Mrs Humanities

teacher . blogger . friend


Developing Independent Learners – Help Yourself Display and Resource Station

DIRThelp yourself resource stationThis year I’m striving to make my learners more independent. Last year many were making excellent efforts and this year I want to push this even further.

I’ll be doing this in 3 ways

  1. Tabletop resources
  2. A ‘Help Yourself’ resource station
  3. Personal Interest Projects

In this post I’m going to share my ‘Help Yourself’ resource station.

The idea behind it is that learners use the resources to help themselves to learn and progress.

I’ve created two areas, one for key stage 4 and the other for key stage 3.

The first, the KS4 area, consists of a noticeboard for GCSE Geography students.

This board contains past papers, exam questions and information sheets for Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the course for learners to access freely. Then there are topic specific help sheets for the current area of study in the ‘Current Topic’ resource holder. Learners have already been directed to these when they were unsure of how to draw the diagrams to demonstrate river erosion processes and will be encouraged to continue to do so.

I’m slowly training them that this is where they go in the first instance if they need help, they then ask another student and if they are still unsure they can ask me; 2 lessons in and so far this seems to be working effectively. Hope it continues.

The display also includes a notice board for important announcements so that they’ve no excuse to forget important information such as exam dates or deadlines; an outline of what should be covered from their work booklets each lesson from now until their GCSE exams as well as a sheet that outlines all the places they can get help if they find themselves stuck. GCSE display

My final addition to the board is a progress to target reward board. Next week I will ask each student to give themselves a personal target grade influenced by their end of year target, each time they achieve that grade in an assessment or exam question they can date the reward chart. After 3 successes they receive a reward, each reward is of greater value than the last. It’s a male heavy GCSE class so I hope a little competition might be of encouragement to them. GCSE reward

The second, the KS3 area, consists of a resource station. In the resource station there are a variety of resources to support my learners. This includes key word sheets, literacy mats, topic mats, reference books, sentence starters, scaffolding support sheets, DIRT and Curriculum Link sheets as well as textbooks for student reference.

I’ve made a variety of resources over the last 3 years which end up stuffed in a cupboard, folder or filing cabinet after a couple of uses, despite all of them being designed  to support learners. The resource station gives learners access to these support devices when they need them.

help yourself resource station

I just need to add labels to each shelf to identify and to give a brief description of the resources available so learner’s can make decisions on which one’s would be of use to them.

Once complete I will share the resources that make up my resource station.

How do you encourage independence?

Mrs Humanities



D.I.R.T Display

One approach to marking that my school is keen on is the provision of constructive feedback and Directed Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT).

I’ve always marked in detail, but in my previous school a large number of students would fail to read it and act upon it; Therefore it often felt like a waste of my time spending 3-4 hours marking a set of 30-36 books a night for it not to be read.

I was pleased to find that my new school was keen to use DIRT as a means of engaging learners in their progress and demonstrating their achievements over time. Since I’m planning the Schemes of Work from scratch it means I can ensure there is time within them to carry out DIRT within lessons.

This is how it works in the Humanities Department…

Assessments take place in the 2-3 weeks before the end of term due to data submission. This usually gives us time for one DIRT session before assessments. Usually pupils respond to feedback in their books, set personal targets and consider what skills they need to focus on for the rest of the term based upon the progress displayed on their level ladders. Time well spent however it is the week after assessments when DIRT really comes into play within my department.

During this week pupils spend almost an entire lesson self-assessing, peer assessing and responding to feedback surrounding an individual piece of work from the term, whether it be the assessment they completed or classwork from a previous point. They look at how to improve work and do it.

It is becoming evident that after 2 terms of this they are now applying their skills in the rest of the Humanities lessons. Considering what they need to do to improve and how they can progress, the level ladders are no longer a sheet on the front of their books telling them what skills and knowledge they need to meet their target level this term. They are referring to them in lessons, asking what they need to do to improve their work and considering where they are on the ladder.

It’s pleasing to see, particularly with one of the hardest year 8 class. Getting them involved in DIRT has been a struggle, but we are getting there. At the end of last term we spent an entire lesson looking at peer assessing a piece of work from another group. They boxed text that met success criteria, they highlighted key words and then gave kind, specific and helpful feedback. This helped them to work out what they need to do to get out of the level 3-4 brackets and in to level 5. I hope they will apply it to their work this term.

