Hearing All Voices: How Asking the Right Questions Can Increase Safety and Participation

A major goal of building the social dimension in our classrooms is to increase student participation. One way to do this is through inviting questions. Questions like:

  • What did you notice about this text?
  • Why did that stand out to you? Why did you notice that?
  • What is a roadblock you encountered?
  • What questions did you have while you were reading?
  • Where did the text get tricky?
  • So how did this (the reading) go?

These questions work well when you have first provided students with time to silently read a passage from the text and to pair/share their confusions and understandings. This is a great time to call on those students who rarely volunteer because although you are putting them on the spot, there are no wrong answers; it is safe.  You could even ask students to share what their partner has said as both a means of ensuring engagement and of building safety. It’s amazing to hear how rich the conversation gets when you begin with what students don’t know!

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