Category: Teaching


Image by @gapingvoid

Image by @gapingvoid

I am no expert! I am not basing these ideas of MINE on research/theories (that I have read) but on the data of students that I have taught and the outcomesthey have achieved. (I guess, I have just figured these things out…) If you disagree, please do comment with how I can better my practice for the students I am responsible for.

Exam season:

Time to wrap up our delivery of content, vital information, key facts, formulae, dates, people and so on. It is now time to focus (again/more) on ensuring students know everything and anything they will need in order to secure an excellent grade in the exam.

A-C grades are not the only grade our students need to achieve to be successful. Ensure your students know what their personal targets are?

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By definition revision is about updating, revamping, reworking, redrafting, rewriting and so on… It is important to note revision is not LEARNING from scratch. Therefore, the following information and ideas I will be presenting will work best, when some sort of learning has already taken place!

I believe revision is a very personal process. I do not believe generally that one hat fits all. There are many factors to consider in order ensure revision is effective; (This is not a definitive list!).

  • Time/Time/Rest
  • Environment/Organisation
  • Motivation

Time- 1:

Picking the right time of day to revise is vital. Knowing when one feels most active and alert is crucial in ensuring the brain functions the best. I liken myself to an OWL or a vampire? I love staying up late to study/write/prepare. I would much rather a lay in then getting up early to revise.

`Ensure your students know what time of day they are most active?’ Let them build on this, if they get up later, they would get to bed later, so in theory they will have the same amount of time in a day.

Time- 2:

Knowing how much time to spend on revision is also vital! We must be realistic, students do have OTHER things to do. We need to accept that. Therefore, creating a reasonable, valid, achievable timetable is essential. This might sound easy to us; i.e telling students to write a timetable, however, I have always found it time well spent getting students to do this in class with a template provided.

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I always ask my students to write down their essential ‘other‘ tasks in a day, then their non-essentials. Next to these, I ask them to place a count of how long they spend on these. I ask them to then tally up the amount of time they spend on these in total. This is usually enough of an eye opener for students!


The brain is like a muscle, we can not expect our students to revise all day and night. When we workout, our muscles need a rest. However, I do not feel we should be prescriptive with the amount of time we tell our students to revise for and when to take a rest. I personally feel we all have different thresholds and it should be down to the student to decide.

The message however is clear, take regular breaks to refresh and rest your mind.

Do not get ‘junked‘ up with sweets/sugar/caffeine. Eating properly is important, but eating what you like/enjoy is also vital. Otherwise, in my opinion revision gets linked to horrible tastes?! It does get boring, it does get mundane, eyes do get fuzzy, so being able to intersperse these feelings with a little bit of chocolate cake isn’t too bad!? 🙂

@ActionJackson shared this rule with my students…

work, work, work play rest.

3- 1- 1.

See the video here for more info!

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Students must be able to work in an adequate environment. Sometimes, some students homes can not provide this. Research for your students their local library opening times, the facilities they have there. What bus stop is nearest? Find out other places students can study?

Can you lend your students and exam desk to work on that can folded away. It is important to de-clutter and focus.

Motivation to be successful this isn’t for a revision post… See my last post regarding this!

How does it all work:

In order for information to remain in our long-term memory, we must understand it, we must link it to already acquired knowledge and then attach meaning to it. Ultimately, we want to then apply it to examination questions.

(…Think SOLO?)

Therefore all revision sessions/games/lessons should take on board those concepts.

  • understanding– do the students know exactly what this concept/idea/topic means? Can they explain it to others?
  • Linking to knowledge- can the students link the information to other ideas, areas, concepts?
  • meaning– do the students know the reasoning behind the learning?
  • applying– will the students be able to applying their knowledge and meaning to the exam?

Do your revision sessions allow for those processes to take place? (Naturally you would hope so, as the above is also applicable to ‘normal’ lessons!)

Often, I worry that revision games become exactly that. A game. The focus on understanding, or linking is lost through the ‘fun’ nature of the game and the objective of winning becomes more important than the learning that should be taking place.

Here are some revision station games/ideas I use. Click HERE.

