Category Archives for "Teaching tip"

Questioning Strategies

Question eggs

I love this questioning and review activity, is it perfect for the Spring and Easter season to bring a little fun to my classroom.

An eggs-cellent idea!

It’s about this time of year that supermarkets and pound (dollar) stores fill up with Easter goods. These little plastic eggs are a fabulous and cheap addition to your teacher-toolkit! They are great because the eggs come in 2 halves so you can put stuff inside. In my local store, you can buy a set of 12 plastic eggs like this for £1.

So as you can imagine, I have a whole load of them.

Ways to use your eggs in the classroom!

1. Question eggs!

Place a different quiz question in each egg. Pass them around and get students to answer different questions from different eggs. All you need to do is to make a list of quiz questions on one page. Print and cut them into strips. You can create enough so that everyone has a different question or you can double up and have two sets circulating at once. This is a great way to review material in a low stakes test.

2. Challenge and reward eggs

Fill some eggs with rewards and some eggs with challenges to generate a little bit of engagement in your activities.

3. New learning eggs

Break up your new learning/information and place it into several eggs. Then get students to do an egg hunt to gather all the new information. So I would create 10 slips of paper with our new learning on. You can’t fit big pieces of paper in these eggs so you have to be concise. One strategy would be to number the slips and have students make sure they’ve gathered all of them. Or you could challenge your class by telling them there are 10 pieces of new information, they have to find them all and then get them into the correct order.

Question eggs

4. Analysis eggs

If you are teaching a text, then you could place quotations or textual references in different eggs for students to analyse.

5. Writing eggs

For a writing task, you could place new vocabulary, writing techniques, different sentence structures into the eggs and students to self-select to create a success criteria or rubric for their own writing. I might choose to be a little more structured and include specific elements I want to see in writing. For example, one might say ‘simile’, another ‘metaphor’, another ‘personification’. I might also include instructions like ‘an 8-word sentence showing emotion’. Another might state ‘a character with a sinister motivation’. I have these in a huge bowl at the front and I ask the class to take 3 – 4, then they write these down as their success criteria. They can then return them and choose more.

6. Word Eggs

Introduce new vocabulary by placing sentences on slips into the eggs. The new vocabulary word could be in capital letters. Students have to work out the meaning of the new vocabulary from the context of the sentence.

As you can see there are loads of different ways that you can use these plastic eggs in your classroom,  just to add a little bit of fun and variety to your learning.

So if you see them in the shops this Spring, I would highly recommend picking while they are there!  If you would prefer buying them online, then you can find them here:

US Amazon*                                                            UK Amazon*


*These are affiliate links. This doesn’t mean you pay any more or any less for the items shown. The price stays exactly the same. It does mean that I get paid a small commission if you buy these items using my link. It’s just enough to keep me going in cups of tea.

Question eggs

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Literature Task Cards

Reading literature is a huge part of English and ELA lesson time. Whether you are reading articles, short stories, or studying Shakespeare – it can be difficult often to find tasks that have the ability to engage and challenge students. I was finding that I was setting the same boring worksheets again and again. Fill out a table. Answer these quiz questions. While these are all fine. I wanted something more for my students. That is why I decided to create a set of task cards just for my literature texts.

What are literature task cards?

Very simply these are a set of printable task cards with activities on that students can complete independently or in groups. All I had to do was print them once, in colour, and laminate them. Now I can take them out 4 – 5 times a week and use them with different classes.

Literature Task Cards

The cards I created (and there is a free download here) are based on Blooms’ Taxonomy. There was no particular reason behind this, other than that I wanted to cover a range of skills. Some people treat Blooms’ like it is a hierarchy.

I didn’t want the task cards to be like that. Each of the tasks, I created 60 in total, are designed to get my students thinking. None is better than another.

