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Section 4

Paul’s Planning Prompts

This finals section has two purposes:

1. to summarise al the thinking behind the Ginnis Files Toolkit,in
other words to present current ideas about learning in a way that
readily translate into the design of lessons and schemes of work.
2. to put the Toolkit’s individual practical ideas into context so that
they don’t appear to be just one-off ways to spice up a lesson. The
purpose and potential of the individual techniques are only
understood once it’s clear how they fit into a whole.

So, bearing all of this in mind, this section presents the sort of questions
that run through my head when planning a series of lessons or a scheme
of work. These questions represent an attempt to translate current
learning theories into classroom practice.

The questions are divided into four sequential categories:

• Objectives
• Method
• Assessment
• Recording

The ideas that appear after many of the questions are lists of possible
practical techniques. Some, but by no means all, appear in Section 1 –
there’s still more writing to do!

Learning Objectives

1. Are the learning objectives expressed as ‘learners will be able
to ………’?
By the end of this lesson you will be able to
• recognise series and parallel circuits on circuit boards and in diagrams
• predict the brightness of bulbs in one circuit compared to another

2. Are the learning objectives clearly related to the Big Picture, in
other words, the syllabus as a whole, what has already been
covered, the longer term learning goals and deadlines?

3. Are the learning objectives differentiated – do they have two r
three levels of sophistication? For example MUST, SHOULD,

By the end of these three lessons you
• MUST be able to describe Sunday worship in one Christian
denomination and explain why it is like it is.
• SHOULD be able to list the main similarities and differences in
Sunday worship between four different denominations
• COULD be able to explain why these differences exist.

By the end of this lesson each of you
• MUST be able to ask people what household jobs they do in French
and answer such questions in French
• SHOULD be able to write these questions and answer in French
without any mistakes
• COULD be able to explain in French who is the most helpful and who
is the least helpful member of the class at home

4. How will the learning objectives be made clear to the students?

5. Can the students have an input into defining the learning

6. How will individual students’ success be checked against the
learning objectives? When? – before the end of the lesson, for
homework, at the beginning of the next lesson?
Learning Activities

1. How can high expectations be communicated?

• through the learning objectives?
• through the teacher’s delivery?
• through the nature of the activities?
• through deadlines?

2. What can the students work out for themselves during the
lesson or topic?

a problem to solve? a mystery to unravel? a puzzle to work out? a code
to crack? a jumble to straighten out? an open-dended question t answer?
a set of questions to generate? a challenge to master? an issue to clarify?
a decision to make?

Ideas: Broken Pieces, Re-assembly, Dominoes, Stepping Stones,
Question Generator, Ranking, Bodily Functions, Maximisation, Boil-it-
Down, Knowing-Me-Knowing-You, Value Continuum, Discussion
Carousel, Circus Time….

3. What can the students find out for themselves?

* from text sources: books, information sheets, leaflets,
newspapers, magazines, letters, journals,
other students’ work…
* from visual sources: charts, pictures, photographs,
advertisments, slides, posters, exhibition,
* from ICT sources: CD Rom, Powerpoint, internet,
television, video tapes, radio, audio tapes,
video conferencing….
* from human sources: their own experience, each other, the
teacher, other adults…
* from physical sources: places, artefacts….
Ideas: Personal Learning Plan, Scrambled Groups, One-on-One,
Market Place, Information Hunt, Hot Seat, Anorak, Quick on the Draw,
Beat the Clock, Back to Back, Double Take, Question Generator, Up
Front, Circus Time, Visits, Visitors, Survey, Questionnaire….
4. Will the students be sufficiently active mentally – and

5. Do the student need to consolidate preliminary skills before
activities can be successful.

* social skills: participation, listening, acceptance of basic
ground rules, group work, co-operation
* research skills: choosing appropriate sources, question-framing,
scanning, skimming, close reading,
discriminating, note-taking, presentation.

Ideas: Games, Murder Hunt, Conch, Silent Squares, Observer
Server, Tokens, Randomiser, Discussion Carousel, Back to Back, Dicey
Business, Pairs to Fours, Sum-Up-and-Speak-Up, Round, Paper Round,
Conversation Cards, Wheel of Fortune, Lucky Dip, Brainstorm, Hot Spot,
Participation Cards, Value Continuum, Question Generator, SQ3R, Boil-
it-Down, Target Notes, Paragraph Headings, Quick on the Draw, Chart
from Text, Diagram from Text…

6. How can variety be provided so that different learning styles
are satisfied?

* ‘overtime’ a sequence of different styles within the lesson or over
a number of lessons
* ‘menu’ different learning strategies operating simultaneously
so students have choice.

For guidance you could use:

1. Modality model: Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic
2. Gregorc’s model: Abstract Sequential, Abstract Random,
Concrete Sequential, Concrete Random
3. Gardener’s model: Linguistic, logical-mathematical, Spatial,
Bodily-kinaesthetic, Musical,
Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalistic.

