What is an ‘Authentic’ Teacher?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

It was lunchtime but I didn’t mind. Neither did my German teacher.

I ran upstairs and entered her room. She was free – success! I pulled out my listening exam script: a set of learned responses to verbal questions that could come up in my GCSE exam.

With UKEdChatI’m sure she was hungry and I’m sure she wanted lunch. I didn’t think about that when I was 16 years old. I probably should have. 

She sat with me and helped me with my responses. Her dedication lunchtime after lunchtime was a major factor in the grade ‘A’ I achieved in the final exams. She went on to praise me publicly for my efforts and nominate me for a prestigious school award, which I won.

What makes some teachers go beyond the call of duty?

Not every teacher was like my German teacher, and understandably so. As teachers we work long hours and often give up parts of our weekends and school holidays for planning, marking and perfecting our work.

If I could write one phrase to describe my German teacher it would be this: She really cared.

Art class

That’s not to say that my other teachers didn’t care – they did. But my German teacher really cared.

The desire and drive within her to help one of her students had a profound effect on me – so much so that it acts as a huge reminder to me of the duty of care I have to my students today: almost two decades later. 

poll everywhere

How does ‘authenticity’ manifest itself?

I’ve been fortunate to receive wholehearted care from a number of great teachers in my life. I think their authenticity can be summed up in these main ways:

  • They don’t just teach their subject: My best teachers tried to help me out with problems I was having in life, not just in my studies. When I broke up with my girlfriend, my Biology teacher gave me some great advice and told me not to let it bother me. “It’s her loss”, he said. When I came into school looking exhausted because I’d had no sleep the night before, a number of teachers expressed concern for me and asked how I was and recommended that I get some sleep. When I was pelted with snowballs and came into my Head of Year’s office crying, he put his hands on my ears to warm them up and helped me to calm down.  
  • They take their duty as ‘role models’ seriously: “There’s no such thing as an off-duty teacher” – words spoken to me when I was an NQT. I think those words are true. I never saw any of my teachers drunk or smoking, and even on my graduation evening when some teachers came out for a drink at a local restaurant with the students, they acted responsibly.
  • They remember you after you leave: At high school reunions and when bumping into each other in the street, authentic teachers and former students talk with each other like it was yesterday. “How are you getting along, Richard”. “I’m doing fine”, I said. “I always knew you would be a success, you were always a very dedicated student”, my old physics teacher responded in 2006. That felt great. It was a reminder of who I was at my core, and a motivator to keep me on track for the future. 
  • They leave no student behind: I was in Year 10 when me and my classmates took a ‘formulae of ions’ test in Chemistry. About half of the class, including me, failed the test. To this day I still don’t know why that happened, but my Chemistry teacher just couldn’t let it go. She pulled aside all of us as a group, had a talk with us and made us resit the test the following week. On the second attempt, we all got above 80% (and it was an equally difficult test). Afterwards she said “Can you now see that the concept was really simple”. We all agreed. 
  • They give up some of their free time: I already know that this is not going to be a popular one with some of my readers, but it is true. Authentic teachers care so much about their students that they are happy to run classes or tutoring after school or at break and lunch times to help students out. They know that this dedication will pay dividends in terms of the rapport they are building and the results the students will get in the final exams. These payoffs are more valuable to them than their free time, which is very admirable. 

instructional software

What are the effects of ‘authenticity’?

Authentic teachers literally change their students’ lives. They realise that their influence doesn’t just last a day, or an academic year. They know that they are part of a mission to mold their learners into happy, responsible, good adults of the future. 

There’s a saying that was used in a Teacher recruitment campaign in the UK in the early 2000s – No One Forgets a Good Teacher.

I would say that no one forgets an authentic teacher, because only authentic teachers can be good teachers. 



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11 Female Teachers Who Changed the World: International Women’s Day 2018

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati (The best illustrator in the world!)

Women perform a large number of essential and unique roles in society.

That fact is undeniable.

lab girls

From authors and actresses to CEOs and engineers: Women prove time and time again that they can perform any job just as efficiently and professionally as any man can.

As a high school Science and Chemistry Teacher I am truly honored to work with a team of incredibly dedicated female colleagues. Some of the best teachers in the whole world are women, and here’s why:

  • They are caring and nurturing: essential characteristics when teaching and helping children and young adults
  • They are efficient and incredibly organised
  • They are passionate
  • They are truly dedicated to the profession
  • They are just great teachers, period!

