Quick Quizzes: How and Why I use them


Over the last few years I have become a big fan of low stakes, quick quizzes. They can be used in a variety of different ways and in my opinion they can be a fantastic assessment tool.


quiz 1

Quick quizzes do exactly what their name suggests. They are quick to write, quick to complete and quick to mark. In fact they are a worthwhile activity whether I mark them, use peer assessment or whether they mark their own.

I have also seen them help to develop independence in my students and it has enabled me to give specific and timely feedback to both students and parents. I want to create an environment where students are willing to take responsibility for their own progress, can identify their own strengths and weaknesses and then be proactive in overcoming them. I want my students not to be afraid to get something wrong and then learn from their mistakes. FAIL should stand for First Attempt In Learning.

Name MRS GREN (/12) Animal Cells Plant Cells Bacteria Specialised Cells Organs Organ Systems
1 11 away 9 9 3 6.5 6.5
2 9 4 8 7 6 9 7
3 8 4 9 9 4.5 5 4
4 10 4 4 6 6 5 9
5 9 2 3


1 6.5 6
6 12 7 10 10 7.5 10 9
7 10.5 1 3 1.5 0 3.5 6.5
8 10 5 10 7.5 3 8 8.5
9 11 6 10 9 8.5 9 10
10 10 4 7 9 8.5 8 9
11 11 5 10 10 8 6.5 7.5
12 7 0 4 8 0 4.5 2.5

How and Why I use them:

    • As surprise quizzes at the start of the lesson: this can encourage the students to pick up their books between lessons independently. I have found that students dislike getting a poor mark, so giving these on a regular basis encourages students to consolidate between lessons without having to be asked.
    • To assess consolidation and prevent cheating on homework: often students cheat and copy homework, making the whole task (setting, completing and marking!) pointless. I often set revision for homework to be tested using a quick quiz.
    • To assess understanding: doing regular quick quizzes enables both the students and myself to map the progress and understanding of specific lesson topics. This way it highlights for both the students and the teachers which topics require revision in the run up to exams.
    • Gives parents a readymade list of questions and answers to help their child revise.
    • As a data source: as a Biology teacher I also teach the students to draw graphs. They are a fantastic data source for the students to learn how to draw graphs from and the resulting graph is a fantastic visual diagnostic tool.
    • To create opportunities for low stakes testing. By making these a regular part of lessons you are creating a tool where the students are not afraid to have ago and with consistent reassurance they will have a guess even if they are not sure. This will enable them to discover for themselves what they do and do not understand.






Mini Whiteboards in the Classroom


Can mini whiteboards be used to help promote independent learning and overcome that fear of getting it wrong?

I have always used mini whiteboards in my teaching but had found that I had begun to use them less and less due to the time needed to distribute and collect them in and also the inevitable time lost to doodling and the use of the white board as a musical instrument! This disappointed me as I know they can be a really useful tool, so I decided to hopefully remove their novelty by simply having them out on the desks as a permanent resource to be used as and when needed by pupils. To my pleasant surprise it worked and with the exception of a few individuals, I have found that pupils have embraced the idea.

So how can they be used?

A lot of pupils have a fear of getting the answer wrong or “making a mess of their notes” which stops them from putting pen to paper and in turn stops them from learning from their mistakes. Giving these pupils the option to write the answer down on the whiteboard first has really helped to give these pupils the confidence to have a go rather than waiting for the answer to be given to them. These notes can then be checked and redrafted before being written permanently in their books.

The white boards have also been particularly useful in planning longer answers. Pupils can use the boards to draft out their plans and can easily amend/reorder their work before their start putting pen to paper.

Because the whiteboards are out on the desks each lesson they can be used with minimal planning and spontaneously when the need arrives. If I am circulating the room and get asked questions, it is great to be able to use them to draw diagrams to help with my explanations, and as a bonus no paper is wasted! They can also be used for pupils to practice spellings or can be used for quick starter/plenary games of bingo and true or false or to assess prior knowledge. The possibilities are endless!

I am all in favour of small tweaks that can make my teaching as effective as possible but take very little time to plan and these will definitely be a permanent fixture of my classroom going forward.






Whole Class Feedback

First things first, download a blank copy of my whole class feedback sheet here: Feedback pro forma.

Marking has always been one of my least favourite aspects of being a teacher, as I am sure it is for many. It is laborious, time consuming and, if much of the research is to be believed, is one of the least effective ways of securing progress in our pupils. However, over the years I have refined my process on marking, trying out different methods, and following the declaration from Ofsted in 2018 that ‘Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback’ I also felt that I had the backing to reduce the frequency of my marking but, in theory at least, increase the productivity of my marking in terms of pupil outcomes. Following much trial and error I think I have finally hit on a method that works for me. A method which not only reduces workload and the amount of time taken to mark, but also increases the progress students make through feedback – as well as placing some onus on the pupils themselves and developing some amount of independent learning.