How to use them in the classroom:

  1. Give different cards to individual students after reading an excerpt or during your normal reading lesson. Each student completes their individual task. Of course, you can use this as a quick win for differentiation!
  2. Turn them face down and have students select without knowing. They could work individually or in pairs to complete the task, this way no one will be able to keep picking the same task over and over.
  3. Select one level: say comprehension or synthesis. Then just give out the tasks from this level to really focus on developing one skill set
  4. Give a pupil one card from each level (so every colour) and have them work through to work on a range of skills.
  5. Obviously, these are great for collaborative work. Assign them to pairs or groups. Then students can work collaboratively or independently at first and then share their ideas.
  6. They are also great as starters, plenaries, challenge tasks for early finishers, and homework tasks.
  7. Use them as part of a centers or stations rotation. Using the worksheet to help students keep a record of their work!

Interested in downloading 10 tasks cards to try for free? Just click here!

If you love this activity – then sign up for my weekly “Making Sense on Sunday” email where I share two teaching ideas each week that you can use in your classroom straight away!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!


3 fun teen group work activities

3 ideas for group work

Do you want your teenage students to be more active and engaged in group work? Well, this blog post has some group work gems. These activities are guaranteed to get your students moving, keep them engaged, and get them more involved in their learning!

The human photocopy

This activity is exactly what the title suggests. You turn student teams into human photocopiers! They work in groups to create an exact copy of a document you give them. This is great for teaching new material, reviewing prior learning, or consolidating your current unit.

Group work activities

Decide the topic and content

Before you begin, you will need to decide what you want your students to recreate. I usually create A3 sheets with information that I want my class to understand.

Each sheet needs to contain a mixture of images, labels, short phrases, and text written in long form. I don’t produce these to be beautiful (this is partly the point). They are often handwritten and my own drawings to make them a little more tricky to recreate!

Sometimes I give all the groups the same sheet to reproduce. Sometimes I give them different information sheets to reproduce and then teach the rest of the class (a bit of reciprocal teaching is always good)!

Here’s what comes next!

  1. Take 5 A3 sheets of information, place these facedown at the front of my room.
  2. Put students into 5 teams. Give each team member a number, say 1 – 6. Each team needs a table to work at, their own piece of A3 paper, and pens/pencils etc.
  3. The aim is for each team has to recreate their allocated original sheet. They become a literal human photocopier.
  4. I will call out ‘number 1s go!’. Each of the team members who has number 1 will come up to the front. They then have 20 seconds to look at the image before they have to turn it back over, return to their table, and recreate as much as they can remember.
  5. I will then call out ‘number 2 go!’.
  6. So each team member takes it in turn. At any given time, one team member will be at the front memorising the information sheet. While the others will be working on their copy at the table.
  7. They have to work together to recreate the whole text. All the while remembering what they have added already and what is missing.
  8. Depending on your class, you may want to let each number go twice. Or you can give the whole team 30 seconds to look at the entire image and another minute to finish it.
  9. After the activity, each group has to present the information they ‘human copied’ to the class and explain the ideas etc.

This activity is a great way to review information and ideas, as well as work on short/long memorisation of key knowledge.

Race the horses

This super-simple strategy helps you manage team or group work but with a twist! It creates a sense of competition and can help keep students on task.

It is really simple – just click to download this PowerPoint slide

Race the horses activity

Then set up your group or teamwork as you usually would. This time use the racehorses to track the progress of each team. The team that completes all the tasks first wins 20 pts (or whatever you choose).


I have made the file completely editable so you can adjust it to fit your classes. The clipart is royalty free.

Dry Erase Table Debate

If you follow me on IG (please do!) – then you have probably seen me talking about the power of letting students write on your desks!

Yep, I said write on your desks. Of course, what I should have added was – with a dry-erase pen. This group work idea takes writing on the tables to another level.  All you need to have to run this group work activity is dry erase pens for your students!

Dry erase table debate

Ok, so how does this dry erase table debate thing work?

  1. First, I tack a discussion question or debate topic to the centre of the table.
  2. Now the debate part can work in a couple of ways: sometimes I give each student their own color dry erase pen and they have to debate/discuss on their table. Each student notes down all the ideas as they go. They can build on each other’s ideas, challenging, changing noted etc. But all their discussion must be written down.
  3. OR you can give each table just one color to work with. They can debate and write notes as above – then – get up and they go to another table (with a different topic) and add their own ideas, questions, and challenges to that particular discussion.

This is a really great strategy to use for classes who get distracted during group discussions, or where some students opt-out of participating (they can scribe). I just take a photo of the debate, quick print, and they stick in their notebooks!

Did you love these 3 group work ideas? I share teaching tips with my teacher-friends every Sunday via email. My “Making Sense on Sunday” email goes out each Sunday morning and it contains one classroom activity (like the ones above) and one activity to use with any reading or literature text. If you would like to hear my teaching tips first, then sign up below!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

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3 group work activities

Zap recap activity

This recap/revision game is perfect for any GCSE subject and is a fun and engaging way to interest your students in their revision. It does require a little bit of preparation. But it is definitely worth it! Once you have it ready to go, it’s done for future use.

Here, I have shared my Valentine’s edition of the game. But it would be super easy to make seasonal – you could do coins for St Patrick’s Day, eggs for Easter, flowers for the summer, apples and pumpkins in the autumn, or gravestones at Halloween. Whatever shapes you like for the season! Of course, you can also use generic shapes: stars, clouds, fish – you choose!

Here is the basic idea: the aim of the game is for your team to score as many points as possible.


  1. Cut a variety of shapes out of coloured paper. For my Valentine’s edition, I will do small, medium, and large sized hearts.
  2. Label each one with different scores: 1pt, 5pts, 10pts, 20pts, and ZAP. These need to be big enough for students to see them – they are going to want to aim for the high scoring shapes!
  3. Pin the shapes on the wall in a group, so it isn’t too easy to hit a specific one.
  4. Finally plan your 1pt, 5pt, 10pt, and 20pt questions. Ready to ask students as part of the game.


Playing the game:

  1. Divide the class into 2 teams (more if necessary).
  2. Give each team has their own ball (I use a soft tennis ball – but a ball of old paper would work).
  3. Each team member takes it in turn to hit the wall with their ball. If they hit one of the shapes with a point score on it. Then ask them the relevant question. If they get it right, they gain the points. But if they miss all the shapes, then the next team goes. Also if they hit a ZAP, they lose all the points they’ve gained so far.
  4. Go through each team member, asking questions, and scoring points. You can decide the winner a number of ways: the first to 50 or 100 wins, or the team with the highest score after every team member has had a go.
  5. I tend to keep a running tally on my whiteboard.

This is a great fun activity for a tired Friday afternoon class and for reviewing key knowledge and information. Once you have made the shapes once, get them laminated and you can use them again and again.

GCSE revision game

23rd February 2019

Word Grid Challenge

The word grid challenge

Have you heard of the word grid challenge? This activity can be used in any subject area. It would make a great lesson starter, review task, or even as a homework activity. The best thing about this activity: it is super easy to create. In fact, I now have a bunch of word grids made up and ready to go in my classroom.

So what exactly is a word grid?

Simple, a word grid is, well exactly as it sounds, a grid with words in. I create a grid or table of 3 x 3 or 4 x 4 boxes. Inside each box, I place a different word. The challenge for my students is to connect each word on the grid to the topic we are currently studying. I make sure there is plenty of space around the grid for them to write notes.

How do I choose the words for each grid?

Real talk time: I have a bunch of these made up and ready to use in my classroom. I make them so there are 2 per page. I tend to have a few leftovers. So sometimes I will just grab a set – with no prior thought (!) and ask my students to link the words to whatever text we are studying.

And you know what?! They always do it. They prove to me that they are capable of creative, out of the box thinking.

This week, the words I used with 3 different classes were:

  • money;
  • hope;
  • celebration;
  • questions;
  • sound;
  • fear;
  • plans;
  • shape;
  • and freedom.

I plucked these out of the air with no particular purpose in mind. My students were able to link them to a Shakespeare play, modern poetry, and a short non-fiction text on survival. This same set of words.

Words with purpose

Generally, I do write these grids with specific words in mind. Perhaps I have taught my class the word ‘Machiavellian’ and I want to give them an opportunity to circle back round to the keyword from a new angle.  Another strategy is to take key terms from a prior topic and see if they can apply them to this new topic. So for example, when reading A Christmas Carol, I might have looked at the idea of ’empathy’. I would add empathy to the word grid for a new topic on a different novel or text.

