Monday, July 26, 2010

Five Questions You Should Ask Every Student

One of the easiest and most powerful ways to build relationships with your students is to ask questions. The mere act of asking tells your students you care, and what you do with the information you gather will largely determine how effective you can be with those particular kids. Many times knowing what to ask just involves taking their lead, such as asking about an interest or achievement they express in class. Sometimes, though, you need to jump start the conversation.

I’ve found that there are a few seemingly straightforward questions that can open up deep, powerful conversations with students. You may need to adjust them slightly to fit the grade level you teach, but these five questions will prove essential for all students.
  1. What do you want to do after high school? In other words, what are your goals for the future? This opens up avenues to discuss college, supporting yourself, living in the real world, and what they need to do now to reach their goals later.
  2. What do you want to be when you grow up? This is not the same question as the first one, largely because students don’t always see the connection. You can help them make it. You can also encourage them during your regular class activities when something related to their desired career pops up. Even if they end up changing their minds several times over (as we all do well into adulthood), it’s another way to show you care.
  3. How can I help you do better in class? This core question takes different forms depending on when you ask it. At the beginning of the year, you might ask for the one thing you need to do to help them do well. By the end of the year, you should be wondering what you could have done better.
  4. What do you think about school? Learning a student’s opinion about school helps shape your approach to helping them achieve.
  5. Do you think you’re smart? You’ll be surprised how many bright, talented young people say, “No.”
In truth, this list could include fifty questions, but these five are key to opening up the hearts and minds of your students.

Veteran teachers, share your ideas and questions to ask every student in the comments.