Questioning Strategies



Gains and benefits

Thinking Time:

Consciously waiting for a pupil or class to think through an answer (before you break the silence) e.g 15-30secs

Provide time between setting the question and requiring an answer.  Sometimes alerting pupils to the approach and the time available to develop an answer.  

Prompts depth of thought and increases levels of challenge.  Ensures all pupils have a view or opinion to share before an answer is sought.


No Hands Questioning:

Using the ‘no hands up’ rule


Ref. AfL publication - Working Inside the Black Box.

Pupils aware that those required to give an answer, will be selected by the teacher.  Teachers alert them to this as questions are asked.

Linked to ‘thinking time’.

Improves engagement and challenges all pupils to think.  When linked to Thinking Time, pupils share ideas and ‘position’ their own views in relation to others.


Basketball questioning:

Move questions and discussions between pupils

Teacher establishes movement of ideas and responses around the class.  Builds on other pupils’ ideas and comments.  Accepts ‘half-formed’ ideas.  NB not ‘ping-pong’


Engages more pupils.  Stops teacher being focus for all questioning.  Develops connected thinking and development of ideas.

Conscripts and Volunteers:

Using a planned mix of ‘conscripts’ and ‘volunteers’

Teacher selects answers from those who volunteer an answer and an equal amount of those who do not.


Enhances engagement and challenge for all.

Phone a friend:

Removes stress to enable those who cannot answer to participate

Those who cannot answer are allowed to nominate a fellow pupil to suggest an answer on their behalf, but they still have to provide their own answer, perhaps building on this.


Encourages whole-class listening and participation.  Removes stress and builds self-esteem.


A pupil is placed in the ‘hot-seat’ to take several questions from the class and teacher.


Encourages listening for detail and provides challenge

Mantle of the expert:

A student wears the cloak of the expert to answer questions from the class.

Builds self-esteem through opportunity to share detailed knowledge.



Previewing questions in advance

Questions are shared/displayed before being asked, or the start of the lesson.


Signals the big concepts and learning of the lesson

Pair rehearsal:

of an answer or a question

Pairs of pupils are able to discuss and agree responses to questions together.


Encourages interaction, engagement and depth


Deploying specific targeted questions

Listen in to group discussions and target specific questions to groups and individuals.


Facilitates informed differentiation.


Modeling simple exploratory questions to gather information

Teacher models the use of Who, What, Where, When and Why to set out a simple information gathering response based on the information provided.


Encourages students to rehearse enquiry and comprehension, can extend into reasoning and hypothesis.

Creates an inquisitive disposition and a thinking/self reflective approach to learning.




Gains and benefits

High Challenge:

Phrasing questions carefully to concentrate on Bloom’s Taxonomy higher challenge areas

Questions must be pre-planned, as very difficult to invent during a lesson.  Focus questions to address analysis, synthesis, evaluation and creativity, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Provides high challenge thinking, requiring more careful thought, perhaps collaborative thinking and certainly longer more detailed answers.  For Able, Gifted and Talented.


Staging or sequencing: questions with increasing levels of challenge

Increasing the level of challenge with each question, moving from low to higher-order questioning

Helps pupils to recognise the range of possible responses and to select appropriately.


Big questions:

The setting of a substantial and thought provoking question

Big questions cannot be easily answered by students when the question is posed.  They are often set at the beginning of the lesson and can only be answered by the end of the lesson, using all of the thinking based on all of the contributions to the lesson.


These questions develop deeper and more profound thinking.  Big Questions are often moral issues or speculative questions such as, Where are we from? How big is the universe? What is the meaning of life?


They require extended answers and usually rely on collaborative thinking and a personal interpretation of the information provided.


Focus questioning:

This will help students to answer bigger questions

When students struggle to answer bigger or more complex questioning, the teacher can model or lead the thinking by asking Focus questions to lead the student through the steps of the thinking.


Develops confidence and the sequencing of small steps in thinking and response.  Allows students to reveal the stages in their thinking.

Fat questions:

Seeking a minimum answer

Pupils are not allowed to answer a question using less than e.g. 15 words or using a particular word or phrase.  They must give an extended answer or make a complete sentence/phrase.


Develops speaking and reasoning skills, the correct use of critical and technical language .

Skinny questions

A traditional approach to Q&A asking everyday questions with a fixed or specific answer

In its simplest form, students can answer yes or no to a skinny question, or give a number or knowledge based response.


Challenge level is low in skinny questions that do not seek and extended answer or reasons for the answer.  Mostly knowledge and comprehension based.  Does not develop thinking or reasoning.


Signal questions:

Providing signals to pupils about the kind of answer that would best fit the question being asked.  Teacher responds to pupils attempt to answer, by signaling and guiding the answers.

The essence of purposeful questioning, moving pupils from existing knowledge or experience (often unsorted or unordered knowledge) to organized understanding, where patterns and meaning have been established.


Seek a partial answer:

In the context of asking difficult whole class questions, deliberately ask a pupil who will provide only a partly formed answer, to promote collective engagement.

Excellent for building understanding from pupil-based language.  Can be used to lead into ‘Basketball questioning’.  Develops self-esteem.


