Talking to Administrators About Questioning

Observers and administrators require teachers to use frequent comprehension checks and questioning.  Teachers who use “a high frequency of questions” are given a higher score on teacher evaluations; teachers who ask fewer questions are penalized (Tennessee, 3).  In the SIOP Model, a teacher is praised for asking a question, then literally covering her mouth until a child answers (Echevarria, 103).  The lesson will not move on until someone answers.


Avoid high-pressure forced response questions.  The more comprehension checking, the less students acquire (Krashen, 2011, 85).  Avoid interrupting with questions (Krashen, 2013), and simply read or listen to a story, then discuss what students enjoy without forced output in L2 (Mason; Lee).

Allowing creative, autonomous responses, ample time to reflect, and compelling, personal “shared interaction” levels the playing field for ELLs (Peyton).  For example, Nancy Atwell exchanges letters to discuss students’ favorite books.  Face-to-face oral Readers Conferences, open-entry Readers Notebooks, and student-led literary circle discussions are alternatives to teacher-created comprehension questions.

What book did you read today?  How do you feel about what you read?  What does this book inspire you to create or investigate?  In exemplary language classrooms, open dialogue about reading habits and authentic response to text replace “assign and assess” questioning (Allington, 743).



Atwell, N. (1998). In the middle: New understandings about writing, reading, and learning (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Allington, R. (2002). What I’ve Learned about Effective Reading Instruction. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(10), 740-747.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M. E., & Short, D. (2009). Making Content Comprehensible for  Elementary English Learners: The SIOP Model.  Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.

Kittle, P. (2013). Book love: developing depth, stamina, and passion in adolescent readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Krashen, S. (2011). Free Voluntary Reading. Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2013). Read-Alouds: Let’s Stick to the Story. Language and Language Teaching, 3: 17. Retrieved from:

Langer, J., & Close, E. (2001). Improving literary understanding through classroom conversation. Albany, NY: Center on English Learning and Achievement.

Lee, S., Lee, M., & Krashen, S. (January 2014). Vocabulary Acquisition through Read-Alouds and Discussion: A Case Study. The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 9(1): 2-6.

Mason, B. (2004). The effect of adding supplementary writing to an extensive reading program.  International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 1(1), 2-16.

Peyton, J. (1985). Questions in ESL Classrooms: New Perspectives from Written Interaction (Publication). Washington D. C. : Center For Applied Linguistics.  Retrieved from:

Tennessee Department of Education. (2016). Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model. Retrieved from


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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