, but I think there’s value in seeing the process through from beginning to end too!

      Rock on,

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