Build Independent Learners with the “Ask 3, Ask Me” Strategy

My Middle School students are allowed to quietly talk to their table mates while they work. They are allowed to move around the room when they need a supply. They are allowed to stand while they work. There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to creating art.

Talking about art and problem solving with other students is an important part of art class. I encourage students to help and teach one another. We all know that the more we teach something, the more we remember it.

However, many students struggle with listening to directions, too! They are constantly asking me the same questions over and over. Often the questions they ask me are questions that their peers could answer, a simple question that I’ve answered multiple times. Since I’m so often busy moving from table to table helping students (I am only one person!), I ask students to seek the advice of their peers for common art room questions.

I tell students to “Ask 3, Ask Me.”

I suggest students ask their question to three other people at their table, if all three students don’t know the answer, then they should ask me. This tells me that at least four of my students don’t know the answer to a question, which means I need to reteach it.

At that point, I stop, and tell the whole class what the question was, and what the answer is. I would say something like, “John asked me a really good question. He asked me what do I do when I’m done printing my 2nd print. I want to remind you that you need to carefully wash off the ink, dry your printing block, and reprint it using the darkest color.”

I keep posters around my room to remind them to ask their peers for help.

Using the Ask 3, Ask Me strategy helps me devote my attention to the students who need my help and allows students to work together to problem solve.

What strategies do you use in your classroom to help students work more independently? 

Any other fun sayings like “Ask 3 Ask Me” to help your room run more smoothly? 

Cassidy Reinken


This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • I love this strategy too. I realized that I really need to make a sign though,  because if a student asks me a question and I have to say, “Ask 3, Ask Me” it kind of defeats the purpose :). Thanks for the reminder!

  • Melissa Hayes

    I have a poster that says “Ask 3, then me.” PosterEnvy contacted me  maybe 3 or 4 years ago, asking if there was anything I’d like made into a poster for my classroom.  I told them that phrase, and they came up with this poster, and sent it to me for free.  I think it was when they were just starting out.  It’s great, and still hangs in my classroom.  I need to reference it more though.  I feel like I’ve become a little lax!  Thanks for the reminder also. :)

  • Heather Crosby

    I use something very similar…”Three BEFORE Me.” Check the board, ask a neighbor, problem slove…BEFORE you come to me. Most often the problem is solved!

  • Kimberly Warner

    What a great tool.  I am beginning student teaching in January and organizing my enormous resources of classroom eye candy, printable resources and lesson plan aids.   This is one I will whip up and utilize as I student teach.  May I ask your opinion?  When you have had a student teacher are you comfortable with them initiating tolls such as these all the time, pending they mention this super cool tool and ask if thet (student teacher and cooperating teacher) can try it out together?  I, of course, will offer to present and implement it in the classroom?  

    I am there to learn from my teacher, but I also am not shy about trying new things and want to get the most out of my experience and use some of these tools with the class, even if I am not completely taking over that lesson.  What do you suggest – any other pointers are welcomed and appreciated.

    • How exciting!  My student teacher just finished on Friday.  I personally loved having a student teacher because I learned so much from her.  In my opinion, if she wanted to implement a classroom management strategy I would have let her try it out.  You will have to ask your cooperating teacher how they feel about it, some teachers might want you to wait until you have your own classroom.
      I think it’s great you are so excited to implement new strategies and learn from your practicum.  I’m sure you will do a great job!  AOE has some awesome resources for you to use.

  • michelle

    I also use a little saying in the art room. Instead of kids saying “I’m done.” as they attempt to finish art VERY quickly, I train/inform them to say “What More Can I Do?” That way as I walk to their raised hands, and hear What more can I do, I can help them EXTEND their work on their project. And they get the sense that they need to work for the full time, and continue adding details to their work. After a few days of raising their hand and asking what more can I do, they tend to work instead of asking… they develop a sense of time and a few tools to use to keep adding to or changing their work.