Using booklets for guided notes


In the past couple of years I’ve seen that many teachers have been using booklets with students. These look like mini text books but with the advantage of being bespoke and generally having better tasks/questions for students to complete than the average text book.

I’ve not gone down this route as I’m a ‘chalk and talk’ type teacher that gives the students the info they need from the front rather than from a text. They’re also a lot of work. I could spend hours creating these.

However, I’ve come up with a different way of using booklets; guided notes booklets.


I have for the past 5 years promoted note taking with students. We expect it from year 7. We give them some guidance on what makes good notes and I constantly remind them in lesson about making notes. I put ‘core notes’ on the board that everyone has to write and then remind them to make independent notes. Some students do loads of independent notes and some do none. For GCSE I thought it would be useful to ensure that we cover the whole specification by creating a booklet that has every element of the specification inside it, laid out, ready for notes.

Our guided notes (also known as scaffolded, skeleton or skeletal notes) give students a simple structure for their notes based on the content being taught which differentiates them from generic templates such as Cornell notes.

The research

The research for scaffolding notes for students is interesting. It’s overall positive for learning. The benefits of guided notes include increased accuracy, frequency of notes and improvement in tests. Research also suggests that students prefer using guided notes. Another interesting finding is that guided notes can benefit students with SEN (Lazarus 1993).

Konrad et al (2009) say ” Results indicated that guided notes are an effective and socially valid method for increasing note-taking accuracy and improving academic performance, particularly for school-age students” .

This Cult of Pedagogy podcast and blog has a great summary of the research on note taking.

The practice

I’ve made booklets that cover some of the units that we teach; essentially a whole topic. I’ve had to guess the amount of space needed for notes but used the previous year’s notes from a student’s folder to guide me on space.

The booklets include keywords, comparison charts, some diagrams where appropriate, extra independent notes pages and some information that we would have presented on individual sheets, such as quotations.



For students that have to use laptops for their work, I send them the blank template and they complete with typing.

As I have a visualiser I have one booklet per class I teach and will often complete the booklet with the students. This models my expectations, ensures I only get them to write what can be fitted in the boxes and makes sure they all get the minimum same content.

my booklet

Student views

After using the booklets for the first time, I thought it would be useful to hear what the students think about them and get some useful feedback. Here are the questions I asked (via a google form) and selected  responses that summarise the main points.

What are the benefits of using a booklet?

  • “All my answers are in one place and are easy to find”
  • Don’t write unnecessary information”
  • The benifits of useing booklets are that you have all your notes in one place. You have pre written titles and you have paragraph structures when applicable” (sic)
  • “It’s good because you have all the knowledge written down on one sheet instead of loads of different sheets to look back on.”
  • The answers are clearly in an area which is visible and it stays neat and clear.”
  • It is set out better and puts all the work together. It also shows us the amount of work needed for a certain lesson.”
  • Decreases amount of loose sheets”

What are the problems with using a booklet?

  • Not enough space for people with big handwriting”
  • There’s not enough space to write everything”
  • There is limited space to write.”
  • Can sometimes be overwhelming”
  • “Some of the spaces are quite small, so limit the amount of info you can write.”

For the Theme E booklet, if we used it again next year, what do we need to change?

  • More space, some brief directions on what to do on each page for if we have a cover”
  • Titles,, We had to change some eg. from some Christians to some Muslims”
  • Add a notes page and more space to write in the boxes”
  • Just work out reasonable spaces for each part of the booklet so we don’t run out.”

From this feedback I’ve made every other page a blank notes page so they have more space for independent notes.


I probably should have followed this questions up with ‘why?’.

Any further USEFUL comments to help us

Examples of student work

These show how notes are made in the gaps and how the extra note space can be used for ‘free hand’ notes.