D.I.R.T Sheets

After the previous two terms I felt that I needed something to do two things:-

Firstly I wanted pupil’s responses and improvements to be more than a line or two.
Secondly I wanted something to make the improvements pupils made to their work stand out.

…so I created and introduced these D.I.R.T sheets. 

DIRT SheetsDIRT sheet

I have to say I’ve been flabbergasted at the response from students and staff. They have made such a difference to the effort put into improving classwork during D.I.R.T during term 3.  A few misinterpreted the instructions and literally wrote what they needed to do to improve rather than doing it, but we can work on that.

Whilst after seeing my Levelling Up strategy my during a work scrutiny, my line manager asked me to share my D.I.R.T sheets and Level Up idea with staff. They’ve been very complimentary of it and I’ve even witnessed a number of teachers using it in their classrooms. It’s weird to see but great because as a school we have a consistent approach.

Levelling Up

I came up with the idea of “Levelling Up” over Christmas. Prior to that I had been writing questions in pupils books that would encourage them to work at their expected level for the current Progress Point if they weren’t doing so. I found however that pupils were not answering these questions in full sentences or to the best of their ability. So I decided to start using “Levelling Up”.

Last term in order to do this I looked at the level ladders and printed off a question or task that would help students meet their expected target grades. Based upon the work in their book I decided on an appropriate Level Up task and glued it in. Those that had one of these tasks or questions in their book had to work on it during the mid-term D.I.R.T session.

If pupils were meeting or exceeding their expected progress point grade then they had a choice of tasks such as improving their spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) in a piece of work, generally just improving an answer they’ve written or they could choose a piece of criteria from their level ladder to level up further.

level up

D.I.R.T Display

I created a D.I.R.T display with two things in mind,

One – I want to show off excellent examples of the pupil’s work to demonstrate to the rest what I am looking for from self-assessment, peer-assessment and D.I.R.T.
Two – We are expecting the dreaded Ofsted any time soon, so I wanted to make it explicit to anyone that walks into the room that pupils respond and improve based upon feedback in my classroom. You know, just in case.

DIRT wall display peer assessment display

I created these pieces for display over the half term and have used them in a number of PowerPoints and resources I’ve created for next term. Once I am comfortable that the pupils understand their meanings and purpose within a lesson I’ll share them with other members of staff.

DIRTlevel upland based WWWEBI

Do you have D.I.R.T display? Would love to see it.

Hope this is of inspiration.

Mrs Humanities

plenary display board


The Interactive Plenary Board

Plenary BoardAfter 3 weeks of working on it here and there since the beginning of term, the Interactive Plenary Board is finally complete.

I’m really pleased with the results plus the kids are enjoying it so far.

It built up slowly, going from this…
plenary display

to this…
finished extend assess reflect - plenary display board

I now have peer assessment guidance and have identified what WWW and EBI stands for as no matter how many times we do it somebody ALWAYS has to ask what it means. I’ve also printed off smaller versions of the tickets with WWW and EBI guidance on the back to support learners in writing appropriate feedback.

So far I’ve only really been able to use it with year 8 since year 7 are currently working on their Dangerous World project; they’ve been completing Exit Tickets each lesson to demonstrate their understanding so far.

Year 8 however are engaging with the activities and particularly like the social media based ‘Assess’ activities. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing however!

Since I only see my classes twice a week so far reminding them of the new procedures when they finish the main part of the lesson has been important. Encouraging them to choose a suitable task for the time left e.g if they’ve 10 minutes to go they should choose an ‘Extend’ task; whereas if they have 5 minutes they should pick an ‘Assess’ task or roll a plenary to decide on the plenary task. The ‘Reflect’ tasks I feel need more direction, so I’ll be the one to decide when they do these, once they have practised them a number of times they should hopefully be able to recognise how long they need and choose accordingly.

Under the roll a plenary board, there is a folder with additional activities such as key word and definition match up games and top trumps. These are for pupils to practice what they are learning, most of which have been created by the kids as part of their homework and sometimes classwork.

