Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job

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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 strategies for developing independent learners

mrs humanities shares

Are we doing too much for our learners? This question has plagued me a lot recently.

I’ve seen hundreds of fabulous resources that take the hard work out of learning for our students. That remove the responsibility from students to teacher. That take the independence from the learning process. That make them dependent on us, their teachers.

Now I’m sure many people will argue with me that it’s a result of increased scrutiny; the unrealistic performance management targets; the use of target grades etc. Which are all completely valid arguments and I agree, but it still scares me that so many teachers are doing so much for their students. Things that take away their students responsibility and independence in the learning process.

Things like case study guides with all of the content students need, completed knowledge organisers, again with all of the content students need. Completed exam questions, so students can learn to replicate. Revision booklets again with all of the content. It all worries me.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I facilitate learning, that my aim as a teacher is to make my students as independent as possible in my classroom and in their learning. That I want my students to leave school being able to learn for themselves; to be able to critically analyse and evaluate; to design and create; to research effectively; to be responsible for their own learning; to want to continue learning after compulsory education.

I’ve created numerous posts on developing independent learners such as these

Developing Independent Learners – Help Yourself Display and Resource Station

Developing Independent Learners – Seating Plans

Developing Independent Learners – Attempts at Flipped Learning

Developing Independent Learners

Developing Independent Learners – Independent Learning Projects

Developing Independence in the Humanities Classroom

Although my practices have evolved and changed over the last 4-5 years, developing independent learners is still at the core of my teaching.

Some ways I approach ‘developing independence’ are as follows

1 // ‘Help Yourself’ stations

I’m a big believer that students should learn to take responsibility for their progress and learning. That we should facilitate them in any way we can to help and support them but at the end of the day, we don’t sit their exams. That’s down to them.

Here’s some further reading from Tom Rogers if you’re interested

Anyway, whilst I do differentiate for students individual needs I also believe that students need to be able to identify when they need support and should develop the ability to be able to work out for themselves what that support looks like.

Therefore in my classrooms for the last 4 years, there have been a ‘help yourself’ areas or stations. This is an area where students can find resources that can support them in a variety of ways. For instance students can find sentence starter mats to help get them started with a variety of extended writing tasks, topic platemats/knowledge organisers that provide the key content of topics (see below for more details), blank maps, atlases, peer and self assessment sheets, note taking templates, timeline sheets and the list goes on. All of which students can help themselves to in order to help them with the tasks they are undertaking.

Initially I will direct students to particular support and overtime encourage them to help themselves to the resource they feel appropriate. Usually as students start to recognise their areas of ‘weakness’ they can independently select the appropriate support strategy.

Read more on ‘Help Yourself’ stations in my original post here.

2 // Project Breakdown

I start year 7 with a homework project that is broken up into smaller chunks, each with their own deadline. We cover map and atlas skills to ensure all students embark on the rest of their geographical learning with the basic skills required.

Student’s therefore complete a project as homework over the course of the first term on a European country of their choice. Each chunk of the project fits with the work covered in class allowing the students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they developed in the lesson.

The breaking down of the project into chunks develops students time management skills and teaches them to break down a project over time to ensure they do not complete other projects just before the deadline.

Over time these breakdowns are removed so students can independently carry out projects without the haste of

3 // Blank or Basic Knowledge Organisers (AKA Placemats, Knowledge Mats etc.)

I’ve seen knowledge organisers with the entire topic on one sheet. All the content a student needs to know. It makes me question why the student needs to listen, to participate in the lesson, to do the tasks set by their teacher. If they have everything they need to know in front of them, surely it encourages students to ‘switch off’. Some may argue that students have KOs in order to then apply the knowledge, but I fear this reduces their ability to retrieve information.

I prefer to use KOs or placemats as they were originally intruduced to me to provide a basic outline of the content students generally struggle with.

For Geography for instance I often find students confuse the 3 tectonic plate boundaries and find it hard to visualise convection currents.


In History it tended to be the sequence of events, names and places.

placemat History.png

Therefore I created a basic visual summary for my students to collect if they so desired. These mats would consist again of the very basics to support my learners.

I also encourage students to create their own KOs at KS5 and hope to implement this into KS4 in due course. In order for my KS5 students to do this I’ve created KO sheets with blank boxes, except for a question or statement in which they respond to in order to collate the knowledge they need to demonstrate thus retrieving and revising the content for use later on.

KO ks5

KO ks5 2

4 // Revision

I refuse to give students the content they need to know in the form of a booklet or similar in order to revise from. Sorry, but they should get that from lessons, why else bother going to lessons if it’s not to learn the content?!

