Plenary? No problem!

I hate to boast, but I have just been at a brilliant training course. The topic was Literacy Across the Curriculum and I have been truly inspired. The real test comes, though, when you try to put the theory into practice and find precious time to use all the new, whizzy ideas in the classroom. This can become overwhelming but I find that the best whizzy ideas are ones that require no fuss, or preparation, on my part. And most importantly they have to be ones that actually improve the learning of all of my students. Here is one of them: plenary boxes.

The idea: at the start of the lesson, students write down ‘Plenary’ in their books at the start of the lesson and leave a space of around 10 lines. This then enforces the idea of the plenary as a prominent part of the lesson from the off. At the end of the lesson (or even better, mid way through) students write down what they have learned in this space. They could also write questions that they want to ask the teacher or how they feel they are progressing. These ‘boxes’ then become the focus of the teacher’s attention when checking and marking the books, opening up a dialogue with students about their learning and progress. Simple!

My greatest flaw in the classroom is planning too much and running out of time, which means that my plenaries can really suffer. Hopefully this strategy will focus me and my students on the role of the plenary in our lessons and support me in making time for it. Along with sorting out my poor timing, however, the potential impact on student progress is huge. Firstly, students are forced to engage with their own learning in a structured way; secondly, my marking can become much more focussed on creating a dialogue with students about their progress. Unnecessary marking avoided and Ofsted happy. Here’s to more whizz and less fuss!

Naomi Hursthouse

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