Tag Archives: schools

No 50. Using Past Papers for Effective Revision

Image from here

Using past papers are often advertised to our pupils as the key to success. I have often been curious as what is the best use of these papers. It would seem that pupils rarely complete full past papers despite wanting many of them. Do they know how to use them? In my mind the best revision is by using past papers, mark schemes and examiners reports together – taking one question at a time.

I recently asked an educational forum on the best use of past papers. I have compiled all responses here.

Using Past Papers for Effective Revision


No 48. Make better powerpoint slides using an assertion-evidence structure

If I ask a class to produce a presentation on a topic we are covering then students will on mass create slides with the following traps.

  1. Too many words on the slide which they will probably read as the feel supported.
  2. Many, many bullet points all aligned vertically which again the students will proceed to read through.
  3. A link to a youtube clip which will probably not load due to a slow network or a software compatibility glitch.
  4. Slides will contain writing pasted directly from internet sites.
  5. Diagrams and images often unrelated to the main message of the topic.

This list could go on and on……….. and all of these make for very dull presentations.

Boring class

After hitting the inspired button on the TED ipad app I came across a lecturer at Penn state university that gave a talk titled “talk nerdy to me” by Melissa Marshall. Meilssa describes herself a ‘crusader against bullet points’ and an evangelist for effective slide design.

Basically she suggests that the most effective slides are ones that the title is a single sentence displaying the key idea and the rest of the slide contains images, key diagrams and equations etc that provide visual evidence.

In the words of Melissa,

‘A small, but growing, revolution is occurring in the way that engineers and scientists design their presentation slides. This revolution advocates alternatives (based on multimedia learning principles) that challenge PowerPoint’s default structure of a topic-phrase headline supported by a bullet list of subtopics. One such alternative is the assertion-evidence structure, in which a sentence headline states the main message of the slide. That message assertion is then supported not by a bullet list, but by visual evidence: photos, drawings, diagrams, graphs, films, or equations’

Slides created this way follow a assertion-evidence structure.

So next time you are creating a presentation for you class or you want your class to do some presentation work then think about this structure. I have had had a go here. Please take a look.

AQA Force and Motion

No 47. Is IGCSE better than GCSE? Discuss!

This is not really a post of any substance but a question. There seems to be a movement to IGCSE in many independent schools in the UK in a range of subjects. Equally some schools that moved to IGCSE have moved back to GCSE. Is one better than the other? I would love to find out!

No 46. Hold a meeting from a distance

meeting remote

With faster broadband speeds and easy access to the internet there is really no need to hold meetings in school. At the end of a long day or crammed into a lunchtime is often not the best time to hold an important meeting. A novel approach may be to schedule it for an evening when everyone is at home when they are more relaxed and fresher. The website www.anymeeting.com makes this all possible. Its free to join although you do have to pay to get rid of adverts and allows you to hold meetings remotely. You can upload presentations on which you could have the agenda and you can communicate to each other using your computers microphone or by simply writing messages. It may also take away some of the confrontation away that can exist when staff are tired and irritable. You can also record the meeting too -dangerous!.  Give it a go and see what happens. Please comment freely. If you already doing this using a different site or piece of software then please let me know.


The photo in this post is from here.

No 44. Track your time for a week

It is quite important to evaluate your time management in a busy job such as teaching. There are various ways of doing this but using this table is a pretty good start. Make a conscious effort to fill it out for a week and at the end of the week see where you could have saved time. Let me know how you get on. If you have any other tips for time management in teaching then please comment.

time managment


The image above is from here.

No 43. How to have a healthy school day – part 1

A day at work can be very stressful. Here are a few tips to help you cope with the stress. These are only my suggestions so I would welcome some from you. Please comment freely.

