Revision Tips for Parents

There is much advice out there for students on how to revise. However, exam time is also a stressful time for parents who worry about their children and the pressures they face in taking these all important exams. Parents need advice and ideas on how they can support their child through exam season. What’s more, parents can make a huge impact in helping their children to be successful in their exams. Many schools, including our own, now host an information evening for parents so that they can help their children with revision. Here are some of our top tips for parents.

1. Revision timetables

Revision timetables are a great idea. We gave our students the advice that they should try and complete a minimum of 40 hours of revision over the Easter holidays. We also gave parents and students advice on filling out an effective revision timetable which ensures that different subjects are revised to allow revision to be ‘spaced out’ and avoid cramming. We would recommend that students build into their revision timetables time to study but also time to relax and enjoy themselves. Parents should have a copy of the revision timetable so they know when they should be pestering their child to revise and when they should allow their child some relaxation time. The family should pin the timetable up somewhere where everyone can see it.

2. Turn off the wi-fi

With the exception of websites that teachers have told students to use, surfing the internet is generally a bad way to revise. The teachers at our school have all given students revision materials and resources to use that are bespoke to the courses they are studying. Aimlessly surfing the internet will waste time and invariably involve rereading chunks of information that will not aid effective revision What’s more parents should either take their child’s phone or turn off the wi-fi so their child is not distracted by social media. If students are going to revise then they should ensure that the revision is fully focused time.

3. Provide a quiet space for revision

Students need to revise somewhere quiet and away from distractions. It is important for parents to provide this for their child if possible. Ideally, students should revise in silence at a desk without any distractions such as music.

4. Know what works

Parents need to know what kind of revision works. The best strategy for revision is for students to test themselves. This is often referred to as ‘practice testing’. The process of being able to retrieve information helps students to remember it. This is why completing practice questions is such an effective method of revision. Students should ditch the highlighters and avoid aimlessly rereading things that they most probably already know. Parents can take an active role in revision by talking to their children about their revision and testing them on their knowledge and ideas.

5. Be there for your child

The exam period is a stressful time for the whole family. Parents and the whole family can help by just being there for your child, listening to their worries and looking out for signs of exam stress. If parents are worried they should talk to the appropriate person at their child’s school. Planning in some fun family activities and simple things like making tasty meals and a supportive cup of tea or coffee can make all the difference. Ultimately, the more support parents can give and the more interest they take in their child’s revision the better students will do in these exams.

Good luck to all students and parents!

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Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing with Kahoot

This year in our school we are focusing on the PiXL idea of Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing (DTT)  as a key school priority. I’ve blogged about this already here.

Recently, we had a staff CPD session where a number of our colleagues presented how they have made it work in their classrooms. We saw a range of fantastic ideas during the session presented by enthusiastic and interested teachers who have really grapsed this idea and thought about how to make it work and have impact in their classrooms. One idea that came about from this presentation was to use the website Kahoot. This is a site that allows you very quickly and easily to create and then run your own quizzes. Students can easily access the Kahoot site either on their mobile phones (Bring Your Own Device) or through our school’s chrome books. What is great about Kahoot is that it is engaging, easy to use and gives you real time feedback on the performance of students in your group.

Through our work on DTT, we teach a whole unit of work getting the students to diagnose their understand with clear success criteria at the end of each lesson using a Personalised Learning Checklist (PLC). After we have taught the unit we teach some ‘therapy lessons’ where students have time to work further on any misconceptions they have, review their learning or expand upon their learning. Pictured is an example of one of our PLC resources.