You can find out more about where some of the resources came from here and here.

Thanks for reading.

Mrs Humanities


Update – Interactive Plenary Display

UPDATE 2 – Almost finished the interactive plenary display; KS3 have started using it and have really engaged with the choice available. They love it, particularly the social media options. Phew.

Almost there

How it works  – Once a pupil finishes their work and have completed any S&C tasks or available extensions they visit the board. There are a variety of choices for their next step. They can simple choose a task from the extend, assess or reflect choices or roll the dice to provide them with a plenary activity. So far pupils have only used the assess option or  the Roll a Plenary board.

Just need to print a A3 version of my peer assessment guidance and signs for WWW and EBI as depsite using it several times a term they still ask the dreaded question “what does WWW and EBI mean?” like seriously you do not remember?

UPDATE 1 – Today I finally managed to find the time to make a start on the interactive plenary display. You can read more about the idea here. I’ve decided to use an Extend, Assess and Reflect set up for the plenary display along with a roll a plenary board.

So far I’ve pinned plastic wallets to the display board like in the photo below, guess you could describe it as step like. Plenary display

I didn’t quite have the time today to sort and finish the display but under each heading there will be activities to extend students in their work and understanding, assess what they learnt and how they are progressing  and finally activities that encourage pupils to reflect on their learning journey.  In the wallet underneath the roll a plenary board will be a variety of top trumps created by my pupils to play with if there is time.

In the folders are a wide variety of plenary activities. Whilst I created a number of the print outs I also found and used these amazing resource from @misstait_85. How great are they?

Finally In the top right hand corner I will be adding a section on self and peer assessment to encourage positive and specific feedback from such assessment. Often it’s one or the other, they will get it by the end of the year I promise.

I can’t wait to start using this in class, had a little taster today when some pupils used the roll a plenary board and it actually engaged a usually rather disengaged student. Winner! Just hope it continues.

I will share the final results in due course until then have a good week.

Mrs Humanities


Creating Displays

With open evening on the horizon this week my aim is to create displays for my classroom.

1// Interactive Progress Displays

Not only do I want the pupils to know how to progress through learning ladders, I want them to be able to see their progress. Now there maybe some debate over whether or not we should share pupils progress with the rest of the class, so I will take a vote with each class on whether they want to be included. I imagine most pupils will enjoy a bit of competition, particularly the boys.  

The original idea for Progress Pegs is from

Now  I first saw  this idea of Progress Pegs from Agility – The Teaching Toolkit who shared this from PeFoulger. I liked the simple presentation of this display which allows for several classes.

Climbing the level ladder from @Mrs_Hampshire

Whilst I also like this idea of a Learning Ladder to climb I don’t feel it would be possible to clearly see each pupil from the 6 KS3 classes I teach, I will probably keep this kind of display to just the 4 GCSE classes I teach using GCSE grades instead.


2// Learning Ladders

Now previously my learning ladders were much smaller, it was simply  6 sheets with the basic  criteria for each level. However my current school requires more detail on what pupils need to be able to do to reach each level. In Humanities I have found this difficult, as sometimes it’s not what they know but how they apply it, describe it, explain it, evaluate it… For example I’d still expect a level 3 to explain something, but the explanation will not be as coherent as a level 4 answer or as in depth as a level 6.

Levels display

Since my school have decided not to change from levels just yet I am sticking with typical level ladders. This is what I have created so far. Since I teach Humanities trying to cover aspects of both Geography and History Assessment Objectives was troublesome but I managed to break it down into 3 Geography based and 3 History based with an additional 2 in relation to Skills and Enquiry and Organisation and Communication.

I plan to get the pupils to refer to this on a regular basis to set their own targets for improvement.

3// Humanities in the News

My final and favourite display will be my Humanities in the News display. I have handed this over to a number of keen pupils to take the reigns and decide what they determine as Humanities in the News. The only part of this I will be deciding is the lovely cloud scene backing paper. The rest is up to them. They were set a mission to find news stories and articles last week to start the display off and they will be left to up-date it on a regular basis. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up. Once it’s up and running I will take a snapshot of it.


Do you have any other ideas to help me on my displays quest?

I look forward to your suggestions

Mrs Humanities