These booklets seem to be well received by students. They are fairly quick to make. They ensure that we cover all the points in the specification. They’ve been adapted so students have structure and the chance for lots of independent notes. We can easily edit them each year and add/remove what’s needed. Students and I can easily see what they’ve missed and can easily copy from another student. A huge benefit for me is that my ‘marking’ is checking for gaps. They’re useful for revision as all notes are in one place, clearly labelled. These are a structured start for students on note-taking, which can support them as they move to higher study, as they can see the benefits of layout and clarity of notes.

Potential draw backs include photocopying costs and students losing the booklet with everything in (no different to an exercise book). Some may be concerned that it limits teaching styles. It doesn’t matter how the content is taught, these booklets are just a record of the key learning so I think teachers can teach how they want then complete the booklet.

I will be making more for GCSE topics. I’m not yet concerned about using them at key stage 3 but it might happen one day.

RE Curriculum development


Following a discussion about curriculum in RE I thought I’d pull together a set of resources that may be useful. I’m happy to add as people recommend.


Louise Hutton – Why this? Why now? An RE curriculum conversation

N McGee – Setting the scene for teaching Christianity at GCSE

J Semmens – The Need for Philosophy

N McGee – Planning an interweaved Key Stage 3 curriculum

A Smith – Disciplinary Knowledge and RE: an attempt at professional wrestling

R Orme Religious Illiteracy: The Neglect of Knowledge in RE

R Orme – From Gandhi to Geldof: The Menace of Thematic RE

R Orme- RE’s Knowledge Vacuum

C Vardy- Religious Education: What do students need to KNOW?

I Howarth- Why Religious Education is a fundamental part of a broad education

A Lewis- CoRE: Interim Report (2) – Building a Knowledge Curriculum

N McKain – A Knowledge Rich Curriculum with 20:20 vision 

K Gooch – Curriculum choice is keeping me awake at night 

J Porter – Which knowledge should you teach from the Bible?

Disciplines in RE


Balanced RE documents

Secondary audit for Balanced RE
Primary audit for Balanced RE

The Norfolk agreed syllabus – an example of multi-discipline approach

A discussion about the new Norfolk Agreed Syllabus – Questions by Paul Smalley and answers by Kathryn Wright. Here


Bowie, R. (2016) Doing RE hermeneutically– learning to become interpreters of
religion. RE Today, 34 (1). pp. 60-62. ISSN 0226-7738.

D Cox – Curriculum intent & design – how not to do it

D Cox – Curriculum roundup 2019


B Wintersgill Big Ideas For Religious Education 

Making the most of quiz books


Myself and Andy Lewis are proud to have some GCSE religious studies quiz books published by John Catt. I thought I would share what they are and some ways in which these might be used.

What are they?

The books are based on all GCSE specifications for the new, reformed GCSE religious studies courses.

They have quizzes on the main topics for each religion, repeated 6 times, but with the questions in a different random order. Students should complete a quiz, check their answers and write their mark on their mark tracker. At another point in time (see below) they should complete the quiz again and record their mark. The aim is for them to improve each time if not get full marks.

They are knowledge quizzes. They aim to help students to learn and retain key facts, quotations and reasons. They are the foundations for being able to write coherent, well supported exam answers. They should be used alongside practising exam questions; not as an alternative.

Why is testing useful?

“Testing is a powerful means of improving learning, not just assessing it.” Roediger & Karpicke (2006)

Research on how we learn suggests that the testing effect is a good way to retain things in our memories (Roediger & Karpicke 2006).

Repetition is also useful and research suggests that repetitions at increased intervals (spacing) might have more impact on long term retention that at equal intervals. This blog by Mr Benney discusses what might be the optimum spacing.

What does it mean for the use of these books?

Whoever uses them should consider when they will do each of the 6 quizzes. For example, increased intervals 50 days before an exam could be:

  • Day 1 quiz 1
  • Day 3 quiz 1
  • Day 7 quiz 1
  • Day 14 quiz 1
  • Day 28 quiz 1
  • Day 49 quiz 1

I recommend that the quizzing of a topic starts as soon as you’ve taught/learnt it. So, from the start of the GCSE, rather than at the end.

How could they be used?

With students

  • They could be used as a starter/plenary for a lesson to help students recall content.
  • A student that works elsewhere (out of class, in hospital, at home ill etc) can easily use them. You can tell them which quiz/zes you want them to complete and they can self-check.
  • As regular homework. The teacher can set a specific quiz/zes but should consider when they set the repetitions (as above)
  • They would be useful for cover lessons as the students can ‘self quiz’ and check the answers themselves.
  • As revision for students that have completed the course and have time to repeat the taught content through testing
  • For private tutors that want to give a student a short knowledge test
  • As a knowledge audit – for the student and/or the teacher to work out what they do/don’t know and what they need to focus on to improve.
  • TIP: Give students a revision plan starting as early as possible. If you give them a date/spaced plan it will help them to be organised.

Here is a FREE revision plan for the 2020 GCSE Religious studies exam to use with the Christianity book

With teachers

  • For subject knowledge enhancement – as testing is a good way to help retain information for the long term, these books may help teachers that want to brush up on their subject knowledge
  • Trainee teachers – those new to RE can use these to help learn knowledge needed for GCSE RS.

“To state an obvious point, if students know they will be tested regularly (say, once a week, or even every class period), they will study more and will space their studying throughout the semester rather than concentrating it just before exams.”

Roediger & Karpicke (2006)


To order the books…..



Catholic Christianity with Judaism (by Andy Lewis)

The books are also available directly from John Catt. They will give discounts on bulk orders so please contact them.


Roediger & Karpicke 2006

The best tool all teachers have for differentiation

  • It’s free
  • It doesn’t require photocopying lots of different sheets
  • You can use it for any class and any age group
  • It requires minimal planning and even less as a teacher gains experience

What’s the best tool all teachers have for differentiation?

I made the ‘mistake’ this year of looking at some class data. I say mistake as I don’t usually look at student data unless I spot something in the first few lessons with a class.

I looked at reading ages and noticed that a student had the reading age of 7; they were year 8 (aged 12-13). I started to panic. How could I teach a student that wouldn’t be able to read some of the complex terms or access the new longer texts we are trialling this year?

I worried for about 10 minutes and then reflected that I’ve never had problems before so I’d just carry on teaching as I normally do.

And nothing happened. No disasters. Everyone in the class seemed to be learning. In our recap quizzes at the start of every lesson, all the students, including this one, were giving the correct answers.

So what’s the tool? It’s what we say & how we say it; teacher exposition.

I’ve already written on the importance of teacher exposition here but didn’t stress the importance of it being the best differentiation tool a teacher has.

I’m still saddened to hear teachers promoting the use of different worksheets, tiered learning objectives (must, could, should) and different activities for different students, and thinking they are good differentiation tools; they’re not.

On the other hand, teacher talk has been discouraged and in some cases limited to set maximums.

What you say and how you say it to students is probably one of the most important things that can differentiate between students learning or not learning. But it’s a subtle form of differentiation that many observers (especially if not the specialism of the lesson) may not spot. So the box for ‘differentiation’ on the observation proforma goes unticked.

The key is to tier your language and explanation to start from the foundations of a concept and build on it over time, using retrieval to help embed the separate ideas. A kind of verbal scaffolding.

I think scaffolded exposition is the key to good ‘mixed ability’ teaching (That’s not to say this isn’t true for set groups). Having to start with what everyone can access, brings every student on board and then, the development of concepts and the links between them can gradually build.

If using a piece of text, regular stopping, discussion and annotation in simple terms makes it more accessible. I always use my visualiser for this so they can copy but students can also make independent notes.

Class discussion also contributes to differentiation. If any student can ask ‘any’ question about the topic, the teacher response is already differentiated as it should respond to their question; it’s already at their ‘level’ and extending their understanding.

How do you know it’s worked?