-- The National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD)

Questioning Tools

1. Pose, Pause, Pounce & Bounce

A strategy for structuring questioning in the classroom, to ensure thinking time, selection of students to answer and collaborative sharing of ideas and response.

Pose – Teacher poses the question as a big question for all to consider and form a response to.

Pause – Teacher gives thinking time and possibly discussions/thinking together.

Pounce – Teacher selects who will provide and answer (no hands and not hands up).

– Teacher ‘bounces’ the answers from student to student developing the ideas/encouraging all to add their views or extend the e.g. depth and breadth of answers.

2. D E A L

DEAL is often used in science to explore:

·        ideas about what is seen (experiments or phenomenon)

·        to develop the thinking and analyse these perceptions

·        make links with previous learning and convey understanding

·        develop the ability to apply what has been learnt

·        make connections with other areas of previous learning.



Describe what you see, experience and can measure



Explain what you know or understand, what you experienced or think happened



Analyse the information or evidence to draw conclusions or determine what you believe is happened and why



Link with previous knowledge or make connections with other phenomenon or outcomes where these connections bring further conclusions or lead to hypothesis



A strategy for beginning to engage with ‘Reading’ any text.  This develops in the reader, further questions in order that they then form a sense of meaning from the text, to develop understanding and before the teacher might use Blooms Taxonomy to set more challenging questions.

1.    Sense – or meaning – what is it about?

2.    Audience – or tone – who is it intended for?

3.    Technique – what are the techniques that have been used - what is their effect?

4.    Intentions – What was the writer’s purpose?

5.    Personal opinion – what is your reaction – what do you start to conclude?


Identify the key questions in relation to the learning intentions for the lesson

Decide on the level, order and timing of questions

Extend the questioning - thinking of subsidiary questions to ask

Analyse anticipated answers and responses you might give

5KWL and QUADS Grids

Popularised by David Wray and Maureen Lewis, and included in the training programme for the introduction of the Literacy Strategy, these grids have been shown to be useful tools in self-assessment and involving children in their own learning. In a similar approach to concept mapping, the grids structure a child’s thinking, starting with the activation of prior learning and leading to the identification of learning needs and a recognition of progress.

Evidence from use shows that a key positive outcome is the increased willingness and confidence of children to raise and record their own questions. The approach is seen as particularly useful in structuring research tasks, in many areas of the curriculum.


What do I Know


What do I Want to Know?


What have I Learnt?






A similar framework is QUADS (Cudd, 1989). One suggestion is that it can be used effectively to follow a brainstorming session, to help children structure and record their thinking.















Wray and Lewis observe that an interesting feature is the splitting of the answers into two parts, the answer and the details. This could be presented as the ‘short’ answer and the ‘long’ answer, first summarise your answer and then give the detail. The inclusion of the ‘source’ column is seen to encourage the development of good habits in research.



Creative questioning using SCAMPER

SCAMPER, devised by American Bob Eberle, is a useful technique to extend all pupils' thinking and can provide real imaginative opportunities to all pupils to extend their work. The SCAMPER technique uses a set of directed questions which pupils answer in order to come up with new ideas. The stimulus comes from answering questions that you (as a teacher) and pupils (as learners) would not usually ask. It helps pupils to ask questions that require them to think 'out of the box', helping to develop their critical thinking skills. It's also a useful tool for creative writing and a stimulus for role play.
  • Remember, you don't have to use all the steps in SCAMPER. 
  • Use it to spark off creative development and then let pupils work on their own. If they get stuck, they can return to the SCAMPER framework.

Other uses for SCAMPER

SCAMPER makes a good starter activity for all sorts of lessons.

  1. Show pupils an object (probably from a school or museum collection) and ask them to use the SCAMPER technique to come up with uses for the object.
  2. Show or project in large scale for pupils an image (probably taken from the web or an illustration from a book) and ask them to use the SCAMPER technique to come up with descriptions of alternative images relating to the SCAMPER technique

 SCAMPER is an acronym that stands for a series of questions to ask about a familiar piece or work or process:



Substitute one aspect of your product/process

What else instead? Who else instead? Other ingredients? Other material? Other power? Other place?



Combine two or more parts with something else

How about a blend, an alloy, an ensemble? Combine purposes?



Adapt or alter one aspect

What else is like this? What other idea does this suggest? Does past offer parallel? What could I copy?


Modify (distort or) Magnify

Change part/all of the current situation

Order, form, shape? What to add? More time? Greater frequency? Higher? Longer? Thicker?


Put to other purpose

How could you put your current item/process to another use?

What else could I use this for? New ways to use as is? Other uses I modified? Other places to use?



Delete one aspect

What would happen if I got rid of something? What difference would this make? What to subtract? Smaller? Condensed? Miniature? Lower? Shorter? Lighter? Omit? Streamline? Understate?



Reverse one thing

What if I did it the other way round? What if I reverse the order it is done or the way it is used? How would I achieve the opposite effect? Other sequence? Transpose cause and effect? Change pace? Transpose positive and negative? How about opposites? Turn it backwards? Turn it upside­ down? Reverse roles?

-- The National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD)