Mrs Humanities

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Using Padlet for Notetaking

During the course I attended over my half term I decided that instead of taking notes in the traditional manner, I would use Padlet to make them interactive and memorable.

I’ve used Padlet before as a revision tool with a GCSE group and thought I could easily use it to share the earning and key information with my department and school on return this term. I was right.

Here’s a look at what I created

MYP humanities geography individuals and societies notes
I found this approach useful for the following reasons

  • could add links to course material
  • easy to sort and organise
  • simple notes could be added as discussions took place
  • could instantly look up and add links to anything I found of particular interest that I want to return to later on
  • digitally stored so easy to share
  • can be public, private or password protected

I’ve decided this is going to be my new way of note taking… well once I get an iPad or something similar that is. Can’t be lugging my laptop to school just for meetings and it would just look unprofessional if I used my mobile.

Hope it’s given you something to think about.

Mrs Humanities



Reducing the Workload – Marking and Feedback Ideas

marking and feedbackFor a while I had been considering how to reduce the workload when it came to marking and providing detailed feedback to students on their successes and areas for improvement. I’ve toyed with a variety of ideas over the past two years of teaching; some of which have been more time consuming than expected whilst others were such a flop (I won’t even share those ones).

Current Context

My usual approach to marking is that I identify spelling mistakes of topical key words throughout each piece of work. I use codes for simple things like underlining, adding titles etc. and dots to identify where punctuation and grammatical errors are within extended writing tasks.

I will add comments throughout and provide 1 to 2 questions where I would expect a response to be made during Directed Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT) as directed through school policy. However to be honest I’ve recently changed this technique as I’ve been faced with two issues. Firstly because books are marked every 4 lessons students have found it difficult to go back and answer questions or improve work from 3-4 lessons ago meaning I’ve had to explain what the task was again in order for them to improve it. Secondly I found that responses were short and lacked detail. I want DIRT to reflect improvements to work and to show progress, so towards the end of last term I decided to try a different approach – I now write several questions/comments or provide a ‘Level Up’ task, pupils then choose one piece of feedback to respond to and work on during DIRT. Sometimes in their books other times in a DIRT sheet This has encouraged a focus on a developing and truly improving work.

Marking is extremely time consuming and want to ensure it has impact on student progress, as I’m sure we all do.


Here are a few examples of my efforts to reduce marking whilst retaining effective feedback.

1 // Simple method. Before marking, I’d write a general statement with options for the skills developed in the lesson. After reading the work, I’d simply cross-out the skills that were not applicable and any of the statement that did not apply to some individuals. I’d then write in their target level and highlight the statement/s the student needed to do to progress.

skills based feedback

2 // Another relatively a simple method, but slightly more time consuming.  Before marking I would look at what we covered and write a series of comments usually linked to the learning objectives of the lesson/s. After having read the work I’d use the traffic light system to demonstrate how well they achieved the objective/s i.e. green = met fully, amber = almost there,  red = not achieved. I’d then highlight the statement on how they could improve and progress.

marking and feedback

When I used approaches 1 and 2 it was in my previous school, I’d never even heard of DIRT at that point.  As a department we’d give pupils time to read feedback but if I’m honest little was done to act upon the advice and feedback given. Once a term I would get pupils to read through their feedback and write themselves 2-3 targets on how they could improve over the rest of the term but I felt marking had little impact. The SOW were very intensive and left little time for going back to previous classwork without it impacting upon assessments – if content wasn’t covered, they would have been unable to complete assessments in full. No fault of my previous HoD, she inherited them when she was flung into the role. However this time since I have control over the schemes of work, I’ve ensured that DIRT has been incorporated throughout each term.

3// My third attempt has been more recent was mainly created to support non-specialist staff in my department. However since they both teach split groups with me as the other teacher – I have been left to do the marking.

As you can see I suggested two approaches to my non-specialists. First approach involved the teacher writing the letter and number in the pupil’s book, then during DIRT or as a starter the relevant comments were displayed on the board. Pupils then wrote down the associated comments . The other option was that the teacher simply wrote the comments themselves which was more time consuming for them, but meant pupils could immediately act upon feedback when the time was given.

When I trialled the first approach it worked to some degree, however I felt it took up valuable time when pupils could have been responding to comments and improving their work.

marking code

4 //  My final and most recent approach was inspired by this twitter post from @fiona_616. 

Some kind of marking grid feedback-esk idea had crossed my mind in the past, I’ve used similar for self or peer assessment but I felt it would be too time consuming to create for teacher feedback plus I didn’t know where to start. After see this tweet I felt inspired to give it a go and guess what it was easy. Since I was often writing the same or very similar comments, it has worked out much easier to mark and provide feedback using marking grids.

Already I’ve used them to provide feedback on a variety of pieces of work.

I started with using the feedback grid to provide group feedback for a group project and presentations. Here I highlighted two stars and then one wish.

presentation feedback

Then I used the grid to provide feedback on a levelled task. Again I used the two stars and a wish technique.

Levelled Task feedback

And more recently I used them to provide detailed feedback on end of topic assessments. Here I simply highlighted all that applied in the successes and 2-3 areas for improvement.

assessment feedback LA assessment feedback

In the last week of term 3 my students received their assessments and feedback grids. We spent an entire lesson learning how to peer assess effectively and how to take on board the feedback that was given. It proved to be a very effective lesson.