I have listed under each activity what the focus is. I have also come to realise some students do not like doing a variety of tasks as they know what works well for them. Only believe this feeling/confidence from the students if they have proven this. Meaning, have they achieved good grades previously? Therefore does their style of revision work? Ask them to talk through it with you; how did they revise, what did they do, how did they ensure they achieved a good grade? If they answer well, then allow them to the independent to choose their method of revision. This will motivate them too.

Spice of life:

Revision to me is also ensuring that students know about a variety of ways they can revise. I often go on and on and on about the importance of taking information and linking it to your knowledge, transforming the information to help understand it and applying it to examination questions.

Reading and highlighting notes is the pre-cursor to revision, those are the tasks that are carried out in lessons or completed at home. All students revision notes should already be annotated/highlighted BEFORE revision begins? Those elements are learning. Therefore, hand out revision guides well in advance, give your personally created booklet of advice before the holidays, before the course may have even finished.

A great way of ensuring students do not become too complacent, thinking they understand information because they have simply over familiarised themselves with it by reading it constantly, is to apply the magenta principles to text/information.

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Students should aim to do one of the above to the information they must learn/understand. This will help link to knowledge, show meaning and apply to examination questions…


I have compiled a list of over 40 different ways to revise here. (Some are for revision sessions/methods for teachers, some are revision methods/ideas for students.) Share these with your colleagues? Students? Parents? Use the hashtag#EXAMS14 to search out great posts by other teachers.

Show students there is a multitude of ways to revise, but make sure they are sticking to the core principles.

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Some top tips: (In no particular order!)

  • Download and share this literacy/command word wheel. This helps break down for students exactly what each question is asking the student to do. Understanding the subtle differences is paramount.

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  • Revision should be on ongoing process checking for understanding throughout the course, (marking and feedback,) Know your students understand the meaning and are able to apply concepts in exams. I have always shown exam past papers and mark schemes to students from thevery first week of my lessons. I have ensured students are familiar with the layout, the way the questions appear, the style of the questions. I have ensured students read examiner reports, know where to download past papers. Check out my GCSE RE blog-  where I have shared this info.
  • Content Dependent Learning- try this really useful idea by Sir Tim Brighouse. Click here. Includes a 2 minute video presentation explaining this concept.
  • Create podcasts/videos/information throughout the course. Click hereand here for some ideas.
  • Remind students how long they have until their exam. Remind students how many lessons they have, how many school days they have, how many hours this totals up to. I do this often. At the start of a lesson, I may just simply put a countdown timer up on the board as they enter…

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  • Running revision sessions is excellent; however ask the students BEFORE hand what they want to revise, add a Padlet to an email? To your class blog? Ask students to fill in a piece of paper…however you do it, ask students to tell you what they need most help UNDERSTANDING, knowing the MEANING of and how to APPLY.

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  • Involve students in the revision process as much as possible. Get them to create the revision guides for the year below, ask them to run the sessions. See here for a student based lesson. Get the students to create google drive revision questionnaires on a topic each. Get the students to then complete each others quizzes. Click here for an example.
  • Ask students to tweet (run a subject twitter account for themselves. The teacher doesn’t need to get involved.) Get students to create a Facebook group? Teacher could set up an Edmodo page. Students should email (maybe more like FaceTime/Skype/snapchat/bbm) each other to remind each other to revise.
  • Practice…practice…practice… in the real conditions in the real environment. Give students past papers, photocopied and stapled as they would in the real exam. Get students to write in the examination booklets. Get them used to it. Familiar with the obstacle.
  • Collective approach to revision; Ask subject leaders to coordinate their approaches. Check teachers are giving the same/similar message? Check what the revision catch up schedules are of other subjects. Ensure they do not clash. Here at my school we have a designated day for Eng, Maths, Science. To help alleviate the problem of students having to chose which subject they will miss.
  • Link examination grades with outcomes. Why would it benefit the student to do well in your exam. Why is it important? What is the end goal?
  • Use Youtube/Websites/APPs- videos (We have a revision channel on our school Youtube channel) and online quizzes (Such as or can be an essential ‘extra’ to revision. Don’t forget the core websites- such as SamLearning BBC Bitesize and so on.

