Category: Questioning

Bright spots // 11th November 2016

Mr Bates (Music) – Year 8 students were busy practicing a scene from a common nursery rhyme. Students were challenged to think about their placing on the stage using technical language and in small groups were developing a scene. After a period of practice (during which Mr Bates gave students feedback and further challenge) students were then asked to perform their scene. This is something students often find difficult or are reluctant to do but Mr Bates had built a safe environment in which students could perform. Strict rules were enforced so that the audience respected the performers.  Mr Bates questioned the audience following the performance to elicit feedback to the performers based on the success criteria discussed earlier in the lesson. The questions often probed deeper and challenged students to elaborate on their answers giving reasons.

Mrs Horrill (Business) – Year 10 students were working on a piece of coursework as a result of a series of lessons leading up to some extended writing. Students were able to work independently and made good use of the course textbook. Students worked in silence which in this particular situation appeared to enable students to work to depth. If they needed help they were able to consult the textbook first before asking the teacher. Whilst this was going on Mrs Horrill was giving 1-to-1 verbal feedback to each student to ensure they understood how to improve. The set up for this lesson showed clear planning that focused on students practicing the skills and knowledge they had built up over a series of lessons.

Mr Ferguson (Technology) – Mr Ferguson began this lesson with some retrieval practice in the shape of an exam question. Students were given time to complete the question before going through possible answers. Mr Ferguson questioned students to depth asking them to offer answers and give reasons for their answers. He also modeled the thinking behind the approach and asked students to explain how they approached the question and came to an answer. Mr Ferguson had really high expectations of student responses and encouraged them to always a give a reason for their answer. In the lesson students had also been making use of a knowledge organiser to start assessing what they knew and what they needed to revise.

Ms Campbell (History) – Year 8 students were acting on feedback from their most recent assessment –  an extended piece of writing. Before students got started Ms Campbell spent some time recapping the PEE (Point Evidence Explain) method for tackling long answer questions. She did this really well by modelling a paragraph on the board and then asking students to pick out the different parts of the PEE method. Ms Campbell used questioning to challenge students to think about how this might help them with their own work. With a clear understanding of what was expected of students they were then given time to act on the feedback Ms Campbell had given them. She had used ‘code marking’ to reduce marking time and students were being trained in how to do this. Students then worked in silence to improve their work whilst Ms Campbell circulated the room to give more verbal feedback.

Ms Harry (Drama) – Year 9 students were being introduced to a new topic about ‘Developing empathy.’ Ms Harry started by questioning students of the word ’empathy.’ She then followed this up by giving students the example of young homeless people to discuss: “What are the common assumptions we make?” This led to a rich discussion partly due to the choice of example planned for this discussion – something all of the students were already aware of. The talk in small groups was really purposeful and when Ms Harry got the class back together to feedback some wonderful responses were shared. Student oracy was really strong in this lesson which was down to Ms Harry’s high expectations of student language.

Mrs Dixon (Maths) – Year 9 students were revisiting a topic from a previous topic and were given time to practice their skill in substituting numbers. This was great retrieval practice. Student voice suggested that students could remember the topic but were a bit ‘rusty’ when it came to application of the skill. Retrieval practice is absolutely vital for learning so it’s really encouraging so see this happening in many lessons across the academy. Whilst students were practicing Mrs Dixon was able to move around the room offering 1-to-1 feedback and further challenge. The task had been designed so that it gradually got harder as students moved from left to right.


Retrieval practice from Mrs Dixon in Maths.

Mrs Atkinson (Computing) – Year 8 students were engaging with some DIRT time following a recent written assessment. They had been given feedback on their assessment and were now practicing skills based on knowledge gaps identified through the assessment. The class was quietly working and being supported through additional resources and feedback from Mrs Atkinson. In order to dissolve some common misconceptions Mrs Atkinson spent time modelling the process of converting binary numbers on the board so that students could revisit the process. This then enabled a number of students to work independently through the practice materials.


Modeling from Mrs Atkinson in year 8 Computing.