All teachers, male or female, are heroes and heroins: we inspire the next generation with our tireless efforts to educate, sustain, help and care for our learners.

This blog post celebrates the lives and works of ten truly exceptional female teachers who continue to inspire and influence educational thought, methodologies and practice in classrooms and universities all over the world. Their work not only benefits others but shapes and molds traditional pedagogy so that it continually evolves and improves as the years go by.

With any ‘11 Best’ list we have to very selective – not everyone can be included! If you feel that another female teacher is worthy of mention then please do comment using the box at the bottom of the page.

All but one these amazing women has a twitter handle. If you click on the twitter image it’ll take you to that person’s twitter page.

Why not send a nice message to your favourite out of these 11 women? In celebration of International Women’s Day 2018, a nice message on Twitter to thank one or more of these women for their amazing work will go a long way and will probably bring a smile to their faces.

If you’re reading this on a mobile device then it might be best to switch to ‘reader view’ now, as the many images below may make the layout a bit messy. 

So now let’s begin our celebration of women in education!

Sue Cowley

Sue Cowley Amazon Image

I was first introduced to Sue Cowley in 2008 when I was a struggling NQT. I walked into my local bookstore in Chester and a book title instantly attracted my attention: ‘Getting the Buggers to Behave’.

I read that book from cover to cover 3 times in 7 days: I found it completely compelling and totally ‘unputdownable’. The advice in the book: such as the dynamics of giving students a second chance to redeem themselves by not punishing immediately, really made sense to me. I just hadn’t thought about behavior management in this way before! It was a truly life-changing experience!

Sue Cowley Behave

I like books that are practical and entertaining and Sue’s book was definitely that. If you’re struggling with behavior management then you MUST get this book! It could save your career (and your sanity)!

12 years after I read ‘Getting the Buggers to Behave’ and we find that Sue has build up an impressive international reputation as an educational influencer, teacher-trainer, speaker and bestselling author of twenty books! Sue was even recently called to appear as an Expert Witness on behavior in schools for the Education Select Committee made up of MPs from the UK Parliament.

I think it’s right to say that Sue’s advice works!


Her latest book:The Ultimate Guide to Differentiation’ (which is brand new, being published literally three days ago on March 8th!) seems set to rocket to the bestselling charts just like the legendary ‘Getting the Buggers to Behave’ did. Check it out on Amazon by clicking on the image below.

Sue Cowley Differentiation

Starr Sackstein

Sarr Sackstein 2

Starr Sackstein is one of those all-time inspirational grassroots teachers who discovered the right way to do things and the right way to tell the world about it!

Her teaching career started just over 16 years ago in Far Rockaway High School, where she was keen to have an impact and make a difference in the lives of so many. She quickly mastered rapport-building with her students and recognized, on a deep level, the most important part of teaching: relationships. To this day, Sackstein continues to elevate and develop her students by putting them at the center of their learning.


Sackstein has authored a large number of truly uplifting, enriching and thought-provoking works including my personal favorite: Peer Feedback in the Classroom’. I’ve read this book a whopping three times and I can honestly say that it is perfect for understanding what meaningful feedback looks like (and it’s not about percentages and numbers!).

Peer Feedback

Most recently, Sackstein was named as an ASCD Emerging Leader and had the opportunity to give a TEDxTalk about throwing out grades called A Recovering Perfectionist’s Journey To Give Up Grades.

Education Write Now

Starr effectively balances her career of writing and teaching with being the mum to her 12 year old son: Logan. If ‘inspirational’ and ‘life-changing’ were adjectives that could be measured in numbers (contrary to Sackstein’s advice), then she would definitely score 100%. 

Check out her latest emotive and truly game-changing advice in the legendary book ‘Education Write Now’ which was published in January (available on Amazon).

Angela Watson


As an internationally recognized educational blogger, Angela brings a wealth of ideas and life-changing solutions to the teaching profession. She started blogging in 2003 with her trailblazing and groundbreaking website for educators everywhere: Ms. Powell’s Management Ideas for TeachersAs a place to share tips and techniques on behavior management, organisation and teaching methodologies, the site expanded and evolved into the world-famous The Cornerstone for Teachers in 2008. 


