The Parking Lot

5559534294_9cc4b03624_bThe Parking Lot is a simple, clever way to respectfully handle student questions that cannot or should not be answered right away.

On the side of the board or on a piece of flip-chart paper or a page in your LMS, you write “Parking Lot.” At the beginning of the semester, you explain that all questions are welcome, but that you can’t always accommodate every single one the moment it is asked. These questions will be placed in the Parking Lot so that they are not forgotten and can be addressed at a better time.

Why wouldn’t we answer a great question right away? It might be…

  • too big
  • not level-appropriate
  • addressed in a future unit
  • too specific to one student
  • asked in the last 3 minutes of class

The Parking Lot validates students’ questions and gives teachers a degree of control over how much and in what way student questions change the lesson plan.

Note: if you use a Parking Lot, you must follow through. Incorporate it into your routines: refer to it in your lessons and make it a part of your lesson planning checklist. If it becomes the euphemism for “this is where questions go to die,” students will likely feel insulted if you place their questions there. I know I would!

Photo credit: 12/52 Chalk by Scott Akerman on Flickr

You are reading The Parking Lot, originally posted on

Journal: A Long Day

Class this morning was fine. 12 students. Participation and some laughs, but I wish I’d gotten everyone out of their seat just a little more.

Then I wolfed down lunch and went and volunteered at the hospital. It was busy, and also quite fun.

Then I had to skip dinner to get to a meeting regarding the evening ESL class I’ll being teaching soon. Said meeting was 3 hours long, ending at 9pm a 45 minute drive away from my home.

One highlight of the meeting was that this is a VERY detail-oriented organization. I respect this and I know my students and I will benefit from it. I’ll do my best to meet expectations.

Another highlight was space-sharing. I’ve been accustomed to teaching in classrooms that aren’t anyone’s classrooms in particular. The teachers all shared the space alike. However, in my evening gig I’ll be teaching adults at night in a middle school. I’ll be teaching in Daytime Teacher X’s classroom, and that means I’m a guest.

I don’t mind being a guest in principle. But just one of the many ramifications of being a guest is that if Daytime Teacher X writes an assignment across the entire whiteboard and leaves a note to not erase it, I don’t have a whiteboard that night. I don’t know how likely that is to happen, but the fact that it’s a possibility is kind of disheartening. Or maybe I’m just tired out from a long day.

[insert transition to clever ending paragraph here]

The End