Monthly Archives: March 2014

Setting Learning Objectives which Stretch and Challenge – CPD


This session outlined the principles of both Bloom’s Taxonomy for questioning and the Magenta Principles and looked at practical ways that these can be incorporated successfully and easily into lessons. Time was also spent putting ideas into practice.

For more info look at the following resources Bloom’s Questioning Grid Bloom’s_Taxonomy_Teacher_Planning_Kit Lesson 2 Blooms Questioning Questioning and Objectives




The Learning Environment – Focus Group


As part of the Learning Environment Focus Group we have spent time over the last 2 terms reviewing our use of display areas and worked on improving the use of display to impact on T&L.

We have looked at the following areas:

improving the subject specific displays in classrooms to support T&L (we are using areas outside of classrooms to display pupils’ work, mainly corridors)


engaging students in learning via reflection/evaluation boards


improving questioning to link the learning environment and the Mike Hughes CPD


promoting our subject area


celebrating our work


Spotlight Display

It’s all about learning – CPD


Key points:
• Numbers
• Distance
• Depth

  1. The effective teacher is flexible/adaptable/responds to what students are achieving and moves learning forward intuitively.
  2. Students receive information, are given the opportunity to process this information and then apply it through challenging activities.
  3. Consider the balance of student talk vs teacher talk.
  4. If students are ready, don’t be afraid to move on.
  5. Use their answers to questions to ascertain their understanding of prior learning, then move on at a pace that suits what the learners can do.
  6. In practical subjects ensure students are aware of the big picture in terms of end ‘product’ and skills. Provide written support/prompt sheets if necessary. Ensure during ‘release time’ that students know what they have to do to do so but more importantly ensure that they are thinking/getting better/moving forwards in their learning & skills. Use intervention appropriately, don’t intervene unnecessarily, use intervention to change the direction of learning and to facilitate momentum and rhythm to the lesson. How will students show what has changed during the lesson/independent work – how is this made audible/visible?
  7. Allow for mistakes to be made then deconstruct to move learning forwards. Make learning challenging – get students to think to remove the opportunity to be passive (link here to inset with Mike Hughes). Give students time to reflect and refine – avoid unnatural time limitations that impinge on learning.
  8. Consider how objectives are set to ensure student ownership/student buy in – impact of this stage of the lesson – if learning is ongoing, how might the setting of objectives reflect this?

It’s all about learning It’s all about learning CPD

TOTW – Wednesday 5th March


This week’s questioning technique is stolen from Finham Park school’s newsletter “Spotlight on Teaching and Learning – February 2014 issue” which is full of  strategies to enhance your questioning in lessons. Effective Questioning


recent totwqt52 questioning approaches

Strategy/approach Process Gains and benefits
High Challenge:

Phrasing questions carefully to concentrate on   Bloom’s Taxonomy higher challenge areas

Questions must be pre-planned, as very difficult to   invent during a lesson.  Focus   questions to address analysis, synthesis, evaluation and creativity, based on   Bloom’s Taxonomy. Provides high challenge thinking, requiring more   careful thought, perhaps collaborative thinking and certainly longer more   detailed answers.  For Able, Gifted and   Talented.


Staging or sequencing: questions with increasing

levels of challenge

Increasing the level of challenge with each question,   moving from low to higher-order questioning Helps pupils to recognise the range of possible   responses and to select appropriately.


Big questions:

The setting of a substantial and thought provoking   question

Big questions cannot be easily answered by students   when the question is posed.  They are   often set at the beginning of the lesson and can only be answered by the end   of the lesson, using all of the thinking based on all of the contributions to   the lesson.


These questions develop deeper and more profound   thinking.  Big Questions are often   moral issues or speculative questions such as, Where are we from? How big is   the universe? What is the meaning of life?

They require extended answers and usually rely on   collaborative thinking and a personal interpretation of the information   provided.


Focus questioning:

This will help students to answer bigger questions

When students struggle to answer bigger or more   complex questioning, the teacher can model or lead the thinking by asking   Focus questions to lead the student through the steps of the thinking.


