Turning Multiple Choice Into A Discussion

I always want my students to get good at tackling multiple choice questions but it seems like they fall into the trap of choosing a distractor answer. In order to remedy this, I used this technique a lot with my summer school students that I heard about from a colleague of mine, which I then took a little bit farther. I had students take a piece of paper (since I did not have this prepped ahead of time) and cut it into 4 pieces. On those 4, they had to write the letter A-D large enough so I could see. I then proceeded to put up the multiple choice questions up on the board and had students hold up the answer they thought was write after some solo time to think and work it out on a mini-whiteboard.

I would see the answers they all chose and then have the students discuss to me why they chose that answer. (They always dislike when I start with a question and refuse to give them the correct answer until we had some discussion). Student #1 will tell us how they solved it, student #2 offers up a different way, student #3 tells us they thought it was a different answer choice because of the work he showed on his whiteboard, student #4 points out an error and comments on how they have made that error before too, student #5 points out that choices A and B don’t make sense since the answer has to be greater than a certain number, student #6 asks how student #5 was able to reason that out, student #7 points out why and offers a great explanation, students#8-20 now think about their answer.

After I feel the students have discussed it enough (while I just throw out guiding questions) I have them put up a letter of their final answer and then I reveal it. I would rather go through 5 really good multiple choice questions and have students learn about so many different ways to tackle a multiple choice problem from their peers with multiple reasoning and perspectives rather than throw out a worksheet with twice as many problems with answers and say practice.

Do you have a good way to practice multiple choice questions? I would love to hear them!


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