Ms Jenkins (Science) – Year 8 students were investigating how mass effects the speed of an object falling. Ms Jenkins had used the example of aid agencies dropping food parcels into hard reach areas of the world. This example gave students a concrete starting point for understanding the concept they were learning about. Next, students built mini paper helicopters for an experiment that involved dropping the helicopters from a set height multiple times, adding more weight after each drop. Before carrying out the experiment students were asked to make a prediction as to what would happen as more weight was added. They then went out into the academy to test their predictions by dropping paper helicopters from the first floor to the ground floor. Students had been put into groups and assigned roles to carry out this experiment. As students conducted the experiment Ms Jenkins visited each group to question their method and challenge them further about their results and what the results meant. Students appeared to enjoy this practical but at the same time felt challenged by the science!


Year 8 Scientists making predictions and then testing them.

Bright spots // 23rd September

Mr Woodard (D&T) – Year 8 students were busy thinking about what a design specification involves, as they were due to begin a project that challenged students to build a functioning clock. Mr Woodard challenged students through a series of questions to try and assess what students already knew about design specifications. Through a class discussion students were introduced to a design specification and were given one for their project. Mr Woodard then modelled the end product by showing clocks designed and built by former students to give the class a concrete example of what excellence looked like.

Ms Ridgeway (English) – Year 7 students were being exposed to a really challenging text and being asked to describe a passage using specific vocabulary. It was really clear that Ms Ridgeway had really high expectations of students both in the content of the lesson, how students articulated they’re understanding and also of the written work in student books. Ms Ridgway also expected much of student responses when questioning the class. She made really good use of follow up questions to force students to think more deeply about each question with almost all questions immediately followed up with ‘Why?’

Mrs Williams (English) – Mrs Williams engaged students with a really difficult text and challenged students to identify vocabulary they were not familiar with. Students had to then attempt to identify the meaning of the word by looking for clues within the text. She modelled this brilliantly by explaining the thought process of how to approach this problem. Students were then given time to practice before feeding back to the class. Mrs Williams demonstrated really high expectations of students through the use of language and the level of text she was using with the students.

Mr Bunnell (History) – Year 7 students were in the middle of discussing skills required for different jobs during this PSHE lesson. Mr Bunnell made a great use of a simple routine (5,4,3,2,1) to get students quiet. By the time he arrived at ‘1’ the room was in silence – a good sign of an established routine. In questioning students about different types of skills required for different jobs the class had come up with a list of important skills. Foolowing a really clear and concise explanation about why skills like communication, confidence, e.t.c. were important, Mr Bunnell then questioned students to more depth asking them to explain what skills were needed for a particular job. Students were expected to justify their answers and were challenged to think hard through follow up questions.

Mrs Baker (Learning Support) – Year 9 Science class. Mrs Baker was supporting a number of SEND students with challenging ‘Electrons’ task set by Mr Rogers (really high expectations here!). Mrs Baker used great questioning to help students make links between key bits of knowledge before being challenged to extend their answers. She also made really good use of a mini-whiteboard to model the process and outcome to students which helped the students to attempt questions and work independently.

Ms Kirk (English) – Year 7 students were preparing for a creative writing task that was coming up in the next lesson by extending their vocabulary. Ms Kirk had provided students with a simple list of vocabulary and had challenged the students to come up with alternative words that could be used. Ms Kirk made good use of questioning to draw out answers from students and then force them to think really hard by elaborating on their answer, “Why is that word more extreme than…” The presentation of work in books was of a really high standard as highlighted by a piece of written work about a Greek myth.


Year 7 English book – Left: Written piece on a Greek myth | Right: Extended vocab list.

Mr Gandon (Astronomy) –  Year 11 students were engaging with retrieval practice by re-capping an assessment from 6 months ago to see what they could remember (a vital part of learning!). They started by using a knowledge organiser to self evaluate their current knowledge, which helped students to identify areas to improve. Questioning was really focused and forced students to think about specific bits of knowledge. Mr Gandon quickly switched between knowledge recall style questions and more in-depth questioning that encouraged students to apply the knowledge to a broader problem. Mr Gandon also made his explanations really concrete by using appropriate analogies, for example he likened the dust tail of a comet to the tail of a kite.


Knowledge organiser used to self evaluate current understanding of knowledge.

