What is the Right Question?

Many educators understand the impact of asking questions. However, many educators may not be asking higher-order questions soon enough! As soon as the student walks into the classroom an educator can seize this opportunity to grab the student’s attention through questioning.

Asking the Right Question!

Simple enough, a teacher can write a thought-provoking question on the board for students to respond to in a discussion or in a journal. I had my high school English language learners (ELLs) respond to several questions throughout the year in daily journals and collected these every other Friday. This practice significantly improved their writing scores on the SATs. In my adult classes we tend to go the discussion route.

However, asking the right questions takes some forethought.

  • The Bloom’s Levels of Taxonomy provide a basis for asking questions.
  • Additionally, the teacher should connect the questioning to the lesson objectives and the topic.
  • Figure out what you would like your question to accomplish!
    • For example, I knew that my online class about RSS readers would confuse some students. Therefore, my goal was to connect the students’ prior experiences with the new information. I decided to question the students about their experiences subscribing to a magazine and use this experience to subscribing to a feed. Below is a poll the students answered as soon as they entered the classroom.
  • Student Poll

Make it Fun!

Several applications make the answering process quite enjoyable for students.

What Makes You Laugh first question

Your boot camp challenge for this week:

Take the summer to find ways to develop higher-order questions for your lessons! Be creative and share your experience with us!

Do you have a tip for teachers on ways technology has improved the learning in your classroom? Please, contact me to have that idea featured on a future What Works Wednesday post!

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. Hi Shelly

    Saw your Q on Twitter & couldn’t resist 🙂

    Whenever someone asks me ‘What is the best question?” I often respond with “The most naive/’dumb’ one?” …

    Ah, you asked “what is the right question?”
    Won’t labour a point, but offer you a link to a great resource ideas from which I have used myself many times.


    Keep asking 🙂

    Cheers, Tomaz

    • Hello Tomaz,

      I’m glad you couldn’t resist! You shared a great site which very much asserts the importance of students investigating and asking questions. I think this is another reason why teachers should begin lessons with higher-order questions because these types of questions usually lead to more questions.


  2. Hi Shelly,

    As a new teacher, I am very self-conscious about the questions that I ask in class. I always have Bloom’s in the back of my head and try to keep my questions open-ended, but I still feel like I can improve a lot. Questioning seems to be a skill that really develops with experience. I think this is especially true with leading discussions, a skill that I really admire in other teachers. I’ve found a lot of resources at http://www.dedicatedteacher.com on questioning and discussion strategies that have been a help as I gain experience and develop my techniques.

    Great blog!


    • Hello Tracy,

      Thank you for sharing the web site! I enjoy exchanging ideas on questioning strategies, because this is one technique that is easy to improve and apply. Moreover, students need to develop questioning skills for their careers. As you stated, experience is the key. Therefore, as teachers we need to ensure the students gain the experience of developing higher-order questions.


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