Don't Answer Questions

Sounds kind of unteacherly, doesn't it?

But I promise it isn't!

Before I tell you though, I must share the exciting's a new month of Bright Ideas!
And, just like last time, I'm linking up with tons of my blogging friends to bring you another month filled with teaching ideas. In a crazy-hectic year, this linky has truly become one of my favorite things to look forward to!

So. Back to the questions.

There are a lot of questions that come up during the school day, aren't there? And I love that my students are always thinking critically and know they can ask these kinds of questions during all lessons.
But I had been wondering lately...was I really answering them in the best way possible?

Sure it's great my 5th graders are asking thought-provoking questions...but in the fast-paced frenzied feeling of the school day, I felt like I wasn't taking the time to do these questions justice. I felt like I was just giving an answer back automatically.

Then, one day during a math lesson, it hit me:

Don't answer all of their questions.

So a student raised her hand and asked a thoughtful question.

I opened my mouth, stopped, closed my mouth, and hesitated.

Then I said, 

"That's a great question...I'm going to turn that back to the class."

"What do you think?"

There was a brief moment of quiet, maybe of a bit of surprise at being asked to reflect on a classmate's question. But then they got talking...and solving!

It didn't take extra time I had feared losing. It was actually quick and engaging for my students. I realized then I had a new strategy to utilize in all subjects.

Turning student questions back to the class has helped them in so many ways. This type of discussion has allowed my students to:
Students are asked to think critically about answers and solutions to these questions. What background knowledge do they have? What known strategies can they apply to answer this?

This type of questioning and answering lends itself so naturally to a Turn and Talk format (which my 5th graders are VERY fond of!). An engaged class makes a happy, learning class and THAT makes for a very happy teacher!

Student-led questioning and answering also brings a sense of belonging to an academic, collaborative community. Students know their questions are valued. They are a guiding force in the learning. I have noticed an increase in the amount of high-level, thoughtful questions asked since we have begun this format.
I realize this is probably something many others do and I do not wish to act like I've invented something new...but what I have learned from this experience has impacted my teaching in all subjects.

I've learned to listen even harder, take more time, and let my students guide their way in learning when the questions call for it.

It truly has been one of the best experiences this school I know I will carry with me into the future.
So...are you ready to read some incredible bright ideas? I have been waiting all week for this!! Just click on any of the wonderful blogs just below:


  1. This is absolutely wonderful! I love love love this student-led strategy and the steps you include make it so easy to implement. Thank you for sharing this and your kids are so lucky to have you as their teacher!

    3rd Grade Thoughts

  2. Love this idea! Our district focus is accountable talk and this really hits right at it. Thanks for sharing! I

  3. You always have such great ideas! Love, love, love this strategy! You're such a fabulous teacher...your students are blessed to have you! :)

  4. As always, another fabulous idea from Kristen! Thanks so much for sharing a little piece of your classroom with us. ;)

    Teaching in Room 6

  5. Yes, yes, yes! NOTHING is more effective than asking the kiddos to explain their knowledge and share it! Love this post! :)

  6. Great idea Kristen!!!! You are awesome! This will be great to get all my students talking more and if they are thinking, talking about it and sharing then they are learning:) Thanks friend:)

    4th Grade Frolics

  7. Great idea and post! I do this sometimes too even with my little six year olds.

  8. Wonderful idea, Kristen! I love this line, "Student-led questioning and answering also brings a sense of belonging to an academic, collaborative community." This is soooo true. I do the same thing as you....I get in such a hurry to rush the day and "get" to everything, that I often forget to let the students figure things out on their own. This is such a great reminder that allowing students to lead their own learning will be more beneficial in the end. Thanks for such a brilliant idea (as always)!

    Fun in Room 4B

  9. This is so true but something that we all need to hear now and then. As teachers, we are so quick to try to answer every question and solve every problem, but we need to give them time to try on their own. Great post!

    Creating Lifelong Learners

  10. Love this strategy! I do it too...mostly when I don't know the answer but don't want the kids to know that ;) LOL

  11. This just makes sense, and it will be so simply to do! Thank you SO much for sharing. :D


  12. Yes yes yes! Thank so for this post! This is the perfect reminder!

  13. Love this post! I really resonate with your statement that it gives students a sense of belonging - so true and such a great reminder. Thanks!

    One Lesson at a Time

  14. Don't you just love when students do that?!? I think it really shows their wheels are turning!


  15. Love this tip, Kristen! Sometimes it's just the little things that can change your lesson completely. Great post!


  16. This is an awesome strategy! It reminds me of an inquiry learning workshop I went to a few years back that focused on allowing the kids to arrive at the answers themselves...and how NOT answering questions is sometimes the hardest part for teachers!

  17. Loved this blog! I'm a biology teacher at a large university, and this is great advice, even for someone like me who teaches something so different! Do you have a Twitter, so I can follow you? If yes, I'm @bioamyb

  18. Brilliant! I use this tactic sometimes, but definitely could put it into practice more often.

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple


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