I feel at this point I need to put in a massive disclaimer: very little of what I am about to describe has been completely invented by me. It has been cobbled together from ideas I have found on Twitter, things which have been suggested to me by colleagues, as well as cannibalising the bits of marking policies from previous schools I have worked at.

So, at the end of this evolution, I am now marking using a form of whole class feedback. Essentially it revolves around two pro-formas I have created and how they are used.


Step 1 – Mark the work

The first thing I do is read through the work. When I am doing this, I will tick things which are right/done well, use codes to indicate spelling mistakes etc. and give an overall mark (if appropriate) and an effort grade. What I don’t do is write any detailed comments, WWWs, EBIs etc. on individuals work. Instead I add common mistakes and common strengths to my first whole class feedback (WCF) pro-forma (see below for an example of a completed one). I will give specific feedback to pupils if they have done something which is unique to them (or way off the mark) but generally I write very little on each individual pupil’s work. This is what reduces the workload and time consuming nature of my marking the most (I also use a microphone and Google Docs to convert verbal comments into a typed form, which I then just copy and paste into the correct parts of the WCF pro-forma. This further reduces the time it takes to mark – although you do feel a little bit of a fool talking to yourself in a classroom on your own to begin with).


Step 2 – Give them back their work

The next thing to do is to give the pupils their work back. I tend to staple the WCF pro-forma to their sheets if their work is on paper, or into their book on the relevant page if it is not. I will then spend some time reading through the comments I have made on the sheet, with the class giving further explanation/examples as to what I mean, addressing common misconceptions, as well as highlighting those pupils who did really great work (so others can seek them out should they want to see what a great answer looks like).


Step 3 – Pupil self-identification

My next stage is to ask pupils to re-read the work which they have completed and identify the comments which most apply to their work. For a long time I was critical of whole class feedback because I felt that pupils weren’t getting feedback which is directly relevant to their work (and also because I felt many pupils would simply not read all the comments I had written). By asking the pupils to re-read their work and identify which parts of the WCF pro-forma apply to them it has a number of benefits:

  1. By re-reading the work the pupils effectively revise the topic again, familiarising themselves with something we studied in the not too distant past.
  2. They have to carry out a form of self-assessment – working out where they went wrong. Not only does this help develop independent learning but if they are able to identify what things they specifically did wrong, the act of doing this means they are more likely to remember not to do it again in the future.

I ask the pupils to identify the feedback which most applies to their work and to highlight it on the sheet, like below.


Originally when I started using this technique, this is the stage I would leave it at, but I have subsequently developed some more steps in my process.

Step 4 – Consolidation and tracking

I then ask pupils to fill in a tracking pro-forma, which is given to them at the beginning of the year. Some Year 10 examples are below:




As you will see from some of the comments, this is not yet a perfect science. It takes a while with some classes to move away from ‘put in more detail’ to more specific feedback. On the other hand, it does allow the pupils to further consider where they went wrong and embed some of the techniques required for next time. I will often get these tracker sheets out the next time the pupils complete a similar question, so they can identify where they went wrong last time and make a real effort not to do it again in the question they are about to attempt. This tracking also has an added bonus of allowing pupils to identify if they are making any repeated mistakes, and also to see their own progress at different types of skills. It also provides an easy document which I can later refer to when writing reports or during parents’ evenings!


Step 5 – Redraft

This is the dream, however it is a step I admittedly rarely do due to curriculum pressures  – despite its utility. The final step is to ask the pupils to redraft their work and create an improved version based on what they have learnt they did wrong the first time. This further consolidates and embeds the skills and technique which they have identified as needing improving, and allows the pupils to realise that they can get better and improve.


This approach to marking has saved me vast quantities of time and has actually meant that I get much more marking done in the time  I dedicate to it. It has also meant that the task of marking appears less burdensome, and therefore I am less likely to leave it to the bottom of my pile of things to do. Now marking seems less onerous, more purposeful and more productive. Finally, and most importantly, I believe it is genuinely a more productive method of marking which helps pupils make more progress.


Tim Jones

Teacher of History


Get them READING around the subject!

Reading around the subject is incredibly important especially at A level. It is maybe even more important now we are fully immersed in the new A level syllabuses. In order for students to gain access to the highest grades they actually need to know something; memorising vast amounts of information will no longer cut the cheese and they need to be able to apply their knowledge, especially with the dreaded ‘suggest’ questions.