I listed these in the other blog but with my initial anecdote the student can equally talk to me about the concepts. They may not be able to write them fluently due to their written literacy but writing isn’t the only way to assess. I would say they’ve progressed as the other students have in what they’ve learnt.

Whilst this blog is about exposition, it’s also about not obsessing over prior data. It could limit our expectations and in turn not allow all students to be challenged.

Why don’t teachers use behaviour systems?


Imagine a school that has a clear, simple, behaviour management system. It’s written in policy and given to staff at the start of every year. It lists what they should do and what others do in the process. You’d think it would be followed by everyone, right? Wrong.

Some teachers don’t follow the system. Why?


If you teach a full day with duties and a meeting after school, when will you complete your part of the system? Either filling in a form, talking to a Head of Year or contacting home; when is this going to happen? Even a simple system takes time if, as a minimum teachers have to record something or tell someone what happened.

If you’re a teacher that happens to teach many students that misbehave, the thought of having to process these every day is daunting and it’s easy to think there are probably better things to be doing with your time.

‘Nothing gets done when you pass it up’

Whilst a teacher might be able to complete the initial stage of the process, if there is a feeling that this is where it stops and there is no support at the next level it makes the thing that they have to do pointless. Why sit filling in a form that no-one else reads or does anything about?

If a system is clear at the initial stages what should happen but gets blurry as things progress, teachers can’t see the point of their part. If they keep doing their part and a student has an accumulation of serious incidents, why isn’t this child being dealt with by leaders? It feels pointless.

Worried about the come back from ‘above’

Some schools analyse the data of which teachers use the behaviour system the most: which teacher sends out the most students, which teacher has the most demerits on the system, which teacher has used ‘on-call’/isolation/time out room the most. This can then lead to conversations about their ability to manage classes or they’re told they shouldn’t use the system so much. So those that would be most likely to enforce the system, become wary of using it as there may be repercussions. No-one wants to be top of this list.

Worried about the come back from students

‘Why did YOU give me a detention?’ ‘Why did YOU give me a demerit?’ ‘I don’t like Miss Cox as she gives me detentions’

Teachers hear these things. We all know that relationships are important in teaching. Using the behaviour system can make things negative; teachers don’t want that. Some teachers even want students to like them so much, that they won’t use the behaviour system when they should, for fear of a student disliking them. Or at worst, getting verbal abuse from a child. It’s easier not to bother,

Worried about the come back from parents

In some schools, if you use the system you are questioned by parents about it. Some parents are so convinced that their child couldn’t possibly have misbehaved that they ‘tell’ the school to remove the demerits or refuse for their child to sit the detention. If a teacher is continuously questioned about it, they may not use the system to save themselves the inevitable hassle of parents contacting them to undo it all.

It’s the same children all the time

If the same children are always having to have the system used with them, it gets frustrating. Clearly it’s not working? When it’s the same students lesson after lesson, it’s easy to give up following procedure with them as nothing is happening to make it better, so why bother following the system? ‘It’s James again’ or ‘Fiona disrupted again, nothing will change her’ is how it comes across. Yet it’s probably James and Fiona that need the certainty of the system. If you’re a teacher that thinks that children can ‘just behave’, without structure and guidance, you may need to rethink.

They have their own system

This is possibly the most damaging to consistency. Teachers having their own system in their classroom. There are many reasons why they do this: they don’t believe the whole school system works, their students are ‘different’, it’s ‘their classroom, their rules’ etc Whilst their system may work really well in their room, it is confusing for students having to remember which rules are for which teacher and undermines other teachers that are following the whole school system.

Disagreeing with the system

Some disagree with the system itself. It’s too strict or too lenient, they don’t like the consequences, it contradicts their personal beliefs on how to deal with behaviour. Regardless, if they disagree with it and don’t follow it, the chink in armour of consistency is damaging.

