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Questioning to stretch and challenge in a secondary classroom

Written By: Anmol Pervez
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This piece was written by Anmol Pervez, a science teacher at MEA Central. 

As you read this case study, consider how the teacher uses this technique in their classroom. Take some time to reflect on what the teacher does, how they do it, what they might do differently and how this might influence your own practice.


A pedagogical technique that has impacted my practice immensely is Stretch-it Questioning. It’s easy to accept a correct answer from a student, praise them, and move on to the next question. However, how do you really know a student has truly grasped a concept?

Stretch-it Questioning is an opportunity for a teacher to further challenge a pupil and continue developing their learning even after they have correctly answered a question. Once a correct answer has been given, reward the pupil with another question, confirming the depth of their understanding of the concept. This also removes any uncertainty that the pupil answered the question through partial understanding or luck. It is also a method to gage your pupils’ mastery levels which leads to supporting you in differentiating your lessons and to teach to students of varying skill by structuring questions to suit the different needs of pupil. It does require planning in regards to what follow up questions need to be asked of which students, but the impact it has on the learning is vast.

There are three types of prompts that can use in this technique to challenge and scaffold for the students; these are outlined below with examples.


Technique 1: Non- Directive Prompt.

Use a verbal or physical gesture to encourage the pupil to continue their answer. This may be used with a pupil who has previously shown a high level of mastery of the concept.

Teacher: What is mitosis, Ali?

Ali: Mitosis is a type of cell division that results in two daughter cells.

Teacher: Good. Develop that.

Ali: Both daughter cells are diploid. This means they contain 46 chromosomes each.

Teacher: And? (Non-verbal gesture to continue).

Ali: Mitosis occurs in somatic cells. This means it occurs in all body cells except for gametes.

Teacher: Well done, Ali. I like your use of technical vocabulary.


Technique 2: Directive Prompt.

This method is used to push pupils into engaging with a concept further and providing them with details in order to support their answer. This may be used with pupils who may require more support in mastering a concept.

Teacher: What is mitosis, Ali?

Ali: Mitosis is a type of cell division.

Teacher: And what does the parent cell divide into?

Ali: The parent cell divides into two daughter cells.

Teacher: What can you tell me about the number of chromosomes in each daughter cell?

Ali: Each has 46 chromosomes.

Teacher: What word can we use to describe a full set of chromosomes?

Ali: Each daughter cell is diploid.

Teacher: Good. Which cells undergo the process of mitosis?

Ali: All body cells, except for gametes.

Teacher: Excellent.

In the above technique you can also include other pupils in the questioning to take some pressure off the targeted pupil. The pupil can also be asked to repeat all the information together to check their understanding at the end of this questioning sequence.


Technique 3: Partially- Directive Prompt.

This technique is in between directive and non-directive prompts. It requires the teacher to use a part of the previous answer with a non-directive ‘develop that’ to support pupils in expanding their answer.

Teacher: What is mitosis, Ali?

Ali: Mitosis is a type of cell division that results in two daughter cells.

Teacher: Say more about the daughter cells.

Ali: The daughter cells are diploid.

Teacher. Diploid? (Non-verbal gesture to the student to develop it).

Ali: Diploid means that it contains 46 chromosomes.

Teacher: Good. Where does mitosis occur?

Ali: In somatic cells.

Teacher: Tell me more about somatic cells.

Ali: Somatic cells refers to all body cells except for gametes.

Teacher: Well done, Ali.



Lemov D (2015) Teach Like a Champion 2.0 – 62 Techniques that put students on the path to college. Jossey-Bass: USA.


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