The best way of extending their knowledge I have found is getting them to read recent articles from level appropriate magazines. As a biologist, I am very lucky as the Biological Science Review is an excellent publication, written specifically to meet this requirement. However, how do you make them read it, check they have read it or make them process the information? In this blog post, I will share some of the methods that I have been using.


Method One

Give them questions, they highlight the answers in the text.

Strengths: different method of question answering- they like it as they do not have to write, helps them to learn how to highlight and pick out the important parts.

Weaknesses– may only look for the answers rather than processing the article as a whole.


reading around 1


Method Two:

Get them to read the article and then ask 10 questions on it during the next lesson

Strengths: Does get them to process the whole article and it is obvious who has and who has not completed the task. A student will have to summarise/make notes on the article and summarise it if there has been a few days between it being set, completed and assessed.



Method Three:

Seven step summaries- write 7 questions based on the article. Increase the number of answers each time and the student fills in a pyramid style grid. A progression on this would be to make the students write their own 7 questions and then swap with another person in the class.

Strengths: there is obvious evidence a pupil has processed the work and it forms a nice basis of discussion in the next lesson.


Method 4:

Make the students give a short presentation/ summary of the article that they have read. This could then form a discussion and an introduction to the topic.

Weaknesses: This may take time and is dependent on the students actually doing it.

Can display boards be an effective Teaching and Learning Tool?


I have always enjoyed updating my display boards. There are several reasons for this, firstly to showcase the work my students have completed over the course of the year, to create an attractive environment for the students and visitors to my classroom and lastly and rather selfishly I spend a rather large amount of time in my classroom; I have to look at the displays for most of the day so why should I not look at something that I find attractive and take pride in? However, had I really taken into consideration the educational value of my display boards? In all honestly it had not even crossed my mind.

In recent years, I have also taken charge of most of the departmental notice boards, mostly this is because I am a bit of a control freak but also having done some research; I was inspired to create display boards which had a more educational focus.

Displaying students work

The more traditional method of using display boards to show case exceptional work is still important. It sets the standard to which you want the students to aspire to and provides model work with which you can use to explain the task to new students. You will often find me standing on my benches using my display work when I set homework. It allows me to set a bench mark for which I expect the students to emulate. How are students supposed to know what you expect of them if you do not show them? Even the best students are not mind readers, making use of model work sets clear expectations and what better use of a display board!

A ‘what does good work look like wall?’

zoe good work

For the last two years as a department we have created a departmental ‘what does good work look like?’ wall. It is not a fixed display and evolves and changes as the year progresses. Any teacher can use the board and pin to it any work that deserves showcasing to the school. I think this has several purposes. It show cases and models exceptional work as explained above, it enables comparison of work between the classes and teachers and can be used as a positive reinforcement. This is because it is a privilege to get a piece of work on to the board which showcases the best work produced in the entire department.

What is Biology board?

biology board

During one summer I had an interesting conversation with a parent of one of my friends. We were discussing if we ever taught what the study of biology actually is. We definitely teach biology but had I ever actually asked my students what they thought biology was, well no I had not. For that reason for the last few years I have asked my Year 7s to find me a picture of what they think the study of biology comprises of and to write down why they picked the picture. I find this very enlightening and enables me to gage their knowledge from the very get go.

The biology star board

biology stars

As in all schools we have a positive reward system, however, this does not always enable us to celebrate all the achievements that we in Biology would like to celebrate. This year, I have instigated a ‘Biology Star’ board. We award stars for achievements that we would like to celebrate; this could be volunteering to take part in an assembly, getting top marks in a test or something smaller like a massive improvement in effort or playing a more active role in class discussion. This again is positively reinforcing something achieved in class but celebrating it on a departmental level. I have on many occasions caught students standing and looking at the names on the stars and the reasons that they were given. Even when I informed a Year 13 student they had achieved a star they were intrigued enough to ask permission to go and see it!


Another idea that we have used to try to create interest and to get the students reading the information on the boards are animal, plant and biologist of the week fact files. As the boards are updated regularly the students take a more active interest in them especially as they constantly evolving. I have also been involved in creating a working revision wall, which provides students with resources that they can take if they feel that they require that resource.



Marking Crib Sheets

A strategy for providing whole class feedback whilst minimising marking…
Is it possible to be able to provide effective whole class feedback and praise whilst minimising the time spent marking?
When faced with a class set of books to mark, it can be a daunting prospect to read through each pupil’s work adding constructive comments and individualised praise. Indeed, we often find ourselves repeating the same comment time and time again; highlighting the same misconceptions, spelling or grammatical mistakes and failure to adhere to standard presentation rules.
Thank you to an inspirational session by Pete Sanderson at Leicester College (@LessonToolbox) introducing me to an idea originally trialled by Greg Thornton (@MrThorntonTeach) I may have discovered a solution: The Marking Crib Sheet.
A relatively simple idea, in which common misconceptions and errors, identified through marking, are recorded on a whole class crib sheet rather than individually in student’s books. This sheet can then be disseminated amongst the students for use when reviewing their own work.
I decided to trial the idea with a year 8 form providing feedback after marking their exercise books.