Lack of whole school perspective

This is probably a summary of others above. Teachers that don’t see the system as what makes the school community, don’t ever consider the impact of their actions or lack of action on others. They don’t realise that any inconsistency from them impacts  others.

They’re scared

Sometimes it’s scary; in many different ways. Fear of a child not actually doing what you tell them to, fear you will be criticised for using the system, fear of disrupting a class even more, fear the child won’t like you, fear your boss is keeping a tally…. The classroom can feel like a lonely place.

What this means for leaders

In a video we use at GCSE on capital punishment an analyst says ‘it’s not the punishment that matters, it’s the certainty of the punishment that matters’. Surely, teachers not providing that certainty is a huge problem. Teachers and students should know the whole school system and be clear on the consequences. Consistency is the key to a successful school yet, if we know that, why don’t leaders focus on the consistency aspect? It seems that, if we accept the system is fit for purpose, leaders should put efforts into supporting staff with consistency that might have the biggest impact on behaviour.

If you’re a school leader, maybe have a think about which of these may be true in your school and rather than standing up in a staff meeting telling staff to be consistent, work with those that aren’t consistent and try to resolve why this might be. And most importantly, do not share any sort of negativity about actually using the system; it’s there to be used.

Keeping it simple: how and why I don’t spend hours planning


There are two things that I see teachers doing via social media that I don’t do: spending lots of time (often at the weekend) planning lessons and asking for lessons.

This blog isn’t about ‘showing off’ that I don’t do them; it’s about saying that it can be done.

Why I don’t plan

I essentially don’t plan lessons because most of my lessons are the same. They follow exactly the same format, the only thing that differs is the content. Lessons go like this:

  • Starter quiz 1-10 prior recall OR set keyword/quotation test for GCSE OR an exam question/s test
  • Going through the test
  • Improve the test by writing correct answers or improve prior work as directed
  • Introducing the topic OR recapping where we are in the topic we’re doing
  • Teaching – me telling students information whilst they write notes
  • Discussion – students asking questions, debating, me asking them questions
  • Watch a video clip that links OR complete an assessed piece of writing

Once a half term students complete online multiple choice questions in the lesson.

Simply put, regardless of the way I do it, my lessons are:

  • Recall
  • Improve
  • Introduce/Remind
  • Teach
  • Embed
  • Practice

I make up the 1-10 in the lesson using one of the students’ books. No planning there. I know where we’re up to since last lesson so I just teach what is next in the scheme. Discussion comes from what students pick up on. Our schemes have the content I need. It tells me what I need to teach for that section. And it includes suggested video clips.

Notice there aren’t any ‘activities’ for the students to complete. These are rare. I have a handful for each year group that I use which are tried and tested which I think do play a role in developing their understanding. Occasionally, I’ll see something on social media and think I might use it or adapt it. It’s rare; it would have to significantly add to their knowledge and understanding.

Note, I’m not saying this is how everyone should teach. It’s not like a revamped 5 part lesson or anything like that.

I like it. It works for me and my subject, my school, the level of students and multiple classes.

What I do plan

Planning is normally in the form of developing my pedagogical and subject knowledge.

I might have to spend time on creating a GCSE test but we’re at the stage now, 3 years in, that most of this is sorted. This takes 5 minutes.

At the start of the week, all I need to do is remind myself where each class is in the scheme. That’s my weekly planning. I teach 17 classes. I don’t have a teacher planner I have a ‘taught’ list. It’s the opposite of a planner; I just write down where we got to, for each class. I then carry on. I don’t teach lesson by lesson as I see so many schemes outline on social media. I teach a topic over a number of lessons and just start where we left off. No neat ‘topic per lesson’ in my classes. Depth of coverage outweighs rattling through a scheme which has new content for every lesson in lesson sized chunks.

Why I don’t ask for lessons

I don’t need ‘lessons’. I find it odd when people ask for ‘observation lessons’. We don’t have observations in my school, but even when I know someone is coming in, I won’t change my lesson for them. Why would I change what I normally do because there’s another adult in the room?!

