English Language Teaching Tip #12: Ask a Question While Taking Attendance

Make a bureaucratic procedure more engaging by asking questions

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

-Thomas Berger (1924-2014) American novelist

Can you recommend a good movie? What’s your favorite song? What’s your favorite color? How do you prepare for a test? How do you relax? Do you have a favorite English word?

Can you turn a bureaucratic requirement into a communication tool to express personal ideas and build classroom community? Absolutely.

Taking attendance remains a vital part of our teaching duties. Some schools even require student signatures to prevent fraud and inflated student numbers or covering for weak students. When faced with this situation years ago, I started adding simple questions to the attendance sheets. What’s your favorite month? What’s your favorite sports team? What are you grateful for? How will you revise your last paper to make it better?

Students appreciate the opportunity to express their ideas and perceptions, and learn more about their classmates. The questions also help build a better classroom atmosphere and provide ice-breakers for students to talk with each other during break. Finally, this extra line turns a boring procedure into an educational tool that works for administrators, teachers, and students. What’s not to like? 

As an old American TV commercial used to say, “try it – you’ll like it.”

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