World Class Teachers

How to Encourage Correct Answers in a Positive Way

It is every teacher’s dream to have a class full of students participating freely on a daily basis.

However, there are times when pupils answer questions incorrectly, and the way we handle it can affect their participation for the rest of the term.

Take a look at our tips for handling incorrect answers in a positive way, while keeping class participation up!

Step in the shoes of the student

First, think about the dynamics of your classroom; who is talkative, shy, top of the class, not the best at this subject?

If the student is shy or doesn’t grasp the subject naturally, they will most likely be reluctant to answer questions freely again, especially if they are told they answered incorrectly.

Just started a long-term supply teaching placement? Get to know the names of your students and gauge their abilities quickly. Reward correct answers, but make sure only once per student until the entire class has participated.

teachers and incorrect answers
Flickr Creative Commons / Cliff

Take a gentle approach

Think back to when you were a student and how difficult – or easy – it was for you to speak up in a course that was your weakest subject. The last thing you probably wanted was for the teacher to tell you that you were wrong in front of the entire class!

Depending on the severity of the wrong answer, use a gentle tone and thank them for speaking up, especially if this is a rare occurrence for them.

This reinforces that, as the teacher, you want your entire class to participate, and you appreciate even the incorrect answers.

Give students extra time

By rephrasing their answer – or asking a question to clarify their response – you allow the student time to either reshape their idea or realise the error in their response all on their own.

Give students time
Flickr Creative Commons / Robin Maber

Make a transition

Then use a filler statement to engage with them, such as:

  • “I can see why one would think…” or
  • “That is a good answer, [student’s name], however if we factor…”

A short analysis of the incorrect answer or examining other possibilities takes the pressure off of the student, and redirects their thoughts to coming up with an alternative answer.

Include other students in the discussion

If the student looks embarrassed or does not seem able to make the connection to the correct answer, ask another student to expand on the answer.

Try not to call on that one pupil who is always keen to answer, as that may put further pressure on the first student.

Do you have any tips for encouraging answers in a positive way? Share them with World Class Teachers on Twitter!

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