My Teaching To-Do List.

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My early priorities for my Year 8 class.

These are the things I’m thinking about planning lessons with my new Year 8 science class. I realise that this is a bit of ‘sucking eggs’ so please forgive me for stating the obvious if that’s how this reads. My experience is that it’s worth re-stating basic principles over and over again. To myself.

1. Knowing the students. I need to work on learning names really well, using a seating plan and photos. I’ll be going back to the data on SIMS to cross-reference the numbers with the people I’m getting to know. I’ve found some interesting CATS data for some of mine – very high scores suggesting ability in areas that I wouldn’t have guessed. This is going to inform the planning. I’m also going to find out if one boy is having difficulty with other subjects because he’s certainly struggling in mine. Already.

2. Routines, Expectations. There is still plenty of work needed to get these things embedded. I’m working on routines for setting out work, engaging in question and answer, expectations of silent work for short periods, insisting on contributing to paired discussion when I ask – the whole range. It takes time to spell out, to model and then to insist.

3. Formative assessment: I’m giving back books this week- I’ll give them time to act on feedback in the lesson. In fact, my next lesson is devoted to redrafting and improving the previous work – almost all of it. I’ve got a class full of very basic butterflies (as in Berger/Austin) and I want them to produce something much better to set a standard using the work they’ve already done. For some it’s about the basics of drawing with pencil and ruler; for others it’s about adding significant depth to answers using better scientific language. There are also some errors to correct. Early on, it will pay to do this all together in class rather than worry about blasting through the content. (Directed Improvement and Reflection Time. DIRT!) It’s better to secure improvement in a few specific areas rather than giving feedback on every detail. My next step will be some mini recall tests to make sure some material is being committed to memory as we go.

4. Pitching it Up: It’s a point of principle that no student of mine can ever say the work is too easy. It would be a knife through the heart. I’d recommend going to great lengths to make sure this is true – in any ability set. I’d recommend setting a range of incrementally more difficult questions, go for extended answers as often as possible – not just simple recall or vocab tests – and, if in doubt, simply ask the students – especially if you didn’t teach them last year. Is this too easy? Do you think you can cope with more challenging work? Ask them. But make sure no student is finding the work too easy. It’s often a common parental concern that work is too easy in some places, as reported by the students. It’s always frustrating to hear – but easy to address if you’re told.

5. Homework.: Already I can see I may need to design some homework as core and extension. Some simple practice tasks will be plenty for some; but the others will need some properly stretching questions. I’ll need to prepare that as part of the lesson sequence. (My Y8 son has already had six ‘decorate your front cover’ homeworks. It’s a big yawn.)

6. Literacy. I’m already starting to get this to be one our class routines. “Say it back to me in a proper sentence….” and other cues for students to rehearse extended verbal answers before they write them down or give monosyllabic answers in class. I’m also getting mileage out of group chanting of new words – eg Po-ta-see-um Per-man-ga-nate. It struck me how nervous some students were until we made it fun to say the words out loud together. It was also worth pausing to note the similar spelling rules for Diffusion and Collision. A double letter + s,i,o,n. “Making the implicit, explicit” – that’s the key.

7. Exam classes: I don’t have an exam class just yet but by now in Y10/12 I’d be very keen to make sure I know how the material in the specification is presented on past papers. That’s where it makes most sense. Specifications can be awfully abstract. I would also have made sure my students know where to find specifications, past papers and online revision resources. I’d set it as a homework to access some key info and to get it into their books to identify the students who can’t do it. Y11/13 should have all this already for sure but it’s not to late if they haven’t.

Plenty to do!


  1. This is a great post – I’ve just linked to it from a post about first half term in a new HOD role. I couldn’t put anything about establishing yourself with new classes better than you have here – thanks!


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