The way you question or lead a discussion in a classroom is critical to what the students will learn and a very important aspect of assessment. Here are some ways to get started easily and develop students critical thinking at the same time:
I have had many younger teachers ask me how I get my students to do things-play with a good posture, develop intonation, ect. We know that these things are not easy when working with a large school group. The one Secret: Questioning the students all the time and providing a never ending assessment.
Ask specific questions while paraphrasing your instruction.
This is a very powerful way of ensuring that the students are thinking about the specific instruction given to them. It also gives teachers a chance for lots of reinforcement of one concept. Simply turn your instruction into an immediate question. This is a very easy idea to start with because the teacher doesn’t have to search for new ideas to develop the instruction. Try it! It is very effective, and when done consistently it can be a powerful tool to your instruction!
The students are working on long bow. They are instructed to play a piece with a longer bow.
Immediate Question: How did your bow do? Was it Long Enough?
Sounds simple? Yet, in most cases, and especially with younger students the first answer would be “I don’t know” or “Good”. The students would not be able to give a concrete answer about their work. This questions if they are really thinking about what they are learning or simply going through the motions. Instead you need to try to get students to talk in detail about what they are doing. Developing critical thinking will also improve their performance tremendously.
A more appropriate answer might be “I saw my bow straight at the beginning of the piece and with good contact point, I need to work on keeping it up till the end of the piece”. This second way of analyzing one’s work takes a long time for students to learn but it is possible at any age. In order to develop students’ critical thinking, you need to be consistent with this types of questions while the students learn to develop critical thinking about their own learning. You can pick this same idea and incorporate more team work in your classroms. This will also ensure your students are thinking and are engaged in learning.
Use the Same Idea Developing Team Work
You can pick this same idea and incorporate more team work in your classroms. This will also ensure your students are thinking and are engaged in learning. Instead of asking the students the question. Have one student play, then ask another how they did. If worried about students being nervous ask a group or section to play, then ask the ohers. This is a very powerful technique when working with and orchestra or band groups. When separating the class working in sections, I want to have the rest of the students engaged and listeting. Often I practice a passage with the instrument group and ask others. The students develop that skill of being constructive and supportive to each other. The effect in the rehearsal is tremendous. I wish I had taught this way all my life!
Questioning using peers
This is a very powerful method of questioning students to develop critical thinking, team work and support.
The students are working on a specific new skill. The teacher divides the class in two. Half the class has to demonstrate the new skill, and the other help has to provide feedback on how the students did
Question: How did the class do as a group?
Are there any particular student you want to congratulate on their use of….
General Questions Developing Critical Thinking:
Why did I stop you?
How do we fix our mistake?
How did we do with…?
Feel that the classroom is a conversation. The music or the conversation has to always bounce back and forth between the teacher and students. There is never straight forward instruction. Each response has to be the beginning of a new question. This is what helps students to think critically.