Crib sheet 1 example– feedback from marking exercise books.
The feedback sheet was divided into distinct sections as demonstrated below and then filled in as the books were being marked.Crib

How did I use it in the lesson?
• Time spent on feedback – half a lesson (approx. 20 minutes)
• Pupils were asked to go through the checklist and make sure they had all of the work listed and in the correct order. Any missing worksheets were available from me or they were asked to get notes from another student. Some pupils had simply not glued in the sheets, so this was easily rectified.
• Pupils were directed to read through the common spelling mistakes/misconceptions and amend their work accordingly. Some time could be spent discussing key misconceptions if necessary.
• The list of spelling mistakes was highlighted, and pupils informed that this would form the basis of a spelling test in the next lesson.
• Pupils asked to complete the Dirt activity once they had completed the work above. This was a differentiated activity with pupils choosing the activity based their own individual needs and self-reflection. Completing this during the lesson allowed me to provide one to one feedback to individuals. Alternatively, it could be given as homework or as a starter activity the following lesson.

Reflection – was it effective?
• It was quick and easy for pupils to identify if they were missing any work and to rectify this.
• Praise section reminded me to provide positive feedback (it is too easy to get bogged down in constructive criticism). It also allowed pupils to easily identify who they could approach for help or for catch up work.
• Completing the Dirt activity prompted pupils to apply their knowledge and ask questions, thus developing their understanding of the topic. This can then be marked, and pupils pushed to try a different task next time.
• All pupils had a task to complete which allowed me to have individual conversations with key pupils and provide one to one feedback where necessary.
• The crib sheet can be stored allowing me to inform my planning next time I teach this topic and it can be used to feed into pupil reports.
• By referring to the previous crib sheet I can aim to praise different pupils. I can identify if any mistakes have been carried forward into the next topic.
• Feedback is clear and evident for parents/pupils.

Word of warning:
• Whilst this provides feedback for the whole class it cannot replace individual conversations with targeted pupils. As and where necessary, more in depth, personalised comments can be added to pupil’s work. This should however be on a much smaller scale and be focussed on individual pupil needs.

The big question – did it save time?
Overall, yes.
Personally, I found that although initially it took time to get to grips with the crib sheet, I was able to provide much more effective whole class feedback in a much shorter time.
How could the sheet be improved/amended?
1) Addition of a target box in which pupils can reflect on their work (using the feedback given) and write their own targets. This can then be reviewed in the next round of marking.

Original inspiration – with thanks to Pete Sanderson and Greg Thornton!







Getting students to identify and recognise their own weaknesses in their exam technique

We have long faced the problem that students are only obsessed with the score and the grade on their marked tests. This is despite heroic efforts of teachers to go through the papers and give feedback on how to improve. The only way forward is to get the students to take responsibility, learn from their own mistakes and set the targets for improvement themselves.
Recently I have been trying to use MARCKS. An acronym for students to use to tally up where they lost marks once they get their marked tests back. This enables them to visually see where they lost the most marks and which skills they need to work on to be more successful.
M= maths
A= application of knowledge
R= reading the question incorrectly
C=clarity of answer. Does the written answer make sense/read well/say what you meant to say?
K= knowledge. Did you know the material well enough; was your revision sufficient, do you have any massive misconceptions?
S= statements per mark. Did you look at the number of marks available and construct your answer accordingly? Did you write enough?

Reflection: Was it effective?
• Enabled students to visually see where they lost marks on the test
• Students identified their own weaknesses, so each students tally was personal and specific to their test.
• Feedback was personalised
• Students identified weaknesses for themselves giving a sense of ownership
• Students knew which skills they needed to develop or where to seek help
How to use it
• The acronym could be printed on to the front of every test as part of the front cover. This could become part of what the students do when they get their tests back, part of the feedback routine.
• As a Biology teacher, maths has become an increasingly important part of our specification but the M may not always be applicable to all subjects. However, this technique could work for any skills list/exam criteria in any subject, therefore this can be used cross curricular.
• Students could then write their own targets.
A word of warning
• Students may need to be trained to be able to identify which category their lost marks fall into. A model or an example may need to be provided in the first instance. Persistence and practise makes perfect!
• Students then need to be proactive in their approach to doing something about the feedback.


target marcks