Unit 2 - Whole class dialogue and effective questioning

Session 2.1 - Introduction to whole class dialogue and effective questioning

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Learning intentions and objectives.
In this session you will learn about:

  • creating a supportive learning environment for dialogue through body language, emotional support and enthusiasm for pupil learning,
  • one aspect of whole class dialogue cumulative talk,
  • classroom management techniques for whole class dialogue such as forming classroom rules in consultation with pupils, and
  • the idea of an assessment portfolio.

Success criteria.
To meet the learning intentions you will:

  • role play a cumulative talk activity using the magic microphone technique to generate enthusiasm,
  • plan a cumulative talk activity for use in the classroom and consider using a horseshoe seating arrangement to encourage peer co-operatively, and
  • identify features that illustrate 'a supportive classroom environment' whilst watching videos of whole class dialogue in action.

ICT components.
The ICT components you will focus on are

  • continuation of Geogebra practice
  • planning another slideshow with OpenOffice Impress

Classroom based activities (with your students, after this session):

  • another image sequencing activity
  • typing practice in the classroom

1 Review of follow-up activities from last session

Oer4s whole class dialogue.jpg
Educator note

If you are running a professional learning programme which follows these sessions in sequence, then you should do the review of follow-up activities relating to the previous session (Leadership for Learning). The 'review of follow-up activities' for that session is available here, and also shown below in the session text. However, if you are following selected sessions in a different order, then you should use the reflection appropriate to the previous session you did.

The review of the follow-up activities for this session (to be done at the start of the next session) is available here.

Last time, we asked you to practice using the LfL lenses when you are back in your own classroom settings, or even when you are watching others in the act of teaching and learning.

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min) about the LfL framework. We asked you to take time to use the LfL framework to think about the OER4Schools programme, your own learning and how you contributed to and were supported in your learning. Go round the group, and give an example of your own teaching, or teaching you have witnessed, or other ideas about learning through the framework of the 5 LfL lenses. Once everybody has contributed something, spend some time discussing your observations.

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min): Reflection on peer observation. We asked you to undertake a 30-minute observation of student learning in a colleague’s classroom using the LfL lenses. Using the notes you made, go round, saying in turn how it went, and which lens you chose to observe. Remember to try and report what you saw, through the particular lens chosen. As an example of how the reporting can take place, you may like to quickly report in this format:

  1. I have chosen to look at student learning through the ‘conditions of learning’ lens.
  2. We agreed that I will look out for whether the students have opportunities to pose questions (or whether they feel safe to ask questions) in the lesson.
  3. I notice that students are generally quite quiet throughout the lesson. Teacher X did ask several times whether they have any questions they want to ask. Students did not respond.
  4. My inference from this is that students are not used to posing questions. Perhaps they feel embarrassed to ask questions? Or perhaps they don’t know what to ask?

By reporting what was seen and heard, and then making an inference based on the practice observed, the discussion can avoid problems of possible unhelpful critique of peer professional practices.

Educator note

As we continue to discuss LfL in this session, it may be helpful to have a large sheet of paper with the five LfL principles in front of everybody, or perhaps get participants to have the LfL principles in front of them. You could also draw on the expanded list of LfL principles (with questions) from the last session.

2 Creating a supportive environment for dialogue

We are now moving on to the topic of this unit, and we start with introducing whole class dialogue. We initially focus on:

  • creating a supportive environment for dialogue, and
  • cumulative talk - creating a story together.

We start this process by exploring the magic microphone(a) and then exploring cumulative talk(a).

Activity icon.png Magic microphone (10 min) on the last workshop. Use a prop, for example a stick or a long pencil as a magic microphone, or a ball. Whoever gets the prop answers an open-ended question such as ‘one thing from the last workshop that I could use effectively in my classroom was...’ or ‘what I did not find useful from the last workshop was...’.

Educator note

If there is time, ask the participants to answer two questions. It will also give the facilitator some feedback about the previous workshop, as well as introduce a method that can be used in classroom with pupils.

Facilitator models the way to create a supportive environment by:

  • encouraging body language, by smiling and looking at the person who is talking, and showing that you are attentively listening (maybe nodding);
  • encouraging emotional support, by being non-judgemental (accepting all answers), and allowing anyone who is ready to talk to do so, instead of talking it in turns (but everybody has to talk); and
  • showing enthusiasm - if you agree with something that the participant says, perhaps say something like ‘I also thought of that’ or ‘I did not think about it, it’s something new and I agree’.