Initially students started by reading their feedback, the successes highlighted in one colour and the areas for improvement highlighted in another. I highlighted the level they achieved overall, but for some omitted the non-applicable details of the criteria. I provided kind comments for most in the general comments box and for some gave them a question or task to level up on – not needed for the majority though.

Next students passed their assessment and feedback to a friend who then read it and in green pen they made comments on the skills achieved. They then read the feedback I’ve provided and we discussed it. Most felt the feedback was relevant, phew. They then spent time providing kind, specific and helpful comments in the students book.

Finally the work was returned to the student and they created a mind map on the skills they needed to develop or what they felt they needed to do to reach their target levels. I must admit that after the lesson I was humbled and impressed by their comments to one another, not only had they been specific and helpful, they were kind and respectful taking into consideration each others needs, abilities and feelings. They were demonstrating ownership of their progress and when some questioned what the level equates to in terms of GCSE grade they showed a desire to improve.

Here’s an example of a marking grid I have on display in the window (sorry for photo quality). The green pen are the students comments on the skills achieved in this piece of work by their peer.


I’d definitely recommend using marking grids. Although it may appear like more work initially, once you fly through the sets of books it’s totally worth it.

Tomorrow my students are using them to peer assess homework. A winner if you ask me. homework feedback

Thanks for the inspiration Fiona Old.

Hope these ideas are of use.

Mrs Humanities


#Teacher5aday – Mrs Humanities Reflections and Promises

After having seen and read so many inspiring posts from other educators I felt inspired to think to about the year ahead and consider ways to achieve a sense of well-being. With workload, stress and the burdens of everyday life, teaching can take its toll and can affect us in the classroom. I love that Martyn Reah has introduced us all to the idea of #teacher5day, helping us to think about our well-being, the people we work with and that of other educators.

How will I #connect, #exercise, #notice, #learn and #volunteer in 2015?

This has certainly provoked some thought. 2014 was nothing special. No family members died this year (phew), we didn’t move house again (2 years running we’ve been in this home of ours, yay!) yet I barely saw Mr Humanities since his job meant he worked most weekends. My Dad got married, great but I had to wear a hideous pink dress, boo. However I managed to get a job in the school I wanted to teach in since my PGCE… well I guess that one was pretty pleasing. Oh wait and I took part in a TV show which screened this Autumn, that was fun. Mr Humanities got a new job last week… Okay thinking about it this year has been pretty good in comparison to previous years. It’s only when you reflect that you remember the good things.

I will be the first to admit that I get stressed, I work and work and work and then I buckle under the strain. I don’t speak up until I’m about to hand my notice in. I don’t rest and feel guilty when I give up because I’m too exhausted to do anything. I never knew I was any good at acting until I became a teacher – I’ve only cracked in the classroom once. Not my most pleasing of moments, but it made me more relatable to the year 11’s that appeared to despise me because I wasn’t “Mr whatever his name was that left”.

So here are my #teacher5day promises for 2015 to improve my well-being and teaching practice

#connect – Recently I’ve found that some friends have distanced themselves and have stopped inviting me to things because they automatically assume I’m too busy with work to do anything. I want this to change. I want to say yes more. I want to socialise more to take my mind off of work.  I’ve just joined a historical re-enactment group with Mr Humanities and I’m hoping to connect with real-life people on a social (and historical) level. Then there’s the connecting with other educators to help improve my practice in the classroom and department leadership. Considering I only qualified from my NQT year in July 2013,  I’m setting up and running a brand new department from scratch; a department which consists of me, myself and I. It gets lonely at times, no one to share ideas with, no one to delegate tasks to, no one to talk to … I look forward to employing and supporting someone in my department next September.

#exercise – my exercise won’t come in the generic form. Now that Mr Humanities has a new job, we’ll have weekends to spend together, this means we can go out on our outdoor adventures like we used to do before moving down to the South East. We can visit the mountains of North Wales (my favourite place in the world) and climb a few peaks, hike between country pubs, walk along beaches and coastlines, visit woodland, build dens and fires. If I’m outdoors I’m exercising in some form or another. I haven’t done enough of that in 2014.

#notice – I spend so much time working that I forget to notice the people around me. My friends and family. I can sit for several hours looking at the computer screen on a Sunday so engrossed in my work, repeating to myself “I’ll just finish this then I’ll….” often I even fail to notice Mr Humanities has arrived home from work. This year I plan to stop working so hard at home and notice the people I have in my life. Ask them about their day, week, month; notice and celebrate birthdays and major events in their lives; notice the positives of a working day…. and stop noticing the imperfections in my work (I’m a perfectionist).

#learn – I LOVE learning! I never stop. New techniques, new ideas, new theories, new subject knowledge. This year I need to learn more from others. I want to get out of the classroom and observe the good practice around me, visit other schools and Humanities departments; see an Outstanding Geography/History/Humanities department in action and learn from them. I’m keen to partner up with a department in another school to learn how to lead a successful (and hopefully outstanding) department; I know that outstanding teaching isn’t enough.

#volunteer – Since training to be a teacher I’ve tried to get back into conservation and environmental management but it just hasn’t worked out what with my lengthy working hours and Mr Humanities weekend work. However now that he’s got weekends off and I try to have at least one day a week off, I hope we will return to our environmental roots through volunteering. We already have a woodland coppicing weekend lined up in January, I hope there will be many more opportunities throughout the year to lend a hand.

Overall I just want to be outside more this year, the outdoors just seems to help me relax, reflect and improve.

I hope for a successful (and hopefully less stressful) 2015 for everyone.

Let’s rock this year!

Mrs Humanities