Climbing the Questioning ladder to success and giving the best kind of feedback

Questioning is one of the nine research-based strategies presented in Classroom Instruction That Works (Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock 2001).

Educators have traditionally classified questions according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchy of increasingly complex intellectual skills. Bloom’s Taxonomy includes six categories:


Knowledge – recall data or information

Comprehension – understand meaning

Application – use a concept in a new situation

Analysis – separate concepts into parts; distinguish between facts and inferences

Synthesis – combine parts to form new meaning

Evaluation – make judgements about the value of ideas or products

Questioning Video

  • What questioning styles can you see being used in this video?
  • What is the effect of these styles?
  • What other types of questioning could be used and why?


Questioning Ladders

So, we all know that questioning is hugely important in driving the learning in our lessons. But sometimes coming up with the right questions, and ensuring the level of difficulty is challenging enough for our learners can be a big ask on the spot.

This is why I drew up this questioning ladder. By using the same template each time I create a questioning ladder and adding my new questions to it, this is a really quick task to plan and means I can either ask questions that stretch my learners, or use key vocabulary and ask my learners to link it to our lesson with confidence. I also love that it means you are very definitely giving students ‘thinking time’ before pouncing on them to answer. All of them have had to think because they do not know who will be called upon. More than this, this has been a fun activity to use in the classroom.


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Feedback and why the words you say after questioning is so vital. 

Feedback or knowledge of results is the lifeblood of learning.’ 

Derek Rowntree

Evidence from inspections over the years shows that many teachers are not effective at providing children with the feedback they require to help them evaluate their work and identify what or how to improve. In general, most feedback is too little, too late, too vague and too impersonal

Effective feedback should relate to the learning objective, pointing out success and improvement needs. It should offer clear guidance on how work can be improved, the next steps in learning and how pupils can take them.

Questions to ask yourself to check you’re giving meaningful feedback:

1.Is it detailed enough?

2.Is it immediate enough?

3.Is it specific enough (are your next steps clear)?

4.Is it personalised?

Strategies to try out in helping with meaningful feedback:

  1. We all have longer writing aspects to our subjects, be it an essay question in an exam or a homework explaining how to market a product. These longer pieces are time-consuming to mark. To help giving instant feedback, why not try skim reading 10 pieces of work – not marking them – and then putting top tips on how to improve onto the start of your PPT for next lesson. Students have to re-read their work, think which common pitfalls they have fallen into, and make changes to their work.
  1. Using the marking code ‘NS’ – Next Step – works really well in giving specific feedback. For example, if you have marked a piece of work that has missed key terminology, your specific feedback may be ‘NS – re-write paragraph 3 using the key words photosynthesis, transpiration and produce’ You can then give DIRT (Directed Improvement Reflection Time) in the lesson where students try out their next steps.
  2. Teach students how to properly peer assess. This means all students are receiving feedback in the lesson that is personalised to their work.
  3. Verbal feedback stamps – these are easy to get hold of online. You move around your room, discuss a child’s work with them, stamp their work and they must write down the feedback you give them and then act on it.
  1. Model answers- really useful in hearing students’ ideas but helping them to improve them as you review. Ensure students give their work a sub-title in their book: ‘Review – our class answer’ and then randomly select students to contribute, type of their thoughts and then get other students to amend, questioning and prompting them as needed.
  1. Stars and targets. When marking a piece of work in detail e.g. a blue sticker assessment, use stars and target (a capital T in a circle) in the margin. Each time you draw a star or a target, write what it is they have done well or need to improve on. From this, you can then get students to complete their own strengths and steps to improve on the blue sticker itself meaning they have properly engaged with your feedback and had to ask if they do not understand it.

Juuuuuuust keep Questioning!

And feeding back.


What is the objective behind an objective?!

  • WALT
  • WILF
  • TIB
  • AIMS

What the hell do all of these mean? which one should we use? what is the difference?


