Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Using diagnostic tools in the classroom: primary

Primary examples with use of both teacher- and student-generated questions.
OK, so my questioning. So I do lots of questioning during the lesson. And it’s my sort of assessment, I guess, and it informs me what the children have learned and what I need to do in my next lesson. It’s mostly from the questioning I get what my next lesson is going to be. Right. OK. For science today, we are learning something new. OK? I’ve got loads of different things on the tuff tray in the middle of our carpet. And what I would you like you to do– OK, because these are clues to what we’re today in science.
And what I would like to do is, in your talking partner, I want you to name as many things as you can see in the tuff tray. OK? I’m going to give you 10 seconds. Off you go. [ALL CHILDREN TALKING AT ONCE]
Right. So I’ve got a picture of a foal. I’ve got a picture of a duckling, a calf, a piglet. I’ve got flowers. I’ve got books about seeds. I have books about tadpoles and how they grow. I’ve got a nest with eggs. I’ve got some daffodils and some chicks. Turn to your partner. What are we learning about, this afternoon? What is our learning objective, this afternoon? Turn to the person next to you. It’s all right. Come up with as many as you can. [ALL CHILDREN TALKING AT ONCE]
OK, well, one of the main aims of the lesson was, for me, partly to differentiate, according to the multiplication, those children that could do multiplication, whether it was the twos-fives-tens, which is the Year 2 expectations, challenging the highers into the 3 times table. We’ve been working on that. And the element of then division. Could any of them use the inverse law? And it was through the level of questioning, who I directed questions to, use of talk partners, so that, within their groupings, there were certain lower-ability children or less-confident children in speaking partnered with higher attainers– children that were confident to talk– so they could learn together.
And then I had certain children that I knew I needed to engage, too, near me, so that I could lead the questioning and scaffold, for them, the methods that they could use. I would like boys versus girls. So, girls, you’re going to sit on that side of the room. Boys, you’re coming to this side of the room. Face each other. And I’m going to get my splat hands ready. Five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60. Fantastic. Stop there. Before you tell me, whisper to a partner, what did you notice about the end of all those numbers? What do the numbers end in? What’s the clue?
[ALL CHILDREN TALKING AT ONCE] Five, zero, five, zero, five, zero, five, zero, five, zero, five, zero, five, zero–
Right. We’re going to up the challenge. We’re going to see if we can do it in threes. Do you think we’re ready? Boys, do you want to go first, or second? Let’s go first. First? Going to start with three. Are you ready, girls? Ready? Three, six, nine, 12, 15, 18, 20– 21– Just check at 18. 19, 20, twenty– 21! 21. 24, 27, 30, 33, 36– And stop there. Everyone give yourselves a whoosh! Whoosh! Amazing! And we are going to be sorting multiplication questions into true or false. And so we’ve got four to tackle together before we go to our table challenges. Right. I’m coming around to help you and ask tricky questions, as we go.
One– Two.
Through questioning, it almost generates more questions. And then that helps us with our planning for the next lesson. So we’ve got three questions, haven’t we, which will help us with our planning for next Monday– our next science lesson. And we’ll use those as key questions. So, things like “How does the egg get back together again, when it’s inside the mother?” So I think one child had the idea that the egg cracks, and then it– yeah. And then it– Reforms. [LAUGH] Yeah. And then we had some statements. So maybe there’s more than one egg inside the mother– inside a mammal. And “There’s not an egg. It just comes out.” So we’ve got these three statements.
So what we like to do is write down some of the key questions which will lead on to our next lesson, which will be all about the reproduction process. So– Yeah. And that– again, it’s that whole ownership thing. So, even though we do know that the next lesson is going to be about fertilisation– it’s going to be about fertilisation– we can pick out the key sort of questions they had and start to focus in on those. And then that will mean that they actually care about what they’re learning about, rather than just– And actually writing their name next to these questions or statements, they feel like, “Oh, that’s what I said!”
And then it almost builds that class-community thing– Exactly, yeah, it pulls it together. –let’s find out actually the answers to these statements and questions. When the egg cracked– Yeah? –how does it get back together again?
Oh– interesting! I like that. Why– why do bees have wings? “Why do bees have wings?” Do you think you know the answer? Why do you think they have wings? Maybe because they have to fly from plant to plant for pollen. So they need to fly from plant to plant to get pollen? So do you think you have the answer to your question?

Here we meet Micaela, Jane B, Gemma & Tom and see them using different diagnostic activities. Although these examples are from primary classrooms it is important to realise that they could be also be applied in any context.

We see:

  • Micaela using visual stimuli (0:38), talk partners (1:05, 1:50) and questions (1:19) during carpet time with a Year 1 class (5 year olds)
  • Jane B using questioning (2:29) and talk partners (3:03) with a Year 2 class (6 and 7 year olds)
  • Gemma and Tom collecting questions asked by children during the learning (5:12) with a Year 5 class (9 and 10 year olds)


Using ONE of the examples in the video, how did the activity help the teacher to identify what to do next?
How could you use this approach in your own context for a topic you have coming up soon?
This article is from the free online

Differentiation for Learning

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education