How do I use these grids in my classroom?

It’s super simple! Create the word grid: I simply make 2 tables in a Word document – ensuring there is enough room for pupils to write their ideas around the outside. Then:

  1. Print and copy
  2. Give to each student (or pair)
  3. Ask them to link all of these words in some way to the topic we are covering
  4. Feedback with ideas

Another strategy is to use your ‘leftover’ grids and give different grids to different students. That way you have more words being covered and more discussion about your topic.

The word grid challenge


If you love these teaching ideas, then you can sign up to my teaching tips email! Each Sunday you will receive “Making Sense on Sunday” and email stuff full of teaching ideas! Just sign up below!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!

Hidden Content


Blackout Writing

Examples of blackout writing

Blackout Writing (with a twist)

If you teach English or ELA, then you have probably heard of blackout poetry and blackout art. You might have even used this activity with your classes. Here is my take on blackout art -with a twist! You can use it with any literature text you are studying.

I wanted to find something new to do with those book-page scraps knocking about my classroom. So I decided to adjust the blackout poetry concept to fit studying literature. This activity is designed to be used after having read a little way into the novel or play because students will need to have a few things to say about the events, characters, or ideas.

Here’s how I run it:

  1. Allocate each student with a different event, theme, character, setting, or relationship in your novel or play. The first time you use this activity you could do this in pairs.
  2. Handout book pages to each student. It honestly doesn’t matter what book they end up with a page from.
  3. Ask them to use the words on the page to create ideas about the topic they have been given.
  4. Students have to look at the words on their page and carefully link them together to create cohesive statements or ideas about the text. These can be just 2-3 words long or much longer depending on their preference.
  5. Once they have identified the words they draw a square around the words so they are still readable. Then colour the rest of the page in.
  6. If students are feeling confident, they can draw an image on the page as well. It can be with an image to represent the character, theme, etc. It can be colourful or not depending on their topic!


Examples of blackout writing


If you are looking for other fun and engaging activities to use in your ELA classroom, why not check out these blog posts:

The Perfect Review Game

One Amazing Debate Idea

Also, each week I send an email out to my teacher-friends, in this message, I include one classroom activity (like the perfect review game) and one literature activity (like this blackout writing activity). They are always fun, engaging, and designed to create brilliant learning moments for your students. If you would like to receive this weekly email (I send it on a Sunday morning – ready to help stave off those Sunday scaries), then all you need to do is fill out the email sign up below!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!

Hidden Content

The power of dual coding

Dual coding

This activity is great to use with any class and almost any topic area. It makes sense, doesn’t it? To mix words and visuals to aid memory. Our students now need to memorize and to retrieve information for testing than ever before. Dual coding is one way to help students remember.

What is dual coding?

Dual coding is combining 2 ways that the mind remembers things – most commonly in the classroom – this is words and visuals.

Here you can see the beginning of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy “to be or not to be”. The challenge for students was to come up with as many visuals to replace the words in the speech as possible. They could be as creative as they liked – as long as they could read the whole speech based on what they produced. You can see the word “whether” is replaced by the sun and cloud and the word “suffer” is replaced by a sofa! The aural closeness of these words is the memory trigger.

Dual coding


This activity isn’t a quick crafty task or something for a Friday afternoon. It took my students a good hour to think through each word in the speech and then work out how to visualize it. This close attention to the text is just another memorization technique. The very work of recreating it, helps us remember it.

I first did this activity with a group of students 5 years ago. They are now in their final year of education and English hasn’t been compulsory for the last 2 years. But when I see these kids around the school – they still love to show off for me how much of this soliloquy they can remember. So they have been through 4 full school years since they learnt this speech and they can still remember it. Dual coding works!

Here are some ways you can use dual-coding in your classroom:

  1. At the beginning of the year when you agree your classroom rules and procedures with students, use dual-coding to help students remember the rules. Even just a small card with one image on it can be an excellent memory trigger. Have your students create those visuals for you.
  2. Use dual coding as one of your stations or center activities, to review everything learnt in a particular lesson or unit.
  3. Ask students to dual code some knowledge or information at one particular center or station, then have other groups translate the dual coded work at another station or center.
  4. Use dual coding as a way to remember key concepts in grammar, spelling, punctuation rules, or maths.
  5. Give dual coded information as a starter or bell ringer task and ask your students to translate or explain it.
  6. Ask your students to dual code as a homework task.

