Ask JA: What should I do if a student answers a question incorrectly?

At times you may find yourself standing at the head of the class with a room full of eager students, hands raised, ready to answer the question you have just asked.  You then choose one student to respond and they give you the wrong answer.  Their reply may be anywhere from not quite right to completely unrelated to the topic.  So, what should you do?  A good place to start is to thank the student for offering an answer; it takes some students more courage than others to participate.  Next, if the student’s response was partially right reference that point and then redirect the question back to the class.  You may want to rephrase it or build off of what the first student contributed.  For example if you asked your class, “What is an entrepreneur?”  A student may say, “Someone with a new idea.”  Your response could look like, “Okay, that’s a good place to start Johnny.  An entrepreneur often does begin with a new idea.  Can anyone tell me another characteristic of an entrepreneur?”

If the student’s answer completely missed the mark you can turn to the class and ask, “Do you all agree with Johnny’s answer?” Or “What do you all think about Johnny’s answer?”  This is a good tactic because the next student most likely will be focused on giving you what they think is the correct answer without comparing it to what was just said.

But, the way you respond to the wrong answer, in your body language and tone, is really the most important part.  If the students feel it is okay to make a mistake and that you are more focused on their participation than them always being right they will continue to try and be engaged.  They will learn from their own and their classmates mistakes!