1. A silent debate is a great way to engage students. Pose some questions on large sheets of paper and place them around the room. Encourage students to initially answer your questions, but then to challenge what others have written and ask their own development questions. Padlet is great for this if you want to do it electronically.
  2. Not a technique as such, but so important! Make sure you give your students enough time to answer the question. Remember that you have already thought about it and you are an English expert. You are asking a student to answer a question in front of all of their peers and it is vital that you give them thinking time. This feels awkward at first but will enrich your classroom discussion.
  3. Think / pair / share is one of my all-time favourite techniques. This is where you pose a question, give students time to think about it individually and then they discuss it with a partner. This gives valuable thinking time and, in turn, confidence. The final step is that they share their ideas with the rest of the group. The final step can also be a “square”, where they share their ideas with another set of partners.
  4. In order to mix things up a bit, you could put the answer to a question on the board and ask students to come up with the question. This is great for differentiation and gets them thinking in a different way.
  5. If you enforce a “no hands up” policy, use lollipop sticks or slips of paper with names on to make sure you randomly call on students to answer. This helps to keep them on their toes! Another method could be using ping pong balls. I’m not usually a fan of things which are time consuming (I’m a realist!) but these can be great for differentiation if you mark them / write the names in different colours.
  6. Set a plenary which has an “Olympic Challenge”. Questions are coded with Bronze, Silver or Gold according to level. Most students will aim for Gold!
  7. Use three part questioning. Ask the first student a question. Ask a second student to explain or to expand upon the first student’s answer. Ask a third student to agree or disagree and explain why.
  8. Increase the challenge of your questions with a subtle shift. For example, instead of asking “How many examples of similes can you find in the poem?” try “There are six similes used in the poem. Can you find them all? Which do you think is the most effective and why?”
  9. Ask students to write their own “burning questions”. During the topic, ask them to create five essential questions about it. They should make these as challenging as possible. The questions can then be used as teaching material for the next lesson or for home learning.
  10. Ask students to have a question conversation about a particular topic. This means they must continue a conversation on a given topic using only questions. For example:

“Macbeth was an evil man wasn’t he?”

“Do you think he was evil or just really ambitious?”

“If you’re saying he was ambitious surely the witches have a part to play?”

“But doesn’t that mean Lady Macbeth does too?”

“We can’t say Macbeth is innocent though can we?”

And so on!


I hope you find some of these helpful. Tomorrow I’ll be posing about Thunks, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Socratic Questioning.


Happy questioning!

Techniques to develop questioning in the classroom

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