Monday, 12 November 2012

Questioning/thinking old classics that still have legs

I've recently read many great posts about questioning and thought I'd throw my 10 pence worth into the melting pot.

Here are two posts to get you thinking:

I'll let you read their approaches, which are inspiring.

My focus will involve a few TV shows that had question stems that work brilliantly for geography and other subjects. I'll introduce the TV show and how I've used them over the years to develop students questioning and thinking.


I've recently cottoned on to this TV show and have to say I love it for a number of reasons.

1. The presenters have a great chemistry together bouncing off each other.

2. More importantly it inspires people to really think hard about a specific topic/question. Contestants have to think of an answer that others might not know from a selection of mini answers in rounds 1-2. The less popular the answer the lower the points and less points wins!

This could be adapted for the classroom as a starter where students write answers on a whiteboard in secret and then reveal their answer for all to compare answers and evaluate whose was pointless. Alternatively set it as a homework where you set a question and get students to email in the answer or drop it in the pointless answer box as a plenary to then work through as a starter in the next lesson.

In the final round a set question is selected from a number of possible topics and then the contestants think of 3 pointless answers for it and see if no one else came up with it when 100 were asked.

My thinking is that students could set other students a question from their topic/project etc and gather 100 answer responses for it, then rank using a pointless scale and get them to test it out.

You could then get students to reverse the pattern and take over as tutor and teach the pointless answer to be known by all. -

How could you make a pointless answer known by all?

Why is it a pointless answer?

What part of the topic is the pointless answer related to?

This questioning thread is important to a teacher as you can adjust your planning to make specifics more accessible to students in order to limit the pointless answers:)

Tedious/Tenuous Link

From BBC Radio 1 and the Chris Moyles Show / Jo Whiley Show set a question and get students to make connections to it that MUST connect in some form in order to count. A great starter / plenary / form time task. These really do get creative minds ticking.

Ticking..... Ah yes my old personal favorite quiz show.


I loved the buzzer round where in pairs (pairs in class, teams, class sides or dare I say it boys and girls) and Matthew Kelly would set the question thread...


Matthew would then start off with vague or small details describing something that was connected to the term and then through time he added extra detail till it became obvious. (See picture 4,3,2,1) it was a timed part and every 5 seconds it switched sides locking the other out from giving an answer. If you got a question right you could take control or pass to the other person to start off with the harder little detailed 5 second start. Try it in class I find it gets the class very competitive. It can be great in 3s - 1 think up the question and hints and the other 2 have a competitive go. All methods link brilliantly with Classdojo.

It really gets students thinking about what details to add about a topic and when to avoid others getting the answer straight away. BUT to avoid a penalty when the clock finishes the question setter has to read out other connectives / hints till someone gets it to work on depth of answer skill and literacy.


This task was doing the rounds a few years ago but it seems to be rarely seen or heard of in my opinion lately.

The concept is you have a board of yellow hexagon letters (see picture of yellow letter board). Students select a letter from the board and a set question is asked that incorporates that letter. The answer starts with the letter selected.

E.g. What Q______ do we ask each day in order to generate an answered response......

I find blockbusters questions work brilliantly with checking/assessing glossary terms. Getting students using Key Geography Words is a crucial skill with developing writing in my subject and activities like this help to plant the seed and get students familiar with the terms.

I get students to create blockbuster boards with answers. The best boards students make are solo-fied! So the terms and questions connect together. The longer the connected board the better. It's great for developing sequencing. And a great revision hook for students recognizing lettered sequences and linking this to a process or topic in a chronological way. All from a simple letter question!

A brilliant visual set of question stimuli come from my next EPIC TV show.

Question Of Sport

I grew up watching this programme every week. Although the host and team presenters/leaders have changed many of the core elements to the show have remained. WHY? Because they are fantastic and really stimulate great discussions, answers and more importantly THINKING.

The first question thread that has stood the test of time is:

What happens next?

