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.



Mrs Humanities shares… Subject Specific Teacher Facebook Groups

mrs humanities shares

It was pointed out to me after sharing my last Mrs Humanities shares… post on History Revision Resources that many people share their resources via Facebook groups now instead of other online platforms yet I still speak to people who are completely unaware of this.

In order to inform those that might be interested I’ve collated the variety of Facebook teaching groups in this post to help you find them easily. I imagine this is not an exhaustive list so if you know of others please let me know.


General Geography

// National Geography Department

// UK Geography teachers resource sharing


Geography GCSE

// AQA GCSE Geography Teachers Group

// Edexcel Geography B (9-1) Community

// Edexcel GCSE Geography A Teacher Network

// Eduqas geography spec B

// OCR A GCSE Geography

// OCR B GCSE Geography Teachers’ Group

// WJEC and WJEC Eduqas GCSE Geography A Teacher Network

// WJEC Geography Teachers

// Edexcel iGCSE Geography

Geography A-Level and IB

// AQA A Level Geography Teachers Group

// OCR Geography AS/A Level Teachers

// Edexcel A Level Geography Teachers Group

// IB DP Geography Teachers Support Group


General History

// History Teachers and Those Interested in History Education UK

History GCSE

// Edexcel GCSE History 2016 support group

// Edexcel GCSE History

// New AQA GCSE History 2016

// WJEC/Eduqas GCSE History

// OCR GCSE History A 9-11 support group

// IGCSE History Teachers: Support Group

History A-Level and IB

// Teachers of AQA A level History

// OCR A-Level History support group

// Edexcel A Level History support group

// IBDP History Teachers: Support Group


General Religious Studies

// Save RE – The Subject Community for RE Professionals

// RE Teachers Forum

Religious Studies GCSE

// AQA GCSE Religious Studies – Christianity & Islam (Teachers only)

// AQA GCSE Religious Studies – Teachers & Resources

// Edexcel Religious Studies GCSE

// GCSE Hinduism – Religious Studies – RE/RS Teachers Group

// OCR Gcse Religious Studies First Teach 2016

Religious Studies A-Level

// AQA A-Level Religious Studies 2016

// Edexcel Religious Studies A Level (For Teachers Only)

// Eduqas A-Level Religious Studies Teachers

// OCR A Level Religious Studies H173 and H573 for professionals

// KS5 Buddhism Teachers (AS/A2 Religious Studies)


General Citizenship

// Teachers of Secondary PSHE & Citizenship

Citizenship GCSE

// Edexcel GCSE Citizenship Studies


// PSHE, Collective Worship, RE & Citizenship teacher forum

// PSHE & Careers Teachers Centre

// MYP Individuals and Societies: Teachers’ Support Group

I hope this helps you to connect, share and inspire.

Mrs Humanities


Mrs Humanities shares… 5 Epic History Revision Resources

mrs humanities shares

Following last week’s Mrs Humanities shares… post on geography revision resources I thought I’d collate some of the epic free resources being shared for history. Whilst I may no longer teach history I still like to keep in touch with subject content, good practice and pedagogical developments in the subject. Unfortunately there’s not so much in the way of free revision resources that I could find, so many of these are revision sites with useful material.

So here goes, in no particular order…

1 //  How do we revise for history? from @MrThorntonTeach

This resource is fantastic. Greg has created a history specific help sheet that offers ways to revise within the context of History. The sheet outlines methods with clear ‘how to use in history’ sections, linking to the knowledge and skills GCSE students need.

Download here

2 // Retrieval Practice Grids from @87History

A simple but effective revision strategy that can be used as starter or plenary or even as an activity during revision sessions. Quite simple to construct simply set up the structure and add a range questions that require students to retrieve and recall information from last lesson, last week and even further. A useful revision strategy to recap and revisit subject content.


More info here

3 // from @MrAllsopHistory 

This site is an incredible revision resource for students and teachers alike. When I first started teaching GCSE History, this was one of my go-to sites. So much content for such a wide range of topics across GCSE, A-Level and IB.


Access here

4 // RogersHistory Online Revision Courses from @RogersHistory 

Now I will admit I’ve not accessed the courses myself but I know Tom is a great educator and I have undertaken 2 of his Teacher CPD courses. I imagine the student revision courses are of the same high quality.


Access here

5 // from @FlippingHistory

Flipping History is a set of history lessons from Mr Guiney that can support students with their revision and teachers with their planning. Wide variety of content.


Access here


I would love to add more resources, but after an extensive search for FREE revision resources I couldn’t find much so if you can point me in the right direction PLEASE do.

Remember resource sharing = reduced workloads.

Best wishes,

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities reviews… ‘Becoming an Outstanding Geography Teacher’.

Mrs Humanities reviews...

In November 2017, I met Mark Harris at a Teach Meet. Since then, I’ve read his book ‘Becoming an Outstanding Geography Teacher’. It’s been an interesting read; much of which I agree with so it’s nice to hear others saying the same thing.

book cover.png

The book starts by exploring the concept of outstanding teaching before discussing planning for progress and lesson design.

As I read the first 3 chapters I found myself highlighting multiple parts to share with my department, to reflect upon or to note for future reference. A lot of the theory I agreed with. In particular I liked the fact that this book recognises that outstanding teachers aren’t outstanding all the time or at everything.

“It’s important to realise that not every lesson you teach will be outstanding, and there is nothing wrong with this.” Mark Harris

Chapter 2 I found of most interest; this chapter explored designing and developing a sequence of lessons. The key focus here is that we should begin with the end in mind to enable us to have a clear vision of the skills and knowledge our students must acquire to be successful. This chapter encourages the reader to reflect on the geographical skills, knowledge and understanding that set the foundations for our subject, courses and curriculum and to consider how assessment can take place.

planning for progress

Figure 2.2 above from page 9 of ‘Becoming an Outstanding Geography Teacher’ summarised effectively the process in which I went through in planning a Humanities curriculum a few years ago. If you are currently renewing or planning a geography curriculum this chapter is really useful.

Chapter 3 then explores lesson planning through a series of stages and highlights the importance of planning for learning rather than how you plan to teach. A key point I never really learnt until my third year of teaching as I designed a new curriculum from scratch. It’s important to learn this early on to maximise the impact of your teaching. New teachers will find this chapter invaluable; improving teachers will find it useful yet the more effective practitioners may find it of little use.

From chapter 4 to chapter 13, I felt this book came into its own with its wide variety of ideas and strategies to develop one’s practice. These chapters look at a variety of good practice associated with questioning, differentiation, geographical enquiry, literacy and numeracy. Later followed by strategies for teaching A level, marking for progress and homework.

Some of my favourites included…

  • the chapter on ‘Marking for Progress’ (No surprise!) and the idea of the progress wheel which pretty much a simplified version of my before and after topic reflection sheets.
  • the introduction to flipped learning and the ‘Flipped Learning sheet’ which could easily be created and adapted to one’s desired uses.
  • the chapter on ‘How to create curiosity and teach geography through enquiry’ which takes the reader through the process of creating an enquiry.

Whilst I felt a lot of it I already applied to my practice. Overall there’s plenty to influence the practice of the newbie teacher or the improving teacher; there’s a lot to be learnt from the book and plenty to inspire.

It’s a book I’ll encourage my department to read.

To grab your own copy click here.

If you’ve read it, share your thoughts.

Mrs Humanities