Have you ever given a presentation, and thought it went great--right up until the very end?
You wrap up with" "Are there any questions?"
And it's as silent as a funeral. Nobody has a single thing to ask.
Could you possibly have explained everything that well? Or were you so boring or confusing that they just lost interest? Were they even paying attention to begin with?
Teachers face this issue all the time. So when a Louisiana teacher tweeted about her best trick to engage kids and prompt a flood of good questions, it prompted a truly amazing reaction.
Here's the teacher, the method, and how it went viral.
'Ask me two questions'
Andrea Sasser is a middle school and high school math teacher in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, which is right in the middle of the state.
She tweets and blogs about teaching: tips and activities that work (or don't) at getting her classes engaged and learning. Her audience largely consists of other teachers, some of whom she met in person this past summer at an event called Twitter Math Camp in Cleveland.
One recent tweet: "using PlayDoh in geometry," she told me. "A lot of people loved it, and I blogged about it. I mean, not a lot of people. People that I know that are math teachers."
That's why she was unprepared for what happened when she tweeted about a new, highly effective trick she'd learned at Twitter Math Camp.
Instead of asking "Are there any questions?" or even, "What questions do you have?" she tried something different:
"Today I tried 'ask me two questions.' And they did! And those ?s led to more ?s. It amazes me that the littlest things have such a big impact!" she tweeted.
Two years ago, I was saying "do you have any questions?". Last year I switched to "what questions do you have?" It made a difference. Today I tried "ask me two questions". And they did! And those ?s led to more ?s. It amazes me that the littlest things have such a big impact!-- Andre Sasser (@MrsSasser) August 27, 2018
Sasser told me she tweeted on a whim, immediately after trying the "ask me two questions" technique for the first time in her classroom. And the thing took off.
As of this writing, it has more than 61,000 retweets, including one from the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey. That's equivalent to nearly half the population of the Lousiana parish where she lives.
"After school, I started getting a few notifications and it was cool. Then by dinnertime, I ... turned the sound off so I could sleep. Then the next morning, I woke up, [and] I scrolled and I scrolled and I scrolled, and I was like, 'What in the world?'"
You can imagine why this "two questions" technique would work.
It sets a minimum that an audience (or a classroom) has to work toward: We're not getting out of here until we get two questions. And, as you've certainly seen at a speech or presentation sometime, the first question often prompts a second one, which prompts a third.
It's a very simple trick. And Sasser said she's embarrassed that she can't remember exactly who it was at Twitter Math Camp that shared the idea with her.
"It's killing me inside, that I'm viral now and I don't even know who really told me that," she said. But she added: "My students are absolutely geeking out, and super excited, and can't believe that their teacher from the little old town that we live in is viral," she said.