Using Questioning In Teaching English Language Essay

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Imagine you are in a foreign country and you want to go to the airport, but you do not know the right direction .What should you do? Of course the first thing to do if you do not have a map is to ask someone for the direction. All our knowledge results from questions, which is another way of saying that question-asking is our most important intellectual tool (Postman,1979:140).That means we use questioning as a very useful tool of getting information and knowledge when we do not know what to do.

Questions play an important role in everyday life. People need to communicate with each other and for doing this, they need to make conversations and consequently they will use questions and answers. Questions also plays a vital role in the teaching of various materials and in particular in the ways and teaching methods that focus on the development of thinking and the realization of the mind in addition to the ability to measure different kinds of educational achievement among students.

Asking questions which are fruitful, meaningful and interesting is a very complex task. Teachers ask thousands of questions in a year .The ability to ask intelligent and searching questions, to use questions for different purposes and to know what to do with the answers is crucial to teachers of all subjects. It is one of the core teaching skills that informs good practice and can help improve pupils' learning ( Wragg and Brown (2001,p:1) . I completely agree with the two authors because questions from the classroom are very important, so that nobody can deny or omit the role played by questions in the modern education in the classroom. فهي تمثل عادة قسما كبيرا من وقت التدريس ، وتعتبر وسيلة هامة لتهيئة مرحلة التعلم وبدئها ، كما ترعى النشاط التعليمي ، وترفع من فعاليته ، وتزود التلاميذ بتوجيهات بناءة ضرورية ، ومحفزات مباشرة لتعلمهم .

The properties of traditional classroom questions. عُنى التربويون منذ مطلع العصر الحديث بالتعرف على أسئلة المعلم الصفية ، واهتموا بها وبخصائصها ، وأنواعها واستعمالاتها اهتماما ك

1 ـ إن معظم أسئلة المعلم موجهة عادة لحفظ النظام في غرف Most of the questions that teachers use are usually directed towards the maintenance of order in the classroom. فالمعلم بدلا من أن يوفر جوا طبيعيا يشجع التلاميذ على الفهم والاستيعاب والمشاركة الصفية ، يضفى عليه جوا مشدودا يكون التلاميذ خلاله متوتري الأعصاب . The teacher, instead of providing a safe and encouraging atmosphere to help students to understand and participate in classroom activities, he -by using questions- creates an atmosphere in which pupils will be very nervous. Extended stretches of questioning in which the information builds from facts toward insight or complex ideas rarely take place (Goodlad, 1984; Sadker and Sadker, 1985). The teacher uses a large number of questions which need short answers; وهذا يعنى أن المعلم يقوم بمعظم العمل أو الحديث الصفي بدلا من قضائه معظم الوقت فى توجيه التلاميذ ليعملوا شيئا مفيدا ، أو ليفكروا لأنفسهم . this means that the teacher does most of the classroom in talking instead of spending most of the time in guiding students to do something useful, or to think for themselves.3 ـ إن عددا كبيرا من أسئلة المعلم موجهة عادة لأغراض التذكر اللفظي ، والحكم السريع غير الناضج من قبل التلاميذ لرأى أو حقيقة معين وبذلك فإن وقتا قليلا جدا يتوفر لديهم في مثل هذهA large number of questions the teacher asks do not develop the pupils' skills to express themselves, especially when the teacher addresses a large number of questions that need quick answers in specific and short timeومثل هذا الظرف التعليمي لا يعطى التلاميذ الفرصة لصقل أساليب إجاباتهم ، ولا يسمح للمعلم أن يلاحظ بعناية الأخطاء اللفظ.5 ـ إن عددا كبيرا من أسئلة المعلم تتجاهل التلميذ كإنسان مفكر له اعتباره واستقلاله وحقه في أن يبادر ويسأل ويستفس .

Characteristics of a good question.

The good question is very clear and understood by all pupils. It should be expressive and rises curiosity .It should be related to the teacher's focus and the pupils' experiences. The good question can provide surprise; students will sometimes respond to a good question by talking about things that neither they nor the teacher were aware that they knew e.g. Have you ever done anything brave? Students were amazed to discover how often they had done just this and their feelings about that s great. A good question challenges existing thinking and encourages reflection and should be directed to all class with simple and easy words.

