Quizzing for HL

This year, as a school, we have been focused on trying to support students be more successful with their Home Learning/homework. Home Learning is a constant battle for many schools but in my opinion it is worth fighting as long as we get the type of Home Learning right. As Jon Tait says in this blog and as Tom Bennett has argued if we are going to take up some precious family time with Home Learning then it has to be worth it and have real impact.

For Home Learning to be successful then there needs to be the same degree of thought into it as would go into the planning of the lesson. Too often, Home Learning is a rushed add on not thought about strategically. Home Learning that involves finishing off or doing aimless research on google or making that dreary power point that nobody will read are never particularly useful or indeed engaging for students. No homework is better than pointless homework.

Many students simply do not see the purpose of Home Learning at all. However, most students do see the point in revision, even if they are not always that adept at doing it well. On reflection, it seems that we put a lot of energy into revision timetables and resources for students but often only towards the end of Year 11 when it is often too late for students. How about if we renamed Home Learning or homework and rebranded it as ‘revision’? Students might see the purpose more and it might give us all a nudge to set Home Learning that helps students to practise their learning and reinforce work they have already done. A focus on retrieval practice might enable our students to revise throughout the year rather than cram it all in at the end and really help them to remember and understand their work. Visit the learning scientists website for some great ideas on what makes effective revision.

This from Joe Kirby is absolutely spot on. With regular quizzes, we can enable students to focus on spacing and retrieval practice to help them to reinforce their knowledge and enable all year round revision. This is essential when you think about how the new GCSEs have no coursework and more content to learn. This is especially so in History.

Therefore, I’ve been setting my students weekly topic areas to revise on a specific aspect of the GCSE History course and providing them with digital resources to help them to revise sent via our class e-mail groups. In lessons, I have spent time showing and teaching students how to revise and modelling this with students so they are confident in how to revise successfully.  Coupled with this, I have begun to produce video blogs so that I can explain and reinforce key topics to students which they are able to watch in their own time and pause and go back through key points through YouTube. This is a format they are comfortable with and they can watch on their tablet or phones at home. Click here to see an example.

Students complete the revision and then have to take a weekly quiz done in silent, test conditions at the start of a lesson. I set a pass mark and if they don’t achieve this I assume they have not done their Home Learning unless they can provide evidence for it such as examples of revision mind maps etc. Those that do pass get counted as having done their Home Learning with no additional evidence needed. I reward those who have done well with small prizes like lollipops to create competition and an incentive to do well. Students enjoy this and it motivates them and creates a desire and aspiration to do well. From the data, I have created a league table of the class and publicly show the ‘Top Ten’. It’s amazing how many of the students are desperate to get into the ‘Top Ten’.  The quizzes can easily be peer marked too.

All this means I am able to set useful, engaging Home Learning that supports revision and does not create burdensome marking. At the moment, it has had a great impact on Home Learning for my GCSE History students.

So try it for yourself in the new year and make homework become revision.

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The catchphrase #lovingthelearning entered my vocabulary at some point in the year 2013 after being inspired to join Twitter. I think it was first used in my then GCSE class and I suppose it has come to sum up my approach to teaching. Teaching is about inspiring our students and making them to want to ‘love learning’.

When I was at school I really did ‘love the learning’. One of my favourite memories of school was the weekly creative writing task that we did with our teacher in 3rd year juniors (now Year 5). I still have the book and it’s one of my treasured possessions. Our teacher was called Mr. Gee and although he was somewhat strict he was an excellent teacher and inspired me to ‘love the learning’. I think we can all remember those inspirational teachers.  Harold Gee was one. This is one such piece of writing that Mr Gee…

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Top 10 ways to help with the marking workload

The report produced by the government last year has got schools thinking sensibly again about the workload that can be produced by excessive or unrealistic marking policies. This is an important issue in all schools and undoubtedly a correct balance needs to be found. There can be no doubt that feedback and marking is a vital part of a teacher’s toolkit and it is inextricably linked to students making good progress. However, an emphasis on quality and not quantity is essential so that teachers and of course students are not drowning in marking.

Here are my top 10 tips to help with the marking workload.

