One of the many things I got wrong in my last school was resourcing. I spent hours making vibrant, colourful slides with plenty of images. I’d work on weekends and late into the evenings creating slides and making them visually appealing. Here’s just one example of the many slides I made that took longer for me to make than pupils actually spent on it in the lesson:
Teachers around the country are creating their own slides for their lessons, duplicating resourcing a thousand times over. Shared areas proliferate with more and more powerpoint presentations, worksheets, images and other assorted documents. Teachers save slightly different versions with differentiated additions. Lessons that start with 10 slides sprawl into 20 or 30 slides. Slides metastasise. They are the epitome of non-renewable resourcing.
Make Resourcing Renewable
One of the things I’m most passionate about at Michaela is renewable resourcing. The principle we try to live by is this: we don’t create resources that we don’t reuse. We also aim not to use any slides at all in any subject. Barry Smith leads the way in French by abjuring slides altogether.
It’s a big shift for those of us who have previously always used slides. It’s also refreshing! I love not having the hassle of creating and reformatting slides; I love not depending on the interactive whiteboard or projector or computer. It’s freed us from overdependence on technology in the classroom.
Here are four renewable resources that I’d focus on creating instead of resources that sprawl like slides, or ad-hoc resources (like cardsorts, storyboards or one-off worksheets) that are rarely, if ever, used again.
- Knowledge Organisers
Knowledge organisers are revision tools that specify precisely what pupils most need to remember from each unit. They can be used by every future year group and every teacher who ever teaches at the school. They can be reused by pupils in their homework and revision. They are brilliant for inducting new teachers into the department. We (re)use them for pupils to revise before exams, in cover lessons, and even in detention so that pupils are learning rather than just writing lines.
Quiz questions (and answers) can be used by every Year 7 to Year 11 pupil multiple times over 5 years as they complete GCSEs, so that they continually revisit core concepts and don’t forget them. Each question takes around one minute to make, and under one minute to take. But 120 Year 7 pupils can use them (say) 3 times a year, for every cohort – so over five years in the school each question would be used over 1,000 times. That’s a learning return of 1,000 minutes learning per minute resourced as opposed to the maximum 50 minutes pupils spend responding to every minute of written marking. Quiz questions can have ten times better learning return on time invested than written marking.
Abstract subject concepts are best taught by sharing lots of examples, non-examples, test examples and practice examples. For instance, when learning about the difference between nouns and verbs, or metaphors and similes, or irony and dramatic irony, teachers need lots of examples to demonstrate, to compare, to check for understanding – in order for pupils to practise and recognise and distinguish between these concepts. It’s very hard to think of enough examples off the top of your head. It’s best to resource these in advance, and not to duplicate this resourcing, but coordinate and share it across the department.
Time invested in creating and collating model examples of pupil outcomes is time well spent. This could include snapping photos of excellent pupil answers and collating them to share in class, as well as asking pupils to type up their own work, if exemplary. Students love typing up their essays to share their work with future year groups: I tell them they’re leaving a great legacy!
Schools could block out two CPD days a year to evaluate, re-resource and improve the units they have just taught, focusing on these four renewable resources: organisers, questions, examples, and models. These will be used by every teacher and every pupil who comes to the school in the coming years.
Teachers’ time is precious. The opportunity for school leaders to focus teachers on renewable resources is there for the taking.