Tag Archives: review

312. Class Commentary

I don’t know about you, but going over higher level questions (eg A-Level) after a test can be a frustrating time. The students never seem to fully engage because they think they know it all – even though they do get things wrong! What if I could offer you a way to review the test and incorporate an understanding of exam board mark schemes?

Image credit: www.sri.com


  • When you mark the test clearly indicate on the paper which questions students got fully correct.
  • Alternatively get your students to do this.

Set Up

  • List the question numbers on the board
  • Starting with the highest number (usually the hardest questions) students volunteer to answer the questions on the board by putting their name next to a question number. In this way the brightest students who got the tricky questions right can’t volunteer to do the easier questions, allowing other students a chance of success.
  • Long multi-part questions could have more than one student.
  • You can also allocate a calculation checker and algebra checker if you have spare students


  • Bring up each student to go through a question on the board.
  • Whilst they do this you can do a commentary of where marks are allocated by the markscheme, alternative methods and misconceptions.

I did this activity with a Year 12 group whilst reviewing an A-Level paper and it was a such a better use of time. The students were more engaged and I could interact with the class on a much more productive level.

164. Plant a Learning Tree

Do you know that feeling when you are starting a topic which is building on existing knowledge and you are not sure how much to recap? Too much recap and they start the topic bored, too little recap and the new work is too difficult. What to do?

To quote an old UK TV ad: “I want to be a tree!” (Prudential, 1989).

I have a bright class of 13/14 year olds and needed to start some algebra work. We ended up making a tree.


  • Coloured paper
  • Felt pens or markers
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Roll of backing paper or wallpaper (I cut mine to fit on the back of a door)
  • Optional: mini-whiteboards for mindmaps

Activity 1
In small groups, pupils draw mindmaps for the word ‘Algebra’. Encourage them to group or link topics.

Activity 2
Collect the answers on the main board. Any concepts which are not specifically algebra can be categorised as foundation skills eg understand calculating with negative numbers.

Activity 3
Split the diagram into parts:
Stones: foundation skills which are essential for algebraic success


Branches: subdivisions of algebra
Leaves: specific topics or objectives

Fruit: examples

Activity 4
Assign the different stones, branches, leaves and fruit to pupils to complete.

Activity 5
Assemble your tree. I added an owl and a disembodied voice asking ‘which careers need algebra?’. My branch labels were quickly covered by leaves, so I substituted extra leaves with these labels instead.


This could work for any topic in any subject. Imagine how good a tree lined corridor would look – a new tree for every area of study.

I moved around the room chatting to pupils as they worked and got a good idea for where I need to start the next lesson. The pupils now have a visual representation of how algebraic concepts link and overlap. In hindsight, I’d probably make the leaves and fruit smaller so that links are clearer.

Show me your learning trees on twitter and I’ll share them on here. @Ms_KMP