Here are some ways you can use dual-coding as a literature activity:

  1. Visual note-taking or dual coding makes sense for lots of literature activities: to summarise the action of a text, to look at a character, a theme, or a setting.
  2. One-pagers are super popular at the moment for helping students review what they have read. You can read more about them here (on my friend Betsy’s blog).
  3. Use dual coding as an annotation tool for annotating or making notes on specific themes or concepts. Assign each theme or idea a symbol, then annotate this in the text and also track it in notes.
  4. Create infographics to explain ideas in a text.
  5. Use dual coded timelines to review the events in a story.
  6. Assign each literary device a symbol and use this to annotate a passage.
  7. Symbols are also great for annotating emotions, mood/atmosphere, authorial intention, social and historical context.

I teach symbols and literary devices when I am covering creative writing – we use them as marking codes as well. Then we also use the same codes for our literature units. Then we layer them up as we read through the text. Does that make sense?

Dual coding


If you are looking for other fun and engaging activities to use in your ELA classroom, why not check out these blog posts:

The Perfect Review Game

One Amazing Debate Idea

Also, each week I send an email out to my teacher-friends, in this message, I include one classroom activity (like the perfect review game) and one literature activity (like this blackout writing activity). They are always fun, engaging, and designed to create brilliant learning moments for your students. If you would like to receive this weekly email (I send it on a Sunday morning – ready to help stave off those Sunday scaries), then all you need to do is fill out the email sign up below!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!

Hidden Content

The tiny review activity

This review activity is super popular with my classes. So I thought I would share it here. It is so simple and fun that you can implement it with very little preparation at all!


Here’s how I came up with the idea:

A while ago I joked to a colleague that my year 11s knowledge of Animal Farm was just about enough to fill a stamp. I was joking, of course. However, this conversation did remind me of a good friend from my university days. Pete was (and is) an artist.  He found great delight in being quirky and gauche and his best expression of this was the teeny-tiny notes left under my door, which needed a magnifying glass to be read.

Mini message


The Tiny Review

I love using the tiny class review with my classes. Essentially, it has two review strategies rolled into one – summarising and questioning. The basic idea is that students summarise their learning onto a postcard… and then another student in the class has to respond in some way!

Tiny review activity

Here’s how it works

  1. First: I ask students to summarise their learning (on whichever topic I need to cover) onto a postcard (usually a sheet of paper cut into 4!).
  2. I collect these up. The second bit will depend on whether you have 2 classes studying the same topic.
  3. To use with the same class: muddle them up and redistribute.
  4. Then ask students to read the postcard they have been given, then form 2 – 3 questions on the summary to challenge or extend the ideas presented.
  5. They write these on the back of the postcard. You can muddle them up with this Q & A going for as long as you have paper.
  6. To use with a different class: complete the postcard summary task with both classes (it doesn’t have to be exactly the same day – as long as both classes have covered the subject areas) collect them in. At a relevant point, hand one set out to the other class and have them read and write questions as above.

Tiny review

What are the benefits of this activity?

It’s the perfect activity for an end of the day lesson when writing what feels like an essay in books can be quite a challenge. You can use any postcards at all of course. Most of the time, I just use scrap paper that I’ve torn up into 4.

One unexpected benefit of this review activity was the competitive nature of my classes, when we started off writing these postcards, they just wrote them. Then after a while, we started seeing who could write 30 words on a card, then 40, then 50. In time, my students became ‘tiny writers’ (just like my friend Pete) and were squeezing up to 100 words squashed onto one postcard. Just imagine my delight!

Competition and more

Added to that, the competition aspect increased when I started using this as an inter-class challenge. My students all knew each other and although they didn’t sign their postcards, they got a kick out writing exceptionally hard questions for their peers in the other class. This upped-the-ante for each class during each session we used this idea. It became crazy after a while. A couple of years ago, we got so into this activity that we even made an inter-class postbox!

