Questions that Build Students Confidence

Educators know the benefits of having self-confident students. Whether working with kindergartens or seniors in high school, studies and articles like this one from the National Education Association have shown time and time again that students with positive self-confidence are more eager to learn, retain information better, and they’re more likely to participate in class.    Most educators also have a pretty good idea of how to encourage students and build their self-confidence in their own classrooms. Yet, framing can make a big difference in how students perceive or receive a teacher’s efforts. Here are seven questions you might consider asking students as a way to encourage positive self-esteem and self-identity in the classroom.    By the way, you can also get a mini-lesson plan, Exploring My Identity, to take this topic further. Check it out here.   

Ask Students: What Questions Do You Have? 

A few years ago, a teacher went viral for her simple Twitter tweet about changing her approach to taking questions. Instead of asking her students, “Do you have any questions?” she started asking “What questions do you have?” This simple shift of a few words made a huge impact in her students’ willingness to bring up questions, concerns, or things they didn’t understand. It created a more welcoming, encouraging environment versus students being afraid to ask questions or feeling like they weren’t supposed to. Try this approach in your own classroom, and observe how the conversation changes.    

Ask Students: Do You Need a Moment? 

There could be a dozen different reasons why a student isn’t ready to talk, give an answer, or engage in conversation. When you ask a student a question and you’re met with that awkward silence, don’t force it.. By asking students if they need a moment, you’re allowing them permission to take a pause. Then try to move on or let them know you’ll come back to them so they have time to come up with something. It’s a small thing, but it can really help them build confidence in getting involved in the classroom.  

Ask Students: What Do You Think?

This one seems a bit obvious. Of course, students would want to be asked what they think—everyone does. But it’s one of those that’s easy to forget to do. This open-ended, friendly question isn’t intimidating or pointed in any way. It’s just meant to invite students to give their opinion. If you can get used to doing this one regularly, it can go a long way in helping students see that you really do care what they think!   

Ask Students: How Did You Do That? 

Everyone has a different way of thinking or doing things, and sometimes it just helps to let someone talk about their approach. This can be huge for helping students feel like their way has value. This is one of those questions where you ask the question and then truly sit back and listen. Plus, even if you have a pretty good idea of how they did something, they are likely to tell you something you didn’t think of, so it’s a great teacher-learning moment for you at the same time.   

Ask Students: Can You Help Me Out? 

There are many students who readily volunteer to help out, but it’s important to be sure to ask other students to lend a hand as well. This can go a long way in building strong classroom teacher-to-student relationships. By asking for help, you’re letting them know that you trust them. This is huge for confidence. Hopefully, this will encourage them to have more ownership in the classroom and feel more comfortable overall.   

Ask Students: What Did You Find Challenging? 

This is another one where the framing makes a huge difference. By asking students what they found challenging, it’s an acknowledgment to them that it’s a challenging subject, assignment, or task. If you say, “Was that challenging?” it’s too easy for students to say yes or no—most likely no. But if you ask what was challenging about it, you’ll likely get an answer that is helpful to you in doing assessments and learning about your students.   

Ask Students: What Could I Do Differently? 

There are a lot of ways to ask a question like this, including “How can I help?” or “What do you need from me?” This will let students know that you are there for them and ready to help, which will ultimately help give them a safe space and build up confidence in the classroom. Some teachers have also had success with this approach by having a suggestion box or jar that allows students to share anonymous notes or suggestions. It all depends on the classroom and students. It can feel unusual for some people to ask for feedback from their students, but after you get over that initial worry, it can be pretty powerful.