Questions for class (purposes of questioning)

      مما لاشك فيه أن لكل سؤال يطرحه المعلم غرضا معينا يريد من تلاميذه أن يحققوه أو ، يقوموا بإنجازه . It is known that every question asked by the teacher wants a particular purpose of his students to achieve on or to perform. The list of some educational purposes aimed at by the teacher questions are as follows:

1 ـ حث تلميذ معين على الاشتراك في التعليم الصفي ونشاطاته . 1 - To urge the students to participate in a particular classroom education and activities.

2 ـ جذب انتباه التلاميذ . 2- Attract the attention of students.

3 ـ تشجيع التلاميذ وحثهم على المناقشة . 3 - To encourage students and urge them to argue and discuss..

4 ـ إعطاء توضيح لمشكلة معينة ( تنظيمية أو تعليمية ) . 4- To give an explanation of a given educational problem. 5 ـ الاستفسار عن أعمال وواجبات التلاميذ الغائبين والمق

6 ـ تشجيع التلاميذ على الإجابة الصحيحة وتوجيههم7 ـ التعرف على نشاطات التلاميذ الخاصة ، وعلى حاجاتهم أو مشاكلهم . 5- To identify the activities of students, and on their needs or problems.

8 ـ التأكد من فهم التلاميذ . 6- To make sure students understand.

9 ـ تحليل نقاط الضعف عند التلاميذ 7- To analyse the weaknesses for students to get better.

10 ـ اختبار معرفة التلاميذ للموضوع . 8- Test students' knowledge of the subject.

Types of questions

Morgan and Saxton (1991,p.41) suggest, that there are many kinds of questions; I will try to discuss some of them.

***The closed question is one which asks for the short, right answer e.g. (What is the name of the current British queen?) .It may be answered by 'yes' or 'no' e.g. (Have you ironed your clothes? )

***The open question is one which suggests that the teacher does not have one particular answer in mind, but is inviting students to consider and advance many possibilities .this kind of question is 'open' to many answers e.g. (What can you do to improve your English ?).

***The deductive question is one in which the statement in the question has to be accepted and the answer's job is to prove it: Journey to the centre of the Earth is an imaginary story. e.g. (What are the characteristics of this kind of stories?).

*** The inductive questions is one in which the answerer will have to look at a series of instances and encompass them in an answer .e.g.( What are the characteristics of tragic plays?).

How do we question?

Many teachers fail in their use of questioning technique because they do not ask in the correct way; they do not have the skill of asking clear, simple and understood questions. The classic concept of learning is that it occurs when the teacher asks the questions and the students can answer them ,but the reality is that learning does not occur until the learner needs to know and can formulate the question for himself. We, as teachers, must know that children have been asking questions and learning by themselves since they were born. We must not allow our students to lose this natural ability by ignoring it .

To conceive an educative question requires thought;

To formulate it requires labour;

To pose it, tact.

None of this is mysterious

And all of it is within our reach. (Dillion, 1983:8)

Classroom interaction is the activity which sets students into the process of inquiry (thinking ,feeling ,discussing ,arguing and exchanging ideas) and the teacher is ,most often ,the originator of the action .The teacher is the guide of effective learning and his job is to open doors of knowledge to his students and help them discover and explore by asking and answering questions. The teacher should create a good atmosphere for promoting effective questioning by encouraging his pupils to give answers and express themselves without any fears of being punished for committing or making mistakes.

The teacher should have a good preparation of questions that he/she is going to use putting in his/her mind the objectives of the lesson .He/she should have some rules in dealing with questioning and answering such as 'no hands up' ,calling pupils by names which makes all pupils ready for thinking and giving the answer. All pupils should be engaged in asking and answering the questions, not only the brilliant ones and that can be done by using a variety of questions suitable for all levels of pupils.

It is very important for the teacher to deal with pupils' answers positively. He/She should give a considerable amount of praise to all answers as a kind of encouragement; especially with lower attainers' answrers.When the answer is wrong, we should not use bitter words such as wrong, stupid answer. We can ask them to rethink again and give another answer.

