Some thoughts on questioning…..


DHS drama teacher, Learning Leader and occasional blogger Lesley Graney has been thinking about questioning……

There is a lot of chat about the Big 4 in our school. It’s everywhere; if only the big 4 were sleep, cheese, red wine and Strictly Come Dancing, it would be easy for me.

But no, the Big 4 are ‘Challenge’, ‘Independence’, ‘Feedback’  and ‘Questioning’. So with this big 4 how would you rank them if 1 was most difficult and 4 the easiest ?

For me it would be:

  1. Challenge – surely the most difficult with a name like that.
  2. Independence – I know we are all capable of it; we learn to walk, ride a bike, work out a new phone or in my case we don’t. I know we can all do it but creating the right environment to engage the students without jumping in because a)“we haven’t got the time for the process” or b) feeling  the pressures of time constraints or c)“ Look this is how you do it, just do it! It’s tricky.
  3. Feedback – it’s a lot of work we know, but I do know how to do it although I am keen to gain any insight into how to do it quicker and evidence it such that it shows progression.

So my easiest would be questioning. I ask this, as in our department like many others, we are starting the year reviewing the Big 4.

We started with questioning this week. Hey, that’s easy we do it all the time. It’s a no-brainer.  It’s something we all do every day in our job and in everyday life unlike the others.

I have tried to give feedback to my husband for example this evening when he said the plughole needed ‘defuzzing’ as the water is draining slow. I said, giving feedback to an independent learner, well having spotted it, why don’t you do something about  it then. He repeated the plughole needs defuzzing and the water is draining slow, then he walked off- You see feedback doesn’t work in our house.

So, back to questioning.  We do it all the time don’t we? So surely we are good at it?

Then actually I thought about it.

Consider my husband and I again, who you are getting to know a lot about through these blogs.

Me: “How was work today?”

Him: “Fine”

A beautiful closed question with an answer which gives me no more understanding of the situation. Do I ask the question again? Do I try an open question? Do I re-think my question and ask ‘Talk me through your day?’

No, I go upstairs and defuzz the bath

My son has just started school. He is four and already a moody teenager because when I ask about his day I get very little back from him.

Me: “Did you have a good day at school?”

Son: “Yes”

Me: “Why was it good?”

Son : “Because we had Fish and Chips”

Even my second question didn’t get a conversation going which helped me understand his day at school.

Or my friends, and we are all guilty of this. On a busy day we walk past and say ‘How are you?’ Before even eye contact is made, we are off and they say fine.

However, we know they aren’t. We all say we are fine; it’s is easier, quicker and we don’t really want to talk about it anyway. Perhaps there is a better question we could ask? And perhaps we could be genuinely listen to the answer so we can ask another good question.

Just because we do it a lot, doesn’t make it easy or ensure we are good at it.

questioning2So, back to the drama department.  We shared a few things we are going to try, to develop our questioning:

  • Opening GambitTell me about……What makes you think that…..Talk me through…..Can you give me a bit more about your thought processes there…..What pictures are coming up in your head……
  • Start the lesson with a visual prompt that encourages questioning.
  • As a part of your planning, write your own questions based on what you want to do/
    them to know/ to think about.
  • Leave a big statement hanging – to generate lots of thought and questions.
  • Give them time to formulate their own answers – don’t be afraid of the silence.
  • No “yes”/”no” from the teacher – these responses do not develop a dialogue.
  • Re-question at every opportunity.
  • No opting out allowed – go back to the student later when others have had a go.
  • Use the ‘Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce’ strategy.
  • Use ‘Think, Pair, Share.
  • Ask others to comment on the responses of their peers.
  • No hands up – this limits involvement to those who want to be involved. Use ‘lolly
  • Have ‘Key Words’ on the board – and insist that they must be used when answering a
    series of pre-planned questions.
  • Have a ‘Challenge Question’ available to really stretch the more able.
  • Reverse answers – if this is the answer, what is the question?
  • Chain questions – Teacher asks a question. The student who responds correctly, then
    asks another question – and so on.
  • Create a ‘why?’ chain.  So for every answer a student gives ask another ‘why?’ question
  • ‘The hardest question’ – Plenary activity. At the end of the lesson ask students to
    come up with ‘the hardest question about today’s learning…..’
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1 Response to Some thoughts on questioning…..

  1. Pingback: Reflecting on Mindset | Class Teaching

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