Music Teacher Tip #59 - Keeping Students Engaged When Asking Questions

There is a technique to keeping the whole class engaged when you ask a question.

1. Tell the class that you are going to ask a question and that you want everyone to try to think of the answer.

2. Ask the question and then wait at least 10 seconds before calling on someone. This is commonly referred to in educational circles as “wait time.”

3. Randomly call on a student.

4. After they answer, find something to affirm and restate it in your own words. For example, “That’s right, Joleesha! In 6/8 time the eighth note gets one beat.”

5. If they are incorrect, ask leading questions to help them find the right answer. This is called “sustaining feedback.”

6. You can also offer the student the chance to “phone a friend” and let them call on another student to help. This can help them save face if they are really struggling and it can help build camaraderie among the students.

7. Another option after giving wait time is to have everyone signal the answer on the teacher’s count. For example, say, “On the count of 3, I want you to show me a thumbs up if you heard a major chord and a thumbs down if you heard a minor chord. 1, 2, 3!” (Model this as you explain.) Now you can instantly see all students’ level of understanding.

8. You may also tell them to simultaneously type their answers in the chat box. If you need to collect evidence of the formative assessment, just screen shot their answers.


To sum up, the most important techniques for keeping all engaged are:

Giving wait time and...

Randomly calling on students.

Or giving wait time and...

Having all students simultaneously respond.

This works in person and for virtual learning.

A word of caution...

If you catch a student off guard and the student asks you to repeat the question, just repeat the question - no need to embarrass them.


Happy teaching!

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