When I am thinking about how to work in the classroom, and just how this plays out in general, I’m really thinking about: How do you keep offering that invitation really, really explicitly?
It comes down to giving students language sometimes. When I start to demonstrate code for the first time, for example, I’ll say, “If you have a question, please ask. Please raise your hand. And chances are, I know there’s intimidation because you might feel everyone’s going to think you’re dumb, but probably there’s someone else in the class that has the same question. They’re going to be grateful. And then even if nobody else has that question, just other people getting to see me repeat it, and then having the feeling of, oh, I understand that, they’re going to be feeling great. They’re not going to be thinking about you and thinking you’re dumb. They’re just going to be having this moment of happiness. Right? So it’s all-around positive.”
But then I also say, “If you’re confused, here are some things that you could say: If you don’t know the exact question, you could say, ‘Will you repeat that last thing you said? Could you do another example? Could you go through that again slower? Will you explain that in a different way? Could you please speak slower? I’m confused and I don’t know what my question is, but I need you to explain that again.’” And it’s amazing because students will literally raise their hands and say that. “I’m confused and I don’t know what my question is. Could you explain that in a different way?” I wonder if they hadn’t been given that language, how many people would stay silent, feeling like you have to have a really well-defined question.

Mindy Seu on Teaching