Mrs Humanities

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Developing Independent Learners – The ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station  

help yourself resource stationThrough the course of the last academic year one of my aims was to develop more independence in my learners.

I tried several approaches which I’ve documented in other posts, including seating plans, GCSE help yourself display and attempts at flipped learning.

I’ve learnt so much from the process as have my students, particularly those in year 7 and 8.

The ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station was probably the most successful approach.

What is it?

Quite simply the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station is a table and display board with resources that will support my students in their learning.

It includes a wide range of resources and templates that students can access freely to support their learning.


What’s included?

The display board contained resources for each year group on the topic they were currently studying. These could have been in the form of information sheets, activities or worksheets.

In addition students had access to DIRT sheets and a support sheet for using historical sources and later the 5 Minute Help Yourself sheet.

At times, other useful information got added to the space on the board such as project sign up sheets and reminders.

The table contained a wide variety of relevant resources that students can help themselves to in order to scaffold and support their learning.

Resources included

-Literacy mats

literacy mat
– Timelines support sheets

-Note taking laminatenote taking laminate
-Key word lists

key word lists
-Topic support mats (placemats)

topic placemats

-Humanities Skills Mats such as the Using Sources Support Mat

skills mats.png

-Self and peer assessment sheets

self and peer assessment

-Templates and blank maps for classwork


Along side the resources there were whiteboard pens and equipment available for students to access when required.

How is it used?

Once set up the resource station runs itself, you will need to monitor and replenish now and then but on the whole it’s pretty simple.

Students  collect the resources they need based on their own decisions or your guidance. At first it took some training but by the end of the year students were happily helping themselves to the required resources.

For example I had some students that needed spelling support, they’d help themselves at the start of the lesson to the key word list and their literacy marking would focus on the correct spelling of those key words. If they spelt the word incorrectly, they would use the key word list to find the correct spelling and write it out 3 times and within a sentence. at first it took some reminding but eventually they become independent in the approach (with fewer spelling mistakes).

Often main activities in my lesson have an opportunity for choice in presentation and format, the templates and blank maps work effectively for this allowing students to make their own decisions in how they present their work.


Personally I feel it’s enabled many of my students to become more independent in their learning, in particular the high and middle ability. I felt low ability students needed more encouragement to use the resources available to them but eventually some of them were accessing them without prompt.

If I were to change anything I’d add a challenge section with generic activities that could be applied to any topic.

The Resources

I’ve uploaded a load of the resources I’ve used here. Many of them I have not made from scratch and instead have used or amended resources I’ve collected over the years. If one of them is your, please let me know and I will add credit where credit it due.

If you have any questions about the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station, just ask.

Hope you’ve been inspired.

Mrs Humanities







Developing Independent Learners – Seating Plans

This week I’ve tried out having KS3 create their own seating plan based upon their understanding of the work from the previous lesson.

I’ve split the room into 4 group tables, each with a different level of understanding identified. tables

I explained to my year 8’s that they would choose the table they were to sit on based upon their understanding of the work from the previous week.

superconfidentDescription – I have a thorough understanding of the work we covered last week and am happy to move on to the next aspect of the topic independently.

confidentDescription – I am confident in my understanding of the work we covered last week, I’m happy to move on but please check in with me during the lesson.

gettingthereDescription – I mostly understand the work from last week, but could I just spend some time going over it before I move on to this week’s work.

needhelp Description – I wasn’t in last week so I need to catch up on the work before I move on or I really didn’t understand what we covered and would like your help.

My learners decided upon where they should sit, during the lesson as their understanding developed they moved tables.

I’ll be encouraging the ‘Super Confident’ learners to support the ‘Getting there’ learners at the start of the lesson whilst I support those on the ‘Missed the lesson or Need Help’ table.

I’m trialing this approach with two classes, both year 8 whilst I also try two different approached to teaching the classes to develop independence in their learning.

