Mrs Humanities

teacher . blogger . friend


Developing Independent Learners


This term I’ve been using independent learning projects with some of my classes in year 7 & 8.

At the start of the topic I discussed with the students the success criteria for the topic and asked them how they would like to go about carrying out the scheme of work.

We discussed several ways of working on this SoW

a) a menu – where students select ‘items’ from the menu to produce over the term to produce a piece of work that meets Bronze, Silver or Gold standard.

b) personal choice – where students could make their own decisions on how to present their work

c) guided – where the teacher provides suitable learning activities to meet the success criteria

Each class voted for b – personal choice.

We then discussed whether working in groups or individually would be better. All of year 8 decided on groups of no more than 3 so they can easily learn what others have discovered.

The majority of year 7 decided to go with groups, again of no more than 3, but a few wanted to work individually as they felt they would get distracted working in groups. Very mature of them to admit so I was happy for them to work alone.

We then had a planning lesson; focusing on how we would learn what we need to learn. We discussed approaches to research, presentation and feedback.

As guidance all students have a copy of the Need to Know Questions and topics success criteria  both in the front of their books and in their planners. Here’s the year 7 version.

learning matrix yr 7


In the initial lessons we discussed the meaning of the command words e.g. describe, identify, locate, define and what these might look like at Bronze, Silver and Gold standard.


To support and direct students with their learning I’ve put resources in the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station for students to access. 20160108_162028The main purpose of these has been to support students when they just can’t quite find the answers they are looking for or need focus on what it is they need to do. I’ve a variety of resources to enable students to meet the success criteria from information sheets like this…

info sheets

…to worksheets/activities like these…

population densitypopulationfeatures.png

…all intended to help them to learn about an aspect of the topic that could then be applied to their project.

Students have been very good at using the resources to develop their understanding and then apply it to their chosen project format.


Students have set their own homework based upon their groups or individual progress. A few I’ve had to guide in the process but on the whole students have been self-motivated in and out of class.

Presentation of Work

Students opted for personal choice. This is enabled a variety of approaches to meeting the same success criteria. Some are making information booklets, others posters or PowerPoints. One group is demonstrating their learning as a blog another has created a Passport to Britain. The creative has been incredibly.

For example to meet the same objective one group have started to create a 3D relief salt dough map by interpreting a relief map from the Atlas.

relief(A work in progress, by the end of term this will have human and physical features located using cocktail sticks)

Whilst another group have traced a map of the British Isles and coloured in their relief map, they followed this by doing the same with population distribution so they could overlay and compare the two.

relief map


To check student progress throughout the lessons I have been having ‘progress’ chats with groups and/or individuals to check their understanding. During this process I tick off and highlight with them the criteria they have achieved and the criteria they need to focus on. I question them and challenge them to further progress on what they have learnt.

Having this time with students has enabled me to get to know more about how my students learn and what I can do to further support them on their journey to independence.

In addition to the chats they’ve done a few quick fire quizzes at the end of lessons and have completed exit tickets and entry tickets.

For example after the first week of lessons, students completed a simple exit ticket. I assessed their answers and those I felt hadn’t demonstrated enough progress were identified using traffic lights and answered the corresponding questions. This encouraged them to develop and level up the initial answers they’d put on the exit tickets in the previous lesson.

Then each lesson since they’ve then self-assessed their work and had discussions with me on the next steps to either reach gold or to securely meet the silver criteria outlined.

entry ticket week 2 yr 7.png


Students have either chosen the criteria they are aiming for based on their progress this year so far and their confidence in the task – most are aiming for gold. I’ve directed some to the criteria they should focus on however.

Some students I meet with at the start of the lesson and bullet point the criteria they need to focus on that lesson, some I will provide specific resources for to enable them to do so. The rest are either directed to resources or simply have mastered the independence and get one with it completely by themselves.

In year 8, groups have been awarding each other points for the following team work, leadership, creativity, out of a school work, self/peer assessment and personal effort.  They’ve been looking at the successes of others in their team and awarding one another what they see as suitable. It’s created a very collaborative environment with the icing on the cake being their explanations as to why the person deserves the points. Creates smiles all round.


Conclusion so far… 

These are my finding so far

  • Engagement across the board, students arrive eager and leave happy
  • A collaborative and supportive atmosphere is clear
  • My favourite phase has come to be… “Miss, did you know…” my year 8 students are frequently teaching me things about the adventurers and the explorers.
  • Students feel empowered in their learning
  • Opportunity to have conversations with students has enabled a greater understanding of how they learn best
  • Opportunity to share successes and excitement about the topic and their learning
  • Freedom to work at their own pace – some have spent more time on certain aspects whilst others have spent less
  • Consideration of what they already know has allowed for different starting points
  • Students are deepening what they already know
  • Marking and feedback has been on-going in lessons, students have accessed feedback immediately
  • I’ve been doing less ‘work’ in lessons and students have been doing more.

I can not wait to see the finished pieces and final projects.

Do you do anything similar? How could it be applied in your classroom.

Mrs Humanities





Just an Idea – Student Conferences

Just an idea

Now this idea popped into my head a few months ago whilst I attended the Optimus Annual Gifted and Talented Conference back in October. It’s been on my mind this week so I thought I’d share it with you.

The idea is a student-led conference, a cross-over between TED talks and a TeachMeet I guess.

An opportunity to develop a love of learning and independence.

The concept

Students choose a topic of their choice related to the curriculum in which they study, skills they use  or could even be something of interest.

Students present a 3, 5 or 7 minute presentation on their topic of choice. Short, snappy and straight the point. Snack sized learning for their peers.

Just like in a TeachMeet, get students involved and interactive by ‘tweeting’ what they are learning, the ideas they come up with and how it links to their prior learning using a private school based social network/collaboration software (perhaps something like Edmodo, need to look into other options). Something safe, that students can contribute to but won’t accessible outside of the school setting.

Afterwards students, both presenters and learners, reflect on the process.

Why I like the idea?

Firstly students sharing their knowledge on a topic of their choosing I think is a sure fire way to start developing independent learning skills – there’s research skills, communication skills,  ICT skills, critical thinking, time management, responsibility and reflection, to be developed.

It engages them in the learning process; What do subjects do I enjoy? What do I find interesting? What do I want to learn more about?

Therefore developing curiosity; when students take an aspect of the curriculum they are interested in and have the opportunity to delve deeper into it they can become masters of this aspect of their learning encouraging them to go deeper in other areas.

In can encourage problem solving and critical thinking – what do I need to include? What is relevant? Do they already know something about this or does it need an introduction? What do I want to get across? How will I do it in such a small amount of time? How do I make this understandable? Just some of the questions they will need to consider.

How would it work?

It could be done as a whole school event, by individual year groups or by KS4/5 to lower year groups, perhaps to introduce topics from GCSE and A Level courses.

It could be students presenting to their peers, their parents or both.

It could be carried out periodically throughout the year, before option evenings or simply at the end of the year as a way of celebrating the learning that has taken place.

But the main idea is to develop a love of learning and independence in the learning process.


What do you think? Could it work? Have you done anything similar?

Let me know what you think, feedback would be much appreciated.

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


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