Add some colour to your plenary using DPR

Updated: Jan 22


Questioning is probably the best form of assessment for learning there is. When done well, it can be quick, engaging and it can give the best indication to the teacher of how much their students have grasped the learning.

Using the DPR as part of my plenary questioning has added a whole new dimension to its effectiveness. I have perfected the practice over the last year and now I want to share with you what has worked for me.

The following examples are science-specific, but I can definitely see them working in other subjects.

Plenary with DPR

I have found this works best when I have pre-planned the questions I will ask and know what my expected answers should be.

a) Display DPR KOs on the board and remind the students which KO they had been focusing on that lesson.

b) Ask the questions concerning the KO being taught, to the whole class.

I make sure I pose the question first so that all students are engaged. They know I could pick any one of them. Opting out is not an option. I allow thinking time. They see my mouse hover over their names on the DPR class view.

In the following examples, students' names have been changed.

Example 1

'What is the equation for respiration...Abdul?'

I ask a low demand question to Abdul because he is underachieving slightly and I know this will challenge him specifically.

Abdul gives me an insufficient answer so I put him on 'developing' on DPR.

'Almost there, Abdul. Revise the equation now and I'll come back to you.' I make sure I am encouraging in my response and Abdul turns to his notes and furiously memorises. He knows I will come back to him. He wants that 'consolidating' on his DPR and he knows he is close.

Example 2

'Distinguish the difference between breathing and respiration...Adam'

I ask a high demand question to Adam because I know he can define the terms but I expect him to be able to articulate the difference using key terminology.

Adam says, ''breathing is air coming in and out and respiration is producing CO2'.

'A good effort there Adam; I will move you to ‘consolidating’ because whilst you expressed the difference between the two terms, you missed just a few keywords... who thinks they know what words Adam missed?'

Example 3

I open to the floor. By this point, they are usually jumping off their chairs with arms outstretched. I can pick a student who has not yet answered. My reasons for my choice can vary based on the student. But I always have a reason.

Sara is now put on ‘secure’. Everyone watches the colour change from 'developing' to 'secure'. They all want it.

I pick Sara. Sara has been on ‘developing’ for a short while now. I am aware she knows this is her chance to move up.

Sara explains, 'respiration is a chemical reaction in which CO2 and water are produced whereas breathing is the process of air moving in and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange'.

Just in case the class did not pick up on the missing words from Adam, I ask, 'what were the missing words that Sara added, Adam?

'Water, lungs, gas exchange.'

Great. Well done both.

Sara is now put on ‘secure’. Everyone watches the colour change from 'developing' to 'secure'. They all want it.

Some students demand the opportunity to move up straight away. Some of them, next lesson. Others, that evening, through the DPR collaboration portal, sending me an independent task they have completed.

Final thoughts

Seeing me update their DPR during their lesson is a real motivator for my students. They know exactly how their learning in the lesson is connected to their progress. The visual and tangible connection to their learning creates an urgency that can otherwise take longer to acquire for many students. This plenary is a routine now so they all expect it and look forward to it. They also know if they weren't picked one lesson, they might be picked next. They demand I do it every lesson - in fact, I no longer have a choice!

Have you tried something in the classroom that has worked well? We'd love to hear about it at axle education. Send your articles to