After all participants have answered, role-play how you would carry out the activity in the classroom with pupils. One participant (not the facilitator) can play the role of teacher, others are the pupils. Facilitator should support the “teacher” by suggesting questions for “pupils”. Some examples are: I like the colour... or My favourite food is... The idea is to get all (or most) pupils talking by asking a question that everybody can answer easily.

Using a magic microphone can slow down the pace of a lesson, and decrease spontaneity, especially if it takes a long time to carry the magic microphone through the classroom. You might want to consider using something that is easy to pass (such as a ball, rather than a pen). You could also consider having two magic microphones, so that one can be passed while the first one is “active”.

Activity icon.png Magic microphone (10 min) in the classroom: role-play. Repeat the above activity, but this time role-playing how you would carry out the activity in the classroom with pupils. Think of your own questions to use in the classroom. Make a note of these questions, so that you can try out the activity in the classroom. As you are planning, consider these questions:

  • How easily will the children be able to answer the questions?
  • Will the microphone get stuck because a child cannot answer?
  • How do you know that the questions are at the right level?
  • Will this activity be fun? (Relates to: LfL, 2)

3 Introducing cumulative talk - creating a story together

Educator note

Cumulative talk is talk in which all participants agree and add to the previous talk (or sentence).

Activity icon.png Cumulative talk (10 min): Creating a story together. All the participants get up to rearrange the seating. Arrange the group in a horseshoe seating arrangement(a) if there is room. If not, choose another arrangement allowing participants to see each other. Facilitator starts a story by saying one sentence. All participants then contribute to the story by adding sentences.

A good story would:

  • be contextually appropriate: for example, use common names of characters and a setting familiar to participants,
  • have a theme relevant for participants, such as education (girl-child receiving schooling later supports family); importance of forests and wild-life (saving a snake later becomes useful for invention of new medicine); treatment of diseases (steps taken by a family to treat an ill person), etc.,
  • be short and have few characters, and
  • have a problem which is collectively resolved in the end.

For instance, you could create a story about welcoming a new child to the school, perhaps a child with an impairment of some kind. The facilitator starts by saying: "The other day, I heard my neighbours talking about whether their child should be starting school, because their child has difficulty walking, and they were not sure whether children like that should go to school." (Relates to Index for Inclusion, A1.1 Everyone is welcomed.)

Educator note

Facilitator can introduce the notion of 'Talk Rules' during this activity, if needed. Some examples are: “everybody listens when one person talks” because they have to add to that sentence; “respect others’ ideas” by adding to, rather than changing, their idea; “make sure everyone in the group understands”; and “try to reach consensus in the end” – participants don’t need to actually come to agreement, but the process of trying gets people to listen to each other. You may want to ask participants to generate their own examples of Talk Rules.

The activity we just did is an example of “cumulative talk”, where participants build on what the previous person has said (“cumulative talk” is one way of moving towards whole class dialogue).

Activity icon.png Same-task group work (10 min) in pairs: Planning cumulative talk in the classroom. Now pair up, and come up with ideas for cumulative talk in the classroom.

  • Consider that when this activity is done in the classroom with pupils, themes should be chosen from the curriculum.
  • Also consider that the seating arrangement can be modified according to teachers’ classrooms such that pupils see each other. Pupils can leave their tables and just move their chairs (or sit outside if the grounds are suitable).

As you are planning this activity, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do your students find it easy to talk?
  • How can you encourage students to talk?
  • Are some students likely to laugh at other students contributions? How can you create safe environments that enable students to take risks?(Relates to: LfL, 2.4)

4 Whole class discussion: Creating a supportive environment

Activity icon.png Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min) Video on classification of vertebrates. Video clips Eness vertebrates 10 ("Is a boy a mammal?") and 11 ("Is a whale a fish or a mammal?"); lively class discussion about classifying these animals, deliberately chosen to create controversy and to challenge the pupils


Is a boy a mammal?

Eness leads a discussion on 'Is a boy a mammal?'

Video/19 Eness 3 vertebrates 10.mp4, http://oer.educ.cam.ac.uk/wiki/Video/19_Eness_3_vertebrates_10.mp4,This video is available on your memory stick in the video/Eness Vertebrates folder.About this video. Duration: 3:51 (watch on YouTube, local play / download options)(Series: Eness Vertebrates, episode 10)


Fish or mammal?

Class explores the question 'Is a whale a fish or a mammal?'

