You DO Like Answering the Same Question for the 100th Time

Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, each Friday in July we’re bringing you the flip side of an annoying or unpleasant part of our jobs. Last week Sarah convinced you that you DO like recess duty! Today we tackle another topic: the question that makes you want to flip your lid. 
You DO like answering questions
It was nearing the end of the year. My patience was running thin, as student excitement for summer vacation was building. While working on a collage, a fourth grader came up to me and very seriously asked, “Mrs. Heyn, where are the scissors?” It was all I could do to keep my cool. Where were the scissors? WHERE WERE THE SCISSORS!? Were they not in the same spot they had been since kindergarten? Were they not sitting literally inches away from this student in a blue supply bin? Had I not just taken them out of said supply bin when I had done my demonstration three minutes beforehand? And wait, why was this kid up out of his seat?

These types of questions seem never ending in the art room. “Where are the scissors?” “Where are the glue sticks?” “My pencil broke, what should I do?” “I don’t have a chair…”

Sometimes, I get truly annoyed at these questions. Because of this, I used to just respond snappily, “In the blue bins.” “Sharpen it.” “There’s a chair over here for you.” But then I realized, by giving them the answers, I wasn’t helping my students think for themselves.

So, now, when I get these types of questions, (after taking a deep breath, of course), I turn the questions back on the student. “Hmm…” I say, “Where are the scissors?” This is usually enough to get them thinking. Inevitably, someone will look confused, “Umm… I don’t know, that’s why I just asked you…” In that case, I might have to use another prompt, “Well, where have you found the scissors before? If you don’t know, can you ask a friend to help you?”

When looked at as an opportunity for growth instead of an annoyance, a simple student question can become an enjoyable part of your day. Inevitably, once you’ve helped one group of students practice these higher order thinking skills, another group will come in and you’ll have to start all over again. But isn’t that a great part of our job? There are always new minds to help shape.

Breathe. You DO like answering the same question for the 100th time.

How do YOU feel when students keep asking the same questions over and over? 

What are your coping skills? Have you ever just exploded?


Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Mrs.”C”

    Good one! Yes, “I Do” love repeating myself! Not! I will also turn the question back around to the student and ask them where the item is? They always know where to find it! If it’s something I have just explained I will tell them to stop and think or ask someone in their group first… if they are still confused after those two they can ask me.. :) Happy Friday! :)

  • Kelly Betz

    This speaks to me on a spiritual level. And I do the turning the question around on them after the second month of school. Especially with only seeing them once a week.

    • Kelly – It’s so true! The questions can make us feel like we are losing our minds. Good solution with turning it over with another question!

  • Helen Burns Iglar

    I turn those annoying questions back on the kids by telling them it’s a treasure hunt and they should go hunting around the art room. Of course then they know exactly where to look and find the previously invisible object!

    • Funny, Helen! I’m stealing that one :).

  • “I don’t have a chair” – Classic line! I envision the kid who stands off to the side for the first 5 minutes, paralyzed because he doesn’t have a chair, until some sassy little girl rolls her eyes and pulls another chair from the other side of the room. Ahhhh! madness!

  • Donna Wiskirchen

    Was taught the “put the ball back in their court” strategy about 25 years ago…

    S- I don’t have a pencil
    T- I can see that
    S- Can I have one?
    T- Yes. (child looks at me perplexed)
    S- Can you give me one?
    T- No
    S- Do you know where one is?
    T- Yes
    S- (thinking, thinking)
    S- Can you show me where?
    T- Yes ( I’m smiling and some of class is now listening, some are shouting answer, I shush them)
    S- Mrs. Wiskirchen, Where are the extra pencils?
    T- (smiling) Hmm, where do we keep the extra pencils?
    S- (smiling) OOHHH, in the yellow container.
    T- Yep! Awesome!

  • K Hyman

    I always respond “The _____ is in the same place it was the last time you were here; can you remember where we keep that?” They always know.

  • Nancy

    We do Three before Me. I remind students of that, and they check their class map (quickly made the first week) or ask someone at their table.

    • Three before me is a great strategy. Can you explain more about the classroom map you mentioned? I’m intrigued!

      • Nancy

        I give students a map (and sometimes I make them draw) of my classroom. It has a list at the top of items they needed to label on the map (scissors, sinks, tissues, paper, where to put finished work, etc.). Everything in my room has a sign or a sticker on it, so they tell what is in the drawers and cabinets without opening them. Even the plastic box on the counter with bandaids in it is labeled. They work together as a table to find everything. I count it as a daily grade, and they keep it in their art folders. It is a great way to get them to work together at the beginning of the quarter, too.

  • Elizabeth Rubenstein

    i do this with my kids at home, too!

  • Toby

    Those type of questions just remind me how everything is done for them at home… I won’t do it for them… But I’ll help them!
    THINK! Is the magic answer!

  • Leah

    One time when a student asked where the glue was (and just like Amanda said… it was in the same spot it had been since KINDERGARTEN) I put my hand to my ear and had a pretend phone conversation with the glue bottle. I pretended I was the glue and the conversation was one sided, pausing between each response so you could just imagine the other side. It went something like this:

    Glue bottle: Hey Mrs. Keller, how are you?
    I’m good, thanks for asking!
    Me? Oh, you know. Same place as always.
    Yeah, that’s right!
    The basket RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.
    Yeah, I’m pretty happy here.
    Well, Ok, gotta go. I’ve got gluing to do.

    The student laughed, picked up the glue, and never asked me again!!

  • Clark Fralick

    In my TAB classroom, everything is labeled. I just either, smile and point or ask them to look around the room. No sweat

  • Mandy

    I went to a summer conference in Kansas City. Amazing speaker, Grace Dearborn, said to create a “Circulation Ring” that you wear around your wrist as you circulate the room (AKA bracelet). You put the top 5-6 annoying questions/procedures you find yourself repeating all day long and you take a picture of the correct way, laminate, hole punch, and attach to the circulation ring. Whenever a student ask an annoying question they should already know the answer to, you show them the picture on the circulation ring with no talking involved. Such as “Where do I hand this in?”…then you show the picture of the drying rack. I have never tried this, but loved the idea. I have always put the annoying question back on the student as was discussed.

  • Jackie

    My go-to line is “I’ve already given instructions on that”. That let’s them know I won’t be answering this particular question at this particular time because, well, I’ve already given instructions on that. If someone does happen to ask a question that I haven’t already addressed, I make it a point to say, with emphasis, Great question! Because I HAVEN’T given instructions on that! And I call the attention to the class that I need to offer more information on the task. 99% of the time they are all ears because listening to the directions THE FIRST TIME becomes the key to not getting the go-to line.

    • Michelle

      Jackie, I love your go-to line and I plan to steal it!

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