Monthly Archives: January 2018

Blog of the Week: 24 January 2018 – Top 10 Revision Strategies

Year after the year, the same pressures attend exam revision. Each year teachers try the old favourites, alongside a few new revision strategies to keep our students interested. Happily, we now have a wealth of evidence to support some revision strategies over others as we approach the revision stretch.

We know that students are not the most reliable when it comes to judging their own learning, with regular self-testing proving the most effective antidote. We also know that some strategies, like re-reading and using highlighters, are largely ineffective, whereas as quizzing does the trick. We know that a little ‘deliberate difficulty’ may well prove a good thing for revision, and that ‘cramming’ is inferior to ‘distributed practice’ (or spreading revision out over time), when it comes to remembering.

We should be careful not outsource an approach to revision to a company promoting the following strategies, or to puff up the confidence of our students. A successful approach to…

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Blog of the Week: 19 January 2018 – Ten principles for great explicit teaching

Ben Newmark

Ten principles

I would like to begin by clarifying terminology. Put most simply, I will be discussing how to plan extended explanations of substantive content, delivered didactically to a whole class. Bizarrely, for something so simple which, at its essence, is just ‘teaching’ to me, there is no consensus on what this is called. When I first began writing on this I called it Direct Instruction but it has become clear this is misleading. Capitalised, Direct Instruction means something very specific and includes the scripted lessons currently causing much controversy. Greg Ashman wrote a series of blogs on this, which are tremendously helpful to understanding the differences between the various types of didactic delivery. For convenience, I am going to try and stick to the term Explicit Teaching to describe what I mean. Please forgive me if I use other terms and I ask for your patience if I do slip; for…

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Blog of the Week: 12 January 2018 – The ‘Intervention’ beast


A recent @sputniksteve thread on Twitter asked teachers to contribute their most hated edu terms. Mine was ‘intervention’ and I was not alone. When I first encountered the term I didn’t really understand what it meant. I’d always used ‘revision’. (I’ve come to realise that the model of ‘revision sessions’ is also not as effective as retention practices in the every day classroom). I thought ‘intervention is a synonym for ‘revision’. It’s not really though – it actually means ‘more teaching’.

I don’t remember running much of ‘it’ at all in my first few years – maybe the odd day in the Easter holidays just before exam season. Later, we devised the ‘Revision weekend’ focusing exclusively on the core and particular attainment groups (some of this was also determined by FSM status). I was happy to do it. In fact, I liked doing it. The kids were ‘on it’ and…

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Want to get great at something? Get a coach

Given that teaching is such a complex task, how do we keep improving our practice?

For a three-minute intro, watch from 07:10 to see Atul Gawande describe how coaching has improved his practice as a surgeon.

Alternatively, watch the whole talk to find out who coaches Itzhak Perlman, and hear how coaching has helped reduced mortality rates at a birth centre in the north of India.

Blog of the Week: 3 January 2018 – Rethinking marking and feedback. It’s all about the response.



At HGS we’ve been thinking hard about how to make sure teacher feedback has maximum impact and, recently, I’ve been revisiting some blog posts that continue to inform my thoughts on this important area:

‘Close the Gap’ Marking:  a whole-school approach used at Saffron Walden High School, focusing all feedback on student response.

Marking in Perspective:  my suggestion that marking should only be done at the rate and level at which students can respond to it.

Feedback the Michaela Way:  Jo Facer’s description of this radical and rather brilliant approach.

This term, with a new Head of Department at the helm in Maths, we’ve introduced what I think is an excellent model for marking and feedback.  Essentially, instead of writing comments – or in fact writing anything – we assess students in class and then give them questions to do that help them practise in the areas…

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