I tried Kahoot in a lesson this week on a double lesson that worked as a ‘therapy lesson’. The topic was Crime and Punishment in the Early Modern Period. Students had already been taught the whole topic. I gave them a ‘diagnosis quiz’ which tested their knowledge of the course. The students were engaged in Kahoot and were excited about the competitive side of the quiz. Many of them had already tried it out in their Science lessons. The quiz only took me about 10 minutes to make and it took around 10 minutes to run in the lesson. As Kahoot runs automatically, I was able to spend the time assessing student understanding and picking up misconceptions with students in real time as I could see who was performing well and who was not. Kahoot also gives the teacher a spreadsheet of which questions students got right and wrong which helps the teacher to diagnose individual misconceptions and whole class misconceptions. For example, it showed me that students did not have a full grasp of religious change in the Early Modern Period and this enabled me to re-teach this to the class. Students then completed a variety of activities personalised to them for the rest of the ‘therapy lesson’ of which the Kahoot was just one route in helping them to determine which aspects of the course they were understanding well and which they were not.

At the end of the ‘therapy lesson’, I reran the quiz with the group. I used this as a ‘test’ to determine how much impact the ‘therapy’ work had had on their understanding. It was pleasing to note that in the first Kahoot quiz 51% of the answers were correct whereas by the second Kahoot quiz 87% of the answers were correct. All students had done better in the second quiz. It would be interesting to repeat the quiz a third time in a few weeks to see whether the students could remember the information over a longer period of time.


Kahoot is a great tool both for engaging students and also to diagnose student understanding. It is another very useful diagnostic tool in helping us determine how much our students understand. Of course, it can only really reliably assess knowledge through multiple choice which does place a limit on how deep a diagnosis it can make. For example, it cannot tell me about the quality of the students’ evaluation skills or their ability to complete extended writing tasks. However, I can assess this through the formal  end of unit test.

In summary, do try out Kahoot. It is a highly engaging resource which will promote fun, enjoyment and great diagnosis of student knowledge. Another great teaching and learning tool to support our work on  Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing.





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Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing

As a school, we have worked within PiXL over the last few years and have gained a lot from their approach known as Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing (DTT). This is a fantastic approach to raising achievement and supporting Teaching and Learning. We have used ideas from PiXL within our school over the past couple of years within our intervention programme.  For example, we have successfully used approaches such as Walking, Talking, Mocks and the idea of Question Level Analysis.

This year, we decided we wanted to take the approach of DTT even more into the classroom having been inspired by the PiXL Classrooms approach.  We surmised that for it to truly have the impact we wanted, we needed to embed it into our schemes of learning. We have used Personalised Learning Checklists (PLCs) with students before but decided we wanted to give PLCs and their link to DTT even more of an emphasis for the new academic year. Knowing that curriculum change and 9-1 assessment meant new schemes of learning anyway for Year 10 classes we felt this provided an opportunity to really embed DTT within our work at school.

Therefore, one of our key priorities this year has been to embed DTT within our Schemes of Learning and lessons, initially for Year 10 only, with the hope and expectations that this will spread further in future years. In many ways it already has done this year by osmosis because many of our teachers feels that the approach is useful for supporting high quality Teaching and Learning. Our rationale for only choosing Year 10 was to ensure that the change was realistic and manageable for our teachers who are dealing with unprecedented curriculum and assessment change at the moment.

We began by launching our ‘non-negotiables’ around DTT to our whole staff back in June through a whole staff CPD session. We had previously discussed this at both a SLT level and a Curriculum Leader level. Here is an extract from our annual Teaching and Learning handbook which communicates both our ‘non-negotiables’ and also examples of best practice.


We launched our CPD session by going through what DTT means and  by being able to already share some good practice that our ‘early adopter’ faculties of English and Maths had already been using within their Year 10 lessons (having begun the new curriculum one year earlier). Teachers then prepped up their new schemes of learning complete with PLCs, DTT ideas and ‘therapy lessons’ ready for September. We have continued to use our whole staff CPD sessions in September and October to ‘over-communicate’ this key priority and ensure that staff are confident in their pedagogical practice regarding DTT. We have also ensured that when we complete QAs and lesson observations that we are specifically looking at DTT and can use this information in future CPD sessions. For example, we know that we need to keep coming back to how we can successfully use PLCs in lessons. We have also included a DTT poster in all classrooms to help communicate to students what we mean by DTT. This has been reinforced with students during mentor time. Our Year 10 students can now confidently explain what a ‘therapy lesson’ is without thinking they are being sent to their GPs!


