A question trail is one of my all-time favorite strategies for making almost any content more engaging. As its name suggests, this activity involves a “trail” of questions posted around the classroom. At each spot in the classroom, students answer a multiple-choice question. The answer to each question sends students to a different question on the trail. When students answer all questions correctly, they successfully complete the circuit with a specific sequence. If a student answers a question incorrectly, they end up at a question they’ve already answered, which is their cue to backtrack or check in with the “trail guide” (the teacher).
If this sounds confusing, here’s an example of what one question might look like:
1. What is the part of the plot where the conflict reaches its peak and the story reaches a turning point?
- rising action (go to #3)
- exposition (go to #7)
- falling action (go to #14)
- climax (go to #12)
The correct answer is D, which means students travel to #12 next. Students do not complete the questions in numerical order, but in the order dictated by the answers. The trail might take them from #1 to #12 to #5, etc.
Hopefully, this makes some sense, but if it’s still a little unclear in your mind, that’s understandable! Question trails are one of those kinesthetic strategies that make much more sense when you can see it all in motion. I promise you…question trails are absolutely MAGICAL in person if you just give them a chance.
If you’re still wondering about all the hype, here are 5 reasons you should try a question trail in your classroom!
Question trails are engaging and motivating.
If you’ve ever played Kahoot, jeopardy, or any other game in the classroom, then you know just how engaged students are when content becomes a competition. Even if the only incentive is bragging rights, students love question trails because they feel more like a game than a lesson.
Students are motivated to answer the questions correctly and stay on the trail so they can be the first ones to finish. And it’s sometimes the students you’d least expect who get the most “into” this kind of lesson. I’ve seen high school seniors try to literally run to their questions to win, and I’ve seen 7th graders who “hate” school be the very first to finish. It’s mind-blowing and magical, but you’ll never know what will happen until you try.
Question trails are student-centered.
A question trail is a great example of a lesson in which the teacher is the “guide on the side,” rather than the “sage on the stage.” This unique strategy allows students to take ownership of their learning, work at their own pace, and engage in healthy problem-solving. During a question trail, the teacher isn’t “teaching” in the traditional sense of the word, but supporting and coaching students in a secondary role. Students are blazing the trail and the teacher is just a park ranger there to help them on their merry way.
Question trails are kinesthetic.
One of the best parts of question trails is that they get students up and moving around the room! This is great for kinesthetic learners and students with a lot of (or a little) energy. Whether the lesson is channeling energy into an academic purpose or giving sluggish students a boost, it’s a great option to get students actively learning. This is one reason I especially like to plan question trails for Mondays, Fridays, days before breaks, and first days back from breaks.
Studies have shown that even just 10 minutes of walking can enhance brain activity and memory, so you can get even more strategic about when you plan question trails. For example, if you have longer class periods, try scheduling one in the middle of class OR right before an important activity, such as an assessment, brainstorming, or pre-writing.
Question trails are engaging and motivating.
Another big benefit of facilitating a question trail is that it gives both you and the students immediate feedback. You can quickly see which students are understanding the questions and staying “on the trail” and who is struggling and falling “off the trail.” When students get “lost” and come to you, the “trail guide,” you can quickly tell which question they got wrong.
Not only is this great feedback on who needs extra help, but it’s also helpful to know which types of questions/content you may need to review after the trail. After the activity, don’t waste time reviewing everything–just what you noticed students struggled with!
Question trails are an easy way to repurpose what you already have.
When you’re creating a question trail, you can easily repurpose multiple-choice questions you already have (or ones you can find easily online/in a question bank/etc.) This way, you’re not creating everything from scratch. And when you have a template, it’s even easier; you can just plug in questions and go!
Good news: If you’re looking to save time, I have a whole collection of create-your-own question trail templates for you! Each template comes with thorough instructions, a plug-and-go template, student worksheets, and an answer key. All you have to do is add your own content and you’ll have a student-ready question activity in no time!
Want to see what a question trail looks like in action?
Check out the videos linked below:
- What a question trail looks like in action
- Why you should try question trails
- Reviewing figurative language with question trails
- Question trail pro tip
- What’s a question trail?
Ready to create your own?
Just add questions and students to my create-your-own templates! Check them out by clicking on the image below.
Want to check out my student-ready question trails?
You can find them below:
- Vocabulary in Context/Test Prep Question Trails
- Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Question Trail
- Figurative Language in Songs Question Trail (Middle School)
- Question trail in my A Long Walk to Water unit
- Question trail in my unit for The Giver
As always, please let me know if you have any questions! I’ll be answering as many questions as I can in an upcoming “Question Trail FAQ” blog post. Let me know what you want me to answer in the comments below!