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Better questions, better learning

Unit 7


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This session is all about asking questions that help to develop children’s literacy and understanding of rich texts. We begin with a discussion about open and closed questions, and how closed questions have an important role to play, even though they are often seen as inferior to a more open-ended approach. We’re also encouraged to think about the purpose of all the questions we ask, and James Clements suggests using The Barrett Taxonomy to reflect on this. To show how this works in practice, we see the framework applied to David McKee’s Not Now, Bernard. Drawing on research, James highlights the importance of asking authentic questions - in other words, questions to which we do not already know the answers in order to open up debate. We also examine cascades of questions, where a sequence of closed questions are use to help the class reach an answer for a big, open question. Questions aren’t the only way to create discussion and we take a look at how statements can be used to provoke a response from the class. Pupils might be asked to defend a statement they do not necessarily agree with, which then forces them to draw on the text and their world knowledge to put up a convincing argument. Overall the session shows how using a balance of different question types develops better understanding and discussion in the classroom.

Course Materials:

Presentation Slides - Download

.pptx file

Training Handout - Download

.pdf file

Course Creator

Image of James Clements

James Clements

While working as a senior leader in an outstanding inner city primary school, James was instrumental in developing effective reading provision, and was also consulted on the 2014 National Curriculum. A former local authority lead teacher, he is now an English advisor supporting schools and LAs to improve the teaching of reading, writing and drama - and an author for Oxford Owl.

About the Course

In this set of films, education adviser James Clements explores how teachers can develop a text-based approach to the English curriculum. The films take a detailed look at selecting texts, structuring units of work and practical classroom ideas for using rich texts in the classroom.

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