Drop me a comment below if you try these ideas out and let me know how they went!

If you are looking for other fun and engaging activities to use in your ELA classroom, why not check out these blog posts:

The Perfect Review Game

One Amazing Debate Idea

Also, each week I send an email out to my teacher-friends, in this message, I include one classroom activity (like the perfect review game) and one literature activity (like this blackout writing activity). These tasks are fun, engaging, and will create brilliant learning moments for your students. If you would like to receive this weekly email (I send it on a Sunday morning – ready to help stave off those Sunday scaries), then all you need to do is fill out the email sign up below!

Subscribe to my weekly teaching tips email!

Sign up below to receive regular emails from me jammed packed with ELA teaching tips, tricks and free resources. Also access my free resource library!

Hidden Content

How a document camera transformed my ELA lessons

I have had a visualizer (document camera) in my classroom for a few years. I would use it once in a blue moon. Mostly to show the class something that I couldn’t copy. This year, I was thinking about how I could achieve 2 of my personal classroom targets. It turns out that my visualizer was the key to meeting both targets.

Target 1: engage the middle achievers

Quite a few of my classes contain groups of middle achievers, who have a tendency to sit in lessons not doing too much. They complete enough work to scrape by. They don’t cause trouble. They don’t answer questions. They are coasting. This year – I was going to change that. No more passive students!

Target 2: reduce handouts

I want to intentionally cut down on using paper in my classroom. As an English teacher, it feels like I do nothing but generate paper. Unfortunately, we have zero technology available, so that wasn’t an answer. I needed to find an alternate solution to the countless worksheets, printed articles, and practice tests I use.

visualizer and words saying how a visualizer improved my lessons

The unexpected key to success?

This IPEVO* visualizer/document camera proved to be the unexpected key to my success. My very no-techy explanation of what a visualizer is: it’s a camera, that plugs into your computer USB port and you can manipulate to point at a book, sheet, or whatever on your desk. It then projects the image onto your computer screen and thus onto your classroom screen / interactive whiteboard.

Perhaps you have a visualizer knocking around your department, here are a few ways you can put it to good use. If you don’t own one – I can’t exaggerate enough how much I love mine.

UK link* https://amzn.to/2OorlJh

Idea 1: annotate like a boss!

I ‘live annotate’ my literature texts with my class. All my classes have to do examination-style tests on their literature texts. It could be a 19th-century novel, Shakespeare, poetry – they are all tested by a cold extract exam. They don’t get their copy of the book with them. No notes. Just what is in their brain.

So they need a lot in their brains!

First up is ‘live annotation’. I essentially teach the skill of reading and annotating using my visualizer. I put my blank copy of the text under the camera and as we read, we annotate together. It might be comprehension details, word meaning, connotations, themes, or links to historical context.


Document Camera in the classroom

The unexpected upside for my coasting students was that this activity was so concrete and so easy at the beginning, that they got all the annotations down without even thinking about it. After all, at the beginning, all they were doing was copying.

As time passed, I asked more questions “what should we be annotating here?” and it felt much less like spoon-feeding my students. Everyone was so comfortable by then that they would be suggesting ideas. They had learned a skill which wouldn’t necessarily have come naturally to them!


Document camera laptop and book

Idea 2: no more basic worksheets!

I can’t tell you how many times I have printed and copied 30 blank table worksheet for my class to fill out. Just because I couldn’t be bothered to go through the hassle of explaining exactly how many columns and rows were needed. I admit it, I was lazy. I couldn’t deal with “I’ve run out of room!” or “It doesn’t fit in my column!”

Now I just use my visualizer to demonstrate exactly what I want the table to look like. I get a blank piece of paper, line it up under my visualizer, draw the first line – everyone copies – draw the next line. It probably takes about the same amount of time as handing out 30 sheets and getting them glued in books.

The secondary upside is my meager contribution to saving the planet by reducing copying!

Idea 3: Supported differentiation

In addition to my coasting students, I have a few classes that really struggle with English. Although these classes tend to be smaller and specialist, it is always hard for me to get around and spend time with every student.