Reflection Week 1 – So far so good. Most pupils were honest with their understanding of the previous lessons work, some I will direct next week to where I think they should be and they can then move up once I am confident in their understanding.

Mrs Humanities

clouds gifts

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Reward Systems

RewardsI like rewarding my students for their hard work and determination, remember the topical rewards I created for Weather and Climate?

Towards the end of last year however I received some feedback from students that got me thinking about my approach.

clouds gifts

My Approach

In my classroom reward and praise has to be earned and my number one rule is don’t ask for merits. Usually because what they’ve asked for a merit for doesn’t deserve a merit in my eyes, yes you held the door open for a member of staff – just common courtesy; yes you put your hand up and waited to answer the questions – that’s school expectations; yes you said the correct answer after 2 other pupils got it wrong – but that’s called trying. I try not to reward the ‘small’ things. In my opinion you have to earn the reward and this requires effort and determination.

My personal approach for reward is for effort and attainment together. If pupils try hard, putting their full effort and concentration into a piece of work they will be rewarded with merits because they usually meet or exceed their working towards target for that progress point. Even if they don’t quite achieve their target, but they are focused when working then they will still be rewarded for their efforts.

What I don’t reward is a lack of effort, even if they meet their target (by fluke, substantial support or detentions which is usually the case).

The feedback had me considering this however over and over again, should I give reward for attainment even if effort is not substantial?

New Approach

None the less, I’ve taken on board what they have said and will be developing a new approach for the following academic year. I’m going to reward in two ways; firstly merits for effort, secondly merits for attainment.  I’m going to build this into the Feedback Grids I use so that is it clear which merits are awarded for what aspect.

In order to do this I’ve going to give a grade for their effort and the level achieved through one’s own efforts. I’m going to make it very explicit how merits are earned with a defined system of how many will be earned for what.


DIRT feedback grid

Rewarding Effort

Each term reports are sent home to parents with the student’s current level and grades for effort and homework. I’m going to use the same grading system in class with 1 = outstanding effort whilst 4 = unsatisfactory. I’m going to start getting students to reflect upon their own effort in lessons as well, so they can begin to understand why they are achieving the effort grades they are achieving each term.


effort reward system

Rewarding Attainment

Secondly based upon feedback I’m going to reward attainment as follows

attainment rewards

I hope this will make things clearer for pupils, so they know exactly how they are rewarded.


So here’s the new Humanities Reward System. It ties in with the school reward system but has a departmental approach to it. Fingers crossed it works, if not we’ll try something else.

reward system

What’s your approach to praise and reward?

Do you have an individual approach to rewarding students or is it the same across the school?

Love to hear of other examples.

Mrs Humanities


Topical Rewards – Weather and Climate

This term year 8 studied Weather and Climate. My expectations of a number of my students were exceeded in the study of this topic, they loved it. It was a pleasure to be able to give out these topical rewards to the unexpecting achievers. There were 6 in total and I had planned to give out two clouds to each year 8 class but progress was so good in Set 2 and Set 3 that I decided to give 3 to each of these classes, they truly deserved them.


They were really easy to make, here’s how.

All you need is

  • cotton wool balls
  • googly eyes
  • super glue
  • small packaging bags
  • paper
  • a printer
  1. Start by creating the packaging, I used to create the packaging labels.
  2. I then inserted the images into word and laid them out so they could be folded after printing. cloud packaging
  3. Print the labels, cut them out and fold carefully.
  4. Next shape your cotton wool balls to look like clouds, I tried to make each one individual.
  5. Using the super glue attach the googly eyes to give the cloud some character. Allow the glue to dry.before clouds
  6. Once the clouds are ready, pop them into your plastic packaging bags, fold the label over the top of the bag and staple in place.
  7. And you’re done! Now you just need to hand them out to deserving pupils.

Do you ever give out topical rewards? I’m trying to think of some for next term, year 7 are studying Natural Hazards in our Dangerous World topic and year 8 are studying Exploration and Adventure… oooo what about mini survival kits? hrm?

Mrs Humanities