I do not have all the answers… I imagine this post will be constantly edited/updated when I remember more ideas!

Post submitted by:



Amjad Ali

Assistant Principal




Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Revision’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

#TMNSL – Micro presentation – ‘Learning Lunches’

#TMNSL - 5 minute mirco presentation

#TMNSL – 5 minute micro presentation

As every school does we wanted to improve the quality of T&L and I am a firm believer in doing this through the sharing of good practice, as we have, and had, loads of great practitioners in school in lots of different departments. To share all of the ‘gems’ that everyone had in their toolkits we put together ‘Robert Blake’s Best Bits’ which is a collection of all the bits that make our teaching great. We asked every member of staff to contribute at least one idea that could be used generically by other staff in other subjects around the school, all of which were completed on a common format of a powerpoint slide. These were then collated, organised into different sections and shared with staff. Immediately we had helped create a culture where people were more open about sharing their teaching and helping others. The off-spring of this was we had more staff doing learning walks to see these gems in action in the classroom and T&L took on a greater priority with staff.

Resource. NSL TeachMeet presentation (PDF)

From this we wanted to further embed the culture of sharing T&L so we created the ‘Learning Lunches’ where every fortnight we would put on a buffet (£1.50 per head!) for teachers where 3 ideas from RBBB would be presented and explained. This led to a huge uptake in the ideas and the resultant conversations that were generated as a result of seeing the idea. Our SENCo then developed the idea for LSAs (as we couldn’t fit all staff in our food room where we have the Learning Lunches!) as they have a Learning Breakfast every fortnight, during PSHE lessons, to share their best practice.

Learning lunch at @RobertBlakeSC

Learning lunch at @RobertBlakeSC

The beauty of RBBB is that any one person can initiate and develop the idea. As a class teacher you can create your own ‘best bits’ then begin to share with other people, hopefully making the scheme whole-school. The Learning Lunches can happen informally without providing lunch for staff but putting on the buffet is hugely appreciated by staff who value the school’s commitment to developing T&L.

Post submitted by:

Greg Morrison

Deputy Headteacher



Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Learning lunches’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.


‘Quick wins’ #15 – Getting students to articulate their learning.

Getting students to articulate their learning by Steve Gill.

Getting students to articulate their learning by Steve Gill.

Why? I guess I was never really convinced by the idea of getting students to articulate their learning; I thought it was one of those tokenistic additions to lessons, something that would please the observer rather than having an impact on students’ learning. So, when students were clearly making progress through their written work, I was little concerned if they couldn’t express precisely what they were learning, verbatim, like they had regurgitated every word of the specification. I was also very cautious of time that this took; I feared it would slow down the pace of the lesson, that I would lose the students before I had a chance to engage them.  I was wrong…

Possible solution. I now think that getting students to precisely articulate their learning is integral to their engagement and to their progress. So, what changed? Persistence and developing habits. Just like Einstein said,

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Although I had always shared the lesson outcomes with students, their interaction with them was something that I tried to build on, every lesson; before, I had just assumed that reading the objectives to students was enough. However, David Didau’s book, The Perfect English Lesson, was something which helped me to question this process. He talks about getting students to interact with the lesson objective in creative ways – getting them to guess missing words; to write the lesson objective as a facebook status and then allowing students to comment on this. Therefore, I took inspiration from this.

Firstly, I started with the language in the outcomes of the objective. I stripped the specification down, picking out the key words. For a reading lesson in English this usually translates to getting students to explain, explore, analyse language or ideas. Through questioning, I then got students to define – precisely – what these words meant. To help with this I added pictures beneath my outcomes and I asked students to match up the correct pictures to the outcomes. This led to an increased sense of clarity. For example, students were able to link the picture of an explorer surveying a landscape to the need to look everywhere in a text; to find more than one quotation to support a point; to look at more than one interpretation when looking at a quotation. Discussion evolved further to looking at sentence starters which would help students to demonstrate that they were explaining or exploring an idea.


Example learning objectives (editable).

