Cold Calling & The No Opt Out Questioner

On our lesson visits last week, it was great to see a good deal of teacher-led questioning. Sherrington (2019) defines questioning as the ‘frontline in formative assessment’. It really is the best way to gauge understanding, encourage review, probe deeper and extend thinking.

The best kind of questioning is targeted. The very best, according to Lemov is cold calling. We saw this strongly in product design and maths lessons last week. The principle is simple: All students should be involved in engaging with the teacher-student dialogue with time to think, and not be allowed to hide, dominate or be overlooked. In practice this is no hands up questioning. As teachers we ask the question, select the student(s) to respond based on our knowledge of the class, and ensure we avoid the pitfalls of hands-up or calling out. 

Another Teach Like a Champion strategy is the no opt out. The principle here is: Students should feel safe in answering when unsure but, if they don’t know or get things wrong, they should be given the opportunity to gain confidence by consolidating correct or secure answers. Also, students should not be allowed to opt out by saying ‘I don’t know’. In practice, Lemov suggests if a student gets an answer completely or partially wrong or they say they don’t know, we should move to other students or provide the correct answer.  We should then go back to the student who made errors or couldn’t answer, giving them a chance to now say the right answer.  

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