Series Content Conversations: Strategies for ELLs: Open-ended Questions to Encourage Conversation

Open-ended Questions to Encourage Conversation

Lesson Objective: Use open-ended questions to encourage academic thinking and conversation
All Grades / All Subjects / ELL


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How do open-ended questions empower students, especially English Language Learners?
  2. What advice does Ms. Gelormino have for using open-ended questions?
  3. How do you use questions in your own classroom?


  • Private message to Arianna Valdivia

I love open ended questions because it does allow the student to do more of the talking and practice theri oral communication skills.  It also helps the teacher assess what the student knows or has learned about a certain topic.  

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  • Private message to Matthew Helliwell

I loved the agree/disagree signal. Definitely more effective than some systems I have seen where students yell "Disagree!" This system is more subtle but no less empowering for the students. 

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  • Private message to Richard Herrera
Master Teaching Schedule Note: If you do not teach on block schedule complete the “A” Day only. “A” Day Schedule Period Time Class – Subject Room 1 8:50am – 10:20am Bank & Finance A-321 2 10:28am-12:08pm Bank & Finance A-321 3 12:46pm- 1:16pm Coll. & Career A-321 4 12:16-12:42; Lunch, 1:20pm-2:27-4:15pm. Coll. & Career A-321 “B” Day Schedule Period Time Class – Subject Room 5 8:50am- 10:20am Bank & Finance A-321 6 10:28am-12:08pm Bank & Finance A-321 7 12:46-1:16pm Conference A-321 8 12:16-12:42,1:20pm Lunch 2:27pm-4:15pm Coll. & Career A-321
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  • Private message to Jeremy Dixon
I liked how the teacher set back and let the students take over the teaching. Open ended questions hold students to a higher standard of learning.
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  • Private message to Pauline mauro
Open ended questions create more student participation and builds their confidence level. It helps them engage individually or as a class. She was also teaching the students to be respectful when agreeing or disagreeing with someone. The class was very relaxed which also helps students in the learning process and in conversing.
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  • Open-ended Questions to Encourage Conversation Transcript
    Teaching Channel

    +++ 00:00:04 +++
    Julia Gelormino: So what can we do to

    Open-ended Questions to Encourage Conversation Transcript
    Teaching Channel

    +++ 00:00:04 +++
    Julia Gelormino: So what can we do to check to see if we're correct?
    Student: Count from seven and then count from two?
    Using Open Ended Questions to Encourage Conversation

    +++ 00:00:15 +++
    Julia Gelormino: Right now what you're going to do is you're going to look at the number of dots, you're going to think about how many dots do I see, and how do I see them? All right. How many dots do you see and how do you see them?
    Lower Third:
    Julia Gelormino
    First Grade Teacher
    Think College New Elementary, Oakland CA

    +++ 00:00:28 +++
    Julia Gelormino: I use open-ended questions as often as possible as a strategy for my English Language Learners, and for all students. Because it's a way for them to do more of the talking.
    Julia Gelormino: So, Fenali [ph?], today can you tell us how many dots did you see?
    Fanali: I see three.

    +++ 00:00:46 +++
    Julia Gelormino: Can you say more?
    Fenali: I see three because I see three. And seven.

    +++ 00:00:57 +++
    Julia Gelormino: It's really easy for a teacher to just take over and just scaffold it the entire way, it's a little bit harder to sit back and to ask one question that could have many different answers. And that's actually what gets students to be able to engage in that dialog. They'll be able to answer in many different ways, rather than just me asking them a yes or no answer.

    +++ 00:01:17 +++
    Julia Gelormino: Nice. Is there anything else that you could do to show your strategy here?
    Student: Question.
    Julia Gelormino: Oh, awesome. So Dianar [ph?], could you say more about what you just drew on your poster? Can you say that one more time?
    Esperanza: I see nine and two.

    Julia Gelormino: So she sees nine and two. Show silent signals if you agree or disagree. And so Fiana could you say more?

    +++ 00:01:42 +++
    Julia Gelormino: I'll use the prompt "Say more," just to get them to say again a little bit more, to be able to use the word "because" to explain. And if they get stuck that's where other students in the class can now participate, right and to be able to build and to add on. So it's okay if that one kid isn't actually able to articulate it, 'cause we're going to keep practicing throughout the year.

    +++ 00:02:05 +++
    Julia Gelormino: So you can say, "I respectfully disagree."
    Student: I respectfully disagree. Nine plus two equals 11.

    +++ 00:02:15 +++
    Julia Gelormino: For open-ended questions, usually the best practice that I found is to write them out and have them posted. Even if it's just in the back of the classroom. Because then you can always refer to those questions. And the more that you practice asking them, the better you'll get, and the more natural they'll become.

    +++ 00:02:33 +++
    Julia Gelormino: And so Esperanza, could you say more? Could you say more about how much was here in this group?
    Esperanza: Eight. So what could you write here with this circle?
    Julia Gelormino: Okay.

    +++ 00:02:44 +++
    Julia Gelormino: With open-ended questions, it's a way to kind of place trust in your students answering the questions. It gets you away from doing all the talking, or giving them the answer. It gets them to build more competence in that area. It holds them to a higher expectation.
    Julia Gelormino: So the first partner was what everyone?
    Students: Eight!
    Julia Gelormino: Eight. And the partnership was?
    Students: Ni--
    Julia Gelormino: Two! So we had eight and?
    Students: Two!

    +++ 00:03:11 +++
    Julia Gelormino: Which equaled how many altogether?
    Students: Ten!
    Julia Gelormino: You're right. Let's give two snaps to Esperanza.
    Teaching Channel

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School Details

Think College Now School
2825 International Boulevard
Oakland CA 94601
Population: 306

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