This can be asked as a verbal response, as a written answer with ....... At the end or how I prefer to use it as a picture or video clip. This never fails to draw out some crazy, unique answers. The trick is to ensure in someway that the answers MUST incorporate something from the stimulus material in order to keep focus and a connection with the question.

An example I have used (see pictures is ZZ) what did he do next.....
You could then ask what COULD he have done differently? If he was in the same situation again what might he do instead? What was going through his mind before...during....after the incident?

You could get students thinking in a time sense. So what could have happened prior to the incident to cause ZZ to headbutt the Italian?

Or why did the referee have to send ZZ off?

Go through this process with your material. It'll add depth to them and engagement.

Many pictures can be adjusted by just adding a box over it or blanking a video at a key point.

Special guest

I use to love this part of the show where a famous sport star would be hindered from view only for some clues to show themselves.

This could be done with pixelating a picture or covering a video up with your body if your not technically minded with ICT, or turn the whiteboard off and just have sound playing and get students to make connections.

I often get students to do this for homework creating visual questions for others to answer.

Anyway I'm getting tired now so I'll leave it there.

I have just scratched the surface on some of the TV show questioning styles. Try them out ROTATE THEM so that students get a WIDE variety to test their thinking skills and keep them on their toes:)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Highlight text so Googling research isn't just copy-paste-don't read-hand in

I've been working on a simple technique with my students lately to ensure that they are reading what they research.

I read an article today about how 'googling' something has reduced research to a quick task of type-copy-don't read as we trust what the top site that google puts up from the search then hand in or bring to a lesson thinking we have done some effective research. Realistically this is just gathering information BUT it isn't research. In my interpretation of the term research it should involve using the first part of the word... RE.....REad, REadjust, REsemble. Therefore taking it apart and REconnecting.

It got me thinking of my past. Where once people might have used a technique I used at university where I would go to the library and read information from a variety of sources, photocopy it, highlight important sections of text that are relevant to my research question and  then write an article to take to a seminar.

So why not get students to do this technique electronically!


Students started of with a question that I set them.

'Why is a species endangered?'

Firstly I directly students to one website that I told them I TRUSTED.

Students selected a species from it and copied the threats to that species and pasted it into a word document.

Students then gathered further information from at least 2 other sources off the net. I want a culture where students collected from more than one source to help counter the issue of bias. Once again students pasted the information into the word document. 

Students now have a collection of information to begin reading.

The more able students picked out specifics mentioned in the text and added them to google to gather more specific information about their species.

The next stage is the crucial one as it is where students really start to READ what they have collected. I told students to highlight reasons with a colour and different reasons with different colours. So students would begin to notice whether their species had threats from more than one source.

The colours would then act as a structural jigsaw. Students would create sub-titles for each colour and then rearrange by grouping the colours together. This could allow students to begin to make a visual evaluation. As more of one colour would indicate a greater threat to a species as writers generally they found talked more about more serious threats to the species. So by looking at the amount of each colour students could rank reasons into different levels of importance.

The next step is crucial. I get students to read each coloured section, which often is repetative as different sources often uncover the same reasons for why the species was endangered. Students produce a written summary for each coloured section and so they end up with a thorough process where they have READ information to answer a question.

I have found that the retention of what students research has gone through the roof! It definitely takes a long time for students to do this technique but they are realising the benefits as they are retaining what they are doing and so learning new things from their reading not just falling into the shallow blank googling technique where students and us don't READ!

Here is a quick guide to how I introduced it to students the powerpoint was made by another teacher in the department that I work in and she is fantastic.

explain_assessment_end_species.pptx Download this file

I've also attached two pieces of work from students on what they have produced from it.

One has even highlighted their own text to show how they are working on their literacy and highlighting terms to show they are explaining as that was what the question was asking for.

TURTLE_ASSESSMENT_;D.docx Download this file
Endangered_Tigers_research.docx Download this file