Questions I ask on social media are to help me teach i.e. subject knowledge or for suggested video clips.

I’m also an experienced teacher so I can spend less time on my teaching. However, this set up has worked for new colleagues. If they want to spend hours creating activities then they can, but I want to know that they’re valuable and lead to embedding learning, not just for engagement or fun. I think this model can work equally for NQTs. They might want to plan what they will say, ask etc but there shouldn’t be any need for extensive planning of what they will teach, if the scheme of work clearly gives it.

Boring lessons?

You might think this sounds really boring. Maybe it is. But I’m safe in the knowledge that I don’t spend hours of my own time planning. I have a good work/life balance. Most kids say they like it. Some say it’s their favourite lesson. Results are good.

That’s enough for me.

What Ofsted don’t want


With a new framework coming into play this month, clearly there are some senior leaders starting to worry about if they meet what they think Ofsted are looking for. People then start to come up with ways of evidencing this. Unfortunately, along the way, things are misinterpreted or made up creating a whole load of work for teachers and middle leaders. The aim of the blog is to address a few of these things with evidence from Ofsted themselves.


“There’s no need to write new statements, adapt websites or restructure staffing to cover intent.” (3)

“Ofsted does not advocate any particular curriculum model” (3)



2. Lesson plans

“Ofsted does not require schools to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors. Equally, Ofsted does not require schools to provide previous lesson plans” (1)

3. Books & book scrutinies

“Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders. Ofsted recognises that the amount of work in books and folders will depend on the subject being studied and the age and ability of the pupils.” (1)

“Ofsted does not expect to see photographic evidence of pupil’s work” (1)



4. Feedback

“Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy” (1)

Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers. (1)

5.Creating paperwork


6. Data & exam results

“My biggest observation was the sheer joy – both for inspectors and for school leaders – of the move away from detailed scrutiny and analysis of internal data.” (4)

“…what is not a worthwhile use of inspection time is for inspectors to try to dive into your own particular style of collecting and recording data, especially as so many schools use so many different systems….It’s enough for inspectors to know that this is your analysis of what’s happening in your school – they don’t need to see the spreadsheets!” (5)

“We need to help parents, schools, and policy makers with information that is not just about exam results, but is about how those results are achieved.” (7)

7. Key stage focus



8.’What Ofsted wants’

“the lucrative industry that sells schools consultation into ‘what Ofsted wants’ and ‘preparation for Ofsted’ seems to thrive. ‘Save 5 hours staff time a day’ they promise. ‘Dramatic results in just 10 weeks’ are offered. ….. Please, do not hand your silver to these Mystic Megs” (6)

“If you’re doing something because you think we want to see it and it does not benefit your pupils, then please, do not do it.” (10)



(2) @HeatherBellaF









Other sources

How to reduce exam stress in Year 11


Imagine if no-one did the things on the left……

Don’t …


… extra ‘revision’ classes (lunch/after school/weekends/holidays) in Year 11 Work with individual students from year 7 on things they’ve struggled with at the time they’ve struggled
Use strategies for long term learning from year 7 instead of massed practice (cramming) at the end of year 11
…..never show students an exam paper Show them sample questions from day 2 of the course
Show them what a whole paper looks like (where possible) early on. Not to complete it. Just to see it.
…..suddenly give extra work/set revision/more homework at the end of year 11 Build up homework across the course.
Only give homework.

Don’t call it revision.

