Smart Marking

Smart Marking: –

Are you a teacher spending tons of time marking? Was that a stupid question?

Although this blog isn’t a technical blog it talks about how you can save yourself sometime with your marking. I’m hoping that it will give you some quick wins in the pitfalls of WWW and EBI. Yes, we’ve all been there and we’ve seen how little impact they can be. Particularly when your student responds to your marking with ‘ok I will do this next time’.

If there is something I can teach you about in this blog it is to work smarter and not harder.

 Success Criteria: –

This is particularly use for key stage 3 and particularly useful because of the ‘assessment’ of levels going out of the window. Finger’s in the air please…. The idea of this assessment method is that you start you lesson and deliver your content. When you’ve finished your content, either come up with the success criteria and show it on the board… OR get your students to come up with it.

Now… when you mark their work, in the WWW (What went well) box, you write the number of the success criteria that was the best in one box. In the EBI (Even better if) box, you write down the number that they need to improve on.

There is a very good example of how it can work here: –

I have also attached a picture below.


Resources banking: –

If you’re lucky, you will get to deliver some of your content for at least two years. I suggest when you mark this piece of work, you keep a log of the common mistakes that are made. This will save you time for the next time you teach this unit of work. Then all you do is print out the common mistakes with numbers by them. Give back your students their work with the sheet and the numbers on them. They need to write down their improvements. They’re taking more ownership of the marking and it saves you writing a paragraph that they might never read.

One Note: –

Have you ever tried to use One-Note with your class? If your students are completing work for you on the computer, you might want to save yourself time hand writing all of your feedback. Did you know that you can press the ‘record’ button at the top of one-note and you can record feedback straight into their work? Save those one-to-one chats you have and have a record of every progress chat with your students. One-Note is a Microsoft product and it comes free with Office-365. Once your students are set up, they can share their work with you and all you need to do is access it from home and use your built in Microphone! Job’s done! 

record audio

Self Marking Quiz Papers….  

This quick win comes courtesy of my friend ‘David English’ a Maths/Computing teacher at my school. He has been looking at ways of speeding up his marking in his lessons. When you take on two subjects it’s never easy. His maintenance marking has sped up and he is able to do some multiple choice quiz’s with some of his students and this allows him to monitor the progress. Over time, you’re able to check the results of their tests.

How it works?

On the right, is an answer sheet. You will need to write a test for your class but fill in all of the correct answers. This is scanned on your phone so that you have all of the correct answers. You scan in the sheet and the phone reads it!

Next step, each student is given their quiz (or you do this via powerpoint) and students must colour in the questions from A to E. They will then pick the correct answer.

At the end of your lesson, you scan in each test and it is marked instantly and it tells you which question they have answer incorrectly. Not only have you checked their progress quickly but you have their marks. You can then review your most common mistakes as a class!

Now warning, I’m not saying ZipGrade will give your students instant feedback, but it will give you an instant clue to how your students work! I’m going to be using it but I will also be getting the students to acknowledge their mistakes, thus demonstrating their progress.

To find out more about zipgrade visit: 

I have a few more tricks up my sleeve but I’m just trying to help make things slightly easier for your work load! Have funny giving the students the time to write down the success criteria in their books instead of YOU!

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Spaced Learning

Spaced learning,

So whenever something new comes out in the teaching ‘circle’, I’m always very keen to try something new. I happened to be around a friend’s house recently and he was talking about something new he had been trying in his lessons. In the passed, I had been using ‘Flipped’ learning in many of my lessons and I had been having multiple successes with my students. I would argue that this is one of the methods which helps my students understand a lot of their content.

Up until recently one of my classes had been doing really well but I was a little anxious about the amount of time I had to fit in ‘content’ and I could see that some of the content just wasn’t going in. This concerned me and I’ll be honest, their test scores were not as good as I would have hoped. Personally, I feel that you can never be a good teacher unless you reflect on your own practice and make changes.

I have a friend who is as passionate about teaching as me, his name is Dan Hawksley and although I’ve never seen him teach we share similar ideas in our approach to learning. He teaches science and had talked about how he had been trying something new with his students. It’s called ‘Spaced Learning’. He referred me to this website to find out more: –

The Idea:

If you have a learn amount of data or content that you have to teach in a small period of time, this method supports it. According to the findings, although many people teach you that lots of information at once can be too much. This method suggests the opposite.

