Tag Archives: independent

222. Gadget of the week

In an ideal world you would issue a homework sheet with a deadline and then dutiful students would hand in beautiful pieces of work on the specified date.

In reality:

  • the work is handed in
  • the work is handed in late
  • the work isn’t handed in because they’ve lost it
  • the work isn’t handed in because they’ve left it at home
  • what homework, I’ve got nothing in my planner?

I have a standard practice of printing 10% (or more) extra worksheets than I need given the track record of some of my students. Let’s just say lunch detentions happen so regularly for certain bods that they are referred to as ‘lunch dates’, much to the amusement of their friends! The annoying bit is finding/handing out the spare sheets and chasing deadlines. There is also the classic response of ‘I couldn’t get a new sheet because I couldn’t find you, Miss’.

I found this genius gadget in my local Asda (Walmart), but you could recreate it with laminated card and a pin-board.


  • In each day section I record the homework set on that day – addresses the issue of not knowing there was homework.
  • Each week I transfer last week’s deadlines across – no excuse for not knowing when work is due in.
  • Underneath each day I pin a plastic wallet with the spare copies (but not the master copy) of the worksheet set – students can access spare sheets whenever they need to and I can find them quickly too (no more rummaging in folders/drawers)
  • The board is stuck on the wall, near the main board so it is in the eyeline of the students – a constant reminder.

I’ve been using it for a month now and students are already helping themselves when they lose sheets. It’s also a much quicker reminder for me too.

The last word of this post has to go to my Year 11 frequent homework dodger:

‘We’ve got no excuse for not doing our homework now, have we Miss?’

183. New Year Resolutions

Why not get your students to make a New Year’s Resolution?


Image credit: someecards.com

There are so many little things that we remind students about, so how about getting them to take responsibility?

Start by discussing what they think you nag them about. When students peer review, what annoys them about each other’s work? Extend the conversation to include why these things are important.

Now the tricky bit: making the resolutions.

Get your students to pick two targets – an achievable one and a challenging one. They should be carefully worded and give a reason.

I will show my working out so that I can get all the marks I deserve.

The resolutions should be clearly written on their books (maybe on the front cover?) and a copy should be handed in to you – hand out small sheets of paper for this.

The Future
We all know that resolutions often don’t last. So how can you support your students?

There was a reason why the students handed in a copy of their resolutions. Put them in a jar or box on your desk. Once a week, make your starter a resolution reflection. You could just give your students time to self evaluate or discuss their progress in pairs.

Alternatively you could dip into the resolution jar and pick out a resolution. You could generally discuss that resolution or ask who has a similar resolution and find out how they are getting on.

The key thing is to revisit and also recognise the progress students are making with their resolutions. They’d also make a nice talking point for Parents Evening.

The Twist
If you are asking your class to make a resolution, what would yours be?

Check out these thoughts on resolutions and downloadable resolution templates from
Kev Lister’s blog

162. TMNW – Learning wall 2

This post is a progress report on the learning wall from the post 160.

I gave Year 11s (post GCSE group) A4 templates and objectives from the Y7 scheme of work. Their job was to write a clear explanation and address common misconceptions. They were free to use any resource in the room or on the internet to help them.

Here are some examples of their work:



They would make a great wall display on their own. If you want to use this template you can download it here: Student template.

The next task is to put their explanations onto help cards. The idea is to have the explanation and a question on the front of each card and the misconceptions and worked solution on the back. I will also have the chance to correct any errors before they reach the wall.

So far, so good …

160. TMNW 2 – Learning Wall 1

Earlier this term, my colleague, J, and myself attended the rather brilliant #TMNorthWest at Calderstones School. We were particularly inspired by the idea of independent or ‘Help yourself’ learning walls. We’ve chosen this as our Departmental focus for the year and once we have trialled it, we hope to install a learning wall in every maths room.

The basic premise is that ideas and key points are collected in themed pockets, which students can go to whenever they require assistance or a hint on how to progress. The cards are numbered and indexed. The idea was introduced by Claire Gillies in the context of English lessons.

The self help cards were stored in hanging wallpockets:


Claire used the Kusiner wallpockets from Ikea.

There are six pockets in this particular product. We have chosen to split them into the following categories:
*Using equipment

We designed our cards to have methods, misconceptions, Levels/Grades, a question with worked answer and possibly QR codes to useful videos.

Now, sitting and designing a self help card layout is easy. Completing them is a much bigger task! We have decided to start with KS3 and have selected key objectives from the Y7 scheme of work.

We also have GCSE classes who sat their exams last week and, quite frankly, need a break.

This sounds like fate …

The plan is that Year 11 students will take Y7 objectives and write self-help cards. Teachers will moderate/edit what they write.

Well, that’s our plan for a bit of independent student power. I’ll continue to post about our walls as they develop.

156. Tweeting tips

Here’s a quick idea for revising or researching vocabulary: Maths tweets.


I know that lots of educators on Twitter like to use tweets to summarise learning. I used this with my Year 7s to investigate the meanings of Prime, Factor, Multiple, Square number and Cube number.

After they independently researched the meanings and wrote the definitions in their books, I challenged them to summarise their learning in 140 characters or less. They then filled in their ‘tweets’.


If they had leftover characters they could create their own hashtags.


The ‘Maths Tweets’ sheet didn’t take long to put together – you can download the maths tweets template here (pdf format).

133. Smart Research

Teachers often get students to do research homework for one of two reasons: to increase independent learning and develop an inquiry mindset or as an easy homework to set/mark.

Pupils often see research homework in one of two ways: as an opportunity for independent study and to find out cool facts that no-one else will find or as ‘None set’ – the teacher won’t check it and if they do there is the excuse that the computer wasn’t working, the printer had run out of ink, the internet went down or it wasn’t their classes day to use the school library.

How can you change this mindset?

Over the years I’ve set this type of task with varying degrees of success. Conscientious pupils write/type a short essay, with diagrams if appropriate – you could put it straight on the wall to be admired. Others print out webpages or copy a couple of lines from the internet/textbook/friend. Then there is the woeful list of excuses brigade …

This time I changed one thing in the task and I was frankly amazed: 100% successful completion. The change was so simple – how it could be done.


I asked them to research letter frequency analysis. Some wrote a page in their book, some took a photo of a page from a book, some did a printscreen and others bookmarked a website. Three of these four formats involve the use of smartphones. Unless your school has draconian rules on mobile phone use in the classroom, this is a good way to engage pupils. It promotes responsible use of technology and prompted discussions on how they’d searched to get their result.

All I had to do was walk around the room and let them show me their homework while they did the follow up task. Cynics might say that they could quickly do their homework before I got to them – this is a valid comment, except the ‘Usual Suspects’ came into the room waving their phones, desperate to show me their work!

BTW I was rather amused when one of the pupils showed me a screengrab of this blog – he didn’t have a clue that I’d written it.

107. The Validator returns

Back in Post 72 I looked at the idea of a student validator, which had been developed by Mr Reddy (@MrReddyMaths).

View the original post here.

Well, I discussed it with my colleagues and a couple of us tried it out. It worked like a dream. Pupils of all abilities and ages took responsibility for checking work and giving advice. In fact it was so successful we have adopted it as Department. My HoD had seen ‘Peer Assessed’ stampers and ordered those as well as lanyards for everyone:


I’d like to thank Mr Reddy for sharing his idea on his blog.

If you want to introduce this concept to your pupils/staff check out my videoscribe introduction on YouTube. I’m still new to videoscribe, so it’s a bit jumpy, but the summary gets the message across.