Outcome. This strategy has worked successfully. Students are now clearly able to say what they are learning in a lesson and they can also precisely say what level they are working at, as well as being able to articulate how to move to the next level. This has motivated students: their next learning milestones have shrunk, becoming tangible, and within their reach. Also, with a new emphasis on lesson grades being linked to ‘progress over time’, students’ ability to articulate what they have learnt and how they have progressed is more paramount than ever. In a recent observation it was great to see students explaining to the observer what they had learnt and how they could progress further. However, I don’t think this has solely been achieved by getting students to interact with the lesson objectives and outcomes alone; the language used in the objectives has permeated all aspects of learning. I have used it repeatedly through questioning and book marking, too. In this respect, it has also sped up the latter as, in some cases, I am able to write ‘explain your point’ or ‘analyse these words.’ In short, having high expectations around students being able to articulate their learning has led to significant improvements in my classroom. So, if you are worried about this absorbing too much lesson time, fear not: just persist. And slowly, students will possess a clear understanding of what they need to learn, and know exactly how to get there.

Post submitted by:

Steve Gill




Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Getting students to articulate their learning’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

#TMNSL 20/03/2014 – Workshop resources: Differentiation

Differentiation by Chris Moyse (@ChrisMoyse)

Differentiation by Chris Moyse

Differentiation by Chris Moyse

Workshop Summary.

Our students differ from each other in so many ways:

·         Prior knowledge and expertise

·         Ability

·         Language development

·         Motivation

·         Interest

·         Family background and values

·         How they learn best

·         Where and when they learn best

·         Speed at which they learn

·         Levels of concentration

·         Confidence and self esteem

·         Physique

There are several ways by which we can make the learning more accessible for all our learners…

·         Task

·         Resource

·         Outcome

·         Questions

·         Time

·         Steps to take in an activity

·         Support – peer/adult/virtual

·         Grouping

·         Pupil choice

·         Curriculum

·         Assessment & feedback

The top two sound too much like hard work for busy teachers so in this workshop we briefly looked at the possibilities of differentiating by choice.

Before though we considered the fact that John Hattie suggests that…

A teachers’ job is not to make work easy. It is to make it difficult.

He goes on to say that…

If you are not challenged, you do not make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes, feedback is useless.

Lev Vygotsky suggests that our students should operate within their ‘Zones of Proximal Development’. This involves facing challenges just beyond their current capabilities: a level of challenge that students can meet with help. Learning should feel tough, tricky, challenging, puzzling but not impossible.

To provide a challenging level of learning we need to know our students. Ensure that you have simple, understandable and usable pupil data available and use this data when planning and structuring teaching and learning in your classroom. Data together with any other relevant information about your students is best collated on an annotated seating plan or student profile. Have this annotated seating plan to hand and in the forefront of your mind as you prepare fabulous lessons. Remember to also have their recently marked books with you too as marking should always inform your lesson planning.

Start with the end in mind: plan for learning. Establish a clear objective and tangible outcomes avoiding the devil of low expectation – Must Should Could. Quite simply the wrong language to be using with teenagers!

Same task, different level of challenge. When you differentiate, you plan for the most able in terms of outcomes and then look at how to overcome the barriers for other groups in your class to enable them to access these outcomes – you then adapt resources, support and grouping to differentiate.

Research from Professor Robert Ornstein indicates that when learners feel as if they have some control and choice over the type of task that they are about to do, they feel positive and motivated.

So try to differentiate through choice eg Let the students choose their level of challenge or use workshops or drop in sessions: a series of inputs or demonstrations that students come to if, and only if, they need them

Differentiation top tips:

Differentiation bookmarks by Chris Moyse.

Differentiation bookmarks by Chris Moyse.

·         Know your class and demonstrate this through annotated seating plans and student profiles. Use this ever-developing knowledge base to enable you to adapt your approach for who is in front of you.

·         Challenge them. Have high expectations. Present learning without limits.

·         Encourage your students to make and learn from mistakes. Then feedback can come into play.

·         Opportunities for students to express their understanding and articulate their thoughts should be designed into any lesson. The more you hear and see the more you find out and the better you plan, respond and adapt to what happens during the lesson. Great teachers are great listeners too.

·         Mark their books and provide your students with more work. Provide them with an opportunity to make your suggested improvements: the only time you will ever have 30 different lesson plans.