These are the questions I found myself asking as I walked around our school. We have amazing staff and the lessons they teach are next-to-none- but to be honest, a lot of approaches to this vital concept were wide-ranging and very different. We need consistency- not for us- but for our kids.

Admittedly, staff were honest enough to share that the difference between lesson objectives and outcomes and the various acronyms used to portray them can be perplexing at the best of times.Therefore it is time to make the record straight.. for Westfield Academy teachers anyway.

Lesson Objective: By the end of the lesson- what knowledge will the pupil have learned? An overview if you will. The most important question when planning your lesson is ‘what do I want them to know at the end of those 6o mins?’ Teaching backwards if you will. A fantastic book on this is by ‘Teaching Backwards’ by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns.


It is imperative that your objective is not placed on a power point slide or resource and never referred to. This should be the starting point of the lesson- an open discussion where learners are engaged and excited about the next learning exploration they are about to endure. The lesson objective should enable challenge for all. This should be visible and drawn back to throughout the lesson.

The Lesson Outcome: Now this is the the breakdown of HOW the pupils will achieve their learning and reach that final destination. Outcomes discuss the skills pupils will use and develop to reach their goal. Think of a mountain climber..his objective is to reach the summit, his outcomes are the skills he will require to reach it- his toolkit, mindset, physicality- the skill building and endurance. The Outcomes should be embedded during the lesson, and must be linked to grades / levels. They should link with the I-A-R cycle and be referenced and reviewed throughout the lesson.

So what skills should they be using and developing within a given lesson?


Bloom’s Taxonomy helps us to understand the skills pupils should be using and developing. Our lessons should gradually build in difficulty and challenge; therefore the starting point should consist of lower order skills, building gradually to higher-order.

Here is a printable resource to help with lesson planning and ensuring you incorporate high order skills within  your lessons.


So, it goes like this:

  • the students enter, they are welcomed and settled by our classroom expectations of meet and greet, waiting at their tables and equipment checks
  • a hook engages, excites, reminds and gives a taste of what is to come
  • objectives are shared, the mountain climb of an achievable challenge, and the stages of how this climb will be done, the outcomes, are explained.
  • stages of the lesson, the Input-Activity-Review cycle will address the skills on this journey, and review them.

And if you want students to write down the Outcomes to support their skills acquisition, reviews, and ultimately the success of their learning, then just do it!

Learning Direction:What would Iggy do?

In ‘Gimme Danger’ Iggy Pop talks about saying it (a song) in 25 words.Simple and to the point. Something to stick in the mind. Not counting repeats, No Fun manages it in 22 words.

This is  what the learning direction is. A clear teacher exposition of where the students will get to by the end of the lesson, of what will be learned by the end of the hour. Once settled in the class, and hook delivered, this is what students need to Big Picture their learning journey.

But this is not the lesson outcomes. Fellow travellers with the learning direction, outcomes break this learning down into activities, stages and mileposts, and as we progress through the stages of Input Activity Review, we need to keep on coming back to them in our Reviews, referencing the journey, with the learning further informed by gradings and Blooms. The outcomes peg the journey for the students, giving that clarity, progression and challenge.

The outcomes  must be challenging for all, informed by our context sheets and knowing the students, and as Dame Sally Coates writes, ‘enabling lessons to enter the sweet spot of uncharted cognitive territory just beyond the students’existing skill level’, on the boundary between boredom and anxiety (Csikszentmihalyi).

So the Direction is informed by Iggy Pop, the Outcomes by Csikszentmihalyi. A good combination I feel.

Westfield Academy: This is us…

We have a short promo about our Academy here in Watford, not to be confused with Yeovil’s Westfield, or the shopping centre.

We pride ourselves on working and learning with colleagues from all backgrounds and experiences,  so if you are interested in a look around or further information with regards teaching and career opportunities just get in touch through this Blog.

Active Inspire- A true Inspiration!

This week our Lovely Sam, from the Teaching & Learning team delivered an excellent session on how to use Active Inspire on the new Promethean boards we will have in our new build.

