Generating Electricity (the YorkScience way)

If you’re a science teacher and not yet aware of the approach being trialed and developed as part of YorkScience, you should probably go have a look. My understanding is that it revolves around two linked ideas:

  • If we start by considering how we will assess competence, we can make sure we use appropriate activities to develop that competence.
  • Students should have access to everything we can provide about how answers are judged, so they can focus on what separates good and better answers.

To a novice, outsider or government minister, this may look like ‘teaching to the test’. The problem is that using that phrase shows the speaker thinks the test is no good. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t teach students to perform well in a test, if the test shows us something useful about the students’ knowledge and skill.

Anyway, political point made, let’s get on with the show.

I’ve produced (or more accurately, mostly finished producing) a resource which teachers can use to assess and develop understanding of generating electricity. There are two pdfs. The first is intended to make a booklet (4 sides of A4) which students write on over the course of a lesson and homework. The lesson plan would be as follows:

Starter: “Wind or Nuclear Power?” on the board, with cartoons or images if preferred.


  1. Students attempt multiple choice question in exam conditions. Allow time to fill in the ‘Why’ section too – perhaps ten minutes overall?
  2. Model the process of using the confidence grid using the first part of the exam question, ideally projecting the pdf and, by discussion, ticking appropriate boxes.
  3. Students work together in pairs or small groups to finish the grids.
  4. The second resource generating electricity diagnostic incomplete ms leads students through different (but overlapping) activities depending on which answers they chose. This is intended to mimic the teacher judgement which means you explain things in different ways depending on how and why a student made a mistake. This so far only has the first part (of four) completed.
  5. Discuss and compare the notes students have made to support them in each answer.
  6. Start (and probably set for homework) the notes summary on the last page of the booklet. This includes key words for prompts and gives some suggestions of format.


  • Which would you choose, Wind or Nuclear Power? Students must back up their opinion with a (revisable) fact.
  • What exam skills have we practised today?

I’m hoping to post the full version of the markscheme pages, as soon as they’re done. This may be completed as an extension activity by my triple group. 🙂 Comments and suggestions welcome, please let me know what you think.


T&L Ideas 2

Second on what will hopefully be a series of  ‘echoed’ posts, based on the weekly emails I’ve been asked to produce in my setting. Still my own, rather than based on suggestions from colleagues, so regular readers will probably recognize ideas and links.

Three quick links about effective revision this morning; it seems appropriate given what many of our students are up to.

Five out of Three/Teach, Do, Review from David Fawcett: a useful framework for structuring a revision lesson, so students don’t spend an hour flicking through textbooks and chatting about Eastenders.

Some similar ideas, explained rather more briefly, are available through Student Toolkit. Some are printable so can be given to students as they walk in the door, and are intended to be used individually.

If you’re using computers, the free site lets students generate mind maps without too much of a learning curve. I find it useful to ask them to organize clear information from another source, eg Bitesize or S-Cool, in a graphical format. This way they can focus on links rather than making excuses for forgetting an odd fact. It’s easy for them to test themselves, just by covering up a section and challenging each other to fill in the ‘gaps’.

We’d be really interested in feedback or suggestions about these or any other classroom resources…

What should I share with colleagues? What would be your recommendations, of themes or individual ideas/links, that are most likely to increase involvement?

(Sounds like a teacher choosing lesson activities for an able but unmotivated class, doesn’t it…)

T&L Ideas 1

In context; I’ve joined the Teaching and Learning group at my new/current school and have been asked to coordinate sharing ideas with the whole school. The original idea was as a blog, but we simplified this to a weekly email. The request was along the lines of “because you know about this blogging thing.” My mission, because I appear to have accepted it, is to share shortcuts and time-savers to make life easier, not to add to workload. I’m aiming to share three links on a common theme each week, and am hoping to send the email out each Monday morning. I’ll be increasing the ‘value-for-money’ by adding them to my own blog too, although some will be duplicated from previous posts. My hope is that by waiting a week I’ll be able to include feedback from my ‘in-school’ colleagues to improve what I’m sharing with virtual ones. So far nothing, but I live in hope. I’d like it to go the other way too, so if any blog readers have suggestions of secret weapons or tricks to share, resources to point to or interesting approaches, please let me know at the usual address.  is where David Didau – our speaker from the start of term – shares his thoughts and ideas. Well worth a read with resources to steal. He’s also active on twitter (and if you don’t use the platform to swap teaching ideas, you should at least consider it).
Dr Mark Evans is currently setting up a free school in Norfolk, but don’t hold that against him. is a nice introduction to the idea of evidence-based education and will lead you to all kinds of fun stuff (Marzano, Hattie etc). The EEF Toolkit is a good quick reference to effective strategies but does not take account of staff time on an individual level. Still worth a look.
A similar name, but a different approach; an assistant head who tweets and blogs as @teachertoolkit. His 5min lesson plan can be a good place to develop what we can all take for granted, without it taking up entire weekends. Many teachers have produced their own versions to suit different approaches and subjects, but see what works for you.
We’re hoping this will be a weekly email, with resources and links from all over the place. All feedback and suggestions appreciated, and if you don’t like it, (1)send your own and (2)blame (SMT name redacted to protect the innocent).