Friday, June 14, 2013

Blog Post 6

What do I need to know about asking questions to be an effective teacher?

In my first post I said, "my school would have litters and litters of independent learning kitties," so I want to experiment with that philosophy.

No, I do not literary want cats running wild in my school. Cats, in this reference, are a metaphor for curious students.They are also here to make you laugh.

Let's meet some of my students.

  Chi from the anime "Chi's Sweet Home"


Youtube sensation Nyan Cat
Nyan Cat

  Random Clip Art Cat
kitten reading a book


All aspiring teachers experienced the classroom setting as a mere student. We know the ins and outs of how it functions. The smart one answers all of the questions so the one who doesn't care about school can drool all over the desk. The class clown makes everyone laugh to stop the lesson while the daydreamer thinks about the mall. What wakes up the class?

A question?

You know, I was teacher once. I taught a litter of cats at a high school that doesn't exist. Let's see how my students reacted to questions I asked in the past while we were in the classroom.

February 2, 2005
Wednesday at 8:39 AM

Me: Today we compared and contrasted antagonist and protagonist. Do you understand the difference between them, class?


Okay, so none of the students replied. Why not?

I learned questions like "do you understand?" and "doesn't that make sense?" don't challenge students' understanding. The student knows the answer should be yes whether they listened or not. Asking the student to explain why it makes sense is much more effective because their brain has to process the information they learned and generate a logical response.

Make sure your students don't regurgitate the lesson after you check for understanding. What I mean is, don't pose general questions.

Here's an example from last Thursday.
I just caught Chi snickering about the way my pants makes me look fat. Ignoring her I said this:

Me: The protagonist in the Fancy Feast commercial returned the canned food to the supermarket after the evil cat stole it. Doesn't that mean that the protagonist is good, Chi?
Chi: Yeah, he's good and he'd be better if he'd start you on a weight loss program.

Not only did the class laughing at me, but I asked a poor question where the answer was too obvious. I had to challenge my students. Also, I had to remember to call on others besides Chi to keep the class more alert in case it was their turn to answer a question next. I continued class remembering that.

One month ago, I made a classic teacher mistake. I asked a complex question and expected all my students to be able to answer it.

Me:It's Sunday and you have six feet of yarn left. How much does it cost to get a refund on the yarn if its the middle of August? By the way, Meow-Meow, the cat that lives by the mall, wants to come over and play at a quarter to six o' clock at night. How much Meow Mix do you have put in your food bowl if the train to Florida leaves forty-six minutes after two o'clock traveling seventy-six miles per hour?

Now my smart student has her paw in the air. She somehow knows the answer to my ridiculous question, but she doesn't know which question to answer because I asked more than one. The rest of my students are discouraged because the question was complicated.

The bell was about to ring and I haven't gotten any of my students interested in anything that day. I knew I had one more chance.

Me:Okay, what if the cafeteria decided to serve dry cat food instead of wet cat food(cats prefer wet food)? What actions should students take to get the wet food returned to the menu?
Chi: Prank the cafeteria workers until they make wet food again.
Nyan Cat:Is somebody planning to get rid of the wet food? I think we should start a petition.
Random Clip Art Cat:I suggest that we establish a committee that shares our same viewpoints. In response, we write a persuasive essay to the school board.

I asked the students to interact with each other and I was happy to see them interact with one another until a cat fight started...

As a teacher, it's important to be patient with students' responses and be thankful for the response. Avoid general questions and ask open ended questions that make the students think.

I learned one last thing. No teaching cats.


  1. Hi Sherri,

    This is a very interesting post! I like how you use metaphors! I even like how your post is structured. It was much easier for me to read your post as you separate the different ideas, but be careful. Don't over use your spacing.

    You also did a great job on your alt and title modifiers!

    Keep up the good work!

    Stephen Akins

  2. Very interesting, I enjoyed the way you used the cat metaphor to explain a conversation that you had between your class. I think it is crucial to pose a question that will engage your students in their ability to think critically and discuss with their classmates to promote learning in a new way.

  3. Great Job!!! I like the way you posted scenarios.