Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Questioning and other tips

Way back, earlier in the year, I had some whole school training on questioning.  School had paid for Mike Hughes to come in and run three sessions and it was great! I asked Mike at the end if it was ok to blog about the day, and he agreed, so long as I put a link to his website - here

He talked about a lot of things, and my notes are sketchy, but here are the main ideas...

General things
  • Try and get a balance of open and closed questions.
  • Wait after you ask a question. Answers can take time.
  • Provide advanced warning - "In 2 minutes I am going to ask you about..."
  • Get pupils to discuss answers in pairs and groups before feeding back to the class (like "Think, pair, share")
  • Take three answers and then get the class to vote on the best one.
  • Don't be scared to reword questions to make sure pupils fully understand.

Improving communication skills

  • Demo things to small groups of pupils who then go back to their group and describe or demonstrate it to their peers.
  • Get a pupil to commentate on your demonstration - what are you doing and why are you doing it?

What can you do in lessons to show understanding?

  • Collect information
  • Share information
  • Enlarge on it
  • Explain (make more challenging by removing keywords)
  • Change the form the information comes in (see also active learning)
  • Arrange it into an order or sequence (try hexagons)
  • Reduce the information (What is the most important part/word? (see Marketplace))
Planning lessons

  • Where are they now?
  • How do you know?
  • Where do you want them to be?
  • How will you/do you know?
Writing questions

Mike gave us a table to use.  The first column contains starter words - what, where, when, who, why, how.  Along the top is the next word in the question - is, did, can, would, will, might.

As you go along the top, the questions become more open and demanding, eg what is this compared to what might this be used for?

This has really helped me think about what types of questions I ask, and I've also had some of my classes use it to write questions for each other at the end of a topic (to show understanding).

Another great idea was to sketch a graph when observing a lesson, with time along the x-axis and the type of question on the y-axis (either higher and lower order, or the "is", "did" etc). You can also draw a line on the graph to show where that particular class should be working. During the lesson you plot what type of question is asked and when in the lesson it is asked. I've found it very useful for PGCE students, when we start to focus on questioning skills.  If someone does it for you, hopefully you can start and end on a higher order question to really get your classes thinking.

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