Video/19 Eness 3 vertebrates 11.mp4, http://oer.educ.cam.ac.uk/wiki/Video/19_Eness_3_vertebrates_11.mp4,This video is available on your memory stick in the video/Eness Vertebrates folder.About this video. Duration: 4:31 (watch on YouTube, local play / download options)(Series: Eness Vertebrates, episode 11)

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min) on the learning environment and classroom management.

  • Was there a supportive environment for pupil participation and dialogue in this lesson?(Relates to: LfL, 2) If so, how did the teacher achieve this?
  • How did she help students to work out whether the boy and the whale were mammals? Did this discussion move their thinking forward?(Relates to: LfL, 1)
  • What did you think about teacher control and pupil learning in these video clips? How would a horseshoe seating arrangement have impacted on this?
  • How would you manage something similar in your classroom? How would you encourage pupil talk without losing too much control?
Educator note

Did participants notice the “wait time” after asking a question before the teacher made a further contribution or question? Increasing wait time a little increases thinking time and, in turn, leads to an improvement in the quality of students' responses.

5 Reflection on what we have learned

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min): Reflecting on what you have learnt. Reflection on what you have learned from this session about

  • body language for encouraging dialogue;
  • cumulative talk;
  • encouraging most pupils to talk;
  • withholding feedback sometimes to motivate pupils without fear of “wrong” answers: not evaluating pupil responses, just accepting them, forming rules for dialogue, and
  • managing the tension between control and learners’ freedom to contribute.

6 ICT practice: Different-task group work with ICT and activity planning

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (5 min) on ICT use. To use ICT in an investigative way requires that both teachers and learners are sufficiently familiar with the technology and software, or the teacher spends the whole time troubleshooting problems of using the technology and software instead of addressing the more important enquiry skills and learning objectives. Developing this familiarity through progressively more complex use of ICT needs careful thought. It is important to develop good strategies for using ICT in the classroom. For instance, addressing the whole class to demonstrate features/procedures of using ICT can be most efficient rather than speaking to groups in turn. However, where groups have got specific problems, it can be useful to support that group first, so that they can later help other groups. Take a few minutes to discuss what issues have arisen so far.

Activity icon.png Different-tasks group work (15 min) on spreadsheets. In this session, we suggest that you familiarise yourself with the use of the spreadsheet function in OpenOffice and/or with GeoGebra. It is likely that you may need to continue with this as homework.

Educator note

You may want to limit the time spent on these tasks within the workshop. You could interrupt, say after 15 minutes, to discuss the homework. However, if there is time after the workshop, participants could always return to these activities. It is essential to allow time to introduce the homework before the session ends.

1. Basic Calculations

You can print this content on a separate sheet here: OER4Schools/Spreadsheet exercises/1.

As with the other applications, we will return to spreadsheets in a later session. If you find the activities very easy, because you have used spreadsheets before, then help others! As you are doing the exercises yourself, consider for which grade and for which lessons they might be useful. For instance, in the Zambian context, would these exercises be suitable for Grade 5 upwards?

7 Assessment portfolios

Activity icon.png Whole class dialogue (10 min): Read about assessment portfolios together, and discuss any issues arising In Unit 1, we learned about the cycle of plan-teach-reflect, and the idea of keeping a reflective journal. We would now like to extend the idea of a reflective journal further by asking you to select material from it for submission to an assessment portfolio. We would like you to select material for your assessment portfolio that best illustrates how you have made use of the interactive teaching techniques that you have learned about in the workshop sessions. An ideal submission for your portfolio should include:

  • an explanation of why you have chosen to do a particular activity with your students;
  • a completed activity template showing how the activity fits into the rest of the lesson;
  • a description of how the students responded to the activity;
  • a reflection on what you would do differently if you did the activity again;
  • any other important notes;
  • samples of students' work if possible, e.g. a concept map, and
  • 'snapshots' of the activity to show how it went, e.g. a copy of the results of a brainstorm, or a copy of the images you used.

Submission of an assessment portfolio containing at least one piece of material (with notes) from each unit is a key part of completing the OER4Schools programme. Further assessment portfolio guidance for use during discussion.

Do you have recording equipment available? This could be your phone, or, if you have a laptop or tablet, you could use that for recording. If you have something you can record audio with, then for each piece of work that you submit, do an audio reflection. To do this, think about how you would show a teacher in another school what you have been learning through the OER4S programme. What concrete examples would you share with them? How would you show them the range of things that you have covered? Then suppose this teacher asked you some questions, e.g. what worked well? What didn’t work so well?  What would you say to them?