  1. Always have water with you. Take regular sips throughout the day. Keep well hydrated and avoid reaching for coffee as your drink of choice.
  2. Avoid negative people. Teachers can moan and groan of allowed and will often be keen to give you are ‘good listening to’. Try to sit away from these time sappers and find positive people.
  3. Lunch can be lethal. Don’t take too many carbs such as rice and white potatoes and help yourself to plenty of green vegetables. Carbs are bound to be on offer in abundance but be careful. You may not do enough exercise to carb carb load.
  4. Keep your hands out of the biscuit box – usually staff rooms or departments have a obligatory tin of sweet confectionary. My advice that these will put weight on by stealth. Stick to one or too and avoid eating in parallel.
  5. Try to go for a walk at lunchtime. Make a point of going for a short 15 minutes walk. A bit of exercise during the day will do you good.

biscuit tin

The image above is from here.


No 42. Use Fermi Questions in your Lessons


The man pictured above is Enrico Fermi. He was an Italian experimental and theoretical physicist.

He was famous for being able to calculate the answers to estimation questions quickly in his head.

Fermi questions can be used in the classrooms to develop thinking skills and to encourage higher ordered thinking above the curriculum.

For instance in a Geography lesson on the water cycle you could ask questions such as:-

  1. How much water is there on Earth?
  2. What if there is no water?
  3. Where does our water come from?

Once children start thinking through these questions they really start to have deep understanding of the topic. Fermi questions are a great way to develop curiosity.

In Maths you could ask questions such as

  1. How many Maths lessons are taking place in the UK today?
  2. How long would it take to count to a million?
  3. How many hairs are there on your are?

Students can also think of their questions.

I also recommend the book “Are you smart enough to work at google?” for a whole host of this type of question. If your school library does not have a copy then ordering one in is a must.

thinking child


The images in this post are from here and here.

No 40. Conduct a Work Audit as a Department

If you are a Head of Department then you will probably want to devise a method to ensure that standards are being met with things like the whole school marking policy. There are various ways of doing this but I recommend a collaborative approach. The method of snooping in pupils exercise books to make judgments about teachers and pupils will only create hostility and friction. No one wants to feel like they are being watched. I would hope schools have moved on from this approach.

checking marking

This image is from here

We have devised a form that can be used to illicit discussion during departmental meetings. Ask you staff members to bring a top, middle and bottom sample of work (probably an exercise book or folder) to the meeting and in groups discuss the points on the form. The form is designed to make professional judgments about the standard of work produced by pupils using subject specialists.

The form has been used with great success in a number of schools and can be downloaded from this site for a cost of £5.00. Payments are made via PayPal.

Please click the link below to make the purchase.
Buy Now

No 37. Use surveymonkey to evaluate your class

As teachers at the end of professional development courses we will be given  an evaluation form to fill out. This gives important feedback to the leader and their company on the quality and relevance of the course.

We can adopt a similar process using www.surveymonkey.com. This allows us to write a questionnaire to give to our classes after we have taught a topic, module or even a whole year. The questionnaire is sent to pupils as a web link and they will be able to complete in their own time. You will recieve the results of the questionnaire as anonymous feedback. The feed back be used to plan future topics better in general or tailored to a particular class.

You can write questions in a variety of styles and allow for text answers, drop down menus etc. There is more information on how http://www.surveymonkey.com can be used in schools here.


The image above is from here.


No 30. Buddy-Buddy Checking system

shaking hands

If you are taking students on a school outing  then you will want to check that they are all present at certain times during the day or however long your trip is. A quick way of doing this is to use a buddy buddy system. Here is what you do?

  1. Ask each student in the group to shake hands with another student in the group. It doesn’t matter if one person has their hand shaken by two people.
  2. Tell the students that the person they have just shaken hands with will be their buddy and they have to make sure that they are there at checking in times. This other person is their responsibility.
  3. Tell them that they have to imagine that they have just arrived at a meeting a point and you want to check that they are all there. Explain that you are going to shout “Buddy-Buddy” after which they are all to find their partner.
  4. Shout “Buddy-Buddy” and watch the response. They should all find their partner and shake their hand. It should be a quick process.
  5. Shout “Buddy-Buddy” a few times until they know exactly what to do. You don’t need to use this phrase, choose your own and make sure that you are animated when you shout it to capture their attention.

This system is a rapid way of taking a register when you are out and about. It is great for busy places such as train stations or city attractions. Obviously use it with care as you are ultimately in-charge but you will be amazed how well it works. Give it a go.

shaking hands 2


The images on this post are from here and here.