I was personally very humbled, lucky and grateful to be invited to write a guest blog post which was featured on The Cornerstone for Teachers here: 4 Secrets to Building Rapport with Students 

Homepage The Cornerstone for Teachers

Since the launch of The Cornerstone for Teachers, Angela has been heavily involved in improving the work-life balance and effectiveness of teachers everywhere. Her writing has featured in thousands of magazine articles, newsletters and internet resources and her ideas are utilized extensively in teacher training and preparation courses across America. 

In addition to all of this, Angela founded Due Season Press and Educational Services, through which she has created printable curriculum resourcesonline courses4 booksthe Truth for Teachers podcastand the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club (which is absolutely brilliant).

The world ‘inspirational’ doesn’t go far enough to describe Angela’s work and influence in the field of education. Her teachings inform and benefit teachers all over the world and on International Women’s Day she rightly stands out as a role-model for educators everywhere.

Jennifer Chang-Wathall

Jennifer Wathall LinkedIn

I love mathematics. I love manipulating equations and applying mathematics to problems in Biology and Chemistry. Jennifer Chang-Wathall loves mathematics too: so much so that she developed a revolutionary new way of teaching it!

As a Lecturer at the prestigious University of Hong Kong, Jennifer stands out as woman who’s on a mission to improve how we teach mathematics forever. 

Published in 2016, her pioneering book: Concept-Based Mathematics, achieves what few subject texts can: it connects the dots!


As a former mathematics teacher myself I understand how easy it is to become topic-focused and super-concerned about getting my students to complete problem after problem until they finally ‘get it’. Lower down the school this approach can work to a limited extent, but for advanced students (such as IBDP learners) it’s important to relate mathematics to the ‘big picture’.

Concept Based Mathematics

With Jennifer’s Concept-Based approach, students see how calculus can be applied to radioactive decay or how arithmetic and geometric progressions can be used to model the spread of disease. These cross-curricular and cross topic links within mathematics define a modern approach that encourages real deep-learning, exploration and thorough understanding.

It looks like Jennifer has found a good way to get students to truly love mathematics again! 

Jennifer Wathall Website

In her day-to-day job of changing the world with her transformative mathematics pedagogy, Jennifer runs International Baccalaureate workshops and serves as a field representative for the IB.  She also works as a consultant helping maths departments and schools transition to concept-based curricula and instruction. Her website can be found at www.jenniferwathall.com 

Hanan Al Hroub

Hanan Al Hroub

Born in a Palestinian refugee camp, Hanan Al Hroub is an inspiration to so many. Changing lives one child at a time through her ‘No to Violence‘ message, Hanan Al Hroub uses a unique play she created to get kids to follow a peaceful path of life.

Having suffered from violence herself and having her own children traumatized by a shooting incident on their way home from primary school, Hanan decided to tackle the problem of youth violence head-on. 


By developing trusting relationships with her students and emphasizing the importance of literacy, Hanan’s approach has led to a decline in violent behavior in school and has inspired colleagues to adopt similar methods.She describes how the violence that children experience on the streets gets brought into the classroom. However, after just a few months of following her programme, students show a dramatic improvement in their behavior towards each other.

Hanan was formally recognized for her work when she was crowned Winner of the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Award in 2016. She has also written a game-changing book: We Play and Learn, which continues to inspire and inform Palestinian teaching to this day. 

Global Teacher Prize Winner

Adjima Thaitrong


Adjima (nickname: Mod) has such a unique style of communication that she has earned herself the reputation of being one of the most famous Thai Language teachers in the world.

Her humorous and lively style appeals to expatriate, tourist and online learners alike. Her excellent website at http://learnthaiwithmod.com/ contains lots of excellent articles and great Thai language learning videos that make learning this beautiful language fun and easy.


I’ve personally been an online student of hers for two years. Her videos and resources make learning Thai a really enjoyable experience. She has also has a unique way of ‘raising the bar’ each time without making the learner realise. Students of hers regularly comment that even though her material gets harder as you go along, it doesn’t feel that way because of the free and casual style of her teaching. 

That’s a unique skill that few teachers master.

Learn Thai with Mod

With a Facebook following of almost 28.000 people, Mod provides every netizen with ample and comprehensive access to Thai language learning. Doing away with traditional ‘rote’ earning, Mod’s playful style appeals to a new generation of multi-linguists.

What do I take from Mod on a daily basis? That’s easy – smile, don’t be too serious and have energy: your students will learn better because of it!