A central premise of our work on DTT has been to consider the purpose and role of the PLC. For us, we have made the students the ‘gatekeepers’ of the PLC with staff support and guidance. We felt it would be wholly unrealistic for staff to fill in all the PLCs and the notion of students being gatekeepers will help our student take more ownership and independence of their learning and build their reflective skills.  In Year 10, every student has a PLC stuck into their books or folder which gives them a clear overview of the learning they will be doing in a particular topic or unit of work. One approach, such as this example from history, is to get students to Red, Amber, Green their learning twice so that they can evaluate the impact of their ‘Therapy lessons’. Once as a diagnosis after the initial teaching and then after they have completed a formal test which tests their learning of the whole unit.



Teachers are now regularly referring to PLCs in lessons and students are using their PLCs to help them to reflect on their learning. Reviews take place at the end of lessons where students are often guided as to how they can ‘diagnose’ their own understanding such as this example below.


One challenge for us this year has been to consider what ‘therapy’ lessons should look like. We use the term ‘therapy’ lessons with the students and our students now understand that these are lessons where they can work on using their PLC to carry out extra work to help develop, consolidate or extend their understanding. One option is for students to have a menu of activities to choose from which they can select according to their PLC. Some subjects have used technology and resources to support this such as MyMaths. Other subject areas have used programmes such as Socrative, Google docs or Kahoot to diagnose student understanding and put into place ‘therapy lessons’.

Another initiative that has supported DTT within the school is to ensure that students are all using a purple pen when completing Reflection Time (our version of DIRT time). Clearly, Reflection Time and responding to feedback is a key aspect of effective ‘therapy lessons’. The use of a purple pen has given consistency across subject areas and acts as a clear visual sign to students that they are completing Reflection Time. Although, we have provided all our teachers with a complete set of purple pens, some of our students have even gone out and bought their own purple pens. As with the DTT initiative, we have a poster in all classrooms that supports our work on Reflection Time.

reflection time.png

As a school, we are continuing to keep DTT as a prime focus within school. We are still in our early stages of making it have impact. But, hopefully by keeping our focus on this as a key priority, it will continue to have impact on the learning of our students initially in Year 10 and across the school.

Below are some more images of DTT resources within school that we are creating. A huge thanks to PixL and the work of their teams for inspiring us with their ideas and support.





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Coast 2 Coast update

With just over 2 months to go I and 3 other colleagues from Norton College in the heart of rural North Yorkshire are preparing to cycle the Way of the Roses cycle route from Morecambe to Bridlington.

Training has been going well. I’ve been braving the Hambleton Hills including the notorious Boltby (Sneck Yate) Bank with its eye watering 25% gradient. Others have been cycling to work, speeding around York narrowly avoiding injury from errant cars, and travelling to Wales to gain the extra challenge of the Welsh Hills. The miles are certainly piling up! 

We are doing this for the charity Candelighters and you can sponsor us by visiting our page

Happy cycling! 


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Lesson Feedforward

Lesson feedforward

When we get feedback from a lesson observation we should hopefully leave with some constructive new ideas or strategies to try out to sharpen our professional practice. Yet, how often do we leave a little frustrated and think if I could just go back in time and teach that lesson again it could have had even more impact? Inspired by some of Doug Lemov’s ideas here is the concept of lesson feedforward which is the idea that before the observed lesson takes place the teacher meets with a person who will review the lesson and feedforward rather than feedback. This will enable the teacher to more fully reflect on the lesson prior to the actual lesson taking place. It can also be done as part of a ‘lesson study’ approach. For example, we used it in school through our work on Teaching Squares. See blog here

The structure of the meeting is important. The teacher should begin by presenting their lesson going through their ‘5 minute lesson plan’ and their resources. The reviewer then asks clarifying questions such as enquiring as to how many are in the group, what are the learning needs of the group, will there be TA support etc.. This helps the reviewer in their evaluation of the lesson. The reviewer then identifies the positives or ‘bright spots’ of the lesson explaining why they think it will work well. This helps the teacher to think about really accentuating these aspects of the lesson. The reviewer, hopefully through getting the teacher to reflect on their own lesson through questions, will help the teacher shape some areas for development. The following are lists of questions which could be used to explore this.

What might students have misconceptions about?

What, if any, are the missing steps to a lesson?

Which explanations could be even clearer?

How will the lesson impact on the behaviour of the students?

Is there enough challenge in the lesson?

Is the subject knowledge of the teacher at an appropriate level to teach the lesson?

Does the questioning provide opportunities for students to think?


The teacher then leaves the meeting with affirmation about the positive aspects of their lessons and one or two areas for development. There shouldn’t be any more than this so that the teacher can really focus on these aspects of their lesson. Crucially, the great aspect of this is that the teacher gets the feedback before the lesson which enables the students learning to be even better and the teacher to hopefully deliver an even better lesson.


I recently used this format with one of our NQTs Sam Stones. Here are his thoughts on the process.


A view from Sam Stones

The collaborative feedforward was invaluable and provided an excellent opportunity for improvement and reflection. The very nature of feedforward means that both teachers and students alike benefit hugely from the process.

Much like a typical lesson observation, the feedforward gave me an opportunity to explore both strengths and areas of development. However, the feedforward process was particularly invaluable as I was able to respond to this exploration before actually delivering the lesson.

The lesson in question involved a Year 10 Business Studies class looking at organisational hierarchies and the challenges of centralisation and decentralisation. A result of the feedforward, Pete suggested that the students be given an opportunity to create a hierarchy for our own school. This activity gave students a chance to apply their theoretical knowledge to a real business scenario, thereby facilitating a deeper understanding of the topic and its real life application. Indeed, it is often true in the subject that students find it difficult to marry theoretical concepts up with their real life counterparts, yet this lesson improvement provided students with a great tool to address this exact difficulty.

Had this suggestion arisen as a result of feedback and not feedforward, this specific class would not have benefited from this tweak and subsequent improvement to the lesson. Indeed, it would also have been a year before I had another opportunity to improve and redeliver the lesson to a new cohort.

Feedforward also presents a number of additional benefits. As a teacher new to the profession, the process can instill confidence which in itself can be detrimental to a new teacher’s success.

The process furthermore provides the teacher and observer with an opportunity to challenge one another and discuss planning methodology. This discussion alone can result in the teacher or observer picking up a new idea which can be taken back to faculty and trialled in a range of different settings. Feedforward provides a platform on which best practice can be debated. It provides those involved with an opportunity to challenge, adapt and build upon the ideas of one another. It’s a great example of collaboration and joint professional development (JPD).

Feedforward also allows new ideas and strategies to be discussed and trialled. Such ideas and strategies may not be trialled where there is no opportunity for teachers to discuss their implementation. Feedforward therefore promotes risk and change where risk and change may otherwise be unseen.

I am confident that feedforward has improved my teaching. It improves my willingness to take risks, as I can discuss these risks in a safe environment before getting on stage to perform. The process reminds me that lesson observations are about developing and supporting, both of which help me to professionally challenge myself in the pursuit on continuous improvement and educational excellence.

Of course, it is easy to believe that time constraints may leave teachers wondering how they could possibly engage with the feedforward process, however I firmly believe that feedforward is very much a case of sharpening the axe before cutting down the tree. If the process results in a teacher picking up only one new strategy, it must still be remembered that one strategy is all it may take to change your approach and help you benefit from longer term planning efficiencies.

If you haven’t already, give it a go. I’ll certainly be booking another feedforward in the coming months and until then remain excited about the discussions which I know will arise.


 So, you can see this is a really great way of thinking about lesson observation. It’s great to see how much lesson observation has moved to a much more developmental and supportive process linked to CPD. This tweak in practice can only add to this. Why not give it a go in your school?


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Teaching Shapes

This term, in our school, we are working as ‘Teaching Shapes’ (groups of 3, 4 or 5) in order to support our professional development. As teachers we are working with other members of our faculties in these ‘shapes’ – triangles, squares or pentagons – around the principles of Lesson Study. We’ve just launched this to the whole staff and are hoping it can really support our professional development, embed our CPD priorities of questioning, literacy and feedback and help us prepare at the same time for curriculum change.

Having studied Professor Coe’s excellent ‘What Makes Great Teaching’ report it is essential to create time and space for faculty colleagues to work alongside each other and focus on subject knowledge and subject pedagogical expertise. This focus on Joint Professional Development will hopefully enhance everyone’s subject and pedagogical knowledge.

All our staff have been given a handy guide to Teaching Shapes which is the only paperwork needed to support this process. In it, we have clear protocols for how staff should work on the project including how learning visits should work.


The notion of Teaching Shapes is inspired by Lesson Study and the three stages of collaborative planning, lesson observation and reflection & review. We will be devoting  3 two hour sessions to this project. First, we want each Teaching Shape to consider the focus and intention of their group and crucially what impact they hope to have on student progress. For example, my group are going to focus on improving the independence and resilience of our students. We are called the ‘Four Tops’.

The first stage then involves collaborative planning. One idea we are using is lesson feedforward from an idea we saw on the ‘Teach Like a Champion’ blog. The idea is that a teacher plans a lesson linked to the group’s focus and presents this to the group. The rest of the group (shape) then asks clarifying question such as whether there is TA support or how many PP students are in the class. The group then offers feedback on the lesson plan in the form of What Went Well and Even Better If. The group then goes onto collaboratively plan the lesson. This process needs subject expertise which is why people are working with members of their own faculties. The great part is that feedback is given before the lesson is taught – lesson feedforward. We modelled this process in our launch with our Deputy Head having planned an exemplar lesson on Olber’s Paradox.

The next process involves a learning visit. One member of the group goes to watch another member of the group teach. They will watch part of the lesson but they are observing the lesson that has been collaboratively planned and that the group has planned together. This is really important. Therefore, the focus is not on the individual teacher but on the impact of the collaborative planning and strategies on the intended focus – e.g. Supporting independent learning and resilience or developing the quality of academic writing. In summary, this is a lesson which belongs to the Teaching Shape and not the individual teacher. The observation is not part of the QA process but part of a collaborative discussion. The observer will therefore act as a guest making faithful and objective observations. The shape are free to use and design a bespoke lesson observation form or could even use a blank piece of paper. 

The shape then reviews the collaborative planning and its impact on the learning of students and discuss and consider the impact of their new ideas, strategies and resources. The process then begins again and goes back to collaborative planning. 

We’re hopeful that the Teaching Shapes will be a really useful addition to our professional development. The emphasis on small groups working collaboratively will enable more bespoke professional development with colleagues all working on individual projects that are linked to their own and faculty priorities. All groups (shapes) will be sharing their ideas in mini CPD sessions in the summer term. We’ll let you know how we get on!


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Norton Coast 2 Coasters

Happy New Year to all and I’m excited about the challenge that myself and 4 other staff from Norton College, Yorkshire are going to embark on this year. We have pledged to cycle from Morecambe on the west coast to Bridlington on the east coast. We are going to be following the Way of the Roses route which is 170 miles of undulating hills and beautiful countryside.

Fresh from over-indulgence at Christmas, the training starts now. So, watch this space. I’ll be regularly updating this blog and my Twitter account @petejackson32 with updates of our progress.

So, all those thoughts on challenge, determination and resilience will come to fruition as we embark on a great ally long adventure and all for charity too. More details of how you can sponsor us will follow.

Happy cycling! 


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