1. Strategic written marking

Students should benefit from regular feedback on their work. Teachers should think strategically about which pieces of work to mark in detail and focus on giving quality feedback on this particular piece of work. For example, giving quality feedback on a piece of written work that students have built up to over a series of lessons is better than marking every annotation and note taking that students did in the build up to that work.

2. Feedback codes

How often do you spend time writing out the same thing? Stop. One method of overcoming this is to use feedback codes. You can create some generic ones such as the ones below for literacy.

Literacy pics

You can also have a power point open whilst you mark. Most often, students come up with the same misconceptions. Therefore, assign a feedback point a numerical code and then rather than writing out the same thing 5 or 10 times you simply write the code in the margin. When students are responding to feedback they can write out the feedback point in full themselves. It might be you realise most of the class have the same misconception. In such a scenario, re-teaching would be better than writing the same comment out 30 times! Here is an example for an essay about the causes of World War One.

Feedback codes

3. High expectations

How often do you find yourself giving feedback on work that does not represent a student’s best work. If student work is not their best effort then it is pointless to mark it. In such a scenario get the students to do it again so that you are able to assess their best work. “If it’s not your best then it’s not finished”. You will save time by not marking sub-standard work and also increase your expectations of yours students.

4. The power of self-assessment

How often do your students really read their own work? You’d be surprised at how little they do. We encourage our students in our school to self-assess and check their own work before handing it in using the SCOPE acronym. When students finish them we tell them to ‘scope their work’.



Read more about the power of self-assessment here on my blog on the pedagoo website.

5. Book Review Sheets

Regular book review sheets that can be completed either by students themselves, their peers or by the teacher are useful to give feedback on class notes focusing on the quality of their literacy. These can be adapted and edited to suit. We normally photocopy them on purple paper on A5 so that they can be easily found inside exercise books.


6. Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing

A whole school focus on DTT ensures that students are continually focused on considering their own progress linked to clear success criteria. Read my blog on DTT here

7. Reflection Time and Purple Penning

There is nothing worse than spending a rainy Sunday afternoon in the company of a set of books and some strong coffee to find that the students ignored your feedback or didn’t do anything with it. Make sure you devote time to thinking about how you want the students to use your feedback, how you will structure their ‘Reflection Time’ when they can respond to feedback and make corrections and how you will help them to understand feedback. We have clear routines in our school for Reflection Time. Our students, like in many schools, have to respond to feedback in purple pen. This gives a signal that students are completing Reflection Time and allows teachers to see how much students are completing in Reflection Time. Here’s our whole school poster which focuses on this.


8. Quality not quantity

The maxim that the more feedback the better does not hold true. Imagine that somebody observed your lesson and gave you 10 different things to work on. You’d feel a little downbeat to say the least and wouldn’t feel at all motivated either. It is better to ensure that students know the purpose of a task with clear success criteria and then giving the students one or two things to work on that they can remember in a positive way. So, in giving feedback on an essay you might focus on sorting out their paragraphing before you decide to correct every single spelling mistake. It is easy for feedback to be seen in a negative way despite your best intentions and then students become disheartened and demotivated.

9. Good boy

Make sure your feedback is meaningful. I’ve blogged before about the power of feedback – see blog post. See this classic feedback from my own book in 1989. How things have changed! Think carefully about what your feedback will mean to students, that they can understand it and in my case that they can actually read it (make it legible!). Try to keep the feedback as brief as possible and think about how it will be read from a child’s point of view. Above all, will these feedback help move them on in their learning. It’s likely that comments such as ‘well done’ and ‘good boy’ won’t!

Good boy

10. Online quizzing

Imagine your students could all complete a piece of work, it would be marked for you and you could download a spreadsheet of all of these results all done for you. Of course, this exists out there. There are numerous programmes and websites that can do this for you not least socrative, google, quizlet et al. My favourite is kahoot. See my blog about the power of using Kahoot.


I haven’t even gone into comparative marking, live marking, or the importance of using marking to inform the next stage of the learning. There are lots of great ideas out there to help making marking meaningful, manageable and motivating.

Good luck!





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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 http://www.justgiving.com/Norton-Coast-2-Coasters

Happy cycling! 


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