Annie Brock

Annie Brock Amazon Image

Annie Brock is a K-12 innovation specialist and the author of three great books: Introduction to Google ClassroomThe Growth Mindset Coach, and The Growth Mindset Playbook.

Annie’s pedagogical ideas have been well-received in the teaching profession, with her books receiving wide-acclaim for their excellent practicality and user-friendly format. The Growth Mindset Coach, for example, outlines a recurring month by month guide to actually developing the growth mindset with students in the classroom.


I personally liked Annie’s book (which was co-authored by Heather Hundley – another inspirational teacher) for it’s ‘mantras’ that create a theme for each month. This makes the book really enjoyable and I can personally vouch for the fact that the techniques work!

The Growth Mindset

Her ‘not yet’ mantra for April, for example, really helped me to create formative and summative assessments that encourage students to go further and deeper with their learning, rather than accepting a point score and moving on. 

Annie lives in Holton, Kansas, with her husband, Jared, and their two children.

Heather Hundley

Heather Hundley

Heather Hundley is a Director of Curriculum and an Assistant Elementary Principal in Kansas. She co-authored of two pioneering and influential books with Annie Brock: The Growth Mindset Coach and The Growth Mindset Playbook.

Both books are absolutely brilliant and I would recommend them both. Additionally, The Growth Mindset Playbook is particularly good for improving communication with students and includes many great examples of engaging and effective lesson plans. 


Bottom-line: Heather and Annie write sense! Read their books – they’ll change the way you see yourself and your students! 

Heather is also very active on Twitter, where she offers lots of advice and tips on how encourage a growth mindset with students, colleagues and even parents!

Growth Mindset Playbook

Now that’s useful!

Heather lives in Holton, Kansas with her husband and their three children.

Roberta Bondar

Roberta Bondar

Roberta Bondar is Canada’s first female astronaut and the first ever neurologist to go into space. After spending more than a decade as NASA’s head of space medicine, Roberta became a consultant and speaker in the scientific, business and medical communities.

Roberta’s work has touched so many lives and she has been recognised by many honours and awards including the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the NASA Space Medal, over 22 honorary degrees and induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.


Respected for her expertise and clear teaching style, Roberta has been a star guest on television and radio networks throughout the United States and Canada. She featured in the 1994 movie Destiny in Space, and has also co-presented the Discovery Channel’s coverage of space shuttle launches.

On the Shuttle

Roberta co-authored the legendary 1993 book (which is now a collector’s item): On the Shuttle. This book provides a mind-blowing look at life on the world’s first International Microgravity Laboratory and is great for teaching kids about life in Space.

Elizabeth E. Bailey


Bailey grew up in New York City, where she graduated from the Chapin School in 1956. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Radcliffe College, a master’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. from Princeton University, where she was the first woman ever to receive a doctoral degree in economics. Bailey was the first woman appointed as a department head at Bell Laboratories (she led the economic research section there). Elizabeth worked in technical programming and economic research at Bell Laboratories from 1960 to 1977.

Bailey joined The Wharton School in July 1991, having served from July 1990 to June 1991 as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, andas a visiting scholar at the Yale School of Organization and Management. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997. 

She is still incredibly busy and active despite her any years of outstanding contribution and service. She serves on the Board of Directors of TIAA-CREF, Altria, and CSX Corporation and is a trustee of The Brookings Institution and a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Elizabeth has also been the Vice Chairmen of Bancroft NeuroHealth since 1989.

Elizabeth’s best-known work is her book: Economic Theory of Regulatory ConstraintPublished in 1972, this iconic book is a collectors item and is still used as a staple reference for economics undergraduates all over the world.

Economic Theory of Regulatory Constraint

Elizabeth’s achievements and contributions to the fields of economics and organizational management are globally significant and nothing short of legendary.

Elizabeth Wharton

Ann Cotton OBE


No list about about amazing and inspirational women would be complete without a girl from my home country: Wales.

Cardiff-born Ann Cotton gave up her regular teaching job and founded the Campaign for Female Education, also known as CAMFED, in 1993.CAMFED is an organisation that educates young women in rural Africa. Her work has supported African girls through school and helped to improve their living standards: lifting them out of poverty.


By giving the opportunity of education to girls in poor African communities she has changed their lives forever.

Ann Cotton in Africa

That’s what heroins do, and Ann Cotton is definitely a heroin.