Specify exact tasks to complete not just ‘revise’

….leave incomplete homework unchallenged from day 1 Treat every homework as an important part of the course. Each non-completion reduces their chances of a potential higher grade. Emphasise this point. Oh and make sure that EVERY homework is essential!
…do their first ‘walking talk mock’ a couple of weeks before their exam Model answers and thought processes from the start of the course. A visualiser is good for this.
……use the term ‘revision’ without specifying exactly what it is they need to do Create a common language that is specific to your context.
Explicitly teach learning strategies from year 7. Use them throughout your teaching, explaining what they are and why. Ensure this happens across subjects so it is modelled across the curriculum (separate sessions on this aren’t always successful as they struggle to transfer)
Give them materials to support independent study. See here for a suggestion
….talk about ‘revision’ at the end of year 11 Talk about retrieval, testing, recall, long term memory from day one in year 7 and reiterate all the time.
…..leave controlled assessment completion until the end of year 11 deadline date Strategically plan the different elements of the course across the time you have.
Any student that isn’t on track, deal with them at each stage. Not at the end.
Take students out of one lesson to ‘revise’ for another Firstly, a change of the usual routine for some students causes stress. Structure the course so this isn’t needed.
What message does this give about the lesson they’ve left? Good planning of a course should eliminate the need for this
Have a whole day to ‘revise’ for one subject A day’s lesson has many issues….

·       It takes teachers a long time to prepare and they then set cover for other ‘less important’ classes. What does it tell those classes? Year 11 are more important, this year isn’t?

·       It gives students a message about priorities and organisation i.e. the school can’t manage them

·       It’s probably really boring

Instead, plan the course without any ‘surprise’ off timetable days

…..think that year 11 is the most important year group Foundations in years 7/8/9 are incredibly important for setting expectations, continuing and developing effective study habits. The start of the GCSE course is also essential in doing the same. The end of year 11 is far too late.
…..use phrases that share your exam anxieties

e.g. we’ve not got much time left, we’ve got so much to do, we don’t know what they’ll do on the exam

Promote the importance of study from day one. A missed homework is essential to their result (make sure it actually is!) and respond as if it were a week before the exam.
….make it up as you go along (this is when you run out of time) Strategically plan the course with the time you know you have (not with extra ‘intervention’). Leave contingency time. Use principles from cognitive science to plan.
Give them a course outline from day 1. Explain how the course will be taught; give a simple overview if possible.
…..teach in a linear manner, just teaching new material every lesson e.g. following through a textbook page by page Confidence comes from knowing you know things. If you move from lesson to lesson never allowing students to realise they know things they won’t develop that confidence.
….use target grades/grades with students Focus on what it is they actually need to do and what they’ve not done. Decide what a student should be able to do and push them to do it without using grades.

The only grade that matters and technically is accurate is their final grade. Anything else creates anxiety.

And where anomalies occur, such as not having a specialist teacher for the whole course… Give the students a clear plan of what will be happening and when. If they’ve had an uncertain course try to make the support certain. Give them an overview of what, when and how it will help them.


Planned modelling


We are developing the use of our principles for learning in RE and have focussed this year on different types of modelling.


As with most things, if it’s not part of an agreed system, things can be forgotten.

In an attempt to standardise what GCSE students have in terms of seeing exam questions and exam answers we have created a set system. So far that indicates which exam questions they will practise and a ‘Be the teacher’ style activity. I am also planning on adding to the plan,  ‘teacher modelling’.

All of these are based on important aspects of exam practice:

  • Exposure to different types of exam question
  • Knowing what the command words require
  • Timing of written answers
  • Appropriate length of answers
  • Knowing what needs to be included in an answer
  • Knowing what doesn’t need to be included
  • Identifying a ‘full mark’ answer and why it is full marks
  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses of answers that aren’t full marks
  • Seeing how an answer might be approached and the thought process behind it
  • Seeing different approaches to a question
  • Developing confidence to answer questions
  • Improving their own answers

Plan of exam questions

This is simply to ensure that no matter who the teacher or the class, the student exam practice is the same. We’ve agreed in advance and put on a plan which questions students should be doing per half term. These are spaced so they aren’t necessarily the topic they’ve been studying but topics from prior learning.

* note- these questions have been designed for our course and may not follow the exact exam board specification as we teach beyond this.

Orange = exam questions students will complete

Once they’ve completed their answer, they are simply marked using tick sheets and given feedback in class. They then improve them as needed.