Mrs Guy (PE) – Year 7 Dance lesson and students were listening to instructions from Mrs Guy. She explained the sequence of moves that students were learning and modelled them to the students using diagrams projected onto the wall. Students were then able to engage in some deliberate practice and work towards emulating the techniques that had been modelled.

Ms Curley (Learning Support) – Ms Curley was in the middle of leading a small reading intervention group for SEND students. Having just read a chapter from a book, students were being challenged to think hard and comprehend what had happen to the characters in the chapter. Ms Curley created a competition using the ‘hang-man’ game to get students to think about key vocabulary from the text. The element of competition appeared to spur the students on!


Blog of the week | 17th May 2015

This weeks blog of the week is great reflection on effective questioning and what the purpose of questioning is.

The blog post outlines the reasons for questioning and includes a range of different strategies that can be employed across all subjects. It finishes with a set of questions to reflect on your own questioning…

6questioningRead the full post here.


A collection of posts for NQTs.

Dylan Wiliam

Dylan Wiliam

I wanted to write a definitive post for NQTs but was struck by how many useful posts already exist. Instead of repeating what others have already written, this post will serve to index some great advice from some remarkable people. The is predominately for new teachers but will also serve as a timely reminder to all teachers at any stage in their careers.




Image by @gapingvoid

Image by @gapingvoid

I am no expert! I am not basing these ideas of MINE on research/theories (that I have read) but on the data of students that I have taught and the outcomesthey have achieved. (I guess, I have just figured these things out…) If you disagree, please do comment with how I can better my practice for the students I am responsible for.

Exam season:

Time to wrap up our delivery of content, vital information, key facts, formulae, dates, people and so on. It is now time to focus (again/more) on ensuring students know everything and anything they will need in order to secure an excellent grade in the exam.

A-C grades are not the only grade our students need to achieve to be successful. Ensure your students know what their personal targets are?

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By definition revision is about updating, revamping, reworking, redrafting, rewriting and so on… It is important to note revision is not LEARNING from scratch. Therefore, the following information and ideas I will be presenting will work best, when some sort of learning has already taken place!

I believe revision is a very personal process. I do not believe generally that one hat fits all. There are many factors to consider in order ensure revision is effective; (This is not a definitive list!).

  • Time/Time/Rest
  • Environment/Organisation
  • Motivation

Time- 1:

Picking the right time of day to revise is vital. Knowing when one feels most active and alert is crucial in ensuring the brain functions the best. I liken myself to an OWL or a vampire? I love staying up late to study/write/prepare. I would much rather a lay in then getting up early to revise.

`Ensure your students know what time of day they are most active?’ Let them build on this, if they get up later, they would get to bed later, so in theory they will have the same amount of time in a day.

Time- 2:

Knowing how much time to spend on revision is also vital! We must be realistic, students do have OTHER things to do. We need to accept that. Therefore, creating a reasonable, valid, achievable timetable is essential. This might sound easy to us; i.e telling students to write a timetable, however, I have always found it time well spent getting students to do this in class with a template provided.

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I always ask my students to write down their essential ‘other‘ tasks in a day, then their non-essentials. Next to these, I ask them to place a count of how long they spend on these. I ask them to then tally up the amount of time they spend on these in total. This is usually enough of an eye opener for students!


The brain is like a muscle, we can not expect our students to revise all day and night. When we workout, our muscles need a rest. However, I do not feel we should be prescriptive with the amount of time we tell our students to revise for and when to take a rest. I personally feel we all have different thresholds and it should be down to the student to decide.

The message however is clear, take regular breaks to refresh and rest your mind.

Do not get ‘junked‘ up with sweets/sugar/caffeine. Eating properly is important, but eating what you like/enjoy is also vital. Otherwise, in my opinion revision gets linked to horrible tastes?! It does get boring, it does get mundane, eyes do get fuzzy, so being able to intersperse these feelings with a little bit of chocolate cake isn’t too bad!? 🙂

@ActionJackson shared this rule with my students…

work, work, work play rest.

3- 1- 1.

See the video here for more info!

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Students must be able to work in an adequate environment. Sometimes, some students homes can not provide this. Research for your students their local library opening times, the facilities they have there. What bus stop is nearest? Find out other places students can study?

Can you lend your students and exam desk to work on that can folded away. It is important to de-clutter and focus.

Motivation to be successful this isn’t for a revision post… See my last post regarding this!

How does it all work:

In order for information to remain in our long-term memory, we must understand it, we must link it to already acquired knowledge and then attach meaning to it. Ultimately, we want to then apply it to examination questions.

(…Think SOLO?)

Therefore all revision sessions/games/lessons should take on board those concepts.

  • understanding– do the students know exactly what this concept/idea/topic means? Can they explain it to others?
  • Linking to knowledge- can the students link the information to other ideas, areas, concepts?
  • meaning– do the students know the reasoning behind the learning?
  • applying– will the students be able to applying their knowledge and meaning to the exam?

Do your revision sessions allow for those processes to take place? (Naturally you would hope so, as the above is also applicable to ‘normal’ lessons!)

Often, I worry that revision games become exactly that. A game. The focus on understanding, or linking is lost through the ‘fun’ nature of the game and the objective of winning becomes more important than the learning that should be taking place.

Here are some revision station games/ideas I use. Click HERE.

I have listed under each activity what the focus is. I have also come to realise some students do not like doing a variety of tasks as they know what works well for them. Only believe this feeling/confidence from the students if they have proven this. Meaning, have they achieved good grades previously? Therefore does their style of revision work? Ask them to talk through it with you; how did they revise, what did they do, how did they ensure they achieved a good grade? If they answer well, then allow them to the independent to choose their method of revision. This will motivate them too.

Spice of life:

Revision to me is also ensuring that students know about a variety of ways they can revise. I often go on and on and on about the importance of taking information and linking it to your knowledge, transforming the information to help understand it and applying it to examination questions.

Reading and highlighting notes is the pre-cursor to revision, those are the tasks that are carried out in lessons or completed at home. All students revision notes should already be annotated/highlighted BEFORE revision begins? Those elements are learning. Therefore, hand out revision guides well in advance, give your personally created booklet of advice before the holidays, before the course may have even finished.

A great way of ensuring students do not become too complacent, thinking they understand information because they have simply over familiarised themselves with it by reading it constantly, is to apply the magenta principles to text/information.

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Students should aim to do one of the above to the information they must learn/understand. This will help link to knowledge, show meaning and apply to examination questions…


I have compiled a list of over 40 different ways to revise here. (Some are for revision sessions/methods for teachers, some are revision methods/ideas for students.) Share these with your colleagues? Students? Parents? Use the hashtag#EXAMS14 to search out great posts by other teachers.

Show students there is a multitude of ways to revise, but make sure they are sticking to the core principles.

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Some top tips: (In no particular order!)

  • Download and share this literacy/command word wheel. This helps break down for students exactly what each question is asking the student to do. Understanding the subtle differences is paramount.

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  • Revision should be on ongoing process checking for understanding throughout the course, (marking and feedback,) Know your students understand the meaning and are able to apply concepts in exams. I have always shown exam past papers and mark schemes to students from thevery first week of my lessons. I have ensured students are familiar with the layout, the way the questions appear, the style of the questions. I have ensured students read examiner reports, know where to download past papers. Check out my GCSE RE blog-  where I have shared this info.
  • Content Dependent Learning- try this really useful idea by Sir Tim Brighouse. Click here. Includes a 2 minute video presentation explaining this concept.
  • Create podcasts/videos/information throughout the course. Click hereand here for some ideas.
  • Remind students how long they have until their exam. Remind students how many lessons they have, how many school days they have, how many hours this totals up to. I do this often. At the start of a lesson, I may just simply put a countdown timer up on the board as they enter…

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  • Running revision sessions is excellent; however ask the students BEFORE hand what they want to revise, add a Padlet to an email? To your class blog? Ask students to fill in a piece of paper…however you do it, ask students to tell you what they need most help UNDERSTANDING, knowing the MEANING of and how to APPLY.