The is evidence to support that patterns help stimulate and create long term memories. Sounds pretty cool right? The basic idea, is to split your lesson up into chunks and give them 10 minute patterns and repetition. I would agree that repetition works, I’ve always used this method with some of my year 11 classes and I would say that this contributed to the 100% pass rate last year.

How does it work: 

  1. From reading the article, spaced learning seemed to be split into 10 minutes of information to start your lesson. I started my lesson by doing a simple break down of facts, I delivered a simple PowerPoint presentation with everything that I would need my students to know for the lesson. Although you can combine flipped learning within this, I chose to have more control in the first part of the lesson. In my lesson I did a break down of spreadsheets. I showed them all of the formula that they would need to know for their exam and even got them to address the misconceptions and formulas to avoid.
  2. After delivering the content they were given 10 minutes to do something creative. They took a 10 minute break. They did something completely unrelated to the topic. I had my students drawing a number of pictures including their teacher (me), unicorns and landscapes.
  3. Following on form this break, I did the same lesson although this time I changed my approach. My friends will know that I’m a strange teacher… in this case I decided to teach all of the content using different accents. This time I left out blanks within the context and asked the students to write down the I guess you could say we were playing blankety blank.
  4. Again, the students did something completely unrelated, this time I got my students to play board games. I had a number of games in my class such as giant Jenga, pop up pirate and buckaroo. Students would play these games.
  5. Last 10 minutes: – I decided to get my students to take on a task based on everything that I had taught them in these 10 minute chunks. The task was a spreadsheet task in one case. They would have to complete the task independently and they would need to work through each of the tasks step by step.


I wouldn’t say that I was sceptical when I first read about this, but I was definitely intrigued by how it works. I was wondering if the students would take away anything from this. I tried this on Monday with a year 8 class and I have also tried this again with a year 8 and year 9 class this morning. I’m currently in the middle of marking my year 8 tests and looking that their knowledge, there is a steady improvement.

How did my year 9 students react?

When we teach, it’s important that we have good questioning. The questioning helps address the misconceptions and then your students are able to make the steady progress that they need. I deliberately avoided doing a round of questioning with this…

100% of my class managed to complete a 20-minute task in 10 minutes. They were confident and they remembered everything that they were taught! I am going to continue trying this with some of my classes and I will post the findings with some of my classes in the future. I have seen a steady improvement in my year 9’s application of their knowledge. I will let you know whether my year 8 students have improved.

I have attached some pictures of the activities that they completed, you may have a chuckle at some of the creative pictures you will see.

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Hour of Code–Uppingham Community College–30th June

Recently, BBC have announced that they would be releasing the Micro: Bit to schools all over the country. With this in mind, we wanted to give some of our students more of a taste for Touch Develop.

HOUROFCODEAs we come to the end the Term, in the computing department we realise that we want our students to remember how to problem solve and code. It is because of this that we saw the end of term as an opportunity for our students to learn how to code even more using TouchDevelop.


settings2As you can see in the picture above, a year 9 student found it really engaging and was able to create simple shapes and even managed to use other devices to control how a turtle moves around the school. Our students found this quite simple to use and we were even able to have some students doing some tasks together because of the new BETA version of Touch Develop. When you sign in and go to the settings, you can turn testing.

creategroupTo complicate things for our year 9’s, we decided to give them a piece of code to a problem. Their job was to find all of the issues with the code. Some of this included the variables being mixed up. Some of them included errors in the logic and order of the code.

One features that is new to TouchDevelop  and in BETA that not many people are aware of is setting up your own classes where you can collaborate on the same piece of code at the same time! This is an awesome feature which will be really handy to encourage collaboration.

workingtogetherOnce you have joined a group, it will give you an invitation code which means that you can keep your students secure from any unwanted guests. I really love this feature and tried it out on an existing piece of code. Students can collaborate from different sides of the class and they can use the chat log to suggest changes to each other. Click on the image to make it a little bigger so that you can see it in action.

hourofcode3A starter task I used with the students required them to spot the errors in my code and to spot the logical errors. I deliberately put things in the wrong order and they would have to put them back in the correct order. It was chaos but it was GREAT!

My students had a great time carrying out the Hour of code and I got them to use tutorials which were made by myself using Touch Develop. Any teachers who are interested in pushing the boundaries of Touch Develop. Have a look at making your own tutorials. They’re a great way of introducing the environment to the students and you can make them as detailed as you like so that you avoid the ‘click here’ issues.

hourofcode2If you are interested in trying out some of the tutorials which students from Uppingham Community College tried on the 30th of June. Visit this page. I’m hoping to do a video tutorial on how to collaborate between students VERY SOON!