The model that she follows is to create sustainability in part through CAMA: a 25,000-member pan-African network of CAMFED graduates who are now rural businesswomen, and have become role models for their communities through the economic independence they have achieved for themselves. Almost 5,000 of these graduates have become teachers: further propagating the message of hope for so many.

Ann was awarded the Wise prize at an education summit in Qatar in 2014 and was recognised by the OECD for best practice in development innovation. She was also honoured with an Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 2006 in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

In Recognition

As a small token of gratitude from teachers everywhere, all of these inspirational women have been sent a copy of my book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Managementalong with a box of chocolates. May teachers everywhere be touched and inspired by the works of these amazing women for many more years to come.



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World Book Day: Every Teacher is an English Teacher

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)
Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Related article –  Vocabulary Values: Helping Students to Learn Key Words

He waddled his way through the corridor like a happy duckling. Amid the giggles and cries of small children he looked liked a giant orange with tentacles as he waded through the masses on his way to the library. Mr Jones was dressed as ‘Mr Tickle’ from the ‘Mr Men’ series of books. 

The outfit must have taken an astronomical amount of time to create. With orange fur and controllable arms it was clear who was going to win the ‘Best Dressed Teacher’ competition. 

I, on the other hand, tend to be a little too lazy with my outfit on World Book Day. This year was no exception. Can you guess who I am?:

James Bond World Book Day

If you said ‘James Bond’ then well done: you’re right! It’s a quick (and a little too lazy) conversion for me: change my tie to a bow, add a dinner shirt and a white pocket square and I’m ready to serve on Her Majesty’s Secret Service!

“Who have you come as?” one of my friends says to me as I walk into the staff room on Friday (we had our World Book Day a day later as Thursday is a religious holiday here in Thailand). “I’m James Bond” I say (rather upset that I wasn’t instantly recognizable). “Is that even a book” he says. “It’s a whole series of books, written by Ian Fleming”

“Wow. I had no idea”

Costume Capers

World Book Day is great for getting people to ask good questions. Often, the characters we dress up as are in fact movie stars which we never knew existed in books. This can really get kids inspired to read more as they gradually realize that good books are often the basis for their favorite movies or TV shows. Good examples include:

  • Harry Potter – The all-time legendary series of fantasy books written by J.K. Rowling. These books have formed the basis for a whopping 8 different movies!
  • The Hunger Games – These action packed dystopian novels featuring stoic and passionate heroin: Katniss Everdeen, have been transformed into five excellent films. 
  • Twilight – Popular with teenagers and young adults: these fantasy/romance novels were brilliantly conceived and written by legendary author Stephenie Meyer

What message does all of this send to kids when they are fully aware of the facts? That’s simple: Books are cool! Books are inspirational. Books change lives. Read books!

With UKEdChat
“An AMAZING book!”

Command Terms

It’s a shame that World Book Day is only once per year. In reality, every day should be a World Book Day as we should encourage our kids to read books and enjoy learning English on a daily basis. 

As a teacher at an International School in Bangkok, I have the unique privilege and pleasure of working with classes where, in many cases, more than 90% of the students are working with English as an additional/second language. One of my unique missions every day is to help my students to see why English is a beautiful language. To help them notice patterns and sounds. To ensure that they use the correct language in their answers to exam-style questions.

Examination language

Try putting up a ‘command-terms’ display in your classroom (like the one below):

Command Terms Blooms Display.JPG
A command terms hierarchy display that follows Bloom’s Taxonomy

I use this display on a daily basis to teach my students how to phrase their answers. I like to turn the command terms into kid-friendly language when going through exam-style and past-paper questions. For instance:

  • Describe: Tell me ‘what’
  • Explain: Tell me ‘why and how’
  • Deduce: Work out the answer and show every step in your work

Eventually, the students can build up a long list of command terms in their Learning Journals or notebooks, coupled with their ‘kid-friendly’ descriptions. The display also follows Bloom’s Taxonomy, with command terms demanding more sophistication in written responses as you go up the pyramid.

The result: Students learn good English vocabulary and score better on exams. What could be better than that! 

Command terms are so important, in fact, that many textbooks are now emphasizing them as students work through the chapters. Take this extract from a book my students were using in one of our Science tutoring sessions this week:

Command Terms Hw
Command terms emboldened in a Science textbook

As I was helping these students, I found that explaining the command term first, before tackling the question, really helped in a getting a suitable answer. The two girls who I was tutoring would say “Ah, I get it now” when the command term was made clear.