I use my visualizer as a way to provide me with more 1-2-1 time with certain pupils. Let me give you an example: say we are covering the difference between showing and telling. We complete the first task together, on the visualizer (which means I can also model good handwriting etc). I leave the work on the screen, so my slower writers can take their time to write it down.

Document camera and worksheet

I can then circulate around the class to give individual support.

This works better than going through the work verbally because I don’t have to keep repeating myself.

It also works better than typing the work onto my screen / whiteboard because I can interact directly with the ideas – I can circle words, change them, highlight, put stars by things as I am explaining.

Idea 4: modeled marking and improvement

I’ve saved the best to last. This idea has made a huge difference to my students progress. I started ‘live marking’ in the same way that I did ‘live annotating’. My classes would complete a piece of creative writing or an essay. I would take responses from 4 – 5 volunteers and mark them live using the visualizer.


Document camera and class work

Let me break it down for you: say you wanted to work on thesis statements. I would ‘live mark’ those 4 – 5 pieces of work by placing them under the visualizer and looking at just the thesis statements. We would work out together which were the strongest, how to identify the weaknesses, and how to improve any that needed improvement. The rest of the class would then look at their own thesis statements and self-assess.

These are just a few ways that I use a visualizer in my classroom!

Leave a message in the comments if you use a visualizer. I’d love to find even more ways to use it in my classroom!

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The Perfect Review Game for High School

This review game is perfect to help your students demonstrate their learning for any literature text. You can use it while reading a text or after reading to have your students prove their learning.

In this blog post, I’ll show you:

  1. The basic idea
  2. The extra challenge
  3. What it looks like
  4. How to set up the game
  5. Why it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

Card game image with text "the perfect review game for high schoolers"

The basic idea

The basic idea is that students build a card tower. The catch is that each card on their card tower has to demonstrate their knowledge of the ideas, characters, and the plot of a text.

The extra challenge!

It would be too simple to build a card tower with just information on it. Nope – that’s not enough for us. Here’s what the key to the challenge is: Each card has a sticky note with information on it. But each sticky note has to link to every other sticky that it touches in the tower.

Let me show you what I mean

In the image below, each card in lower zigzag pattern touches. The cards that touch either at the top of the V or at the bottom of the V have to have information on that connects.

So the sticky that we can see on the lower level states “Macbeth does not experience guilt”. This means that the card propped up against it must link to that idea. Perhaps with a quotation that proves this, or a reference to an event that links to this idea.

Even more challenging – the cards that make the horizontal support across the lower level also have to contain facts and information that link the ideas on the cards!

Card Tower with sticky notes on each card. Each sticky note has a different sentence on it.

The overwhelming benefit of this game is that students have to think and think hard about all the ideas they wish to demonstrate before they try and construct their card tower. The tower itself becomes secondary to their knowledge and learning.

How to set up this review game

  1. So for this activity, you will need some packs of playing cards (although other cards will do) and sticky notes (mini ones if possible).
  2. I place students in groups of 3 – 4 and then I give each group about 8 – 12 playing cards.

As this is a literature review game. So your students will need to know about your text. It is essentially a 3D game of dominoes. Here are the instructions I give to my students:

  1. Your job is to make the tallest card tower, but you must follow these rules or you will be disqualified.
  2. Rule 1: each card must have a sticky note on showing information from the text.
  3. Rule 2: you must show information in the following order – plot, character, theme, then back to plot again. So each sticky note will have information on something from the plot, a character, or a theme in a series, in that order.
  4. Rule 3: each sticky note must relate to the ones on either of side.
  5. Rule 4: the tower must stand with no support for 2 minutes.

It sounds more complicated than it is

The first time I use this review game, students get all caught up with what is and isn’t allowed. So I give them this example. Here’s is what a sticky notes series might look like from Macbeth Act 1, Sc 1:

Plot – Macbeth fights bravely against rebels trying to overthrow King Duncan –
which links to – Character – Macbeth is shown to be bloodthirsty and violent from the outset – which links to – Theme – The theme of rebellion is introduced as Macbeth is given the rebel’s thaneship – which links to…plot! But this time because the theme is rebellion – you could include anything from the plot on rebellion!

Image of card tower with text "perfect review game for high school"












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