As the proverbial sands of time slip away in the run up to the summer examinations, teachers are often faced with the tough decision of where focus in revision should lie. Often this decision is centred around a content driven programme of study. As we are racing to the day of examination, how much time do we plan in for the crafting and planning of the response? In between the quote drills, the specialist language, and the correct spelling of characters, how much time do we spend teaching students where to order their
points and create an ‘argument’ as opposed to an ‘explanation’?

The notion of think out loud protocols and live modelling are by no means new concepts. However, with the changing demands of 100% examination it is vital that when our students get into that exam hall that they know how to communicate all of that content that they will have revised. After all, there is no teacher to answer the age-old question: “How do I get started?”

Here are some simple strategies that could prove to be vital when leading that ‘horse to water’:

Students learn by watching us so they need to see into our brains! Imagine your brain is printing out a ticker-tape of all your thoughts for you to read aloud. Saying your thoughts out loud shows students what you’re thinking, or “thinking aloud.” When we ‘model’ we often opt for showing a good example. Sometimes, we even link to a mark scheme and get students to assess. Occasionally, we get students to improve the model.

Live modelling is the process in which we, as the teacher, demonstrate how to write a model answer in front of the students. This enables us to highlight thought processes, link to literacy and clarify simple errors as we go along. Here is an effective sequence on how to move from live model to independence:

  • Show/create a good example and link elements of the response to the mark scheme (a split screen on a computer is good for this). Talk aloud, picking out key elements and why they got the marks.
  • As a class, create a second response. For lower ability, give sentence starters and key words for each section. Highlight literacy and numeracy opportunities. Get pupils to edit and make improvements based on the mark scheme.
  • Get pupils to write a third response in pairs, sharing their thinking process out loud.
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Being able to offer different interpretations is an important exploratory process for literature. Argument tennis is a quick revision activity that quickly engages and allows pupils to develop more detailed responses. First, start by creating a set of cards with the titles of themes, characters, quotes, or contextual factors. Place them face down between pairs. The students draw a card from a pack and must take it in turns to ‘bounce’ ideas and understanding back and forth until they run out of points to make. This card then stays with the winner. Students continue this until the whole pack is complete or they run out of time.

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Taken from Pam Hook’s Solo Taxonomy, the relational hexagons allow students to make connections. A vital skill when building up critically evaluative responses. Choose themes, characters, or quotations to place in the centre of each hexagon and pupils connect ideas together. Across each point where the hexagons meet, students should be able to explain how ideas are connected. This works particularly well with poetry clusters. The hexagon generator is free online and be found at the link:


Activity: Students are able to develop their inference skills through looking at an image/source/text in different layers.

The main stimulus is placed in the middle, with a series of squares around the outsides. Each square increases in size. The first square asks questions about what is explicit from the source (state); the second square will identify some implicit meaning (analysis); the final square will encourage students to formulate their own questions from looking at the source (synthesis).

This activity allows pupils to work in groups and build their responses through looking at different meaning. It is often quite difficult for lower ability students to jump straight to inference and analysis and this activity builds confidence. The final box, where students generate questions, can be used for homework.

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