Do you think that students will use these command terms in their daily and future lives? Absolutely! Command terms come up in a range of contexts when operating through the medium of English. For example: “How can we justify this business decision?”, “On the basis of the previous two-years sales, can you predict likely sales for the first quarter of this year?”, “How can we determine who is the best candidate for this role?”, and on we could go ad infinitum.

Isn’t this what language-learning is all about? Getting students to learn key words, then to enjoy using those words and then to apply them to a range of contexts?

sit n talk

In my honest opinion, command terms offer the ultimate key in cross-curricular learning and should be explored by curriculum leaders as a way to really ‘gel’ their subjects together. The result of this: deep learning and an added sense of importance attached to each subject as students see how they link together. 

Learning Journals

I have a system set up where students in Year 11, 12 and 13 (approx. ages 15 – 18) bring me a journal filled with revision notes, key words, past-paper questions and answers every Monday. It’s such an effective way to boost confidence and performance, but it does require a bit of organisation and leadership from the teacher.

If you have identified students who could use such a journal to focus specifically on learning key words and command terms, then here are the steps to take:

Step 1: Tell the students to get a special notebook. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just a cheap spiral bound one will do just fine. 

Step 2: The students should divide the first page into three columns:

  • Key word
  • Meaning
  • Pronunciation

For example: Moment, The force applied to a lever multiplied by the distance from the pivot, mo-men-t

For an EAL student you can include a fourth column:

  • Translation

In this column, the student can write the word in his/her native language.

Step 3: The students should write down the key words they learn every week into this journal, along with all of the other information.

Step 4: CRUCIAL! The key words and information must be CHECKED every week. Check the words, the meaning and the pronunciation (you can even get the students to say the words to you – this reinforces their memory of the terminology). 


Don’t forget to reward students for good work too: use your school’s points/merits system, write nice comments on their work and even think of special rewards: a ‘star of the week’ for example, where you display the student’s work on the class noticeboard. 

Use voice inflections

Science is great for teaching kids new words. When we, as teachers, genuinely love to pronounce and say key words then our kids will love doing that too.

I have quite a funny little system I use in class. When a key word comes up, I’ll give it a rank:

“Precipitate. Precipitate. Such a beau-ti-ful word. Say “Pre-ci-pi-tate”

Class: Precipitate

“Excellent! Precipitate is number 3 on my ‘Favorite Words in Science’ list”

Student: “What’s number one”

“That’s a secret! One day you’ll find out! A prize to first person to e-mail me my number one Science word when they hear it!”

new doc 27_2

Of course, my number one word will come at the end of the academic year when the suspense and excitement has been building up for two terms. 

Use vocabulary jokes

I’ve recently started experimenting with this and it’s working like a treat! It does take some planning and skill though, and is best described through some examples:

Vocabulary Joke 1: ‘Formal Charge’

I recently used this joke with my Year 13 students to reinforce the term ‘Formal Charge’ – a concept in Organic Chemistry. 

“I was walking to the coffee shop yesterday and Mr Davies asked me “Mr Rogers, what is your favorite F.C.? Is it Liverpool F.C.?’ And guess what?”

Class: “What?!!!”

“I said ‘No. My favorite F.C. is ‘Formal Charge'”

Class: (laughing)

I then laugh and say “This is the life of a Chemistry Teacher.  Hashtag #chemistrylife”

Class: (giggles and laughter)

This has long-term effects outside of the classroom too. Effects which fully embed the phrases. For example: when I was actually walking to the coffee shop one of my Year 13 students passed me and I said “What is your favorite F.C.?” and she said “Formal Charge”.

Chapter 5 - drones and hacking

Vocabulary Joke 2: ‘Alkali’

An alkali is the opposite of an acid, having a pH higher than 7 (think of soap, for example). I used this joke recently with my Year 10 students:

“A student of mine in Year 9 asked me: ‘Mr Rogers, do you like my homework?’, and guess what happened!'”

Class: “What?!!” (they know that a joke is coming!)

“I said I more than like your work, I ‘alkalike‘ your homework”

Class: (laughing)

I then laugh and say “This is the life of a Chemistry Teacher. Hashtag #chemistrylife”

Class: (giggles and laughter)

Clean and fun jokes can like this can be very powerful. The kids will say them to their parents and friends, and if you refer to them outside of the classroom (e.g. John, do you like my new notebook? John: I ‘alkalike’ it), then you can really embed these key terms. The result: Kids will love English, will repeat the words you say and will eventually use these key terms frequently in their written responses. 