If you have any questions about the resources featured on my blog then please email me or tweet me:


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Using Touch Develop with BESD students

I recently had the pleasure of teaching at Maplefields school in Corby, Northamptonshire and I had a great time with a great bunch of kids.

IMG_6610Maplefields is a specialist Academy based in Corby, Northamptonshire. The school caters for pupils aged 5 (Reception Year ) to 18 years (sixth form)  with severe behaviour emotional and social difficulties (BESD), now known as social  emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), as their primary need.


As soon as I started teaching these kids, I was blown away! I had been given a group of 10 students who had various experiences but the one thing that was amazing was their basic understanding of computational thinking. I will be honest I was a little worried at how they would handle the programming but I would say that using TouchDevelop seemed to have a very positive impact on their learning.

We started by doing an unplugged activity and I got the students to walk into each other and I made sure that they understood the importance of giving accurate instructions. These students were brilliant, they were so good that some of the students deliberately made mistakes with their instructions so that they could demonstrate their point to others.

creepIn previous sessions, I had introduced programming to the students by using the Turtle in TouchDevelop. I thought that students with BESD might want to be a little more creative to begin with. We started using code to produce a creeper. They picked up the co-ordinates and coding and some students were creating loops which would make their code run smoother. Here is student – James’ work on creating a creeper.

IMG_6611Moving on from this, we looked at creating more resources and we started to use the MakeyMakey kits. The students were HOOKED! Straight away they were creating their own controllers and they were getting a Turtle to move around the screen. As we only had an hour there wasn’t much of an opportunity to fit more in, but the students loved the session and seemed to get a lot from it.

In summary, from using TouchDevelop with these students, I can see that TouchDevelop can be used as a way of engaging students with BESD and the students seemed to get a lot from it. These students were great coders and were a pleasure to teach. They were engaged, they were problem solving, debugging and they were independent learners. Many were challenging each other and seeing, who could could make their turtle controller first.

I would like to thank Maplefields school in Corby for inviting me in and I would like to thank the staff and students, particularly Mrs McGhee and Mr Briggs. Maplefields is a great school and I look forward to returning in the future to run some more coding sessions. They seemed quite interested when they found the Minecraft-Pi library…. maybe a visit back to Maplefields is on the cards!

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Minecraft for Music! – Noteblocks

I have been using Minecraft in a lot of my own lessons. I have started showing students how to code and you will have seen some of my resources in other pages. These lessons have been successful in showing many of our students how to get into coding and they’ve been successful in breaking down many of the gender gaps. I’m really enjoying Minecraft, particularly because it tricks students into learning😛

Examples of this would include the use of problem solving. When students can’t create the circuit or they’re unable to do something, they keep trying! Think about what students are like with other video games. If they die…. they get frustrated and attempt the level until they can complete it. Using Minecraft has helped the students improve their concentration and determination.

I’m usually making resources which are useful for myself and I like to share these resources, but I got thinking about friends who teach music. Some schools have reported that the numbers of students taking music has dropped. Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring their enthusiasm back? Well you can start to do this with Noteblocks. You may have seen music videos around the internet. I’ve been using Minecraft for about a year now, I had seen people creating songs by Katy Perry and thought that it might be quite difficult. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

  1. You simply start up a level in creative mode (unless you want to find 8 pieces of wood and redstone).
  2. Find the redstone tab and grab the following contents: – Noteblock / Redstone / Repeater / Redstone Torch
  3. Build a block by right clicking in a flat world – Right click on it again to hit it, the note will change each time.
  4. Connect some redstone to it.
  5. Turn it on with the torch and you will have your sound


Image courtesy of : – 

I started browsing the internet after thinking about the different sounds I would need and realised you can change the instrument by using different blocks underneath your noteblock! You can find this out in the PDF I’ve produced.

minecraftmusicNow, maybe you want your sound to continue. You can do this using something called a repeater. This allows you to slow down the circuit. Each time you click on it, you can slow it down even more. You can even add one repeater in front of another which slows down some more. When you’re happy, light the torch and listen to your master piece. I’ve put together a video tutorial and a sample lesson plan for you below. I’ve also included a video tutorial which should help you.


If you have any further questions, please email me at

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Hackathon–Uppingham Community College–27th June

In order to see how students in Rutland are doing with their computing knowledge, I have started hosting a number of computing sessions at Uppingham Community College. We hosted one previously on the 16th of June where close to 30 students came a long to learn how to code.