FREE RESOURCE: Differentiation bookmark.

@ChrisMoyse on Twitter.

Chris Moyse – Ginnis Training


#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus

#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus

#TMNSL 20/03/2014 – Workshop resources: ‘Solo taxonomy’

Solo Taxonomy by Mat Pullen – @Mat6453

Mat Pullen delivered a workshop at #TMNSL on 'Solo Taxonomy.'

‘Solo Taxonomy’ by Mat Pullen.

Workshop Summary.

I have been thinking about SOLO taxonomy for a while and the impact it can have on student learning in PE. I have also looked at ways to make it easier for students to access.

Guide to Solo Taxonomy

Guide to Solo Taxonomy

I have previously blogged about Project Based Learning here and the feedback has been really positive. both staff and teachers are engaged in this approach to co construction of the curriculum and lots of teachers are telling me about their plans for embedding it in their schemes.

To move things on a bit I wanted to look at ways of supporting students to create their own learning models. To help facilitate the process of finding out what they need to improve on and where to find out how to do that.

That is where the link with SOLO comes in. I have used SOLO to great effect in practical sessions and students are really showing great progress in lessons and more importantly they kbow what they need to do to keep progressing.

In order to support this further I have created posters that I can use in sessions that allow the students to acces some visual cues to support them in their construction of lessons. The posters trigger augmented reality links to images and videos to help students check on technique and to assist in giving detailed feedback to each other.

The process is fairly simple, I created a poster on my iPad using Comic Life. Add this image to in their creator section, add in video and images to the relevent sections and voila, augmented reality posters. The students can now access these with any device with the Layar app installed.

So now in a session, we start with students looking at a problem that they need to solve, they look at the skills they will need to develop to support them in overcoming the problem.  Around the hall are posters with links to images and videos to help support their learning.  They integrate numeracy to support their understanding of success, they use literacy to improve communication and feedback and they can see how they can progress using the SOLO stages.

This is a real change in lesson structure but really engages students to be active whilst learning a whole wealth of key transferable skills.

Related blog post.

Presentation slides.

@Mat6453 on Twitter.


#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus

#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus


#TMNSL 20/03/2014 – Workshop resources: ‘Great teachers’

Great teachers by Chris Hildrew – @chrishildrew

'Great teachers' by Chris Hildrew

‘Great teachers’ by Chris Hildrew

Workshop Summary.

What makes an outstanding lesson? And who decides? Ofsted set out their criteria for evaluating the quality of teaching and learning in an institution as a whole. In their School Inspection Handbook, footnote 42, it says:

“These grade descriptors describe the quality of teaching in the school as a whole, taking account of evidence over time. While they include some characteristics of individual lessons, they are not designed to be used to judge individual lessons.”

We know that plenty of schools ignore this and adapt the criteria to apply them to individual lessons – for some very understandable reasons. We also know that this leads to teachers teaching “observation specials” to try and jump through the hoops of the taken-out-of- context criteria. You can read about the impact of this in @cazzypot’s blog: Is Michael Gove lying to us all? and in @BarryNSmith79’s Lesson Objectives, Good Practice, and What Really Matters.

Let’s start again.

A typical teacher’s directed time is 760 hours in a year. How many of those will be formally observed by someone else – three? Five? Ten? Whatever the number, there’s a lot of hours in a year when it’s just you and your learners in the room. Forget outstanding. Think about a great lesson you’ve taught – not a lesson where someone else was watching, but one of those lessons where it all worked. Where you and the kids left the room bathed in the warm glow of achievement. Where teaching felt really, really good. What were the ingredients? What made it work? And which of those features can you replicate in your classroom on Monday? If you were to start with a blank sheet of paper, how would you define a great lesson?

Think about:

• Structure

• Activities

• Behaviour

• Outcomes

And, if that’s a great lesson, what are the qualities of a great teacher? And how can we live them in the classroom for all 760 hours of the year?

Chris Hildrew delivered a workshop at #TMNSL on 'Great teachers.'

Chris Hildrew delivered a workshop at #TMNSL on ‘Great teachers.’

Related blog post.

Presentation slides.

@chrishildrew on Twitter.


#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus

#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus