A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Sunderland to be honest) I did my first Teachmeet presenting on questioning. It also ended up being my first blog on @pedagoo which can be found here.
So I thought it about time I added another ten tips for those interested in questioning for the Red House TM.
1) What’s it all about?
Why not start your lesson with this question. It’s the only time it’s really acceptable to play the guess what’s in my head game. Give them a stimulus; music, pictures, artefacts, a piece of writing, a bag of tat (also known as a bag of wonder.) Then the students have to guess what the lesson is about and explain why they think that. Learning hook, questioning and a bell activity rolled into one. #Bosch
2) Wait Time – For You
When you get their answers you need to have time to think too. We always complain that their first answer isn’t always well thought through; we want them to dig deeper when they give their reasons. Perhaps we should give ourselves time to dig a little deeper when we’re thinking about our questions.
3) Write more questions down
If you come up with a few great questions you can write them in their books as they’re working (or even as part of your marking). It gives them instant personalised challenge, means you don’t interrupt the flow of learning every time you think of a great question and it even provides “evidence” in their books.
4) Edit an answer
When you get a first answer stop. Write it on the board and talk through with the class how you can develop the bare bones into a quality answer. Think about literacy, key subject vocabulary, quality of reasoning and word flow. Get them to add their ideas and use it as an opportunity to model thinking through great answers in your subject.
Keep It Simple Stupid, rather than accompanying your lesson by singing “I was made for loving you baby.” Which I can never imagine being a good thing. I know I’m guilty of it but try to avoid generating questions so long winded you’ve forgotten how they started by the time they finished. If they understand what we’re asking there’s more chance we’ll get the kind of answers we want.
6) Plan your style
It’s easy just to throw questions around as they pop into your brain. To make your questions more strategic think about what you want to achieve. If you want to check knowledge quickly you may want to go for closed questions. You might want to build specific types of thinking through Blooms or SOLO. You may want to unpick deeper meaning with Socratic questions or use wobblers and other dirty tricks to generate cognitive conflict. Questions are powerful tools, use the right ones for the job.
7) Act Stupid
For those of you who’ve met me you’ll know I’ve spent so much time mastering this skill it appears natural. I find acting like I don’t quite get it encourages them to reword and develop better explanations. It’s also quite good fun.
8) Be curious
If one of them goes off on a bizarre tangent go with it; ask them to develop and explain their idea.
Ask them to make predictions; what if questions can lead to some really interesting thinking.
Ask them questions about things you don’t know; be honest in your ignorance when you’re doing enquiry based stuff. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching Geography so much is because I learn so much from the case studies they pick from around the world. Get excited by your ignorance!
9) Sniper NOT spray and pray
Sometimes we get all excited and start firing questions like a trigger happy extra from a mob film. They fly all over and some of them hit their mark. Next time you’re planning to go for a big question fest get your class list; figure out the kind of questions that would stretch specific students and target them with precision. It’s also helpful to make sure you target students who can avoid you in random question sprays… just when they think they’re out you pull them back in.
10) Measure the responses
Get a load of answers written on the board. Get a discussion going on what makes a good answer. Similar to the editing strategy but you’re looking to prioritise the best responses and dissect why some ideas are better than others in your subject area. I especially like this for generating ideas to use in an essay as each mini-answer can be expanded into a paragraph.
Hope some of these are useful to you in your classroom practice.
Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE