Tag Archives: questioning

The Learning Environment – Displays


There have been lots of updated displays across the site following on from the spotlight, which is great. If you need some inspiration, have a look at the work that some departments have done:

Subject in the news:


Promoting subjects:


Reflection boards:

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Magenta Principles across subjects:

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Subject specific vocab & support boards:

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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



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.

TOTW – Monday 24th February


questioning technique 4

This week’s questioning technique is taken from Gererd Dixie’s book The Ultimate Teaching Manual and is about thinking aloud.

TOTW 4thinking aloud

Why is it important?

By verbalising their inner speech (silent dialogue) as they think their way through a problem, teachers model how expert thinkers solve problems. As a result, as students think out loud with teachers and with one another, they gradually internalise this dialogue; it becomes their inner speech: they learn how to learn and develop into reflective and independent learners.

“What am I going to say/write/do now? Why have I stopped? What is my problem? What sort of problem is this? Where have I seen this before? Who can help me? What do I need? What is the next step? Is there a better way? What alternatives are there?”

Get pupils to ‘think aloud’ when they are preparing to offer their responses. Doing this raises the status of the ‘thinking process’ rather than just focusing pupils’ attention on their final answer.

TOTW – Monday 10th February



Questioning for Quality Thinking


Recalling – Who, what, when, where, how _______?

Comparing – How is similar to/different from_______?

Identifying Attributes and Components – What are the characteristics/parts of _______?

Classifying – How might we organize into categories_______?

Ordering – Arrange into sequence according to _______?

Identifying Relationships and Patterns – Develop an outline/diagram/web of _______?

Representing – In what other ways might we show/illustrate _______?

Identifying Main Ideas – What is wrong with _______? What conclusions might be drawn from_______?

Identifying Errors – What is wrong with _______?

Inferring – What might we infer from _______?

What conclusions might be drawn from _______?

Predicting – What might happen if _______?

Elaborating – What ideas/details can you add to _______? Give an example of _______.

Summarizing – Can you summarize _______?

Establishing Criteria – What criteria would you use to judge/evaluate _______?

Verifying – What evidence supports _______? How might we prove/confirm _______?

THW TeachMeet – CPD


teachmeet logo

On Wednesday we hosted our second TeachMeet CPD, which was based around questioning. Once again the session was “inspiring”, full of “brilliant ideas” and had a lovely atmosphere. If you want to know why you should attend the next one (and steal some of these ideas!), then read below!

“Teachers use questioning and discussion to assess the effectiveness of their teaching and promote pupils’ learning” (Ofsted, School inspection handbook from September 2012) –> using questions to promote learning and stimulate thinking Questioning Ofsted

questioning ofsted 2

Chris – think/pair/share after question has been asked & routines to encourage students to use all other resources available before answering a question (books, peers, display etc) as a way of building up quality answers.

Faye – “Get Nosey”: Display visual stimulus on board and ask students to write down any questions they can think of in relation to the photo/image on post-it notes. At the end of the lesson, look at questions again & discuss which questions students now have answers to and which ones remain unanswered. Get Nosey

– Timed quiz: pairs/individual students (or teacher) design a question to assess understanding of topic/learning objective. They also provide 3 answers – Red, Amber, Green – (1 correct answer & 2 wrong answers). All questions are then collated and put into a quiz. As the question is displayed, pupils must show up the card that matches the colour of the correct answer – in the time allocated! Great for whole class AfL too! Timed quiz

Amy – Millionaire questioning: provide students with 3 lifelines (50/50, ask the audience, phone a friend) as a way of supporting students during questioning Millionaire

Pat – Q/A match up Questioning biology
•Half the group were given questions relevant to what they need to know
•The other half were given the answers – on large pieces of paper
•The girls with the answers had to stand in a row holding their answers up
In silence the girls had to match up with their ‘partners’
•The pairs then sat together and, in turn, chose someone else in the class to ask their question to

Tracey – silent questioning (questions displayed on board, students “discuss” it in writing). Other options possible, 1/ students swap “silent discussions” and read peers’ answers 2/ colour code questions on board so students can decide what difficulty level they want to attempt.

              – use of questioning at the very start of a lesson to establish students’ prior knowledge and to encourage student talk. Use of questions in History

Jo – What, What, How format so that students start thinking and making progress even before any teacher input. What what how
1/ WHAT difference do you notice? 2/ WHAT does it mean? 3/ HOW would you explain it to someone else?

Claire – Question Stems Bloom’s Taxonomy Questioning mat
            – Quiz, Quiz, Trade Quiz quiz trade
1. Create Questions Provide each student with a flash cards about the current unit of study. One side of the card has a question or vocabulary term and the other side provides the answer or definition.
2. Pair Up Use the stand up/hands up/pair up method for students to find a partner.  Partner A holds up the flash card to show Partner B the question.  Partner B answers. Partner A praises if correct or coaches if incorrect.  They switch roles and Partner B asks Partner A the next question.
3. Hands Up After thanking each other and switching cards, Partners A and B raise their hands to find a new partner and repeat the process for an allotted amount of time.
Student-Created Quiz, Quiz, Trade Have students create their own flashcards with questions and answers.  You might want to review the cards before allowing students to play so you can be sure that the students’ answers are accurate.

Sakiko – Display visual stimulus on the board with key question words around it (Who, Why, When, What, Where, How etc). Pupils write questions using the question prompts. Pupils swap questions and answer each other’s. This works well in a language lesson to practise sentence building but could also be applied to any subject to practise creative writing or assess subject knowledge.
             – add/develop/challenge/change: get pupils to do something with the information they are given. add challenge develop change

Matt – Four Corners: 4 words on the board, one in each corner. Students make a sentence with it. For example in maths

4 Corners
A huge thank you to our colleagues who shared some of their fantastic activities & resources!

This time, as Easter is approaching, the raffle winners left with some colour inkpads (to sue with our brand new 2 stars and a wish stamper) and some fillable eggs, which could be used for extension questions/tasks or with a question inside to review the learning (could be colour-coded and/or differentiated). Please let us know how you are using your prizes.

easter eggs
Thank you to all staff who presented and attended!

TOTW – Monday 3rd February



This week’s questioning technique comes from Professor Dylan Williams.


•A hinge question is based on the important concept in a lesson that is critical for students to understand before you move on in the lesson.
•The question should fall about midway during the lesson.
•Every student must respond to the question within two minutes.
•You must be able to collect and interpret the responses from all students in 30 seconds