Ideas #10 and #11

Idea 10: Adjective ranking

Our school has recently established a Teaching and Learning working group. We meet once a term and there is a representative from each department, I am sure most schools have a similar concept. The really nice thing about the one here is that it is voluntary and is more of an informal meeting of minds who are interested in developing new teaching ideas. Last term, we decided that as a group we would try and observe as many people as possible from other departments, which is why I have watched several English and Maths lessons this term as well as a Psychology lesson. Our new project is to create a shared pedagogical database of brilliant teaching ideas that we think really work, so that others from across the staff faculty can dip in and out of them. This is where idea #10 came from.

The idea

Give students a list of adjectives that they have to rank in order of how effectively it describes a named object/ concept/ process that you then give them. Students then come up to the white board and rank the words, followed by teacher facilitated feedback. Repeat with the same adjectives but with a different named object/ person etc. I used this with Year 10, asking them how the adjectives could be used to describe Kennedy, Khrushchev and Stalin respectively. The resulting feedback required them to link it to specific historical examples to support their point.


  1. It is very simple to set up and it requires minimal resources
  2. It allows less able students to follow the lead of others if they are unsure, allowing for whole class participation
  3. Equally, it can be differentiated for more able students through word choice and targeted questioning.


  1. The adjectives need to be carefully selected for this to be effective and if they aren’t, then it could fall flat on its face. Again, take a leaf out of @HFletcherWood’s book and consider what you want the students to be thinking.

Would I use it again? Definitely. I tried it with several other classes and it worked brilliantly. Excellent for a last minute tweak to a lesson.

Idea #11: DIY

I have been struggling recently to convey to students what a top level answer should look and feel like. Thanks to help from Twitter (@miss_history and @leedonaghy in particular) I found a range of examples for my Year 11s but my Year 12s were still hovering on the borderline of A and B. I did not have access to a model answer so I decided to set myself a challenge…

The Idea

I decided to write my own timed past paper essay to give to the students. I handed it out at the beginning of the lesson (not telling them that it was mine), told them not to be fooled by the language used and then asked them to mark it. We then as a class drew up a WWW and an EBI set of targets for essay writing. We decided that I had received 22/24 – a very respectable A grade. I then revealed that it was mine (to the horror of the student who had slated my essay and given it 13/24, the cheeky so and so!).  It was a great learning curve for both the students and myself.


  1. I appreciated just how hard writing AS answers is in the time available, having not done it for eight years – this gave me lots of ideas for future planning.
  2. I could demonstrate very clearly what students should be sounding like in an essay as I deliberately structured it in a certain way to point this out.
  3. Students thought not only about what is good but also what should be avoided – even by top students.


  1. I was placed in quite a vulnerable position in terms of my authority if the students had thought it was completely rubbish or indeed if it had not turned out well.
  2. It is fairly labour intensive to do regularly although once you have a bank of these this would resolve itself.

Would I do it again? Yes although I am hoping soon that my students will be of the same level so I can simply steal theirs!




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