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Rotation Squares - long-answer development tool

Monday, February 02, 2015

Here's a resource called Rotation Squares tweeted recently by Sociology teacher Molly Rose (@mollyrose54) having been alerted to the technique by Amjad Ali's Agility Teaching Toolkit.

The resource uses an engaging method of placing a question that needs a longer, developed answer in the centre of the page and then asks students to complete a series of shorter questions (such as listing advantages or disadvantages) as a means of guiding them through the process of writing their answers.

The questions within 'square' are presented at right-angles to each other to either offer a method of 'following a path' through the questions or allowing several students to contribute at the same time as part of a team effort.  You may be able to develop further ways of using the resource in an engaging way. 

read more...»

SOLO Taxonomy – Learning via Linking

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

From experience and research, I’ve found that students can only fully understand a concept when they can link it to another. The attached PowerPoint uses Religion, Science and Shakespeare to discuss Happiness and Human Nature. I give the 3 pieces of information (a quote, a video clip and graph) to different groups and ask them to record what they think each means individually. Then, I rotate and ask them to find the relationship between the three pieces (use slide 6 as the template). What usually transpires is that students not only discover the links, but also achieve a greater understanding of the individual concepts.

This is the basis of the Solo Taxonomy (see slide 7) and encourages students to progress through 5 phases, from understanding the individual elements to making connections between them. The challenge then is to see if students can link it further to any other subjects or topics and in doing so, they achieve the highest level of learning (extended abstract) according to the Solo Taxonomy.

It’s an interesting method of demonstrating deep learning, whilst also incorporating cross-curricular links and differentiation. Unbeknownst to me, I used Solo Taxonomy last year in a blog and it worked particularly well as it allows the brain to do what it does best and to play detective.

I hope it's of use

Revision Activity - Thinking Skills Bingo

Sunday, January 11, 2015

This superb activity from Graham Prior and Jon Clark provides an engaging and effective method of getting students to think as they undertake revision and preparation for exams.

You can download this free version of the resource - please try it with your students and share it with teaching colleagues in other departments!  Full instructions are provided on the downloadable PowerPoint file and also from this printable pdf document.

Thinking Skills Bingo is fully editable - you choose the topic and the possible answers. you can also get your students to set the Thinking Skills Bingo challenge!

We'd also love to see photos of Thinking Skills Bingo in action in the classroom - tweet us!

Wordplay - A Cracking Literacy & Numeracy Activity for Any Subject & Class!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Here's something for you from the tutor2u teaching & learning team - Wordplay! Download this free teaching and learning resource, with our compliments, and give it a go with your students!

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How engagement and understanding require emotion

Monday, November 24, 2014

My previous blog focused on how the oldest part of the brain, the limbic system (system 1) makes split-second decisions, based on emotion, for absolutely every element of our lives. If it feels the person or information is positive or pleasing, it “reacts” positively, engages, and then facilitates the prefrontal cortex (system 2) which “reflects” on the information. In simple teaching terms, if there is no emotional value at the start of the lesson, students’ brains will “react” negatively, meaning that they will find it difficult to remember, reflect upon or understand the information.

So here’s the proof; ask students to read this incredibly bland Word document containing a monologue from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Give them two minutes and ask them to:

  1. analyse the meaning of it
  2. pick their favourite part
  3. explain how the document made them “feel”

The answers are likely to be “dunno”, “none” and “bad” respectively. Next, show this fantastic BBC advert starring Benedict Cumberbatch’s rendition of the aforementioned monologue, and ask the same questions.

The difference in “reaction” will be huge; the music, movement, actors and emotion means that all students will now be able to explain what the piece means, relate a section to themselves and possibly even feel quite proud that they can understand the bard’s work so easily.

And so therein lies the rub; how do you make your starters as emotionally (and intellectually) engaging as possible, without recruiting the help of famous thespians.

tutor2u Christmas Lesson Activity 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

The team in the tutor2u Engaged Learner Lab have been busy creating their 2014 Christmas Lesson Activity - and here it is!

There are twenty presents that have been left outside the Alpine Learning Lab - each has a festive question on Christmas Movies and No1 Music! (p.s. you can edit the questions if you'd like to make them more subject specific!).

You can play this as a team game or pit individuals against each other! Over to you.

The activity is an editable PowerPoint file - you'll need to "enable macros" when prompted to allow it to work properly! Any questions - email Jon Clark

Download tutor2u Christmas Lesson Activity 2014

You might have missed the 2013 Christmas activity? No problem - download it from here

If you like these resources, have a look at some of our other terrific PowerPoint-based editable lesson activities!

And for more great teaching & learning resources, grab your copy of the Engaged Learner 2014 Resource Folder

Better MCQs through CBM (Confidence Based Marking)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Multiple choice questions (MCQs) are a fundamental part of assessment for many subjects and opinion is often divided as to there usefulness in assessing students. Writing (good) MCQs isn't easy. They can be time consuming to develop and difficult to design well. They can often lead to guesswork and poorly designed MCQs often provide clues to encourage guesswork.

One strategy for making MCQs 'more' valuable is the use of CBM; confidence (or certainty) based marking. This is a strategy that I discovered from reading Gardner-Medwins work on CBM in towards deeper learning.

The technique is simple but effective. In CBM students not only select an answer but they also rate their confidence on a 3 point scale; 1 - low, 2 - medium, 3 - high and marks (or penalties) are awarded based on how confident they feel.

For example:

Degree of CertaintyLowMediumHigh
Mark if correct123
Penalty if wrong0-2-6

So, how does this work in practice?

Students are given say, 5 MCQs. For each answer they select they rate their certainty or confidence. If they select an answer that they are highly confident in and they get it right they are awarded 3 marks. However, if they get it wrong they receive a 'penalty' of -6.

The process of rating confidence or certainty encourages students to think a little bit deeper about their own knowledge. Also, the use of penalties highlights to students where they may need to revisit certain topics. For example, if they are highly confident that an answer is correct when in fact it is wrong they are deducted 6 marks rather than just getting 0. This highlights students misconceptions much more than if they were just to get no marks. 

No teaching and learning (or indeed assessment strategy) is perfect and CBM is no exception. However, it adds a bit more depth to an assessment method that encourages students to think a little deeper which is no bad thing.

DCD Questioning - Developing Analysis, Evaluation and Higher Order Thinking

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I posted this questioning technique on our Business Studies blog a few weeks back but thought it would be worth sharing on our teaching and learning blog after some fantastic feedback from teachers who have tried this out in lessons with amazing success.

DCD questioning is a very, very simple questioning technique that promotes higher order thinking; allows students to discuss different viewpoints and helps the teacher to facilitate a discussion (within a business studies lesson).

DCD questioning is simple. D stands for 'develop' and C stands for 'challenge'.

How it works is simple. After the teacher has posed a question and either asked a pupil to respond or waited for a pupil to volunteer an answer the teacher then selects another student to 'develop' that students response further. The teacher then selects another pupil to 'challenge' the argument that has been made. The teacher can then select another pupil to 'develop' this even further (DCD).

The beauty of this is that the teacher becomes the facilitator of the discussion by simply asking students to develop and challenge other students responses.

This strategy is perfect for a number of subjects where there is a need for students to analyse and evaluate key concepts and topics.

In relation to the challenge part of DCD questioning, this doesn't always need to be a counter argument. It could be challenging the original point made by perhaps pointing out a flaw in the argument.

When using DCD questioning in lessons it is essential to allow appropriate wait time to allow students to formulate their responses.

Would you rather?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A fantastic (if I do say so myself) starter which has infinite possibilities and illustrates;
  •  - How our brain works
  •  - Why we make such terrible decisions
  •  - Why we should always try to think long-term
  •  - Why we “react” to information instead of “reflect” upon it
  •  - And ultimately, how we learn!

Ask your students the following question:

Which would you rather have: a penny doubled each day for a month or £100,000?”

Within 30 seconds, students must write down 2 things;

  1. their choice (p or £)
  2. their prediction of what the value of the penny will be after 30 days.

This PowerPoint gives the answers and is followed by an engaging 4 minute ASAPScience video which explains how and why the brain interprets information the way it does.

This is my first foray into the Teaching & Learning blog and so I hope it is of use to you all.

Teaching and Learning Webinar - Talkabout

Monday, September 22, 2014

Following my recent webinar on Thinking Skills Bingo I will be hosting a further teaching and learning webinar this Sunday (28th) at 7:45pm on another simple but highly effective teaching and learning strategy, 'Talkabout'.

Talkabout is an interactive and engaging activity that can be used in any subject and adapted to nearly every topic.

During the free 20 minute webinar I will explain the origins of the idea and a number of different ways in which Talkabout can be used within a lesson to engage and motivate students in any classroom.

Register for the free Talkabout webinar here.

Teaching & Learning Webinar - Thinking Skills Bingo

Friday, September 12, 2014

If you love teaching & learning then we're sure you'll love Thinking Skills Bingo!

Thinking Skills Bingo is a variation of traditional bingo which is more challenging, interactive and engaging by asking students to come up with what they believe are the most important/ popular/ relevant key terms or concepts associated with a particular topic.

Thinking Skills Bingo also provides ample opportunity for classroom discussion, further topic development as well as (in some cases) providing a fun way of introducing new material.

Want to learn more - and give it a try?  

Join tutor2u's Graham Prior at 7.45 p.m. on Sunday 14 September 2014 for a free 20 minute webinar on how to use Thinking Skills Bingo to engage students in their learning in any classroom!

Register for the free Thinking Skills Webinar here. During the webinar Graham will explain the "thinking" behind the activity and then we'll have a go!

Graph/ Pie Chart Prediction

Friday, September 05, 2014

Such a simple activity but one which really gets students thinking.

Give each students a piece of graph paper (however ordinary paper will suffice) with some blank graph axes on. Students are then asked to 'invent a graph' for a topic or concept. The same principle also applies to pie charts.

For example, in business studies it could be to draw a pie chart illustrating the methods Maslow might use to motivate employees. In law it could be to draw a graph illustrating how many laws students think have been passed in the UK over the last 10 years.

The more obscure the deeper the thinking and the possibilities really are endless.

Loop Cards

This is such a great activity (and one of the 'classics') for consolidation and reinforcement of learning. Loop cards involves writing a number of incomplete sentences about a topic.The sentences are then cut out and randomly handed out to students in the class.

Students are then placed in a circle (loop), hence the name. The teacher then starts off the loop with the first sentence. At the end of this sentence another student needs to continue that sentence with their loop card and so on and so forth.

A good thing to try with this is to time each ‘round’ to see if the students get faster. This adds pace to the activity.

What I like about this is that it involves the whole class, develops listening skills and reinforces prior learning. Once you have a number of ‘topics’ developed, you can keep bringing them out throughout the year as a starter. This aids revision throughout the year.

If X was a Y

Monday, July 07, 2014

I stumbled across a video today on YouTube called 'if Google was a guy'. Loads of people lined up to see 'Google' asking him questions. Its amazing how stupid something's seem when they are said rather than typed into Google.

Anyway, this got me thinking. If Google was a guy who would that guy be? This concept would make a terrific activity for when students enter the classroom. The possibilities are endless and can be related to the subject/ topic. For example:

  1. In Business Studies: If Richard Branson was a cartoon character which one would he be?
  2. In English: If Shakespeare was a musician who would he be?
  3. In Geography: If the rain was a character out of Eastenders which one would it be?

There are obviously no right or wrong answers but this really promotes higher order thinking. Which can't be bad............

Key Word Chop!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Key Word Chop is a very simple but effective activity that gets the whole class moving around and talking about your subject. Its excellent for formative assessment and requires minimal preparation.

At the start of the lesson the teacher gives each student a sticky label with a key word 'chopped' in two. For example:

  1. Geography: One label might have frontal and the other rain
  2. Business Studies: One label might have acid and the other label might have test
  3. English: A famous quote could be separated in two

Students then need to walk around the classroom and find their 'other half'. Once they have found their 'other half' they need to agree a 'best definition' for the term/ concept and 3 or 4 key points. This can be made more challenging depending on the subject and the topic being discussed.

After the students have had a brief discussion then the teacher can ask the pairs to feed back their discussion. This is also perfect for mixed ability pairings.

Below is a picture of teachers taking part in 'Key Word Chop' at our recent Engaged Learner CPD in London smile

iMotionHD - Animation Learning

Sunday, June 29, 2014

iMotionHD is an app that allows time lapse and stop motion animation. Put basically, it allows teachers and students to take lots of pictures and puts them together to make a mini-movie/animation. It is very simple to use, all the students have to do is point their device and shoot. After each picture they can alter the position or appearance of the object they are animating. To put this into an educational context, this requires students to fully understand and examine the processes involved with the task set to ensure the animation is technically accurate. To try and explain this a little better, I will use a lesson I delivered recently as an example.

read more...»

Engaged Learner UK Launch!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Friday saw the UK launch of our Engaged Learner CPD which took place in Kensington, London. Over 30 teachers from a variety of different subjects joined us for a day dedicated to teaching and learning.

Delegates were treated to a fantastic range of resources, ideas and teaching and learning strategies that can be immediately used within the classroom - all with the aim of helping teachers deliver more creative and engaging lessons.

During the day we looked at bellwork, starters and plenaries; questioning strategies; activities to help embed literacy and numeracy into lessons as well as activities designed to provide more challenge to students.

It was a joy for Michelle and I to spend the day with passtionate and enthusiastic teachers who were more than willing to get involved!

Below is a picture of delegates taking part in 'Key Word Chop'

Centre of the Universe

The Centre of the Universe

This is an idea I stole from our DT department – thank you Mr Egan - and I have successfully applied it in Geography and Physical Education. This strategy will help you assess student knowledge and understanding, provoke higher order thinking, improve exam technique, get students up out of their seats and ultimately get them engaged!

read more...»

How to ask better questions

Sunday, June 08, 2014

I've written a few blogs on strategies to develop better questioning in lessons and this morning I found this great little guide from the Hong Kong Educational Bureau which summarises some of Wragg's research in relation to questioning in addition to outlining 15 simple and effective strategies on how to ask better questions that can be used immediately in the classroom.

You can access the guide here.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

iFunFace is a great little app that can be used to brighten up any lesson. I used it recently on a school visit.

iFunFace allows you to create humorous videos from a static image. Really simple to use. You obtain an image, create a mouth and then record what you want the image to say and the app does the rest!

This has a number of uses in lessons and can be used in any subject. For example, in History you could 'bring to life' a famous historical character to describe some historic event. In English you could get Shakespeare discussing one of his plays. In Business Studies you could get Jose Mourinho discussing his management style.

The possibilities are endless.

Once the app has created the video it can be played on a whiteboard as an mp4 file.

You could also get students to create them for the start of lessons.

Everyone is a winner!

The use of iPads to enhance teaching and learning

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Below is a link to an excellent blog by Tom Brush (PE teacher with a passion for teaching and learning and the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning in PE) on his experience of using iPads to enhance the teaching and learning in PE lessons.

A brilliant read for anyone interested in how they can use iPads to engage learners in the classroom.

The Quest for Effective CPD

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Below is a link to an excellent blog from Lee Garrett, Head of PE at a British International School in the UAE whom I recently met at a teachmeet in Dubai.

In his blog Lee outlines some of the strategies he has used in his other role as leader of CPD and will be of particular interest to those with whole school responsibility for CPD and/ or teaching and learning.

Outstanding Teaching in an Outstanding Primary School

Last year, I relocated from Sunderland to a small village in Weardale, County Durham. The local village school is quite small with only just 120 children on the roll. The week that we moved to the village Ofsted had just inspected the school, rating it as outstanding in all categories.  In addition to this, attainment in mathematics is exceptionally high with the school being in the top 10% of all schools for maths.

Being a lover of all things learning I asked the head teacher if I could come in and observe one of the maths lessons so I could see for myself just how they achieve such staggering results in maths. So, a few weeks ago I spent the morning in school and observed one of the head teachers maths lessons. The topic, straight line equations (Year 6).

The lesson I observed was exceptional from start to finish. There were no gimmicks. Just exceptional teaching.

As the pupils walked in there was a bellwork activity on the board so as soon as they arrived. This really created a climate for learning and the pupils immediately settled down to the challenging but achievable activity they were presented with. The head teacher outlined the content of the lesson and in the process explained that what they were going to be learning was challenging, but achievable for the pupils. This expectation of high standards really encourages the pupils to set high expectations of themselves. The work set during the lesson was closely matched to the ability levels of the students, with scaffolding techniques in place to ensure that all pupils made swift and rapid progress. Questioning was outstanding with a mixture of techniques including asking for 'answer volunteers' through to the head asking specific students questions to challenge the more-able pupils and to encourage those who were finding the topic difficult. Often students responses were 'bounced' off other students for further development.

What was also evident throughout was that students were actively encouraged to ask questions to further their understanding of the topic and did so regularly. Also, due to the high standard of teaching the pupils were not afraid to mistakes. There was an environment where pupils felt challenged but not threatened and they clearly find the learning fun.

I also learnt something new as well. How to remember the Y and X axis. Y in the sky, X along the decks smile

Tri in Dubai!

Several weeks ago the tutor2u team went over to Dubai and Singapore to deliver some of our most popular CPD courses as well as our new teaching and learning CPD course, the engaged learner which is also running in London on June the 20th. Details here.

One of the benefits of these days is that the resources can be shared amongst teaching colleagues back at school/ college.

I just love this picture taken by Ed Mosley (PE teacher and Head of KS3 in the UAE) sharing one of our resources (tri-dominoes) with his colleagues back at school.

Start your lesson with Spreeder!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spreeder is a piece of free online speed reading software that has been specifically designed to improve reading speed and comprehension. All you do is type or paste text into the Spreeder software, set the words per minute, click spreed and watch it go!

Spreeder can be used in any subject and in a number of different ways in a lesson.

For example, I saw Spreeder being used by a teacher to input some new information into the lesson. The 'spreed' was set at 350 wpm which ensured that students really needed to concentrate to read what was being delivered. The teacher 'spreeded' the text a number of times and then asked students to recall key points. Brilliant!

Another way in which Spreeder can be used is by simply inputting loads of key terms. Students are then challenged to recall as many different key terms as possible. Great for the start or end of a lesson.

Spreeder can be found here

The Engaged Learner at the Historical Association Conference

Monday, May 19, 2014

Saturday the 17th saw the annual Historical Association Conference take place and it was great to see one of our engaged learner resources being presented by Carmel Bones.

Carmel showcased tri-dominoes (an adaption of tarsia) and it was great to see all the delegates taking part in this challenging teaching and learning activity.

Tri-dominoes is similar to dominoes however uses triangular 'tiles' instead of rectangular ones. The activity is made more challenging than regular dominoes in that there are more sides to match! Tri-dominoes is perfect as a starter and/ or plenary as well as for revising key terms and concepts.

Tri-dominoes is one of many, many teaching and learning resources and activities that form part of our engaged learner CPD that takes place in London on June 20th.

Details can be found here

Below are some pictures of delegates taking part in tri-dominoes

Think: Write: Talk!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Think: Write: Talk is a whole class activity which involves every pupil. All you need is a set of mini-whiteboards and a marker pen.

The activity requires students to think, recall and predict key learning points and therefore ensures that key learning points are more likely to be remembered.

  • The teacher should split the class up into pairs and give each pair a mini-whiteboard each and a couple of dry-wipe pens.
  • Each pair needs to decide who is A and who is B
  • The teacher then shouts out a topic
  • Both students have 1 minute to think about the topic selected by the teacher
  • Student A then needs to write down between 5 and 10 key learning points about the topic in question
  • Student B then talks about this topic for 1 minute trying to 'hit' as many of the learning points on Students A's mini-whiteboard
  • After 1 minute both students discuss which points were not hit

Whilst the activity is taking place the teacher can circulate the room and look at the key learning points that are being written down and discussed which makes this ideal for assessing student understanding.

Better Classroom Questioning - Socratic Questioning

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Socratic questioning is an extremely powerful questioning technique that teachers can use to explore complex issues and ideas with students, open up common misconceptions and analyse and evaluate topics at a far deeper level than 'normal' questioning.

In essence, Socratic questioning is used to probe student understanding and thinking allowing far greater analysis and evaluation to take place.

Socratic questioning focus purely on the importance of questioning to enhance teaching and learning and the name is derived from Socrates who believed that questioning was the only defensible form of teaching. In Socratic questioning, the teacher uses a range of questions to create active, independent learners.

So, what types of questions can be classified as Socratic questions? There are 6 key types of Socratic questions

read more...»

The Engaged Learner - London 20 June 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

London - 20 June 2014 (Holiday Inn, Kensington Forum)

View our CPD reviews on The Good CPD Guide

The Engaged Learner is a new CPD course from tutor2u that is packed full of practical ideas to improve the quality of teaching and learning within every classroom.

Launched in Dubai and Singapore earlier this month, we have been delighted with the feedback from teachers who have attended. 

The Engaged Learner course provides teachers with a comprehensive collection of resources and strategies that can be used immediately within the classroom to deliver more creative, effective and outstanding lessons. In total there are over 40 teaching & learning resources in the delegate toolkit and we aim to explore as many of these as possible during the course.

read more...»

The Yes/ No Game

Friday, March 14, 2014

This is a fun and engaging activity that can be carried out in a number of ways within a lesson.

The idea is simple, you can't say yes and you can't say no.

An easy way to play the yes or no game is to ask a student to come to the front of the class. The teacher then asks the student questions about the topic that has just been studied or the subject in general. The student is not allow to say yes or no. What is great about this activity is that it takes very little preparation from the teacher and really forces students to think and carefully consider their responses.

A more interactive method of the yes or no game is to split the class into pairs and ask each pair to spend 3 or 4 minutes preparing some questions to ask each other on the topic that has just been studied with the specific purpose of trying to get the other student to say yes or no. After the questions have been prepared then the students take it in turns to play the yes or no game whilst the teacher circulates and listens to the quality of the questions and the answer.

Below is a video of the Yes or No game in action involving footballer Phil Neville.

Differentiation - Turn up the Heat with Chilli Learning!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

‘Chilli’ learning is a teaching and learning strategy designed to give students a degree of choice over the activities they complete (either within a lesson or for homework) and therefore take more ownership of their own learning, which hopefully then allows work to be more closely matched with each student’s ability.

read more...»

Revision Showcase

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Over the last few weeks I have been running a Revision Showcase with each of my A Level classes. This is when students bring in all the work that they have done outside of lessons and display it for the rest of the class to see. I have found that this has 3 main benefits:

  • Gives students the chance to learn from their peers.
  • Allows really hardworking students to show off their hard work.
  • The public display of work really acts as a kick up the backside for the odd student who has done nothing.
read more...»

Marginal Gains for A Level Students

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

I am a big fan of cycling and have read a lot about the success of Team Sky under Dave Brailsford. He is a great believer in Marginal Gains and how it has helped British cyclists to dominate the Olympics and The Tour De France. These ideas are being increasingly used in education.

read more...»

Starters - The Power of Images

Saturday, October 05, 2013

I find that I am using images and photos more and more as lesson starters.

I used this image the other day ( No it is not Ice Cream, they are Chicken Nuggets! ) and it led to a great discussion on all sorts of issues.

read more...»

Socrative: Great assessment tool but without the marking.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

This term I have started to use Socrative as an assessment tool in my lessons. It is an "all system response system" that requires students to answer questions on their smartphones. It is a great way to judge the learning of the whole class and allows the teacher to evaluate how effective the teaching has been.

read more...»

The Focus Circle - Powerpoint Teaching and Learning Game

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Focus Circle is a new teaching and learning resource that can be used as a bell work activity (an activity that is on the board as students enter the room), a starter or plenary for topics that have recently been covered or as a way of introducing new information that has not previously been covered. It is suitable for nearly every subject.

The idea behind the Focus Circle is simple. Students are shown the Focus Circle which has up to 4 topic areas (categories) inside. Around the focus circle are up to 18 words/ phrases which belong to the different categories. Students select 1 of the topic areas and decide which of the key words/ phrases belong inside the focus circle (words that are specifically related to that topic area).

The focus circle has multiple applications and can be used as a bell work activity, a starter, a plenary or as a method of introducing new information about a topic or concept. The focus circle is highly interactive and can also be used on an interactive whiteboard.

Applications for the Focus Circle include:

  • English: Characters in Macbeth
  • Geography Types of rainfall and sectors of industry
  • Business Studies Motivational theorists

The Focus circle is fully editable and comes complete with suggested teaching and learning strategies.

The Focus Circle can be ordered here

Below are pictures of David Percy from Sunderland High School who is using the Focus Circle within a physics lesson

The Five W’s

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This is an excellent idea that can be easily adapted for a variety of lesson situations, helping to ensure students are engaged and that their notes are structured and focused.

read more...»

Trapdoor - PowerPoint Teaching and Learning Game

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Trapdoor is a brand new teaching and learning game designed exclusively by the tutor2u team and is fresh out of the teaching and learning laboratory.

Trapdoor can be used as a bellwork activity (for information on bellwork activities please refer this blog), a starter, a plenary or to deliver new content.

The idea behind the activity is simple. Students are presented with up to 16 different trapdoors. Some of the trapdoors have the correct answers whilst the others are wrong. Can the students avoid falling through the trapdoors?

read more...»

The Answer Autopsy

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Answer Autopsy turns handing back a test that students have just completed or a piece of homework into a starter activity.

After students have received their homework or test, they complete a written reflection on:

  • What they did well
  • What they didnt do so well
  • How they could improve

This critical 'dissection' of work enables students to take ownership for thier owne learning and how they could improve their work in the future.

It also develops students to become more reflective in their learning which is no bad thing



Focused Lesson Starters - the conveyor-belt quiz technique

Friday, June 28, 2013

The first 5 minutes of any class are vital - they set the scene and often the direction of the session with regards to levels of motivation.  Some teachers play music as students arrive and others have ready-made quizzes that challenge early-arrivals.

Occasionally I have used what I call the 'conveyor-belt quiz' technique to focus minds at the start of a lesson.  Any visitors to recent Wow Economics events will have seen and taken part in the 'Neon Lights' version of this activity - basically, a 3 minute scrolling set of questions using a timed Powerpoint presentation.

Using the Powerpoint method is key.  The students know that the timing of the questions is set and they have to concentrate - this isn't going to be me throwing questions at them in their own time for the next 5 minutes.  Each question (I will usually have 10 or 12) are presented on a slide with its transition time set to 20 seconds - this gives the students enough time to read the question and write down their answers whilst knowing that the next question is about to pop-up any second soon.  Students will generally concentrate very hard and remain silent during the 3 minute quiz - getting them focused and ready to participate in the rest of the lesson.  It's also a superb method for checking learning from previous lessons or testing.

The next key aspect of the quiz is how you use the students' answers.  You can take their written answers in and mark them if you want to.  My  use of the technique was mainly as a means to challenge understanding using extended verbal questions.  Often, the questions on the screen are fairly basic and testing knowledge (knowing definitions, for example) - I might go through the answers asking less-able students the answer to the screened questions and then challenge more-able students with extended open-style questions.

Follow this link to find and example of a 'conveyor-belt quiz' (which you can edit to your heart's content).  The Powerpoint file uses an image of an old Speak & Spell toy with questions popping up on the toy's screen.  The music can be changed to whatever you want (most popular songs of our time last about 3 and a half minutes!) but I recommend that you keep music in - it surprisingly helps students to focus.

Be The Examiner!!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This is a great teaching and learning strategy for any subject that has many different tangents to it. Be The Examiner puts students in the shoes of an examiner and can involve students doing the following:

  • At the end of the lesson, writing an exam question on the topic they have just studied, handing it in and then answering it at the start of the next lesson (making this a plenary/ starter partnrship!)
  • Students creating a mark scheme for a question they have written, or, writing a mark scheme for other students questions
  • Writing a mark scheme for an actual exam question
  • Students writing questions based on the topic and swapping them with other students and answering their questions

Be The Examiner is also perfect for differentiation by task as the teacher can ask students to write different types of question or ask students to write mark schemes for different exam questions

Why not give this a go........

Word Clouds

Monday, June 10, 2013

Use these online tools to make interesting keyword based resources...

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Question wall

Thursday, May 23, 2013

read more...»

Command Words

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Explaining command words to students is always a challenge....

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Developing Analysis & Evaluation with PMI

Saturday, May 18, 2013

As a Humanities teacher I want students to be able to look at both sides of an argument. The ability to analyse or evaluate an idea or topic is of course an invaluable thinking skill for all students and can be used in any subject.

So I turn to PMI !
read more...»

Revision Strategies - Kids on Tour!

This is my first Blog post for tutor2u ‘Give it a Go’ and I’m delighted to be joining the team! 

The following strategy is really useful for revision sessions.  I call it ‘Kids on Tour’ and is a way of encouraging active participation and collaboration between students.
read more...»

Luck of the Draw - Starter/ Plenary

Friday, May 17, 2013

Is it a starter or a plenary. Well, its both!

At the start of the lesson all students names are put into a 'hat'. Two students names are drawn at random from the hat.

At the end of the lesson, the two students whose name has been drawn need to present a 2 minute review of the key learning outcomes from the lesson.


Shoot the BasketBall - Making Revision more Engaging

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shoot the Basketball is a simple but engaging revision strategy.

Write around 25 easy 'review' questions and 25 hard 'review' questions before the lesson and then split the class up into two teams.

Put the small rubbish bin at the front of the class. This will be the 'basket'. On the floor, about 8/10ft away from the basket put a line down (I used to use masking tape). This is the 'shoot from' line. I also had a small basketball for this activity but you can easily use some scrunched up paper.

Tell the students that each one must answer the questions that are given to them and that the easy and hard questions will be interspersed. Easy questions are worth 1 point whilst the harder questions are worth 2 points.

If a student gets a question correct then that student has a chance to 'shoot' for extra points (1 extra point if they answered an easy question and 2 extra points if they answered a hard question).

The team with the most points at then end of the activity wins.


Give This a Go: Catch an Answer

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

All you need is some scrap paper!

As students come in to the room ask them to write down a question on one piece of paper and an answer to the question on another piece of paper.

They should then scrunch up their papers and put them in a box/basket/middle of a table!

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Top Trumps-style cards - teaching data tables

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Regular visitors to the Tutor2u website may well have seen this idea before - using the traditional game of 'Top Trumps' as a method of getting across large data sets to your students.  I've included this resource so that new visitors can see the method and for others to see the resource with a new and current data set (on the world's 'biggest' companies in 2012).

read more...»

Independent Learning

This information really isn't anything new and ground breaking... BUT...

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Four Corners - Developing Higher Order Thinking and Collaborative Learning

Friday, May 10, 2013

Four corners is a powerful activity that encourages higher order thinking and evaluation. It is brilliant for collaborative learning and gives students an opportunity to review and reflect on other students thoughts, views and opinions.

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Reflecting on Marking

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

When marking books/essays we all notice common mistakes that our students make... 

See how you can save time and get students to reflect on their mistakes!

read more...»

Medals and Missions - Effective Feedback Raises Achievement

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Im a big fan of the work by Professor John Hattie and in particular, his work and research on effect sizes.

Professor John Hattie (via endless amounts of research) has found that feedback has the biggest effect on student achievement, more than any other factor. Further work by Dylan Williams and Paul Black also concluded that formative assessment has a massive affect on the quality of learning achieved within our classrooms and by our students. If feedback is done well, it can add the equivalent of around two grades to student achievement.

Further work by Geoff Petty has led to an amazing summary of how to improve the feedback we give to our students; medals and missions. An introduction to this work can be found via this weblink.

There is also a brilliant summary video on how we can improve the feedback we give to our students and therefore increase their level of achievement. This video can be accessed via this weblink

Certainly worth watching 

Think Tax- Revision Style!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

I was inspired by Mr A. Ali's think tax post and, as we're in full revision mode at the moment, decided to give it a twist for an effective and productive revision lesson...

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How do I arrange my groups?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Revision season is upon us!

Paired work and grouped work are really important.

But getting the pairs and the groups right are even more important!

So how do we arrange the best combinations...?

Read more and I will give you one strategy I use....

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A Dodecagonal Prism of Revision!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I don’t like it that revision notes can be tucked away and out of sight. So this week I have spent a revision lesson with my groups creating resources that have to be kept in sight – whether it be dangled from bedroom ceilings via blu-tack and string, to being easily accessible on shelves or desks, but, most importantly, always visible and to hand!

read more...»

Think Tax

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Welcome! This is my first blog entry for the Give It A Go section on tutor2u!

I will be regularly updating this section with strategies I have used in my classroom; being an AST in teaching and learning I have a fantastic insight into many classroom experiences and with these in mind I always try to develop and mould all the fabulous learning strategies I see!

read more...»

Google whispers

Friday, April 12, 2013

I have to start by saying that I can’t remember if this is something I thought up or stole from someone else.  If it is stolen then I have no idea where from, so no hat tip.

Google whispers is a really simple idea for checking the understanding of the definitions of key words and would work for any subject.  Open three tabs each with Google translate open. Put the definition into Google translate and translate it into Korean (say).  Then in tab 2 set the ‘from’ language to Korean (or whatever you translated the definition into) and the right hand box ‘to’ language to Russian.  Copy and paste the Korean translation of the definition into this second tab and Google will pop it into Russian for you.  The third tab translates from Russian back to English.  Copy and paste these into a separate document and you have a ready to go plenary.

I found that this provides ready-made differentiation too as sometimes the final translation is quite close to the original and sometimes it can be quite hard.  On occasion it can be quite surreal.  For example taxation was translated to detergent.  Finally it’s also a useful lesson on the dangers of relying on technology without thinking for yourself.

RSA Animate Style Videos

Sunday, February 24, 2013
The first thing I should say about this example is that I can’t claim the credit for the idea. I was inspired by David Rogers, who was inspired by Noel Jenkins who, in turn, was inspired by Paul Bogush. The idea is that, for a given learning objective (or a series of linked objectives), students create an RSA Animate-style video, using a mix of diagrams, captions and narration to describe, explain, predict, evaluate (or whatever else is the operative term) in order to present evidence that they have met this objective. In the case of my attempt, the objective was for a year 12 class to explain the formation of emergent landforms (including raised beaches and relict/fossil cliffs) as a result of coastal erosion and sea level change.

read more...»

1000 Tweets

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The sharing of this blog post will mark my one thousandth tweet. With this in mind it only seems fitting that I write a short piece to mark this momentous occasion.

First things first, I am not going to claim that Twitter is the best CPD EVER (as some people do) as, to be honest, I'm not sure that it is. I do, however, know that has made me a much better educator since I started using it in 2008. And here's why:

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SPAG for Humanities subjects

Monday, February 11, 2013

Print off and laminate the cards attached to help pupils learn an easy way to check their work in exams. It is also useful for KS3 when they have completed an extended piece of writing.

Access the cards here:


Five Easy Pieces (or steps to becoming a better educator)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When I was a teenager I had somewhat of an obsession with Jack Nicholson films. I made it my goal to collect and watch all of his films and acquire a Mastermind-esque knowledge of JC's cinematic history. Why? Well, i suppose it can be partly attributed to my family's predisposition for OCD and partly to the fact that he was, and still is, an amazing actor. Anyhow, since the Nicholson phase I have gone through various obsessions, trying as I did to fulfil an insatiable appetite for learning. For the past couple of years I have become increasingly obsessed with becoming the best educator I can possibly be within the boundaries of my own capabilities. To that end I have devised my own five easy pieces...or five six easy steps to becoming a better educator:

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The Battle of Hastings (Recreated)

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Looking for ways to get your pupils really enthused about the Battle of Hastings? Want your pupils to show off their creativity? Need your pupils to enhance their communication skills and their ability to work with others? Then please read on..

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Scored Discussions

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A great alternative to presentations and debates

read more...»

Blast from the Past: SIM CITY

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Growing up in the 80s, I was fortunate enough to experience the pioneering world of video/arcade games.  Their simplicity compared to todays modern graphics was marvelous, their ease of control also worked well for me - two keys, and the arrow buttons was, and still is as complicated as I can go.  I fondly remember playing David Gowers Cricket for many hours, and all it was was an oval shaped green 'blob' with black pixels moving on a screen.  Then, during the early 90's I was introduced to Sim City - a game I fell in love with, and still do to this day.


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Mapping from Memory

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mapping from memory is a teaching strategy that has been used in our department for a number of years, and has been extended to a range of topics.  It allows students to gain an understanding of locational geography in topics such as Brazil, Europe and then Tourism.  It potentially can be used with any topic, but also as an excellent revision exercise.  It also lends itself to any subject, as it isnt excusive to 'maps' but can be developed to get students to memorise diagrams, key terms, processes and so on.


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The Two Minute Pitch

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This is a mini plenary that gets students to review the learning they have made so far and to go back and make improvements based on peer evaluation. It also has the added benefit of getting them to improve their presentation skills at the same time.

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Draw what I say

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Draw what I say is a cooperative learning activity and it works well when you are trying to get students to learn or recap models and diagrams.  I have used it in Busines Studies and Economics, but it should work well in Geography, Science and DT. 

You just need to get pairs of students to work opposite each other with some kind of barrier between them (folders work well, but anything that prevents them from seeing each others work is the important thing).  Student A is then given a model that they have to describe to student B and student B has to try and draw it based on student A's verbal instructions.  While it sounds simple it does get the students engaging in and thinking about the content.  There is also a variation on this activitiy called Make what I say but I have not thought of a way of using this yet! 

Cooperative Learning - Talking Chips

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cooperative learning activities are about getting groups of students to work together and learn from each other.  

The theory behind cooperative learning is that we retain a great deal more of what we say than what we hear.  So the more we can encourage the learners to talk to us and to each other the better. 

read more...»

Prediction: A Starter and a Plenary

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This is a very simple activity that allows a teacher to link two lessons together.

At the end of the lesson (and after the normal plenary) I often said to my students that I am going to write down 5 key things from the lesson on a piece of paper. I then put the piece of paper into an envelope, seal it and have one of the students to sign the seal.

I then placed it somewhere visible in the classroom, usually above my whiteboard.

At the start of the next lesson, I asked the students to ‘predict’ the five points in my envelope. We then go through them and I write down all the points that they have came up with on the board making this a very easy way to review last lessons learning.

I then get the student who signed the envelope to open it and read out the points that I wrote down. I can then assess what I thought were the key points with what they have came up with.

This takes no planning, it engages the students and links two lessons together.

Why not give this a go....


Lucky Dip

Thursday, November 08, 2012

I am always looking at ways for students to do more work than me. 

At this time of year I want to ensure that my students know the theory. Without this they will be unable to Apply, Analyse and Evaluate. With this in mind I give each student a piece of A4 paper which they tear into 4 and write a question on each piece. I then put all the questions into a box.

read more...»

My Favourite Method of Peer Assessment

Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Here is a suggestion for engaging students with a clear and accessible method of assessing the work of their peers. read more...»

Wordle Finder

Monday, October 29, 2012

A cross between a wordsearch and a crossword which makes for an enjoyable & interesting starter activity. 

read more...»

Linkages for GCSE Business and Economics

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A plenary to help GCSE students improve how they write short paragraphs

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The Fortune Teller

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Just a simple twist on the classic playground paper fortune teller and you will have an fun and engaging activity for any subject or topic.  

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Scoop It

I am always looking at ways to encourage my students to work harder outside of lessons.  One way I do this is by trying to engage them using social media. With this in mind I have started to use Scoop It  to create an online magazine.

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Less Ping-Pong more Basketball: Effective Questioning

I'm a big fan of Dylan Williams and one particular area I'm interested in as an educator is effective questioning and moving away from what is known as IRE questioning.

IRE stands for, Initiation, Response, Evaluation. So, a teacher asks a question (initiation), a student answers the question (response) and the teacher evaluates. Dylan Williams likes to call this 'Ping-Pong' questioning.

The real question is how effective is this? Normally the same old hands go up and the teacher often 'evaluates' a classes understanding of the question by the response and subsequent evaluation of one student.

Dylan suggests we move to a basketball style of questioning. In practice, this means posing a question and asking a certain student for an answer. Then, asking another student what they thought about that answer and then another student for a further explanation. This means the question is 'bounced' around the classroom. Or, a question is posed and a student is asked to answer the question. The teacher than asks another student to expand on that answer further and then another student is asked to evaluate the response.

Another way to describe this technique is 'Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce'. The teacher 'poses' a question then pauses giving students time to formulate a response. The teacher 'pounces' on a student and then 'bounces' the answer off another student.

The reason that this method of questioning is more powerful is that more students are involved in the questioning process. Indeed, Dylan advocates that we should all aim to move towards all student response systems in lessons (ABCD cards, mini-whiteboards, exit tickets and other methods of whole class questioning assessment.

Fascinating stuff.


My Favourite Way to Give Feedback to Students

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An explanation of a simple but effective method of giving students feedback on marked work

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Join the Give it a Go Team!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our give it a go blog was created to allow teachers with a passion for teaching and learning to share their ideas.

The idea behind the Give it a Go blog is very simple. An 'aladdins cave' of teaching and learning strategies that can be used in any subject.

With this in mind we are looking for teachers who share our passion for education and teaching and learning.

If you are interested in joining our ever growing blogging team then please get in touch. Or, if you know someone in your school or college who you think might be interested in 'giving this a go' then again, please pass my details on.

The more passionate teachers we have blogging then the more ideas will be generated.

Why not Give it a Go!!!

Contact me on

Bellwork Activity - Equation

Monday, October 22, 2012

Equation is a great activity that can be used for bellwork, as a starter or as a plenary.

The concept is extremely simple. Students need to write an equation to demonstrate a specific subject topic that has just been taught.

For example, in business studies an equation for partnerships could be:

More Ideas + Specialisation - Disagreements = Partnerships

              Share in the profits


In geography, after teaching rainfall, the teacher could split the class into groups and ask each group to write an equation to demonstrate the 3 different types of rainfall, for example, relief rain.

This activity works really well as it encourages students to pick out the key points from a topic and therefore encourages them to synthesise the key points.

Other teaching and learning strategies for equation include:

  1. The teacher preparing a number of equations and asking students to solve them
  2. Replacing part of an equation with X and asking students to ‘find X’


Very simple but very effective.

Why not give it a go?

The Completed Crossword

Sunday, October 07, 2012

This is an excellent activity that is so, so simple but so, so effective.

Rather than giving students a crossword of key terms at the start of the lesson, how about giving them a completed crossword and asking them to write in the clues?

This is a much more powerful activity as it is a much more open ended strategy. You can really see the students thinking and you get a high level of differentiation.

There are lots of crossword creators on-line, for example, puzzlemaker which can be found here , and the cool thing about this is, you don’t need to come up with the clues. Let the students do the work (I’m sure that is what teaching is supposed to be about!)

Why not give it a go....

The Crystal Ball

Saturday, September 29, 2012

This is a really good starter activity that can be used for any topic at any level.

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Talk About It!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This is a fantastic short starter or plenary activity that can be used with nearly every group and every subject! You will need a whiteboard or flip-board or an interactive whiteboard to utilise the ‘reveal’ tool.

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Collaboration and The Iterative Process - the Marshmallow Challenge

This is an activity that I have wanted to try with my students for some time now. The Marshmallow Challenge has been used across the world in different settings and has produced some fascinating results from groups as diverse as CEOs of Fortune-500 businesses and kindergarten kids! My own students seem to lie somewhere in between (!!) and, as part of an introduction to behavioural economics, I popped to my local Tesco and bought the necessary equipment. 

It is really simple to set up in the classroom and it works in all kinds of different contexts. It is straightforward to complete in any 30-40 minute lesson.

read more...»

Encourage Students to Pay Attention - Put them in the Spotlight

Spotlight is a great activity that can be used as a plenary but is especially powerful after a video has been shown.

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Working together with Wiggio

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If you are looking for a way to share information and engage with your students whilst also providing a platform for them to share ideas and work together on group tasks, projects and/or assignments then Wiggio  could be the answer.  I've been experimenting with it and I love it. My students' initial reaction has also been positive.

Think Facebook groups, Twitter, Moodle and Google Drive/Dropbox all in one! 

read more...»

Cut and Paste Powerpoint Timer

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Have you ever wanted to include a simple timer into a Powerpoint slideshow?  Perhaps you have set a task and you want students to know how long they have had when undertaking that task or how long they have left.  This simple Powerpoint-timer file gives you some 'cut-and-paste' timers to put directly into your own slideshow.

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Speed Dating!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

There’s no better way to start the day with a bit of speed dating(!) and I used two activities this morning to demonstrate this.

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Creative Revision

Friday, May 04, 2012

During the exam season I try and freshen up revision lessons with different activities to complement the monotonous past paper and timed-writing practice. Yesterday I put three topics on the board and split the class into three groups giving them the vaguest of instructions: ‘Next lesson, I want you to teach your chosen topic to the rest of the class in the MOST CREATIVE way you can think of.’

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Web tools for classrooms- 21 ideas

Monday, February 27, 2012

This afternoon I’m jointly running a training session for other teachers at our school on ‘web tools for classrooms’, and thought I’d share this list of 21 useful ideas with everyone on tutor2u- feel free to give them a go!...

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Poll your class

I’ve just come across a fascinating new website to create instant online polls that sounds like an excellent plenary tool. Read on to find out more…

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Key term revision TABOO

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A board game adaptation I’ve used to good effect in the past is Taboo. It works really well for quick revision of key terms as a starter or plenary activity.

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Ring the Bell for a Great Lesson “Check-out”

Friday, February 03, 2012

This activity is great as a starter or plenary for any subject. It’s a fun way to start or finish a lesson in a short period of time, whilst gaining a good idea of how much the pupils have understood about a topic. The best type of bell for this activity is a “check-in” bell. I bought mine from Beamish Museum, however they’re fairly cheap to pick up from the internet.

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Assessment Proformas and Pupil Self-Assessment

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I enjoyed Ben White’s recent blog ‘Strips of Feedback’ which I intend to use. We were discussing assessment in a meeting today where it was mentioned that ‘research had shown’ that work that has a grade and comment is not as useful as just a comment or just a grade. With just a grade pupils are inclined to ask ‘why didn’t I get 10 out of 10’. With just a comment, they are likely to read it. With both, they look at the grade but not the comment but do not ask how to improve.

A great deal is written about effective assessment, marking and pupil self-assessment. I was reading tonight in Geoff Petty’s ‘Teaching Today’ a technique that allows all of this through the use of assessment proformas. This is particularly good for teaching skills and technique.

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Connectives chain story

Friday, January 20, 2012

Following on from the ideas from the BUSS3 conference about building connectives (see Graham’s blog on connectives) I tried to get my students to work together to produce a chunky paragraph in what they described as a version of consequences.

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Strips of Feedback

A public thank you to Ian and Graham for sharing some useful AFL techniques that I will certainly use in my teaching. I had the privilege of listening to Dylan Wiliam at a recent INSET and was particularly interested in the role of assessment and feedback to inform pupil learning.

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The Garage - Homework MOT

This is an outstanding idea that was given to me by my good friend Allan Todd who teaches at Mossbourne Academy. Its ideal for subjects that have questions with extended answers such as History, Sociology, Business Studies, English and Geography.

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How can I improve this answer sir? Don’t ask me, ask the ‘Guru’.....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Before Christmas we carried out our mock GCSEs for Year 11 students.  So this month we’ve been returning papers to the students and learning lessons from the experience.  Here is a great way of handing over to the students the responsibility of reflecting upon their own performance and how they can improve, whilst at the same time getting students who have performed well in a particular question to understand why so that hopefully they can do it more often in future.  It’s built upon the principle that within a class of students, they all have the collective knowledge and ability to help each other.

read more...»

Maps from Memory

This is an all time classic of an activity that is fun, engaging and develops thinking skills.

read more...»
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