Are You Fishing or Hunting?


I ran across this idea recently and I've been thinking about it nonstop since.

When I'm teaching, and I pose a question to the students, am I fishing for an answer or am I hunting for one?

Here's the difference.

If I'm fishing, I'm tossing a question out there to see what student responses crop up. I'm not really certain of what I'll hear or what I'm looking for. I'm casting my line and fishing for an answer.

On the other hand, if I'm hunting, I'm posing a question and I know exactly the ideal student response I'm looking for. If I hear it bubble up, I know we're good and we can move on. If I don't, I know how to press - what follow-up question to ask or the reteaching that might need to happen - to get a fully correct response from the students. I know my question AND I know the student thinking I'm looking for before I ever ask it. 

Now, I think there's a time for both. When we're looking for open discussion, some creativity, when we're building on some rich questions or ideas over time ... these are times when you might pose a question and fish a bit. But I think the idea of hunting with a question is critically important, and I just don't know that we do it enough. When we hunt with a question, we deeply know the purpose of the lesson, we know exactly what students need to learn from it, and we make the very most of every precious moment in our classroom because we can make real-time adjustments to our content in response. 

If you're looking to shift your questioning from fishing to hunting, here are a few next steps you can take:
  • Find an upcoming lesson with a sequence of questions that are already planned.
  • Review them and assess the balance of fishing and hunting.
  • For your hunting questions, write out the exact, fully correct student response you're looking for
  • Plan follow-up questions you can ask if you get blank stares or less than fully correct responses. Be careful not to give away the thinking.
  • Then think about 2 or 3 misconceptions you know students are likely to have that would lead to an incorrect or incomplete answer. Plan out the questions you can ask to move them past that misconception and toward a fully correct answer, again without giving the thinking away.
As with so many things in literacy, it's good, minds-on stuff that doesn't require a whole lot: A rich text, well-planned questions, and the relationship between a teacher and a student. Yet it's the most beautiful and powerful work I know.

Fishing and hunting.

Here's to simply teaching well,

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