Other strategies

There are many more strategies you can use to get your learners to enjoy learning the English language. Check out my blog posts on Learning Journals and Vocabulary Values for more tips. 


Our aim must be to get our students to LOVE English – speaking it, reading it, listening to it and writing it. Encourage good language learning by:

  • Taking part fully in English-themed events such as World Book Day
  • Using and embedding command terms
  • Creating a Learning Journals system
  • Pronouncing key words in a funny way and getting students to repeat them out loud (elocution)
  • Making full use of powerful ‘Vocabulary Jokes’
  • Using other strategies, such as vocabulary games, which you can find on my blog posts here and here.



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7 Plenary Activities for PGCE Students and Newly Qualified Teachers

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)
Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Related article: 7 Starter Activities for PGCE Students and Newly Qualified Teachers

I loved competitions when I was a kid. Anything involving puzzles, quizzes or games really excited me. In truth: I loved being right and I hated being wrong!

School can be quite a competitive environment. Some of our students can really feel the pressure when it comes to scoring highly on tests, exams and extra-curricular tournaments and events. 

It’s a great time to be alive when you’re teenager; despite the problems faced. We have boundless energy, time on our hands and a variety of interests and hobbies at this age.

With UKEdChat
“An EXCELLENT book! 5 stars!”

Channeling this energy in a healthy and competitive way should be one of the core aims of all plenaries. Reviewing the content and skills learnt in class in a fun, competitive and energetic way can really help with memory and concept retention. Do this consistently each and every lesson and watch your students make tremendous progress as the weeks and months roll by!

Let’s take a look at some great ways to end each lesson on high.

Plenary #1: A human graph

This is very simple to set up. Just ask the kids a series of questions and ask them to line up at the position that represents the answer. Hey presto – you’ve formed a human graph! It’s probably best to ask between 5 and 10 questions (forming 5-10 human graphs) in a real plenary and you might want to print and display the answers at different positions in the room. Its a lot of fun!

Human graph and true or false

Plenary #2: True or False Walls

As shown in the picture above: choose one wall to be the ‘true’ wall and one to be the ‘false’ wall. Ask the students a series of true or false questions and get them to walk to the corresponding wall. This works much better than simply getting kids to raise their hands as they’ll be moving around the room. I’ve done this countless times with my students and they never seem to get bored of it. Can be used as a nice break in the middle of a lesson too. 

Plenary #3: Vocabulary Musical Chairs

This game is amazing and will instantly bring energy and liveliness to your lesson. It’s basically the same as musical chairs, except you say a series of words instead of playing music. When the kids hear the correct answer they have to dash for a chair and sit! 

  • Make sure you have enough space
  • Make sure the kids can’t trip on anything
  • Don’t forget to remove a chair each time!
  • Watch out for fights! (Be really clear about behaviour expectations before the game begins)

Vocabulary musical chair

Plenary #4: Memory Mind Bender

I first learnt this game at 15 years old when I was an army cadet. My platoon commander was trying to get us to learn the working parts of an L98A1 Cadet GP rifle (Wow – it must have worked if I can remember that 20 years later!). 

Get you kids to sit or stand in a circle. One student starts with a phrase about the topic. The next student then repeats that phrase and one of their own. The chain continues and continues until all of the concepts have been verbalised in sequence. Don’t be afraid to start the chain again if a student forgets a phrase! See below. 

Memory Mind bender

Plenary #5: Human Numbers

This can be used in two main ways:

  • Answering calculations questions (make sure you get the kids to pair up or form groups for multiple digit answers!)
  • Selecting an option (e.g. “Number One: Brazil, Number two: Argentina, Number 3: Peru”)

Great for spatial learners and causes quite a few giggles!

Human numbers

Plenary #6: Snake or Break?

This is a nice and easy game to play. Get your kids to form a line in front of you. Ask questions. If the student at the front gets it wrong then they go back to the end of the line (join the ‘snake’). If the student gets it right then they can sit down (have a ‘break’). 

  • Watch out for kids who are sat down being disruptive or not paying attention. Keep them engaged by asking them the questions that other students get wrong. 

Snake or break

#Plenary #7: Infographic Creation

There’s a trend in the teaching profession in which students are asked to create ‘posters’ – many of which are never displayed on school walls. 