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  • Involve students in the revision process as much as possible. Get them to create the revision guides for the year below, ask them to run the sessions. See here for a student based lesson. Get the students to create google drive revision questionnaires on a topic each. Get the students to then complete each others quizzes. Click here for an example.
  • Ask students to tweet (run a subject twitter account for themselves. The teacher doesn’t need to get involved.) Get students to create a Facebook group? Teacher could set up an Edmodo page. Students should email (maybe more like FaceTime/Skype/snapchat/bbm) each other to remind each other to revise.
  • Practice…practice…practice… in the real conditions in the real environment. Give students past papers, photocopied and stapled as they would in the real exam. Get students to write in the examination booklets. Get them used to it. Familiar with the obstacle.
  • Collective approach to revision; Ask subject leaders to coordinate their approaches. Check teachers are giving the same/similar message? Check what the revision catch up schedules are of other subjects. Ensure they do not clash. Here at my school we have a designated day for Eng, Maths, Science. To help alleviate the problem of students having to chose which subject they will miss.
  • Link examination grades with outcomes. Why would it benefit the student to do well in your exam. Why is it important? What is the end goal?
  • Use Youtube/Websites/APPs- videos (We have a revision channel on our school Youtube channel) and online quizzes (Such as or can be an essential ‘extra’ to revision. Don’t forget the core websites- such as SamLearning BBC Bitesize and so on.

I do not have all the answers… I imagine this post will be constantly edited/updated when I remember more ideas!

Post submitted by:



Amjad Ali

Assistant Principal




Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Revision’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

‘Quick wins’ #14 – Walking dictation – Team work, communication and accuracy.


Image from @gapingvoid –

Why? Proof reading – self assessment. I am forever correcting the same mistakes which arise from a lack of proof reading. As soon as I question a student they know how to correct their work, but they don’t seem to do it!

Possible solution. Walking dictation. Students work in group of three – one student is the scribe and the other two are runners. Differentiated texts, images or sound files are placed across the classroom from where the groups are based.

One runner from each group at a time ‘walks’ to their allocated text, reads part of it and returns back to the group where they dictate to the scribe what they read. The other runner hears how far their team mate read and goes up to the text to read and then return to relay the next part of the text to the team. The scribe is using listening and writing skills and the runners are using listening, reading and speaking skills.

All members are working on their communication and team work skills.

What’s the carrot?  Well there has to be a success criteria and I use the least amount of points win. Winners win one point, second place two etc. However, points are incurred for misspelt words, or indeed missed words.


Walking Dictation – How to – editable

Outcome. Challenge and drive for accuracy. It is an engaging task where students realise the importance of accuracy and to check over their work to eliminate avoidable errors.

Post submitted by:

Becky Thielen

Head of MFL



Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Walking dictation’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

‘Quick wins’ #9 – Developing oracy: Getting students to respond in full sentences.

Why? Students, due to apathy or due to the state school pandemic of not wanting to sound clever, often avoid giving a thorough explanation to reveal the depth of their learning; rather, given the chance, they will utter a barely audible ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and quickly retreat back into their protective shells. Sound familiar?

Possible solution. To combat this – a simple solution: have high expectations of students’ oracy so that they respond in full sentences.

a) To achieve this, get students to rephrase your question as part of their answer.

For example: Why does Dickens open his novel, Bleak House, with pathetic fallacy?

Student answer: Dickens opens his novel, Bleak House, with pathetic fallacy because…

b) When posing an open-ended question, provide an oral scaffold to extend students’ thinking.

An example slide scaffolding oracy.

Example oracy scaffold.

Example oracy scaffold.

Outcome. Having high expectations around students’ oracy has resulted in students providing in-depth feedback as opposed to giving one word answers. In English, levels can also be attached to the quality of student responses: level 5 is linked with being able to explain your ideas; level 6 requires students to explore ideas, thereby showing that information can be interpreted in different ways.  As a result, students have evolved to see the value and importance of talk in a lesson – no longer is it an opportunity to doze off or give a mere one word answer, which had previously given them the impression that they were making a meaningful contribution to the lesson – but, by giving extended answers, students now realise that this is an integral part to the lesson. It has also helped to bridge the gap between the talking and writing stage of the lesson. Students recognise that if they can articulate their ideas verbally, this also helps them to translate their ideas to the page.

Post submitted by:

Steve Gill

English Teacher



Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Developing oracy: Getting students to respond in full sentences’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.