TECHNIQUE 2: Targeted Questioning
Alongside resisting the urge to use empty, rhetorical questions to gather data about students’ retention of material presented in a lesson, teachers should begin to employ targeted questioning. Technique #2 is a more deliberate tactic and requires preparation. Essentially, Lemov recommends identifying in advance, where transition in each lesson occurs and then, supplant meaningful target questions that allow the instructor to gather objective data on how well content is has been processed by students.
According to Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹, there are three components involved in ‘Targeted Questioning‘: Generating questions in advance, assembling a strategic sample of students, and speed. As a means to gather valid, current, objective data, Lemov describes how and when to develop target questions that will quickly assess student comprehension. Timing, in my opinion, is a huge component of the Art & Science of teaching.
Planned in advance, the teacher should develop 3 questions that will ascertain deeper understanding of the content; these questions should ideally be HOW and/or WHY questions. Questions should be scripted into the lesson plan and deployed, again, strategically for predetermined transition points in instruction. These, questions, planned in advance are meant to replace, “Does everyone get it, did you understand that?”, with, for example, “Susan, how do you conjugate an ER verb in Spanish if you are talking about 4 boys?”. This functions as an intentional means to subjugate the rhetorical questioning occurs frequently in classrooms. Not suggested by TLAC 2.0¹, but in my opinion, is a means to implement Backward Design strategy into the lesson plan. These target questions could be literally pulled from the quiz, test, assessment related to the content being presented.
Who is responding to the targeted questioning? Ideally, the educator should “sample strategically”; and this, perhaps is where the objective meets with the subjective in terms of gathering data. Lemov suggests, “…call on your best guess of a statistical sample of students…Two students who are usually around the middle. Two perhaps who tend to take a little longer to master content. Perhaps one high flyer.” (p. 36)¹. Along with the strategic sample, my absolute favorite TLAC technique, ‘Cold Call‘ is recommended for targeted questioning as well.
‘Cold Call‘ revolutionized they manner in which I randomly selected student pairing and for individual response. Essentially, these are my popsicle sticks or tongue depressors, which students embellish in their own style along with their name. Time to answer a question? From a can, I randomly selected a students’ Popsicle stick and they are obliged to respond to the task. As part of the class’ normal operating system, students know that at any given time, they may be held accountable for material that is being presented in class. Not entirely comfortable with the subjectivity of mentally having a strategic sample of students for each class ready to select from, I do prefer the accountability attached to the ‘Cold Call‘ method of selecting students to respond to a rapid succession of target questions. I love this video explanation of the legitimacy of Popsicle sticks in the classroom from The Teacher Toolkit!
The final tactic involved in ‘Targeted Questioning‘ is speed. Keeping pace of the lesson, speeding up the level of interaction in the classroom, best described as staccato, successfully implemented will enhance the transition points in the classroom. Lemov consistently recommends, consistently, that time is the most valuable resource in the classroom. “…speed is relevant because teachers who can gauge mastery quickly can frequently check for understanding throughout their lessons.” (p. 35)¹. The key to speed in ‘Targeted Questioning‘ is having those target questions planned in advance; as well, I believe that ‘Cold Call‘ is an ideal tool towards the conservation of time and quick expedition of this technique.