With the Micro : Bit looming from BBC, I wanted to give some of the year 6 students a head start and I also wanted to see how students would do when it came to coding. We had a number of hours to learn some computational thinking using a football and Touch Develop.

Students learnt how dumb computers are and they started to understand why computers need precise instructions. Passing the ball around the room was not as easy as most of the students initially thought! We had students turning around on the spot for a number of seconds and some students walking into walls. By the time we got the ball to the other side of the room, students started to understand that there is more than one way to write a code and how conditions can make our code more efficient.

Moving on from this I introduced students to the Turtle on TouchDevelop. Students took to this like a duck to water. Some students had already used Touch through forward thinking parents. It’s great to see that some parents had already looked up the Micro : Bit via the BBC website. One student said that he sat with his dad making the monster game. I would love to see this level of parent engagement when the Micro : Bit comes out!

imageOnce students had made loops as well as different shapes and another student from year 7 came along to help out his younger brother. 

A young girl from Leighfield Primary in Year 5 produced this drawing using pixel art! She learnt how to use loops and also understood how to use iteration.

You can click on the link on the left in order to view and run the code for the image she created.

I’m very impressed with all of the year 5 and 6 students. I aim to show you the start of one students game next week. You can see his plan in the images shown at the bottom. What is really refreshing is how the girls seem to be just as engaged as the boys. Lets hope that these girls can help close the gap in the industry.


This picture on the left, shows the design that one of the students in year 7 from SJ has come up with. I’m very impressed with his level of planning. He has already started to create the game and is now learning about how to use functions such as random. This will help him create his platforms at random positions. I look forward to showing you this game very soon.

Have a look at some of these pictures below. Check out some of the reviews, these students are loving TouchDevelop:

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Touch Develop Training / Teach Meet–16th June

With the Micro : Bit being announced in March I thought it might be useful to do some basic training on using TouchDevelop. BBC announced that one of the programming languages used with the device would be TouchDevelop. I thought that giving teachers a taster on how to use the bug might address some of the concerns that people are having with the way it will be used.

On Tuesday the 16th of June, I decided to host a training session after school at Uppingham Community College. I started off by showing people how to access the environment and addressed some of the login issues. Many people weren’t sure how to allow all of their students access to it. If you have G-Mail accounts or Live accounts you can log in. BUT if your students are under the age of 13, you can’t get them to sign up to some of these accounts. The best way for me to address this with my students is to create a single account and issue the username and password to the students. I.E –, I would then give the students the password to log in. I would change the password from time to time so that they wouldn’t use the account for email.

All of the teachers managed to have a play with TouchDevelop and they logged in to the environment and managed to have a play with the Turtle. We discussed loops and some of the programming logic which you can explain to the students. I also directed some of the teachers to the resources shown here on the blog.


Great to see that the session has been useful to others and if any other teachers have questions about how you can embed it into your curriculum, then please let me know.

Teach Meet: – Following the TouchDevelop training

Following on from the event we hosted a TeachMeet so that teachers from all around Rutland could come and share some of their expertise in Computing. The idea would allow primary and secondary teachers to come together and help each other out. Some highlights of the event came from the following people:

Mike McSharry – 7 Ages of Scratch

Mike had a great presentation which took us through the different versions of scratch which would allow students to code. He presented a number of different versions of scratch. One of the favourite versions he mentioned was Scratch Junior. It was great and would work really well with EAL students. It doesn’t include textual instructions and it is very accessible for students. It is available on iPad and Android Devices (Via Google Play). You can check out more from here: Scratch Junior

Simon Johnson – TouchDevelop Golf

Simon Johnson has been using TouchDevelop with many of his students. Although he couldn’t make the session he managed to send in a link on the use of TouchDevelop in order to show students how they can learn about the efficiency of code. We all know that code can end up being really long. Simon talks about challenging the students to shorten their code to see who can get the shortest code. You can see the presentation for yourself in the attachment.

Touch Develop Golf

Martine Mannion

Martine Mannion from Wellingborough school had a great presentation which would show teachers how they can use other techniques when teaching programming. She talked a lot about barefoot computing and mentioned cs4fun. Cs4fun includes some awesome resources which help students discover computational thinking without the need for computers. There are magic card tricks and activities which really get you thinking. Some questions of discussion which help you understand how to explain some of the terminology used. I have attached a link to barefoot computing below so that you can find out more information.


I would like to thank all of our guest speakers tonight and we look forward to hosting another computing teach meet in the future! Thank you for your time and please email me if you have any questions. See some pictures below:

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