So what’s the rush? well…It is official we have 5 days left in the old building- a mix of sadness and excitement for any of us who have been here a few years! But it is time for a new adventure and we are certainly more prepared than we ever expected to be!


Sam helped show us that ActivInspire helps teachers bring lessons to life with rich, powerful activities that grab students’ attention, blending real-time assessment and real-world experience into the learning process.

There are 100s of reasons why you should use Active Inpsire in the classroom- And here are a few to get you feeling a little more confident and technologically aware…


Within this Playlist of videos you can learn basic elements such as using the toolbar, uploading and writing over PDFs, using the spotlight, magic ink and an array of exciting tools to bring your lessons alive!

Here are some of the ideas Sam showed us at Butterfly this week:


Everyone’s worry, everyone has I am sure had a panic about this- but fear not! The years and hours of planning lessons and SOW are safe- and can be used- but in an even better way!

Simply upload or convert to PDF and annotate until your heart is content- trust us it really does bring the lesson off the page/ screen and gives you so many opportunities to stretch and Challenge your learners. No two lessons will ever be the same again!

Variety is of course the spice of life!


Personally, this such a great tool ( if like me your handwriting could be better) With the ipad, at times, handwriting isn’t always clear- it depends on a few factors, stylus pens and the quality of them being the most impacting. However, with Active inspire you have the freedom to write on the board, and with one highlight and click, it is converted, in an instant to text- no more “Miss what does that say?”


With Sam being one of our amazing Art teachers, it was lovely to see the variety of tools she can already use on Active Inspire- and demonstrate the learning power these simple tools can have. Magic Ink is something very different and the kids love it! It could definitely be used in every subject and could be used as engaging starters or plenaries- give it a try! (the video explains how to use it!)


Lastly- the support you receive through Promethean Planet is out of this world-especially if you are a science teacher- you are very lucky- 1000s of resources and lessons ready, made and waiting for you to download and use! Go on have a browse this weekend!

Active Inspire has definitely Inspired us this week and having walked the new building yesterday, I know for a fact, staff at Westfield Academy are ready and patiently waiting to use these new ICT skills and become and technology Wizz kids in the classroom!

As always, any questions Please just ask.




Butterfly #5 The Secret Success of Socrative!

Our ICT knowledge is expanding by the week, and the staff body at Westfield Academy are really getting stuck in and experimenting with new ways to create exciting, interesting and engaging FL strategies. Butterfly CPD sessions have never been so well-attended and there is definitely a buzz of excitement in the air! imag0983Socrative is your classroom app for fun, effective classroom engagement. No matter where or how you teach, Socrative allows you to instantly connect with students as learning happens.

What does this app do?

Quickly assess students with prepared activities or on-the-fly questions to get immediate insight into student understanding. Then use auto-populated results to determine the best instructional approach to most effectively drive learning.

Why do we love it?


Design and edit your own library of assessments specifically for your students. Save them to your Socrative account to use at a moment’s notice.


Look how enthusiastic and competitive our staff are at the General Knowledge quiz!



Review student understanding at the class, individual student, or question-level. And, because each Socrative report is saved to your account, you can quickly download, email, or transfer reports to Google Drive anytime.


This personally is why I LOVE Socrative! marking and AFL in lesson and at home has never been so easy- instant reports sent to your email- instant marking-instant feedback!


Launch activities in easy-to-create virtual rooms to instantly engage your students, whether they’re in class or learning remotely. Share the unique code to ask students to join your room.


Space Races

Encourage friendly competition among students with an intergalactic quiz bowl. Turn any gradable assessment into a crowd-pleasing activity as individuals or groups race across the screen with correct answers. Celebrations guaranteed.

imag0988Our staff were so engaged at 8am on Tuesday morning- imagine what results this kind of testing could have with your classes!! Healthy competition in an engaging and stimulating environment leads to rapid and sustained progress- you need socrative in your life!


Look at Miss Vincent and Miss Larkin after they won the space race- a picture of absolute joy and success!🙂


Visualize student understanding in the moment as student results populate your screen in real time. Use the instant feedback to determine next steps in your instruction.



