Time. It’s something we all wish we had more of, especially when we get so precious little with our students already. Since we can’t magically add more minutes to our classes, we have to make the most of what we have. One thing that can be a huge drain on class time is repetitive student questions.
Here are three ways to stop those questions in their tracks so you can focus on the bigger picture instead.
1. Delegate an “Ask Me Artist” for each class period.
The “Ask Me Artist” is a student that you choose to be the expert for the class period. After your instructions, if students have questions, they must go to the “Ask Me Artist” first. If that student doesn’t know the answer, then they can come and ask you.
I like to welcome students to the room wearing the “Ask Me Artist” badge around my neck. (Click the image below to download your own. Laminate, hole punch, and add a string to put it to use!)
Seeing the badge right away reminds students that someone will be awarded the title and privilege soon. Make sure you choose an attentive student who is demonstrating great listening skills and readily participating in the discussion. Each time you select a deserving student, encourage others to celebrate that classmate. You may have them clap or even make up a special cheer.
This strategy works wonders. It fosters a collaborative atmosphere and frees you to instruct instead of repeating yourself ad nauseam. The tiny token of a necklace has changed the way my students interact with each other for the better.
2. Implement the “3 Before Me” rule in your classroom.
This strategy is a classic for a reason. With this rule in place, if a student has a question, they must ask three other students before asking the teacher.
Teachers are freed from answering questions they’ve addressed before like, “Where are the markers?” and “What’s the next step?” Plus, students beam with pride when they answer a “teacher question” and help a peer.
In addition, if three students don’t know an answer to a question, it serves as a great indication that I failed to give clear directions or that I didn’t explain a new concept well. It is a great way to manage silly questions and simultaneously monitor your own effectiveness.
3. Use a Magic Hourglass.
For those students who just can’t stop talking, a simple, plastic hourglass can work wonders. You can find these on Amazon or even collect them from old board games. Timers that last around 3 minutes work well. Make sure you purchase plastic. Mine have dropped a thousand times and are still just fine.
If a student is constantly interrupting you, give them their own magical hourglass.
It goes like this, “This is your magical hourglass. Once you’ve shared something with me, you need to turn it upside down and work until all the sand falls to the bottom twice before you can come share something else with me.” When you are asked, “What is magical about it?” you can explain that “It makes waiting go faster.”
What inevitably transpires is that the student forgets about the sand and gets engrossed in their work while they wait. They forget about that thing they just “had to tell you or they’d burst!” It lengthens the time between interruptions and conversational breaks. As teachers, we don’t want to discourage students sharing with us, but it should not deter them from their true purpose when they are with you… to learn and make art.
These three strategies are so easy and inexpensive to implement and can radically change the time you spend repeating yourself. Why not give them a spin and see what they can do for you and your students?
Do you use any of these strategies in your room already?
How do you avoid answering the same questions all day long while also meeting students needs?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.