Sunday, January 15, 2012

Smart Questions

A couple of months ago I started getting really frustrated with some of my students during group work activities.  I noticed a lot of students saying to their group "I don't get it".  Where do you begin helping someone if all they can say is "I don't get it"?  Of course as a teacher I am able to navigate through a series of questions to pin point the confusion.  Students on the other hand, do not always know how to ask questions or may not have the patience to figure out where the confusion started.

This frustration sparked the idea of having sentence stems that were general enough to help students during any math activity.  I call these sentence stems "smart" questions because I wanted students to realize that when they ask good questions they sound smart.  Every student wants to sound smart in school so why not give them a little help!  The sentence stems were first developed between my special ed teacher, speech pathologist, and myself. 

We came up with: 
  1.   I don’t understand __________ part or step.  
  2. I don’t understand ___________________ vocabulary word. 
  3.  Could you repeat ______________ part or step?   
  4. How did you get _________________? 
  5. Why did you do ______________ (multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, etc.)?   
We didn't want to come up with all of the questions because we wanted our students to come up with some questions so they hopefully find more value to use them.  The speech pathologist came in and presented the "SMART question" activity to the class.  Our students were able to come up with a lot of great questions! 
I have yet to figure out how to upload a document so I just took a picture.  :)
**Thanks Amy for your help!**

Once we had the questions generated we cut the paper in half and pasted each half on the front and back of a bright piece of paper. 

 My Co-teacher bought restaurant stands for the questions so they would be at eye level to grab students' attention.  (Thanks Wendy!)

Doesn't it look great!?

I hear the students using a lot of the questions when working together on math activities.  I also give marbles to groups that ask/answer smart questions.  

After about a month of using these sentence stems I started to notice that it seems to take a while to find a question.  Having 11 different questions is a bit overwhelming.  If you think about using this strategy you might want to limit the card to 5 or 6 questions and have the same questions on both sides.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!


  1. I love this! And the restaurant stands is a great solution...where did you locate those?

  2. I love it!!!!!!!!!!! I have the same problem in class!!!! I need to generate an LA set!!! Thanks!!

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  3. The restaurant stands were found online. The teacher who got them said she googled "restaurant supplies" and found a website that sold them for around $1.50 each. If I can find out the exact website I will let you know!

  4. This is great! I hate when I hear students say "I don't get it" but they can't tell me what "it" is. This would be super helpful!