More New Ideas for Everyday Learning

Following on from Nat Moody’s post about one of the ideas she has been trying out over the last few months, here are some more tried-and-tested activities from members of Nat’s focus group.

by Sue Lutz

Planning aheadI am using some ideas from “Teaching Backwards”.  I always plan my lessons with the end goal in sight.  However, this book suggested getting students to audit where they are, as well as thinking about any previous knowledge they have, transferable skills etc.  I made the attached sheet for my Year 9 class and will read their responses when I mark their books later this week. I am hoping that I will be able to provide some independent activities that support some of the areas that they have highlighted.


by Kyl Messios

I have been using Beaumont School resources to explore questioning across the key stages.  I’ve been working from the Black Box and the Teaching and Learning blog.  It has been brilliant to go through the wealth of ideas that other teachers suggested in the Questioning Quail inset activity, and I’ve tried out quite a few.

If this is the answer, what is the question?

This has been really useful, wherever I’ve applied it.  I’ve tried it with Year 7, 10, and 13, and found that the result is consistent, regardless of year group of topic – the students are compelled to look at the answer from different angles and think much more deeply about it than they would with a straightforward ‘key question’ to start the lesson.  This can be applied as a starter, but is just as effective as a plenary.  Year 7s used it to identify and define subject specific vocabulary, while I used it with Year 10s as a way into a new scheme of work.  Looking ahead, I plan to use it with Year 13s to get them identifying and creating exam questions based upon answers given.

Percentage correct 

Quick and easy way of getting students to build upon, and add to, their own and others’ answers. This was put to good use in Year 9 and 10 evaluations.

I’m planning on trying out What’s in the Bag?, but just haven’t yet worked out what to put in the bag! I’ll keep you updated!


Quality Questioning Quails

Questioning QuailAt the end of the INSET on Questioning, staff were asked to complete a “Questioning Quail” with an idea which they would like to share with others – a way to engage pupils with a questioning technique, or something which would help pupils develop ideas through questioning. Below are some of the ideas which came from those quails – thanks to everyone for your amazing contributions. questioning quails

  • Globe knockout – pupils take it in turns to throw the globe to each other and ask a question on the topic to try to knock them out. They must know the answer themselves in order to be able to knock someone else out.
  • For a new topic, students come up with 3 questions about this particular topic that they have always found interesting, which they should be able to answer by the end of the topic.
  • Working backwards – Give pupils 3-6 key words (answers) at the start of the lesson (be sure answers will be provided in the lesson). Pupils write the question which links to the answer at the end of the lesson.
  • Question Carousel – Each student has an answer to a question. On the back they have a question. These can be tailored to different abilities and students can have easy/hard question which ends with every one answered.
  • Heal or steal to improve on a question asked or steal the answer.
  • Question relay – Ask students to come up with their own questions related to a topic. Any student that can give a correct answer gets to ask the next question.
  • Using the fortune teller for GCSE students – as the topic progresses pupils make up exam questions A-C and write on the coloured dot according to the grade. Assemble at the end of the topic and use to revise in class by verbally testing each other.
  • If this is the answer what is the question? If this is an extract from an exam response, what was the question?
  • Change any questions to “what questions do you still have?”
  • Try posing 3 questions at once and students choose which to answer.
  • Give students a % correctness of their answer and get other pupils to build and perfect.
  • Students can choose to give a 1,2,3 point answer. You can then get others to improve it to a 2 or 3 pointer or challenge the original student to gain another point.
  • What’s in the bag? Have an object/picture/person/place etc inside a bag. Students have to work out what’s in the bag by asking the teacher a question. Teacher may only reply with a yes or no.
  • Give each students a blank envelope with a question inside it. Ask them to guess the question and write it on the envelope. At some point in the lesson, ask students to open the envelope and answer the question. Students love the suspense and it shows their prior learning as they try to guess the question.
  • Question plenary – Students write 2/3 questions about the lesson or topic and they quiz one another. If they couldn’t answer the question they need to find someone who can or go away and find out. The questions could be things they don’t know and then they find someone who can help.
  • Make questioning a competition. Split students into groups. The groups that asks/answers the best quality questions or answer in the lesson wins – normally chocolate. This encourages better quality answers and students to ask better questions. It is even better if it is carried through a topic with a leaderboard.
  • Pupils create questions using starter sentences e.g. who, what, where, why etc

The Questioning Quails have arrived

question marksIn our Teaching and Learning INSET sessions at Beaumont, we always try to demonstrate the ideas we are aiming to raise and discuss, by using them in the session itself. For our third T&L INSET of this year we focused on how to use questioning in lessons in order to assess understanding, increase engagement and promote depth in pupil learning. We tried out and discussed a variety of techniques during the session and staff (as ever) were enthusiastic about about sharing their own ideas.

The first slide on this powerpoint shows the questions we talked about first – showing questions at the start of the lesson as pupils arrive is always a good way to get them thinking right from their arrival in the room, the trick being to find the “right” questions. We then went on to play “pass the parcel” (yes, we had a real parcel and music – thanks Dave) and inside each layer was a new question which we could discuss. This idea could be used in small groups to promote discussion amongst peers, or as a whole class for assessing understanding and promoting further learning. As a whole class teaching and assessing device, it works at it’s best when the questions are “bounced” around – using the ideas from one pupil to feed the understanding and further ideas from others. The technique of “pose, pause, pounce, bounce” promoted by @TeacherToolkit is a useful tool here. The questions we discussed in our pass the parcel were:pass the parcel

  • What do you do about the student who always says “I don’t know”?
  • How can you ensure the class listen to and build upon the responses of others?
  • How do you encourage students to ask quality questions before, during and after your lessons?
  • How do you ensure your questions cater for all abilities whilst making sure all students are engaged?
  • What is the best question you have ever been asked by a student?

thinking diceWe then had a go at using the “Thinking Dice” by throwing these lovely soft cubes of questions around the room and thinking up questions as we went along. Something similar with particular questions could be produced by pupils (cube nets are very easy to generate) or by using the dice which have a little whiteboard on each face (see the advent calendar).

A treasure hunt followed where we had time to think about how some very useful questions can be used with a very powerful effect – allowing pupils to make connections, extend their thinking, provide more depth in their answers, but also teach the idea that learning is also about them asking quality questions of their teacher (Skills for Success strikes again!).

Staff then spent some time thinking about a lesson they were going to teach the next day, using the questioning triangle and answers triangle to plan their questions for the lesson. They considered:

  • When they were going to ask the question (at which point in the lesson);
  • How they were going to ask the question (a technique we had talked about or another they already knew to be successful);
  • How the answers might affect the rest of the lesson (there is space to write these thoughts at the bottom of the sheet).

Most felt that this process was extremely valuable as it showed how by deciding upon the questions for a lesson, and considering what a teacher does with the results, allows the lesson to be very effectively planned.Questioning Quail

It was then time for a bit of origami, as those teachers who could remember fortune tellers from their primary school days deftly demonstrated the technique of folding which had previously allowed them to find out which primary school classmate was to be their future husband (or wife!). These fortune tellers are a lovely engaging way to get pupils asking and discussing questions, perhaps even designing their own in order to challenge their peers.questioning quails

Finally, the Questioning Quails were brought out so that staff could write down ideas which they already use and know to be successful ready for sharing around the school. Some ideas are already in the nest of Questioning Quails in the staff room, some will be made into cards for the ever growing black box of ideas, and we will put a list of as many as we can in a blog post once they have all been gathered in.