Develops confidence and the sequencing of small   steps in thinking and response.  Allows   students to reveal the stages in their thinking.
Fat questions:

Seeking a minimum answer

Pupils are not allowed to answer a question using   less than e.g. 15 words or using a particular word or phrase.  They must give an extended answer or make a   complete sentence/phrase.


Develops speaking and reasoning skills, the correct   use of critical and technical language .
Skinny questions

A traditional approach to Q&A asking everyday   questions with a fixed or specific answer

In its simplest form, students can answer yes or no   to a skinny question, or give a number or knowledge based response.


Challenge level is low in skinny questions that do   not seek and extended answer or reasons for the answer.  Mostly knowledge and comprehension   based.  Does not develop thinking or   reasoning.


Signal questions: Providing signals to pupils about the kind of answer   that would best fit the question being asked.    Teacher responds to pupils attempt to answer, by signaling and guiding   the answers. The essence of purposeful questioning, moving pupils   from existing knowledge or experience (often unsorted or unordered knowledge)   to organized understanding, where patterns and meaning have been established.


Seek a partial   answer: In the context of asking difficult whole class   questions, deliberately ask a pupil who will provide only a partly formed   answer, to promote collective engagement. Excellent for building understanding from   pupil-based language.  Can be used to   lead into ‘Basketball questioning’.    Develops self-esteem.


Strategy/approach Process Gains and benefits
Thinking Time:

Consciously waiting for a pupil or class to think through an answer   (before you break the silence) e.g 15-30secs

Provide time between setting the question and requiring an   answer.  Sometimes alerting pupils to   the approach and the time available to develop an answer. Prompts depth of thought and increases levels of challenge.  Ensures all pupils have a view or opinion   to share before an answer is sought.


No Hands Questioning:

Using the ‘no hands up’ rule

Ref. AfL publication – Working Inside the Black Box.

Pupils aware that those required to give an answer, will be selected   by the teacher.  Teachers alert them to   this as questions are asked.

Linked to ‘thinking time’.

Improves engagement and challenges all pupils to think.  When linked to Thinking Time, pupils share   ideas and ‘position’ their own views in relation to others.


Basketball questioning:

Move questions and discussions between pupils

Teacher establishes movement of ideas and responses around the   class.  Builds on other pupils’ ideas   and comments.  Accepts ‘half-formed’   ideas.  NB not ‘ping-pong’


Engages more pupils.  Stops   teacher being focus for all questioning.    Develops connected thinking and development of ideas.
Conscripts and Volunteers:

Using a planned mix of ‘conscripts’ and ‘volunteers’

Teacher selects answers from those who volunteer an answer and an   equal amount of those who do not.


Enhances engagement and challenge for all.
Phone a friend:

Removes stress to enable those who cannot answer to participate

Those who cannot answer are allowed to nominate a fellow pupil to   suggest an answer on their behalf, but they still have to provide their own   answer, perhaps building on this.


Encourages whole-class listening and participation.  Removes stress and builds self-esteem.


A pupil is placed in the ‘hot-seat’ to take several questions from the   class and teacher.


Encourages listening for detail and provides challenge

Mantle of the expert:

A wears the cloak of the expert to answer questions from the class. Builds self-esteem through opportunity to share detailed knowledge.



Previewing questions in advance

Questions are shared/displayed before being asked, or the start of the   lesson.


Signals the big concepts and learning of the lesson
Pair rehearsal:

of an answer or a question

Pairs of pupils are able to discuss and agree responses to questions   together.


Encourages interaction, engagement and depth

Deploying specific targeted questions

Listen in to group discussions and target   specific questions to groups and individuals.


Facilitates informed differentiation.

Modeling simple exploratory questions to gather information

Teacher models the use of Who, What, Where, When and Why to set out a   simple information gathering response based on the information provided.


Encourages students to rehearse enquiry and comprehension, can extend   into reasoning and hypothesis.

Creates an inquisitive disposition and a thinking/self reflective   approach to learning.