I Have Changed… For The Better!

In September last year I wrote a post entitled ‘I Used To Think.’ Read it here. I wrote about what I felt I had to do in order to be an amazing teacher…

In this short blog I want to mention how I have changed since then, but more specifically, in my teaching practice in the classroom, day to day.


I used to try to design my lessons around my tasks/activities/resources. I used to spend a great deal of time thinking of how I can make my lessons super creative, snazzy and engaging. (See my post here about Generic V Snazzy!)

PLEASE NOTE: I run a free teaching and learning website with over 275 of these types ofactivities within them! www.CheneyAgilityToolkit.Blogspot.com! I present across the country 
sharing these ideas and their uses with thousands of teachers! Therefore I am not saying there is no need for them, I am simply stating there are different times / stages of our teaching where these are needed.


I now think the other way round. I think first and foremost, what do I need to get my students to learn. I then think about what activities will stop them from doing this. I then avoid them. Naturally, the activities that can help students with their learning journey are the ones I will use. For example, some of my classes, do not do group work, or do it very rarely. Some, work in pairs, a lot. Some, not at all. I mention this phrase a lot in my school and tweets/blogs etc,

'Know Your Students, NOT Just Students.'

Meaning; do not assume all your students have a fixed method of working and learning. What you do with 9aRE4, may not work with 9bRE4 even though they are the same age, same year group and studying the same subject/topic/lesson. There are so many factors that affect the classroom context and environment. See my post here about Some Difficulties our students face!

What has changed?


I think so much more more about how I use my intentions/objectives. I have gone full circle from getting students to write them down verbatim, to re-writing them, to displaying them constantly on each slide to asking them to guess them and so on. Now, I simply use the phrase, ‘So That.’ Zoe Elder’s book Full On Learning, explains this fully!

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 09.47.49
By Zoe Elder
The way you use your intentions may work for you, the only thing I am against fully is spending time writing them down word for word, every lesson. Think about your additional needs students and how this impacts them and their learning?

Starters / Do Now Activities:

I used to be extremely creative with my use of these activities. I was of the firm belief, that they do not necessarily even have to link to what you are learning about and should be used to focus learning and engagement! I still believe this to an extent. However only the latter. I now use my starters and DNAs are recaps or retrieval practise. I use them to get students to remember what we have covered in our previous lessons. NOT just last lesson. I remind students what we have covered previously must not be forgotten and could be needed for any lesson from then onwards. This is vital to instil in our students. For too long have they thought, we have 4-7 weeks of a topic then a test and then, we forget about it!

(Click on the subheading above to be taken to some examples of effective starters or DNA activities!)

Practice what you want students to practice:

I am forever hearing teachers chant/shout/politely explain to students that they should practice! Unfortunately, I am not convinced all of our students know what they should practice. So, I make the effort to do that. I show them, do it with them and then tell them to re-do that ‘x’ task or ‘y’ task. Build in to all your lessons how what you are learning will chip, chop or chunk away at what is required form the examination!

Parental Involvement:

You can read many blogs about how to get parents involved in their children’s learning, but I am yet to find the exact method! I have developed a few methods which have stuck with me throughout my practice. For example, Parent Marking; click here for more details!

I have also used positive and negative letters pre-written, enveloped and shown to students that they are ready to send at any time!

Holding revision classes for parents to show them what their children need. Or Making A Difference Evenings and so on. Contact me if you want any more information!

I also picked up a gem from Twitter by @Miss_Wilsey who gets her students to write in a different colour pen (not blue/black), when they forget their pens and then shares their exercise books with parents to demonstration their level of organisation.

Test me on Testing:

So how do you test your students? A test based on everything you have just taught them from your unit of work? Or, a test based on everything you have taught them from the start of the year? I have been thinking very carefully about this. With additional needs students in my mind. I test using a mixture of everything I have taught since the start of the year. I remind students that a weaved item is stronger than a blocked item. I also, do not set a date or timeframe for a test. I remind students that we must be able to retrieve information and recall it at any time. I bare in mind my anxious or autistic students when doing this.

minimalist-weave-with-iris-leaves-342x342 SDC10183

Something that I spend time on doing and I have no shame in doing so, is feeding back after a test. I give students mark schemes. I bleat on and on about their importance and how to use them effectively. I get students to annotate their examination papers and mark schemes. I tell them what questions are Ao1 and Ao2. I tell them how long they should spend on the questions and what structure to use. I give them an annotated examination paper. This part of preparation is extremely important. I do not do this once. I do this after/before every test. They should feel confident about how they are going to be questioned alongside what will be questioned of them. Needless to say I provide model answers. Again annotated. Why and where the marks have come from is always explained to my students. I try to make these from previous years students, which others may know. Or use a visualiser to show excellent examples of current work.

DIRT time is vital and I have borrowed the term Gritty Editing from Andy Tharby. Where I get students to improve their work using my marking prompts. They have a set time, in silence to do this. They can not ask questions, but need to simply improve their work.

I also use previous students to create revision guides and top tip guides for current students. See here and here for some ideas!

Homeworks and Flipped Learning:

I provide an opportunity for students to prepare for their learning in the classroom before they enter. I provide textbooks and page references on a template for others who may not have the internet at home too. I link this structure to homework to ensure it helps with retrieval and weaved practice. See my classblog here.

A final note about revision… but I have written about it in detail here

So, how have you changed? Have you changed? If so, why? 


  1. I find that in the last 20 years, I too have changed, but often moved towards a tactic/practice in response to an external meme (more practical, outdoor learning, make it fun, etc.) and then moved back to something I used to do in response to what is actually effective. Now along similar lines to yourself, I think, I ask the question, ‘What are we doing this FOR?’ and have sometimes stopped very well-meaning and creative colleagues in their tracks. However, the corollary to this is that I think that in primary schools we lose something important by always having a specific, checkable outcome. I think there might be a strong case for time dedicated to just doing stuff with apparently low-level or not immediately apparent objectives. In other words, I’m arguing for a degree of randomness because pre-planned objectives are necessarily very limited and limiting.

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