Be the teacher

This is what I call an activity where students are given a sheet with an exam question on it and some student answers to the question. The answers vary in what they have/haven’t included and so the students then have to identify ‘what went well’ and what could be improved. This is an opportunity for students to see potential answers but more importantly to have to apply what they know about the topic and the type of exam question to unpick the answer.



A few things that you can do in this activity that might be useful is to create weak answers which:

  • Are too short/long
  • Write about the wrong thing
  • Use informal language
  • Include common misconceptions
  • Don’t meet the criteria for the marks e.g. forget something, like a quotation

I then include at least one ‘full mark’ answer. I also try to create answers that look good but have a huge flaw that means they’re not.

A simpler variation of this is that I put a flawed answer on the board and give them a few minutes to identify what is wrong and how it might be improved. We then discuss and I edit it live so they can see the change.

Teacher modelling

I use my visualiser all the time to show student work, when showing students how to complete something and to complete things together. I also type example answers for students to analyse during feedback. However this is ad hoc and I think is important enough to put into the plans as something we will commit to do at least every half term. As you can see, it has been added to our plans and I plan to populate it with the following ideas this summer in year 11 gained time.

Live modelling

I’m lucky to have a visualiser that I can use to show students what I’m doing. Live modelling can include me writing an answer under the visualiser and students copying as I write. I explain what I’m writing and why. It’s a really good way to see how things we might do without much thinking can be shared with the students. Students have said they like doing this. However, you may need to consider if they will write as you write or they will just listen or make notes etc. It can be tricky if students write at different paces. You may also need to consider your handwriting.

You can equally live model by typing, in large font, onto an on-screen document. The benefit of this is that you can then print the answer.

Example full mark answers

Giving students a full mark answer can help them see what one looks like. There are various things you can get them to do with these depending on what you want them to focus on. For example, if they’re not using enough keyword terminology, write an answer with gaps where these would go and get students to fill in the gaps with the appropriate terminology.

If an answer is too long, get them to cross through superfluous words and cut the word count down.

If you want them to see the different elements of the answer, give highlighters and make a key with each element. Get students to highlight where they can see each element.

Write several full mark answers to the same question so they can see different approaches that can be taken. This helps them to see that there are different ways it can be answered that will still gain full marks. As above they can highlight the common features that mean these answers fulfil the criteria for full marks.

Multiple choice examples

If I have time, I will also create multiple choice quizzes that do a similar thing but students have to correctly identify aspects of an answer as asked. For example, a model answer is given and then a question such as ‘Which of these elements has been missed out? a) a quotation b) the source reference c) explanation of the quotation d) a conclusion

The beauty of these, is that there is no marking for the teacher, and this can fit into our ‘3 homework’ model as one of the multiple choice quizzes.


Overall, this plan for modelling will mean that over the 3 year course, students will have at least 16 full mark answers in their notes, 16+ answers (mock exams have many more) that they’ve attempted and improved and 16 ‘Be the teacher’ sheets. It sounds like we will spend the whole time doing this but it is basically about 3 lessons per half term which is approximately 18 lessons long, so 1/6 of the time, which I think is probably about the right amount of time.

Curriculum roundup 2019





‘Knowledge rich’ curriculum

Curriculum planning & review


RE – Why Religious Education is a fundamental part of a broad education -Isaac Howarth

Science- Teaching and Learning is Dead – Adam Boxer

Art –Developing a Knowledge-Rich Art Curriculum Part 1: The ‘Why?’ – David Morel, PTE

Art – Curriculum conversations: art

History – Some notes on KS3 planning

English – Why a thematic curriculum is brilliant for Key Stage 3 English (and why it’s also great for your GCSE students too) Anthony Cokerill


The Curriculum – Gallimaufry to coherence – Mary Myatt

Chartered College of Teaching – Issue 6 – Broad and Balanced curriculum 


Other resources