Instead for I provide a variety of resources to support my students.

To start with for each topic students receive an AfL grids with an outline of the topic content. At the start of the topic students self-assess their prior knowledge and then at the end their understanding of the topic in order to highlight the areas for future revision.

Then in regards to revision of the content I’ve created how to revise guides to help students to develop an ongoing approach to revision as well as teaching retrieval strategies and exam technique in class.

In addition I’ve created case study templates for students to complete to summarise the case studies and examples explored. To support revision these have been combined into a case study and exam question booklet so students can also apply the content to exam style questions.

gcse revision

All these strategies require my students to do the work and be responsible for their own learning and progress. I’ve provided the resources, taught the content and given them the support they need to succeed but it’s up to them to actually learn what they need to know for the exam.

5 // Inquiry/Enquiry based learning

At my school we have a real ethos for developing inquirers. I love that we do loads of inquiry based learning across the school. Students get to question, research and develop their curiosity throughout.

In KS3, at the start of each unit, my students write down questions. These questions influence my planning, the resources I use and the lesson objectives over the course of the topic. Students are the driving force of the lesson content. I teach the same year group the same topic to reach the same outcomes but the approach varies dependent on the class questions.

Now that I’m settled in my ‘new’ school for a full year, I’ve seen the progression students make through this approach. Enquiry truly develops their curiosity and interest; they constantly challenge me to further my subject knowledge and keep it up to date as their questions get us exploring aspects I’ve missed in the past or thought not relevant when planning schemes of work.

Through their questioning comes exploration, analysis and evaluation; deepening their understanding and I love it.

How do you develop independence in your learners? Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Mrs Humanities

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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 note taking strategies

mrs humanities shares

One of my aims for the coming September is to start the school year with my sixth form students looking at different approaches to note taking.

At present my common experience is that students write down the majority of the information on the board whilst adding a few additional notes from our verbal discussion. Not that there is anything wrong with this but I feel confident I can help them to create better notes and use class time more effectively.

Therefore I’ve been doing some research in note taking strategies and thought I’d share a few with you. All of these I will be exploring with my year 12 students in September before helping them to choose a suitable approach.

1 // Cornell method

The page is split into 3 sections, prompts, notes and summary.


Prompts – key terminology from the lesson, questions, dates, names etc. that can be reviewed at a later date

Notes – main notes are taken here

Summary – students review the notes and resources after the lesson and summarise. Key points are highlighted ready for revision.

cornell example

2 // Outline method

With this method, students indent their notes with each step becoming more specific. They can split the page into three columns like so.


General information – brief, concise notes on the general content of the lesson

Specifics – concise notes on the specifics of the lesson

Details and examples – facts, stats and specifics to be included here along with any examples or comparisons given

The end product may look something like this…

indent example

or this…

indent 2.png

3 // Highlight and annotate

Before the lesson students will print off the PowerPoint slides or download the PowerPoint to their personal device if they use one. Then quite simply, rather than trying to copy down notes from the board and resources that are provided in advance, students simply listen and annotate them. All too often I find students copying down information that I’ve already provided them with online in advance of the lesson, therefore more time can be spent of using lesson time to deepen their knowledge and understanding through higher thinking tasks, debate and discussion.


4 // Flow based method

The flow based method requires students to write down the main ideas rather than paragraphs and sentences, similar to mind-mapping. Once initial notes are written down, students connect ideas, concepts and specifics by drawing connecting arrows to associated content, key terms and diagrams. This method forces students to consider the inter-connectivity of what they are learning and bring in knowledge from outside the lesson. This form of note-taking is very personal and demonstrates the students flow of thinking.

flow example

This method can easily be turned into a visual format as well.

5 // During-After method

The during-after method involves students splitting the page into two columns like so.


During – students take notes on the content.

After – students write questions either during or after the lesson to test their understanding of the content after the lesson.

DA example

Final Thoughts

For me the key point of these methods will be that students review their notes after the lesson in some way; whether it be summarising, self-testing or simply reviewing their notes. It’s vital that students use and return to their notes regularly.

Hope you’ve grabbed an idea or two. Feel free to provide further suggestions in the comments.


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Classroom Ideas – Information Collectors

I love using resources with students that encourage them to discover information for themselves. I regularly use information collectors with my classes right from from KS3 to KS5.

They are a simple concept, an A4 sheet laid out so that students can collect relevant information from the sources of information provided. Students are required to read the information, watch videos or carry out their own research to find the required knowledge.

