Critical Questioning

When we ask a question, we want as many of our students' brains thinking as possible. Too often, a small percentage of students in class answer all of the questions, which sets the pace for the rest of the students. When we engage only a few students in the discussion, the rest of the students sit idly, disengaged from what we are trying to teach. As teachers, we are all aware of the "ticking clock;" that is, we have curriculum to teach and not a lot of time to teach it. This is a challenge that all teachers face. But if we only have 10% of the students participating in the learning, what is the point? We need to develop strategies and implement methodology that engages 85% or more of our students in the questions we ask. Critical Questioning offers a systematic approach to increase student participation. This strategy offers effective questioning techniques that will help turn our classrooms into lively, productive learning environments.


Step 1: Set up the question

  1. Announce that there is a question coming.
  2. Establish the expectation that all students must be ready with an answer.
  3. Give a benchmark or time limit for thinking and processing.
  4. Make a final announcement to the class that a question will be asked.

Example: "I am going to ask all of you a question. Everyone needs to hear the question and be ready with an answer to share with the class in 30 seconds. Here is the question..."

Step 2: Ask a higher order thinking question

Ask a question that prompts students to apply, synthesize, analyze, or evaluate ideas. Once the question has been asked, give students 15 to 30 seconds to think about their answers before asking them to share.

Step 3: Call on volunteers or "Pair-Share"

Call on volunteers to share their answers or ask students to share their answers with a "Pair-Share" partner. For more ideas on how to elicit responses, check out our Critical Responding strategies.

Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

LTA Toolkit Free
You have clicked on premium content only available through LTA Toolkit.


You have clicked on ZAP Class content.

Interested in a ZAP Class at your school?