5 Better Ways To Say ‘I Don’t Know’ In The Classroom

Do you allow students to answer a question with the response “I don’t know” in the classroom? Perhaps you should consider no longer allowing that phrase and instead offering up these five other ways that might get students thinking a bit more.

For example, if you were to pose a question to a student or even to an entire group in a project-based learning situation, what would be an appropriate response if the answer was not known? Would a student (or students) be allowed to skate by and just say they don’t know? Would you allow a group of students to simply look at each other, shrug their shoulders, and just reply that they don’t know the answer. I imagine they’d say something to the effect of “I don’t know, you tell us the answer.”

Boy, that’d get me fired up. I don’t know about you.

In an effort to get you less fired up, here are a few fabulous alternatives to the popular “I don’t know” response. You can say “May i please have some more information?” or “May I have some time to think?” or “Would you please repeat the question?” or “Where could I find more information about that?” or finally “May I ask a friend for help?”

That last option certainly feels like the ‘phone a friend’ option on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” perhaps. In any case, hope these options help you get your students critically thinking, working together, and just generally not relying on a throw-away phrase that lets them get by without actually learning.


1 Comment

  1. Teresa Beeman

    January 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

    How about, “Well, that depends. . .” (as they stall for time! :-)