Here are some examples…

info collector 3 gorges damks5china

Once students have had access to the resources for a desired time I get them to feedback by handing out whiteboard pens and having the students add information to a copy projected onto the whiteboard.

As students add to the whole class version we discuss additions and students add to their personal copies. These are then used in the creation of another piece of work such as an extended piece of writing, a project or an essay.

I encourage my older year groups to take a photo of the board and either print it out or use it to add detail to their notes.

Hope this gives you some inspiration.

Mrs Humanities


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Resource – IBDP Geography Self-Assessment Sheets

As part of encouraging learners to take responsibility for their learning, my students are encouraged to make use of self-assessment sheets. The idea behind these sheets comes from my Before and After topic review wheels, which involves students reflecting on their prior knowledge before undertaking the topic and the assessment of their gained knowledge at the end of the topic.

Students are instructed to print a copy of the grid at the start of the topic and to self-assess their prior knowledge in the before column. The content of the grids is directly lifted from the IBDP 2019 Geography Specification, but could easily be amended to suit any exam specification whether it be at KS4 or 5.


As students work complete the topic, they are given exam style questions from past papers and ones we have written ourselves. After reading their feedback they complete the progress table, set themselves a target and then put the date or page number of the location with evidence that they have met their target and acted on feedback.

In addition students are given a case study and example summary sheet, in order to help students to bring together their understanding of the case studies and examples studied. Students simply have to summarise the key points in their table. Effective for instilling content. summary sheet

Now I do check the self-assessment sheets are used however the summary sheets are a tool to support students in their studies. If they choose not to use it, that is up to them but the support is given.

If you teach IBDP Geography you can find the resources here, to download a blank template for editing to suit other exam specifications click here.

How do you encourage students to reflect on their learning?

Mrs Humanities

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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 Whole Class Feedback Examples

mrs humanities shares

The time was September 2016, I shared a version of a Marking Crib Sheet from @MrThorntonTeach at Pedagoo Hampshire 2016 and since then I’ve been seeing whole class feedback every where. It even forms part of my Marking and Feedback Toolkit.

Now I’d say it’s nothing new, teachers and educators from across the world have been doing it for years. Marking work, then telling students what they could have done to make it better, where they went wrong, what misconceptions came up etc.etc. it just didn’t have an ‘official’ name. I remember RAG rating students work on a separate piece of paper during my NQT year, I’d have 3 columns and i’d write their initials under the relevant column so I knew who I needed to invest time in during the next lesson or would need to check their books at the end of the lesson to see how they’d done. Nowadays people are using crib sheets, whole class feedback, book look records or whatever other name they been given to record and SHARE such information with students.

Here are some examples I’ve seen that maybe of inspiration to you.

1 //  Mr Thornton Teach

The original example I first shared at Pedagoo Hampshire 2016. When I told people how book looks had cut down my marking time and gave me more of a work/life balance it was like a revelation for many. Pleased to see Greg’s post has gone far and wide influencing educators across the country.

2 // @TGEngTandL

I really liked how this example had an exemplar of good practice included along side the feedback to help students to develop their own work. A useful ad developmental strategy.

3 // @Greg_Parekh 

This one I feel is good for younger students or when you are first developing the strategy with students in the sense that it directs students towards the comments and questions that apply to them; Scaffolding them in the initial stages of identifying relevant feedback and how they can improve. I’ve done this through simple codes in their books before which relate to the next steps comment on the sheet. Once students become better at identifying what is relevant to them, I take the codes or direction way.

4 // @matthewmoor3 

This example works alongside a marking code system and has been used to mark an assessed piece of work. Matthew used the codes on the assessed work to identify to students what they needed to do to improve in order to provide students with precise targets whilst the ‘warm, hot and super scorching’ tasks give students choice in how to act on feedback.

5 // @ScienceLP

The simple and effective style. Easy for everyday use to check progress and understanding before using to plan subsequent lessons. Easy.

Now the key point to remember with whole class feedback is that the aim is too reduce the time spent marking but ensuring that students receive high quality feedback that enables them to progress. Scaffolding the technique is important at first but once students are confident it can be taken that away so that you encourage students to reflect and determine their own improvement actions. Again takes some support and scaffolding but eventually students can master it becoming drivers of their own progress (oh but then it’s the end of the year and the training starts all over again in September).

In addition to the provision of feedback, these sheets provide an excellent basis for planning. Sometimes I just use the book look sheets to formatively assess a class, so I know where to go next lesson. Often misconceptions influence my starter and RAG rating student understanding helps to identify where the direct support, where to scaffold or differentiate.

Hope these have inspired you to give #WholeClassFeedback a try.

Mrs Humanities