7 Basic Questioning Tools

 Notes from session hosted by John Sullivan

 – use singly or in combination

1. Cold-call replaces “hands up who can tell me” as default mode. Keeps everyone on their toes – reduces risk of passengers and avoids domination by a few.

How to do it: say “no hands”, then Pose – Pause – Pounce.

Ideal for: most questioning episodes

Requires you to: personalise and deliberately target students to draw them in

Resources: often none, though some like lollipop sticks (see Dylan William)

2. Bundles of questions to pairs.

How to do it: rather than firing a sequence of closed questions to the whole class and hearing answers from individuals, give a bundle of questions to pairs and some time to answer them.

Ideal for: recap or quick knowledge check

Requires you to: plan ahead, monitor robustly

Resources: mini-whiteboards are ideal but not vital

3. Pair – Share and variations as default mode. A great default for almost all questioning episodes.

How to do it: rather than firing questions to individuals, give students time to think and talk it through before asking for answers.

Ideal for: getting everyone involved – can be used for most questions. Lots of variations and combinations

Requires you to: monitor robustly and target least-likely-tos

Resources: often none

Some variations:

  • Pair-Share (“30 seconds, with the person next to you, get an answer”) – quick and easy
  • Think-Pair-Share. Allows individual reflection for more complex or challenging questions
    • Think-Pair-Think. Great for complex ideas that need deeper thinking. With the right question and the right class you can keep going with this for a while.
    • Think-Pair-Write. Gets students to reflect (as in Think-Pair-Think) then log their thoughts individually. You can add some extra Pair talk after writing, ad infinitum. Superb for revision lessons or preparing for writing.
    • Think-Pair-Move. Similar to snowballing. Students move and share with a new partner after sharing with their first one. Again, this can continue for as long as it seems to be developing thinking.
    • Think-Deepen-Share. Student A gives his view, then, regardless of her own views, student B has to help A develop his thinking by asking questions such as: “How do you know? What evidence have you got for this? How does this link to….?” etc. Use CRAVE Q to support this
    • Think-Challenge-Share. Student A gives her view, then, regardless of his own views, student B has to challenge A by occupying an opposing viewpoint. “I disagree because….I don’t think you’ve considered….What about….? “ Use CRAVE Q to support this.

4. Two-step questions that ask for justification.

How to do it: rather than saving the reasons for follow-up, ask what and why at the same time. You could try “every answer has ‘because’ in the middle”.

Good for: pushing for understanding as well as knowledge

You need to: anticipate your follow-up and build it in

Resources: none, though whiteboards can help

5. Badger or Bounce.

How to do it: don’t take the first plate. Get students to develop their own or each other’s answers. Badger one student to extend their answer, or bounce it to another student: “tell me more…go deeper…what can you add…?” This works best if you don’t comment on their answers – let them do the work.

Try Pose-Pause-Pounce-Bounce.  If answers are detailed, you may need to Summarise and Bounce: “so, Jack’s saying Macbeth was ambitious. Tell me more, Maxine…”

Good for: flushing out current knowledge, extending thinking, exploring ideas, co-constructing learning

You need to: listen very carefully, exercise careful judgements, target key students

Resources: none

6. ACE the question (aka SDC). A simple AFL strategy that forces all students to engage and get an opinion while giving you vital feedback.

How to do it: in response to an answer or statement, students hold up one finger to Agree, two to Challenge, three to Extend. You then cold-call students you want to hear from.

Good for: harvesting opinions, open or closed questions, quick hinge checks, working out who to ask next

You need to: listen carefully

Resources: none

7. Total Physical Response (TPR). Gets students on their feet, sharing and justifying opinions.

How to do it: Allocate different opinions to different sides of the room. Students move to the place that corresponds with their opinion, share ideas with the like-minded students near them, then meet someone who holds an opposite view in the middle of the room to justify. You then cold-call pairs or individuals to hear their arguments. You can push for synthesis too: “with the person who holds the opposite view, rehearse a paragraph that begins – ‘one hand, it could be argued that….’

Good for: harvesting opinions, exploring issues, justifying, practising synthesis

You need to: listen carefully

Resources: none

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