How to deal with a ‘stupid’ question

March 9, 2021


There is a saying: ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’

I respectfully disagree.

Estimated time to read this article: 4 minutes

Asking ‘stupid’ questions

If students asked questions that have to do with the topics we discussed, I would never say a question is stupid, even if the questions had been asked before.

The answer I provided previously might simply not have been clear enough.

But if a student asked: “What is the homework”, with the homework clearly written on screen, visible to everyone.

Or if a student askes: “What should I do now?”, right after I explained what the next steps were going to be.

Those are stupid questions in my opinion.

As the answers were right in front of them, if they had read or listened to the instruction.

And this does not just apply to students.

During the CLIL challenge last week I asked a lot of questions about the topics discussed.

It was quite interesting to see that questions posed in the workbook I thought were rather obvious, were actually quite difficult for some participants.

Even as I literally mentioned some answers during the live sessions, people still filled in wrong answers.

And don’t get me started on the amount of people mailing me about missing links or workbooks which they could have known about if they had read everything in the mail.

If felt a bit like the student who asked ‘what is the homework’ with the that information clearly visible to all..

You would almost think teachers are a bit like students sometimes…

Key Take Away

Even if you think something is rather obvious, that might not be the case for every student.

Providing structure

My point is: even though I almost spelled out the answers to the questions for the participants, it was still considered a challenge for some.

  • The content might be new to them
  • I might have spoken too fast (which is certainly true)
  • There might have been distractions around

I don’t know the reasons.

And to be clear: I do not categorise any question related to the topics discussed as a stupid question!

It did teach me a valuable lesson though

Because I do know students in your lesson go through these exact learning processes as well!

Next time you ask a question you think might be rather obvious in class, keep this in mind.

There is no ‘stupid’ question related to the topic at hand.

Even ‘simple’ questions might be difficult for students.

Especially in a CLIL lesson, both the new content and the language can be like two barriers to effective learning.

That is why it is important to scaffold their learning.

With enough structure, learning is simply easier.

During the challenge I applied techniques I often used in classroom situations as well.

For example: scaffolding learning by providing questions to answer.

In this case by providing a workbook to fill out during the different training days.

Participants really liked it and mentioned it worked really well!

Key Take Away

Providing structure (scaffolding) to learning is great way to ensure students can focus on the content and have less questions.

Structuring CLIL

Learning about CLIL works exactly the same way.

There is just so much you can learn that it might be overwhelming.

Especially when you just start out.

That is why I created the CLIL Quality Roadmap.

The CLIL Quality Roadmap

And starting today, registration for the Quality CLIL Coaching group is open!

Do you recognize this?

  • No idea where to start with implementing CLIL?
  • Does preparing a CLIL lesson simply take too much time?
  • Do you feel insecure whether or not what you are trying to do is actually CLIL?
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