Why? The Simple, Yet Essential Question

Feb 2nd 2014

As teachers, we are programmed to listen for the correct answer and are appeased when we hear it, assuming that students understand and are ready to move on. However, this is a serious misconception as students are missing out on a vital opportunity to explain and justify their thinking.  Asking “Why?” provides critical insight to student understanding as students give the following responses:

  • A strong explanation that describes process to class
  • An inaccurate explanation that shows a student’s misunderstanding or inability to justify an answer

Besides assessing understanding, asking “Why?” provides students with opportunities to:

  • Notice mistake(s) and self-correct the answer
  • Reveal mistake(s) or misunderstanding shared by the class
  • Take risks and build confidence
  • Strengthen communication skills
  • Give alternate explanations
  • Summarize explanations given by other students

Including this simple question has major consequences: it promotes a language-rich classroom; supports inquiry-based instruction; and builds classroom community.

Asking good follow-up questions can open the door “why-d” to learning.

Download our FREE Essential Questions & Prompts, a sneak peek at our upcoming Common Core Problem Solving Unit.

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