Shut Up, And Let Them Speak!

Chad OstrowskiBlog, Innovate Better, Manage Better, Start Here

designNever say ANYTHING in your classroom that a student can say themselves. 

Whoa, don’t get too mad. I was just trying to get your attention. I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about something that changed my classroom forever. I stopped answering my students’ questions and started responding with more questions.

This seems a bit backwards at first but trust me…

When a student asks you a question, you have two choices: You can answer them directly, provide them with information and allow them to move on. Or you can pose a string of simple questions and allow them to reach a conclusion on their own.  The latter of these two choices is much more powerful and will yield a more meaningful learning experience for you and your students.

You should never say something you students can articulate themselves. By answering the question for them you are not only giving them an easy out but you are taking away an opportunity for them to succeed and solve a problem on their own. Even with simple questions this can help show students that they are able to overcome obstacles on their own, instead of constantly needing help.

This can also make your classroom easier to handle and a more productive environment. As students realize they won’t be “fed” answers, they begin to try harder before asking for help. Additionally, this allows them to feel successful and reap the reward of overcoming obstacles on their own. I am constantly reminding my students that “I knew you had it in you!”

After all, isn’t that what we all want? Students that can manage and overcome problems using their own thoughts, voices, and minds!

To help illustrate this idea, take this example:


Student: “What’s the date today?”

Teacher: “The date is October, 19th”


Student: “What is the date today?”

Teacher: “Well, where do we usually post the date for everyone to see?”

Student” “In the front of the room”

Teacher: What does it say in the front of the room?

Student: “It says its October 19th”

Now, I know this example is a bit oversimplified, but the concept is clear. In scenario 2 the student, guided by questions, seeks out the answer on their own. I would also bet a large amount of money (which I do not have, seeing as I am a teacher) that this student will not have to ask what the date is again because they now know how to solve the problem.

This tactic becomes even more powerful when dealing with more challenging questions that are specific to your subject. So the next time a student asks you a question…don’t answer…ASK!

Let them see how smart they are and how confident you are in their ability to succeed. Since applying this to my own classroom, not only do I have to answer fewer questions for my students, but my students are more confident and are able to solve more problems on their own. I’ve always strived to give my students the most control, power, and understanding of their learning and this is just another small change that can make a big difference.

What will you ask your students tomorrow?

More importantly: What knowledge and understanding will they share with you if you just shut up and let them speak?

I’d love to hear how you get your students thinking! Shoot me an email and let me know!