How to handle students interrupting the class to ask questions?

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You will find here a challenge that practitioners face in their classroom and a practical solution(s) for it!

Classroom Common Challenges and Suggested Solutions! Challenge #2:

My students interrupt the class discussions, activities, etc., to ask questions.

Solution:

Display a question parking lot in your class.

What is a Parking lot?

A parking lot is usually a chart displayed on the wall in your classroom. The parking lot can be divided into many parts (lots) based on your class and subject need.

What are the parking lots that we may need in class?

  • Question Parking Lot
  • Exit Ticket Parking Lot
  • Inquiry Parking Lot
  • Feedback Parking Lot
  • etc.

Teachers may choose to have all the parking lots on one big chart, or to have only one of the above parking lots on a chart.

Here, we will concentrate on Questions Parking Lot!

First, design the question parking lot chart with your students. Inform them about how to use the parking lot, the advantages of having a parking lot in class and how will you address their questions.

How to use the Question Parking Lot?

  • Students must have sticky notes with them. You can ask your students to have sticky notes with their stationary at the start of the year.
  • Students are encouraged to write their questions on the sticky note and stick them on the parking lot.
  • Agree with your students on a routine of sticking on the question lot park without taking permission. I see this less disturbing to the class than raising the hand and interrupting the class to take permission and stick the question.
  • Agree on having only one question per sticky note. This helps students focus on writing the question and helps you address them more easily.

How to address students’ questions?

  • Try to surf these questions while students are engaged in other activities during your session.
  • Filter and categorize students’ questions into two groups:
    • related to the lesson.
    • not related to the lesson.
  • Try to answer the questions that are related to the lesson during the session if time permits.
  • Assign the others as assignments, activities, researches, etc. if you see value in them.

What are the advantages of the Questions Parking Lot?

  • Reduces the number of disruptions during the lesson.
  • Encourages students to ask questions. This develops their critical thinking abilities and helps them make connections. Note that teachers may find after reading and analyzing students’ questions, that they have to teach students how to ask questions.
  • Fosters students’ independence. Students feel responsible for their learning both when they focus to formulate and develop the question they want to ask and when the teacher uses their questions to develop research questions, open inquiry activity etc. to the whole classroom.
  • Leads to self directed inquiry. Good questions lead to open inquiry. I can see this as a cycle, where building on one of the students’ questions to develop an open inquiry activity will motivate other students to ask more thoughtful and deeper questions.

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