Live results were posted as the quiz was completed- the staff were able to share in their success and learn from their mistakes- the perfect feedback and plenary to our butterfly. This can really change the Peer and self assessment tools you use in your classroom and gives pupils a  better insight into how they can increase their confidence and ability.

We love it at Westfield Academy, and cannot wait to get stuck in, in our new build and use it daily, as part of our new ICT toolkit.

Please feel free to share your experiences and any other AFL apps you use- Our fantastic PE teacher, Mr Murphy has also Trialled Kahoot and loved it- more to come on that soon!🙂






Butterfly #4 It really does ‘Explain Everything’



6 months later and the ICT team are feeling very confident and impressed by all the new skills we have learned- we are so ready for the new build and the exciting prospects and challenges which lie before us. This week our fantastic head of literacy Jodie Vincent, presented our Butterfly session on the amazing app ( or so we think) Explain Everything.



Of all the applications and new software, I think I can speak for us as a collective group- We LOVE THIS APP!

Explain Everything, we feel has really changed the way we teach at Westfield Academy. Lessons have become pupil-led and the progress pupils make has become more and more an absolute focus of the lesson. Peer and self assessment has become so much more fruitful and impacting on pupils’ awareness of start and end points and enables them to  visually see their next steps to ensure maximum progress.

So How does the App work?

Teachers are using Explain Everything for both live and video-based instructional delivery. They prepare materials in advance or start from a blank canvas. Teachers also create projects and activity templates that are shared with students to work and build upon.

Students are creating rich artefacts of understanding with Explain Everything. Screencasts and other content created with Explain Everything become multimedia representations that can capture both the process and product of a learning experience. Students are creating tutorials, animations, and presentations — sharing ideas and becoming “teachers” themselves. They are working with project activities, collaborating in real-time, and sharing and publishing their work.

Explain Everything fits into any teaching and learning environment, with a variety of import and export integrations and connections including popular services like Google Apps for Education, iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and more. Explain Everything comes with its own cloud-based sharing platform as well. Leverage the open sharing community on Explain Everything Discover to get inspired, to download and remix public projects, and to let others access your creations with a single link.

Explain Everything Discover also allows private, closed-community sharing within a group or institution.

(information sourced from )
Jodie showed the group how she uses the App to teach science- for Example How the Sun travels- she then asked a group of science and PE to use the App and demonstrate o the group how they could use this in their lesson- Watch how focused and determined they are!
The top three reasons we, as a teaching & Learning Group Love the app:

Draw and Annotate

Explain Everything has unique drawing algorithms that make your drawings and annotations look great, regardless of what you use – finger or stylus. It also gives the ability to freely arrange your creations as every drawing and annotation can be moved, scaled, rotated, grouped, and flipped.

Import Photos, Videos, and Files

Insert and edit pictures, explain videos, work with documents, and presentation files. Thanks to Explain Everything’s wide support of multimedia files you can insert virtually any type of  content that’s fully interactive. Connect to your cloud storage and have them at your fingertips.

Move, Interact, and Record

The engaging power of Explain Everything comes from the ability to interact with every object. Whether it’s a video, drawing, text, or web browser it can be moved, rotated, and scaled. When recording all these interactions are recorded as well giving you the ability to create exciting, animated projects.

Being able to record class speeches involvement and discussion helps teachers reflect and adapt their lessons- it is reflective teaching at its best!

Trust us- it is the bees knees!!

Think together using Explain Everything

Over 3.5 million users build and share ideas with Explain Everything, the most advanced interactive screencasting whiteboard on the market. Now, ideas can be built and shared collaboratively in real-time using Explain Everything’s open-ended platform*.

With Explain Everything, users can work in small groups leveraging their talents and developing areas for growth. Work on the same slide view, on different sections of the same slides, or on different slides all while recording interactions and audio.

 Any questions, as always – feel free to drop me an email or come and see it in action!