7. How can activities be made multi-sensory or emotionally
Ideas: Walkie-Talkie, role-play, colour, music, visualisation, forum
Theatre, images, symbols, singing, mime, connect with personal
experience, real situations, simulations, public performance, Still Image,
Bodily Functions, peer teaching, team-work, Hot Seat.

8. To what extent can student be involved in making decisions
about learning strategies?

Level 1: teacher adjusts activities as a result of feedback from
Level 2: students choose between different pre-set activities (Menu
Level 3: individual students propose and negotiate their personal
learning strategy (Sole Search method)
Level 4: the teacher asks the class the open question: how shall we
tackle these learning objectives? (Black Cheque method)

9. How can student be encouraged to make their own meaning?

Ideas: peer discussion, peer teaching, testing the teacher, mind-
mapping, Broken Pieces, Ho Spot, Value Continuum, key word plan,

10. What can be done to make the classroom most conducing to

* emotionally: ground rules and teacher’s interpersonal style
which together guarantee no put-downs
* biologically: oxygen, temperature, hydration
* psychologically: colour, aesthetics, peripherals
* physically: layout appropriate to chosen activities.

1. How can students prove what they have learned?

Ideas: sit a formal test, write and explanation, conduct an interview,
be interviewed, teach someone else, explain to parents and test them,
make an model, devise a quiz, give a demonstration, sequence jumbled
information, label a blank diagram, construct a diagram, undertake a
challenge against the clock, give a commentary, mime it, spot the
deliberate mistakes, predict what will happen if…, devise questions to
given answers , fill in missing key words, write an essay, make a
presentation, devise a worksheet, mount an exhibition, be hot-seated,
complete an unfinished chart or table or time-line, present a still image,
match words with definitions, conduct an experiment, do past exam
questions.…., Memory Board, Bingo, Verbal Football, On Tour, Wheel
of Fortune, Pass the Buck, Circular Marking, Dicey Business,
Randomiser, Masterminds.

2. How quickly will students get feedback on their progress?

The sooner the better!

How can students record what they have learned for future

Options include: bullet points, key word plan, mind map, diagram,
storyboard, written questions and answers, flowchart, diary, letter,
annotated picture, script, table or chart, audio recording, video recording,
photographs, list, flashcards, writing frame, magazine or newspaper
article, completed worksheet, photocopy, report, headed paragraphs,
time-line, crossword connections……
Practice and theory

This collection of practical classroom tools is born of more than 20 years’
experience of teaching and training in schools of all types – schools
which, despite their diversity, have shared the common desire to raise
levels of achievement.

One lesson I’ve learned from all these initiatives: that learning is most
likely to be improved when theory and practice inform each other.
Consequently the practical strategies in Sections 1, 2 and 3 and the
planning prompts in Section 4 stand on four theoretical pillars

• neuroscience research
• learning styles research
• organic and multiple intelligence theories
• humanistic psychology

These notions command great respect currently and, taken together, they
create a reassuringly solid platform for new practices. Teachers who take
the time to explore these theoretical positions sat they provide the means
by which their innovative practice can be sustained. They say it compares
to just being given a bag of sweets on the one hand and being given the
recipe to make their own sweets on the other.

Main messages

Two particular features of the learning process are promoted through the

• Variety This is the spice of life – without it learning becomes
tedious. Variety sustains motivation because the human brain has an
attentional bias for contrast and novelty. Providing variety is the only
way of meeting the needs of the vastly different types of learners
found in every classroom in every subject at every age.
• Responsibility Learners cannot be given responsibility for their
learning, they already have it! Students not only control their will to
learn, their brains compel them to make uniquely personalised
meanings in every learning situation. Teachers cannot compel interest,
nor can they guarantee learning outcomes. However, teachers can
encourage students to use their inherent responsibility positively by
‘asking’ rather than ‘telling’ students, by requiring them to work
things out and find things out for themselves, by offering them choices
and by planning with, rather than for, them.

While students vary enormously in their natural learning styles and in
their readiness to accept responsibility for their learning, teachers vary in
their natural teaching styles and in their confidence to share
responsibility with students. So, the Toolkit offers options.

All the practical ideas in the Ginnis Files have been thoroughly ‘road
tested’, often with difficult classes and always in a variety of subjects and
with different age groups. In the hands of skilful teachers, these strategies
have almost always had positive effects on motivation, discipline and
quality of learning. The ideas promote engagement, interaction and

Some of the practical activities in Section 1 are my own, but most of
them have been picked up along the way and their origins lie somewhere
in the midst of time. Many experienced teachers tell me that they
remember these sorts of ideas from earlier initiatives such as Active
Learning or the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative, or even
Raising of the School Leaving Age ! So don’t be surprised if you
recognise ones that you thought you’d invented!

My thanks to everyone who has contributed, often unwittingly, in one
way or another.