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Question Fans

My ex-colleague, @JaninLincoln first came up with the idea of the Question Fan about 3 years ago. She put together a set of question stems to fit with each section of Bloom’s taxonomy, moving from questions devised to increase knowledge through to others intended to build comprehension, application and eventually, evaluation.

We then had these stems printed on to card, using a different colour for each type of question stem. The only option then was to manually cut then out, punch holes in each one and attach them all together with an old school treasury tag. This was a tortuous process for which many thanks are due to our admin staff. However, the resulting fans, which were given out to Lincolnshire Heads of English at one of our termly Subject Leader Development Meetings, were very well received.

With this positive reception in mind, we were keen to find a way to manufacture the fans on a larger scale. A big literacy project presented the ideal opportunity. We were working with designers on a wide range of literacy resources under the overall title of Communication for Learning and this was an ideal chance to improve the look of the product and have them manufactured in bulk.

The first new version of the Question Fan was launched at a Headteachers’ Conference and again proved very popular. Each question stem was now printed on to high quality laminated stock and a range of attractive colours differentiated each section. This first bulk edition quickly sold out and we have recently gone back to the printers to have a third edition made. The fans are proving very popular with schools and we have further improved the design by replacing the original screw fastening with a plastic rivet fastener which has proved very durable.

How are schools using the Question Fans? A number of schools have bought large orders of fans – 50 to 100 units. In some cases they have then given all members of staff a fan to help them to develop their use of higher order questioning. The 2012 Ofsted Inspection Handbook asks inspectors to consider the extent to which

“teachers use questioning and discussion to assess the effectiveness of their teaching and promote pupils’ learning”

so clearly any tool which can help promote improved questionning will be very valuable. So, with a fan in their pocket or bag, any teacher can consciously address the need to ensure questions are open and demanding, whether it be during starter activities or plenaries.

Alternatively, the students can be given the question fans to help them to develop their understanding of whatever topic is being studied. Groups of students using the fans can prepare a set of questions for other groups to answer. This activity is particularly effective if they are encouraged to allocate points to each question type, with questions that use one of the Knowledge section stems being worth 1 point through to 6 points for an Evaluation stem question. Thus groups can be required to produce a set of 5 questions to examine, say, the role of Crooks in Of Mice and Men that are worth at least a total of 20 points.

Due to the manufacture of a third edition of the fans which is larger than any previous edition, we have been able to reduce the cost to just £6 – very cheap when you consider the potential impact on teaching and learning and the cost, in terms of resources and time, of producing anything similar yourselves. The fans can be purchased from the National Association for the Teaching of English, through their shop here and 25% of the cost goes towards supporting the work of this important subject association.

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