Clarifying Questions

Of all the lesson planning strategies one of the best is to use clarifying questions.  These help the teacher see if what has been taught has truly been conveyed and received.  Teaching, of course, is a human communication system.  Therefore, the effective use of clarifying questions in marriages, friendships, and the workplace are also a good practice when teaching.  You might say it simply this way:

What works for big people works for smaller ones.

Here’s an example.  If I tell my students I would like them to discuss solutions to the bathroom problem we are having where kids are trashing it, I should ask a clarifying question before I get them working in pairs on ideas.  I could say:

Ok. Let me ask a random, non-volunteer to tell me what it is I just asked you to do … (Then call a number or pick a popsicle stick etc.)

In this case, the clarifying question is a “Check for Understanding” (CFU) question by the teacher to the students to verify they understand.  Clarifying questions can also be given by the student to the teacher.  For example, a teacher may open the floor to question and the student might ask something with a preface like: “So what I heard you say was … Am I to understand correctly that … etc”  In this case, the clarifying question is not to verify the student has learned but rather it is to help the student have a clear understanding of what is expected. Thinking of good questions, instead of answers, can make a teacher more effective than the best book of classroom teaching tips.

Teaching strategies in the classroom such as clarifying questions are excellent tools to being effective at teaching.


Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

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