What do you already know about…?

It’s one of the most basic questions to ask, but it’s easy to forget about it in the swing of a lesson.

What do you already know about…?

A couple days ago, I forgot to ask this question.  After 30 minutes into class during which students were drawing area models for multiplying fractions, I finally asked this question.  Most of my students recalled learning about multiplying fractions last year, then many students quickly shared they completely remembered the process.

At this point, I wish I had a reset button for my classroom.  As much as the activities were challenging and reestablishing an understanding of multiplying fractions, I immediately envisioned what this lesson could have been if I asked what students already knew at the start of class.  Instead of students working independently and following guided examples for area models, this lesson could have been a peer teaching session.  Students who remembered the process could have taught students who were rusty or inexperienced with multiplying fractions.  My questions could have been more targeted to individual students as I heard explanations and dialogue about the concept.  Most importantly, this lesson could have been a large confidence booster for students and a great opportunity to enhance collaboration among students.

I sometimes wait to ask what students know about an idea to build suspense and surprise; however, I need to ask what students know when it comes to content where I have hints that students have a decent amount of prior knowledge.  The other day was a reminder for me that good questions can be the simple ones I tend to forget.

[cross posted to the betterqs blog]

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