Using Assessing & Advancing Questions

This post

  • Describes the opening activity for the 2nd day of a 2 day lesson plan.
  • Connects the opening activity with assessing and advancing questions

The blog post describing the rest of the lesson is in the works. In the meantime, please enjoy the Supplementary Angle Activity Builder we used.


The Opening Activity



To begin Day 2, Candace and I asked her students to write about the topic discussed the previous day (which was complementary angles). They had a few minutes of silence to write. The silent writing time is sacred – No talking, including teachers.  It never fails, as soon as the silent time begins, a few hands start waving in the air.  To counter this, we ask students to write down their questions.

Usually, it takes a minute for students to become focused on writing their answer, which is why it’s essential that the teacher refrains from talking as well. The quietness fosters an academic environment.  Once the class was focused, Candace & I circulated the room reading and responding to student statements.

To maintain the reflective atmosphere, we hand wrote our responses(questions) on students’ papers. Once the question was written, we moved on to communicate with another student always keeping in mind to follow up with previous interactions. The follow up elevates the learning expectations.


Assessing & Advancing Questions

My blogging partner for the #MTBoS 2016 Blogging Challenge, Amber Thienel, wrote a great post on questioning, Musings About Assessing & Advancing Questions.  Ever since reading it, the following graphic has been on my mind.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 3.32.54 PM


Connecting Silent Writing w/ Questioning

3 different situations surfaced during the silent writing period. I’d like to show how assessing and advancing questions addressed each situation.

Situation #1:  As stated in the graphic, assessing questions provide information to the teacher about what the student understands.  But what happens when you walk by a blank paper?  To me, a blank paper represents a student’s struggle to communicate their understanding in written form.

For students in this situation, my assessing question is:  Can you draw a picture?  As the quote states, A picture is worth 1000 words. A simple drawing, sketch or example has the capacity to spark a conversation.  These students now have something to talk about when asked to share their writing.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 3.01.25 PM

Student 1


Student 1:  Since this was an opening activity, I didn’t have a lot of time to keep the conversation going. If I had, then I could’ve asked …

  • What are the angle measures?
  • How many degrees is each angle?

On a positive note, the example showed that the student understood that complementary angles involve 2 angles.


Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 3.06.33 PM


Student 2:  Follow up questions to address the misconception:

  • How many angles are needed to form complementary angles?
  • Does an angle exist if it has a value of 0º?




Situation #2:  For this situation, my assessing questions asked students to clarify their understanding.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.38.03 PMStudent 3:  

  • Many students omitted the fact that 2 angles are required to create complementary angles.
  • A key piece of information that we learned had to be reinforced.


Student 4:

  • At first this student only wrote:  “We learned how to find the complementary angles and how to put it on the graph”.  This statement tells me nothing about her understanding.
  • When I added my question, she sighed disappointedly for she was hoping to get away with her vague sentence.
  • She stepped up and answered my question.  Hence the :).  She ended up smiling too.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.38.45 PM


Situation #3  Moving from assessing to advancing questions. One criteria of advancing questions is, “Use what students have produced as a basis for making progress toward the target goal.”

Student 5

  • This student drew a picture (not completely shown) and wrote the definition.
  • My advancing question required him to recall the equation used the previous day. The equation was part of the lesson extension which connected complementary angles with an algebraic equation.  We would be returning to this connection again and took this opportunity to plant the seed.
  • I’d consider it to be a low level advancing question.  He would need to use this information toward the new goal but the question itself is recall.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.38.25 PM

Student 6

  • This last example presents an opportunity to ask a better advancing question. One that moves the student to “extend what he knows to a new situation”.
  • The questions:
    • What would be the equation if 3 angles equalled 90º?
    • What would be the equation if 2 angles equalled 150º?
    • Would you have complementary angles if 3 angles equalled 90º?

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 3.04.59 PM


Silent Time Shifts to Sharing Time (Think, Write, Share)

Once the silent writing time was over, students shared their writing with their group. One student read while the others listen.  The process repeats until each group member shares.

If you use Collaborative Group Roles, the Discussion Starter will read first, then move clockwise through the group. Readers get to practice using academic language.  Listeners get to hear a different perspective.  Listeners can make corrections or add information to their statements.  As a group, students can clarify misconceptions.



The types of questions a teacher asks changes the quality of an activity.  Our opener was basically asking, “What did we do yesterday?”  On the surface nothing special.  By establishing a sacred silent time, Candace and I were able to assess and advance student thinking while maintaining an environment of reflection.  Students were asked an assessing or advancing question based on the information they supplied. The individual interactions were personalized.  Some students were asked use pictures to communicate their thinking, a second group was asked to refine their statements, where as a third group was ready to form new connections.


About jgvadnais

Instructional Technology Coach. Desmos Fellow. Google Level 1 Certified. SoCal transplant. New Englander at heart. Lover of yoga, dogs, green smoothies and coffee creamer
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2 Responses to Using Assessing & Advancing Questions

  1. Pingback: Desmos, Complementary Angles & SMP#3 | Communicating Mathematically

  2. Pingback: Desmos, Progressions & Supplementary Angles | Communicating Mathematically

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