5 Classroom Management Tips: Working Around “I Don’t Know.”

classroom management“I don’t know” isn’t a four-letter word, but to most teachers, it might as well be.

While there are classroom management strategies we can use to engage students who say “I don’t know,” educational technologist and blogger Jeff Dunn may have the ultimate workaround:

He’s outlawed “I don’t know” entirely and provided students with a few alternative responses. 

Instead of “I don’t know,” students may respond with the following choices:

  • May I please have some more information?
  • May I have some time to think about this?
  • Would you please repeat the question?
  • Where could I find more information about that?
  • May I ask a friend for help?

All five of these questions provoke engagement and let students know that no one gets off the hook.

Jeff is a regular blogger over at Edudemic, so be sure to stop by and check out his collection of articles.


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Managing the classroom is one challenge for any teacher. It is very important that at the beginning of the school year you would set and identify the rules and relay them to your students. A teacher must plan and plan over and over again especially with regards to effective classroom management.

I feel it is up to the administrators to set a solid school wide effective behavior system in place and guidelines. therefore all teachers will have a systematic approach to classroom management.

One way to prevent the "I don't know" syndrome is to use collaborative learning strategies during class discussions. Have students think about the question you ask and then collaborate with a partner or within a small group. After the short discussion you can call on any student in class and they will be able to provide an answer. It may be right or wrong, but it will present an opportunity for further discussion. In math, using white boards, after teaching a concept, checking for understanding, and a bit of group practice, have students explain step by step to their partner on how to solve a problem. Then ask questions related to the concept.

This is basic stuff, but sometimes we forget the power of collaborative grouping and learning, especially when working with students with high and low levels of proficiency in a group.

All excellent thoughts, Joel. Thank you for sharing!



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