Questioning and thinking time

Some teachers ask so many questions. Kerry (2002) argues that, 'the fact is that teachers are much more expert at talking than listening'. In my opinion, this is not necessary and useless. They do that because they believe that the more question they ask, the more possibilities there are for learning and we also like talking more than listening .Questioning is a very important technique, however, there should be thinking time for students to think about the questions and give their responses. The teacher's ability to wait calmly while students consider the question and formulate the answer is very important because that builds trust in the relationship between teacher and students, gives time to the students to think about the question from many angles, encourage them to think deeply of the correct answer and suggests that they share the responsibility for their learning.

In fact many teachers in our schools - and I am one of them - cannot wait long time to get the answer. The reasons are that of the big number of students, the limited time provided and many exercises need to be explained. This means that the question will have to be short, direct and lower-order, requiring and answer which is also short, direct and does not need higher levels of thinking. However, I sometimes ask my students questions that require long thinking time and I wait for them to answer. I think we should have the courage to increase thinking time as this will result in significant changes to occur such as ;students give longer answers, more students volunteer answers, more questions are asked by students, students' responses are more analytical, creative and evaluative and students report that, "Class is more interesting" (Ferrara, 1981).

The role of questioning in teaching English

Questioning is very important technique for me as an English teacher. I always encourage my students to get engaged in the lesson and in order to do this I ask them simple questions, often, closed questions in the beginning .Then I develop my questions to open ones to let them navigate in higher levels of thinking. Most exercises in our English book requires work in pairs or groups to make conversations by asking and answering questions and that is very important to develop their skills of listening and speaking.

Questions Outside the Classroom

Questions do not have to be limited to the classroom setting. You can ask specific questions related to textbook readings, homework and study. Meyers and Jones (1993) suggest that questions should fit into prospective classroom activities, model theories and approaches used in academic disciplines and professional careers, extend meaning to materials read or discussed previously, promote a critical analysis of the materials, and make the students think about how the text applies to their personal experiences.

Coping and dealing with different levels of learners

Pupils are of different levels and they need variety of questions to suit each one .If questions are easy, the brilliant pupils will get bored and if questions are difficult ,lower attainers will neither understand nor answer them. To solve this issue, the teacher has to have a good preparation of his questions in advance, putting in his mind all the expected levels of pupils.


As teachers we tend to ask questions in the "knowledge" category most of the time. These questions are not bad, but using them all the time is. Bloom's taxonomy is very useful both in planning objectives and in planning increasingly challenging questions. We have to try to utilize higher order level of questions. These questions require much more "brain power" and a more extensive and elaborate answer. The six questions categories as defined by Bloom are:

Knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. ;

When using questions to test knowledge, we should recognise the concept of a hierarchy of knowledge, from low level (facts) to high level (synthesis and analysis) (The kind of questions used - whether "closed" (i.e., requiring a single correct answer) or "open" (requiring the learner to combine pieces of information and formulate an answer) - pitches the discussion at different levels. Questions used should be appropriate to the learner's level of knowledge. However, we should be attempting to promote thinking in all .

(Lake, F, R. Vickery, A. and Ryan, G. 2005,pp:126-127)

On the other hand, Moore (2007) argued that, 'although Bloom's Taxonomy is extensive and very useful for classifying questions, most teachers find it too complex to use in the classroom. Instead they can use other alternatives systems such as convergent or divergent system.' In my opinion the use of convergent and divergent system is similar to close and open question and is useful, but I would prefer to use Bloom's Taxonomy as it explores all the levels of thinking from knowledge to evaluation.


Learning must be an active process. Asking a question is an action; answering a question is an action. Questioning has been recognised as the means by which teachers help students to construct meaning. It is very important indeed to choose suitable questions for suitable situations and subjects. Many teachers have to prepare well on how to deal with questioning as a good educational technique. Effective teachers use a greater amount of open questions than less effective teachers. Using questions in the classroom can help students engage with course content, the instructor, and other students. Good instructor-generated questions can also guide students in developing better answers and help them to form questions of their own .From all mentioned, we can say that questioning is one of the most extensively important areas of teaching and learning.