Ideally you would make a link between the workshop session and your classroom trial. Tell us where the idea came from, and how you applied it. We don’t want or need evidence - we just want to know, in your own words, what you have learned.

Here is a short example of the sort of reflection we would like you to record: “I learned about _________ in session ____. I thought that it could be really useful for my pupils during a lesson on _________, I tried it out with my students. The work I have submitted is an example of ________. I have also submitted an example of what the students did. I had initially written this ______ [for the students], and the students then added ________. Students responded differently. Mary had difficulty with it because ___________. (E.g. a computer did not work - why did it not work?!) I concluded the lesson with a plenary, and they told me these answers. If I was to do this again, I would do it like this: ______. I would also apply this tool to another lesson on ________topic, because ______________“.

You can also do a short audio reflection right after a lesson in which you have tried out a new approach or technology, so you record your immediate reactions and thoughts. These files can then help to inform your portfolio later on, or even be submitted as part of it.

The following items are specific to the programme at CBS, and may need to be adapted to local circumstances:

At Chalimbana Basic School there is a set of dictaphones available that you can use for the reflections.

8 Connecting with overarching goals of the programme

Activity icon.png Open space (10 min). It's now time for the "open space", that gives you an opportunity to discuss issues that have arisen, and to relate those to the broader context of the programme. Do not just gloss over this section, but make time to raise issues, and probe the progress that you are making. You could use this space to:

  • Remind yourselves of the of the Most Significant Change Technique, and e.g. collect more of your stories.
  • Discuss your assessment portfolios: Is there anything that you are unsure about? Is it going well? What could be done better?
  • Check on the work with the classroom assistants: Is this going well? Are there any tensions? Any observations or tips you can share?
  • Reviewing individual ICT practise (such as typing practise).
  • If you are preparing a presentation for other teachers, you could work on the presentation (about what you have been learning, stories emerging from MSC).
  • Remind those who are doing audio diaries, to upload them.
  • You could discuss any other issues that have arisen.

You will find notes and summaries of various techniques and concepts on our reference page, and you might want to refer to those for clarification during this activity if needed.

9 Follow-up activities

Activity icon.png Agreeing follow up activities. (5 min).

Part A: Try out the ‘magic microphone’ technique with an easy question for pupils to answer (e.g. “what’s your favourite food?”); every child should say something, but keep the pace rapid so it doesn’t take too long – if someone isn’t ready, come back to them.

Part B: Try out cumulative talk by asking pupils to create a class story, each contributing one line whenever they are handed the magic microphone by their peers. Use some of the techniques discussed in this session to create a supportive environment, for example: positive body language, enthusiastic tone, listening to each other before speaking, and building on what the previous person has said. Encourage any shy children to have a go, and repeat the activity with another topic on another occasion so they get more used to public speaking.

Part C: Your own ICT practice:

  • Practise your typing skills.
  • Continue to practise finding resources and downloading images for a lesson that you can do. When you download images, put them into your lesson_resources folder, and use the slideshow function using a web browser on the netbooks or teacher computers.

The following items are specific to the programme at CBS, and may need to be adapted to local circumstances:

Write an email to the mailing list

Part D: ICT use in the classroom:

  • Do another image-based activity
  • Do typing practice (carousel)

Educator note

In the next session, these follow-up activities will be reviewed. If you are using this session on its own, you can have a look at the review of follow-up activities here.

Educator note

At the end of each session, we provide an overview of the activities in this session, together with their suggested timings. Although this appears at the end of the session (for technical reasons), you should keep an eye on this throughout the session, to make sure that you are pacing the workshop session appropriately!

Total time: 135 (min)

Activities in this session:

  • Whole class dialogue (10 min) about the LfL framework.
  • Whole class dialogue (10 min): Reflection on peer observation.
  • Magic microphone (10 min) on the last workshop.
  • Magic microphone (10 min) in the classroom: role-play.
  • Cumulative talk (10 min): Creating a story together.
  • Same-task group work (10 min) in pairs: Planning cumulative talk in the classroom.
  • Observing, thinking, reflecting (10 min) Video on classification of vertebrates.
  • Whole class dialogue (10 min) on the learning environment and classroom management.
  • Whole class dialogue (10 min): Reflecting on what you have learnt.
  • Whole class dialogue (5 min) on ICT use.
  • Different-tasks group work (15 min) on spreadsheets.
  • Whole class dialogue (10 min): Read about assessment portfolios together, and discuss any issues arising
  • Open space(10 min).
  • Agreeing follow up activities.(5 min).

If you have printed this session for offline use, you may also need to download the following assets: