Category: Lesson planning

How to get students to engage in mark schemes

Maybe it is just me… but I find mark schemes for level marked questions very vague and subjective. I might give it a level 1 but another teacher could justify a level 2. Like many teachers, I try and get my students to understand the mark schemes (even though us teachers struggle), but it was this idea, shared by Laura McQuade regarding her research using self regulation strategy development (SRSD) which has revolutionised how I get students to engage in mark schemes.

Simply put, students allocate scores to good components that you would expect to find in an answer. Here is how I have used it;

What to do:

1)Give students an exam question- allow them to answer it in pairs in a limited time on large paper.

In my first trial I used “Use a case study to describe the responses to river flooding” (an 8 mark AQA Geography GCSE question)

2) During a teacher led Q and A students feedback the criteria for a good answer

  1. Connectives – additional, also, another, etc
  2. facts and figures
  3. Naming the case study in the opening sentence
  4. 2 paragraphs- 1 on immediate responses 1 on long term
  5. using key words from the question – flooding/ responses

3) Students then gave each criteria a score. E.g. 10 marks for using describing connectives. 20 marks for facts and figures. I led them towards giving the most important aspects the highest score (e.g. if they don’t name a place they can’t get level 2 or 3- so gave this 100).

success criteria4) They then scored their answer. Every time they used a describing connective they got 10 marks. When ever they used a specific fact or figure they got 20 marks. Each time they wrote the place name AND they gave it a capital letter they got 5 marks.

marked answer5) Students reflected on where they gained and lost marks.

6) Students individually rewrote their answer- they tried to beat their original score

7) Final feedback task reflecting on what they had learnt.

student reflections 2

This idea really helped students to see the important components of their answer. It put the mark scheme in simple terms and added an aspect of competition (which really engaged by middle ability boys).


How to… reduce your work in the holidays

img_1731This blog isn’t designed for telling people how to manage their workload but instead is a place to share ideas which reduce workload… however.. due to twitter I am constantly seeing people tweet about all the work they have to do other the holidays, the piles of books they have taken home, the SOW to plan etc and I believe this is not healthy, efficient or beneficial and creates a culture and pressure for teachers to use their holidays to work. This article by the guardian  talks about the need to not work during the holidays to reduce burnout. I fully agree with it.


Someone once said to me that teaching is like having multiple tabs open on your internet browser. It is a never ending to do list and epitomises the idea of spinning plates. We are never done! There is always more to do, lessons to plan, SOW to tweak, books to mark, resources to make, reading to do. I believe, the more we come to terms with this the easier it is to say NO, I won’t do that in the holidays. So here is my top tips to reduce (and ideally not work) in the holidays:

  1. Ask yourself- what happens if this task isn’t done until you return to school. If the answer is nothing- DO NOT DO IT!
  2. Remember that there is always something on the to do list, and while twitter and other colleagues may increase the pressure to come back to school with sparkling new resources and lessons, remember that you have probably survived without it before and you will again.
  3. Take a break from social media, it really can at times make you feel like you need to work.
  4. If you use your holidays to catch up with marking- again refer to point 1 or if they really have been neglected try a one page feedback sheet. 
  5. If there really are things that must be achieved for the first day back- write a very small to do list (no more than 3 things) and set one day to do it, therefore you have multiple days where you do nothing work related!

Enjoy your holidays- you deserve them!

How to easily prove progress in a lesson

This simple idea allows progress to be clearly demonstrated within a lesson and within books. In this example students were given a picture at the start of the lesson and asked to write down what problems they would have if they lived there.


The remainder of the lesson took place, where students looked at the impacts of living along the Holderness Coast. They were then asked to repeat the task they did at the start. As you can see in the example below the student clearly showed progress throughout the lesson. Processed with MOLDIVThe green arrow in the margin is where I want students to write until or past- it clearly demonstrates the expectation required.

A really simple idea which can be adapted to suit lots of needs and subjects!

How to use displays to reduce planning

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Having ready to go activities for those students who finish tasks quickly reduces the need to plan multiple extension tasks. I have already posted about how useful challenge cards are here and they have fundamentally made my teaching easier. Combined with this review boards are another great way to ensure your students are always kept busy and learning/ reflecting. The range of resources offer students some choice to try different plenary activities and reflect on their learning in the lesson. Some resources which feature on it I have designed myself from inspiration from the twitterspere (see below for downloads- huge thanks to all those who inspired them!), others have been taken from the fantastic resource who has some amazing resources to download for free. So if you have a noticeboard which is redundant or is not supporting teaching and learning, I highly suggest creating your own review board!

My Literacy Checklist

I wish my teacher knew that…..

Train ticket exit

Scrabble those key words

Review your learning

Twitter exit ticket


How to joint plan

Planning-ricoh-india.pngAs many of us are trying to understand changes to new GCSE and A Level specifications and devise SOW and lessons ready for the new academic year I realise that I am lucky to work in an environment where we send each other lessons without a seconds thought and online facebook pages/ schoology pages/ google drives are resulting in teachers across the UK sharing resources. I always find it astonishing to hear that staff are working in isolation on SOW rather than share the workload.

So why joint plan?

  1. It will reduce your workload- rather than planning for every single lesson you teach you will not have to do so. It saves everyone reinventing the wheel!
  2. You get to see ideas you haven’t thought of. One of the best things for me this year was getting my trainees lessons- so many new ideas to try!
  3. While you might not get ready made lessons each time, the leg work has been done for you, the research, the resource creating, the lesson activity designing etc. You will have to tweak to suit your class/ teaching style, but even so, it saves you starting from scratch. (Please note- this does not work, if teachers just teach exactly what they are given, it might not suit their class, teaching style etc- Teachers MUST tweak what they have been given!)
  4. Often as staff are sharing lessons, they want to make sure they share great lessons and resources, therefore everyone gets great resources.
  5. It gets you and your colleagues talking about teaching, discussing what worked, what didn’t, how you could tweak it, refine it, change it!
  6. If you are a solo member of staff, the joys of twitter, MAT, other local departments, facebook pages, google drives etc, means you can reduce your workload too! (I urge you if you are a one man band really look into joint planning with other schools!
  7. You don’t have to wait for a HOD to initiate, if there are more of you within a department just organise it amongst yourself!


How to have ready to go extension tasks: challenge cards

We all have those students who finish quickly and complete work to an excellent standard. Coming up with extension tasks can be challenging and time consuming. Thanks to an idea by @MarieAST which I have also seen shared at Teachmeets, pre-designed challenge cards which can be used in any lesson, means you don’t need to spend time thinking of extension tasks! Display them on a noticeboard or in a pot and students can pick one when they have finished the main task. They have now been categorised into different types of tasks to suit different students!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

click-here-arrow challenge cards

How to structure lessons for quick planning: lesson activities for each stage

How I structure lessons

The way I structure the learning within my classroom has evolved over my teaching practice and now incorporates 4 sections as shown below (please scroll down to read how I got to this). lesson structure Please be aware that I do not always get through the whole sequence in one lesson, sometimes it might be in significantly more lessons. For example, 1-2 lessons presenting new information, maybe by watching a documentary, reading a news article, completing a card sort etc. Then 2 lessons or more applying. Also after each of the first 3 stages, there will be mini reviews taking place to check students understanding and progress.

Now, how does this speed up planning?

The time consuming bit can be thinking up different activities and sequencing that allows students to make progress. Below is a link to a PowerPoint I used with NQT’s on medium term planning, which gives mix and match lesson activities/ strategies for each stage of the above lesson structure- all you need to do is apply the content, whether that’s for Maths, English, Science, History etc (our maths NQT even had the students writing a news article in the apply section!) Hopefully lots of transferable ideas to speed things up!

click-here-arrowLesson ideas for each stage of the lesson

How I structure lessons- the theory bit!

There are many ways to structure lessons. The traditional structure: starter, main, plenary of my PGCE training served me well to start with. This was then developed through reading Geoff Petty’s “Evidenced- Based Teaching” and the PAR model (shown below) where the “main” was split into two sections: a present information and an apply information stage. geog-overview-blended-learning-10-638.jpgteepcycle

Then, as part of whole school CPD, I was introduced to the TEEP model. However, with this model I was always unsure how stage 4 (construct) and 5 (apply) differed.

An amalgamation of these approaches has lead me to the 4 part system which I have found to be very effective, and pupil voice and learning walks/observations have also supported this.



How to differentiate without more resources

A quick way to differentiate without 10 different worksheets. Give students options with how they present/ apply their learning. For example:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



ThChallenge descriptionse use of options allows students to chose the activity they are most suited to- and there are no obvious “you do this task because you are targeted an A, you do this one because your target is a D”. To  try and help student’s chose tasks are often categorised with a key “S”, “D” or “Q”. Students know what the codes mean with the use of the key to the left- and surprisingly they don’t all chose the easiest one!



The main benefits include:

  • Greater effort from students- they have ownership of the task and as a result general produce better outcomes.
  • Pupil voice has been highly positive.
  • This is not resource heavy, it is not time consuming.
  • It is personalised learning- stretch and challenge for all.


So some ideas for option tasks (many thanks to all the people who gave me these ideas in the first place):

  1. Create a leaflet which…
  2. Create a newspaper article for the following headline …
  3. Create 5 newspaper headlines to show different viewpoints.
  4. Create a storyboard to show….
  5. Write a diary entry/ blog post/ letter/ script/ poem.
  6. Create a mind map.
  7. Draw 10 images which show….
  8. Create a model to show…
  9. Design a machine which…
  10. Produce a collage that…
  11. Design a lesson starter…
  12. Write a quiz which tests…
  13. Produce a word search with 10 key words…
  14. Create a facebook/ twitter/ snapchat page
  15. Design a google logo…
  16. Create a timeline to…
  17. Interview 3 people on their opinion on…
  18. Draw/write a before and after…
  19. Create a game which…
  20. How would you prove … design an experiment to prove it!