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Classroom Contexts

What makes us human, I think, is an ability to ask questions, a consequence of our sophisticated spoken language. Jane Goodall


We know that student learning is enhanced when there are many opportunities for students to elaborate on ideas through talk. In this section of the website you will find some instructional structures or strategies such as a Workshop Model, Collaborative Learning and Inquiry-based Learning, that have been shown to be particularly effective in promoting the kind of talk that supports learning. 

One simple but powerful change to the classroom is to use questioning techniques that include everyone. 


  • Try this simple cooperative learning technique instead of the more traditional way of asking questions. Ask a question, give students time to think about their answer and then share it with a partner. Everyone is engaged. Think-Pair-Share encourages individual participation and is applicable across all grade levels and class sizes. 

No Hands Up Rule

  • No hands up after asking a question means that anyone may be called on to respond. Even the students who always have their hands up have to keep thinking. 

Encourage Active Listening

  • Teach students to listen to and reply to each other’s responses. Ask follow up questions such as "What do you think about that?" 
Organize the Classroom 
  • Arrange the room to encourage participation. Can students see and hear one another so they can respond and bounce ideas around? Having students seated in a U shape is one possible arrangement. 

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