We can make this activity better by asking the kids to create an infographic either individually or in groups. An infographic is basically an organised information visual (superior to a poster). They can be created at https://piktochart.com/ Your kids will have to sign-up using their school e-mail address, but the process is very quick and they’ll never be asked for payment details. 

We can make this task meaningful by:

  • Actually displaying the best infographics in our classrooms
  • Printing the submitted infographics as booklets and handing them to our students as revision aids
  • Uploading them to our school’s VLE so that our kids can use them for revision or as source material for another task

Here’s an infographic I created at https://piktochart.com:


Recommended further reading

Click on the images to go to the Amazon product page. 

Attention-Grabbing Starters and Plenaries for Teachers by Rob Plevin

Just filled to the brim with practical advice and activities. Really useful!

Pleanary Rob Plevin

The Book of Plenary by Phil Beadle

Great meta-cognitive strategies for ending every lesson perfectly. After reading this book a whopping FOUR times (it’s hard to put down!), I can honestly recommend it very highly!

Book of Plenary



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Learning Journals: A Powerful Student Feedback System

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)
Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

I was 16 years old and had just gotten my GCSE results. The admissions tutor at Deeside College (now Coleg Cambria) was impressed with my grades and readily led me through the registration process. I had chosen to study ‘A’ – Levels (The British equivalent of the American SATs) in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics.

Studying at an F.E. college had an extra advantage over studying at school: I could enroll on night classes in the early evening after regular classes had finished. I decided to take the Open College Network class ‘Introduction to Basic Counseling Skills’, as I knew even back then that I wanted to be a teacher and I knew that this class would give me valuable tools that I could use with my future students.

talk n walk

The counseling skills I learnt on the course were amazing. I still make use of the ‘detached objectivity’, ‘active listening’ and ’empowerment’ tools from that with-ukedchatnight class in my daily practice as a teacher. However, something even more powerful and useful than I could possibly imagine, like a diamond of knowledge, was passed on to me in the most unpredictable of ways. 

Out of all of the classes I did at Deeside College, this was the only course in which I had to fill out a ‘Reflection Journal’ every two weeks. My teacher would ask me to write down all of my thoughts and reflections on what was learnt in class into this big book that she gave me, and every two weeks she would write comments in there to inspire and encourage me. It really was very effective, and made the learning process exciting and productive.

Memory is the residue of thought

Daniel Willingham wrote those iconic words in his famous book: Why Don’t Students Like School?’. I am utterly convinced that the Reflection Journal I had to fill out for the night class caused me to think deeply about my learning, which left it’s residue in my mind in the form of memory: memory of skills and knowledge which I still use to this day!

That’s powerful. That’s life-changing.


The Thailand Experiment

Shortly after getting my PGCE and completing my NQT year in the U.K., I came to Thailand to work as a Chemistry Teacher at an international school in Bangkok. I was lucky enough to have been given a very able and hard-working class of Year 10 students to teach. In fact, the illustrator of this blog and my books: Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati, was in that class. 

I decided to try learning journals with these IGCSE Chemistry students. The idea was that they were to buy a special notebook (not their normal class book) and fill it with revision summaries, mind-maps, key words and anything learnt in class each week. I wanted it to be a ‘living journal’, and not just simply a replica of the students’ class notes. 

The students mainly took to it very well. Extracts from Pop’s beautiful learning journal are shown below:


16 MARCH21 MARCH.jpg


Highly-motivated students like Pop would always hand in beautiful notes, every single week. In fact, CfBT inspectors came to that school that year and they said that Pop’s notes were the best they had ever seen!

Wow! That’s quite a statement.

However, some students didn’t take to it that well and I found out why: I wasn’t giving feedback regularly enough. Some weeks I would be too busy with other school things, so I would sometimes (to my shame) collect in the journals and simply give them back the next day with some simple verbal feedback only.

I discovered that when students were given some written feedback on a weekly basis, however small, they was a marked improvement in the quality of the journals I received each week. 

Back then, when I realised this at 26 years of age, I would write multiple comments on every page in a student’s journal. This almost killed me when I had 20 journals to mark. I soon gave that up and came up with a better way.

Oh, but did the journals work? Well…that class went on to get 100% A*-C in their Chemistry IGCSEs.

Did the journals help them achieve this? I believe so.

My updated (better) journaling system

I’ve set up a Learning Journal system with my Year 11 IGCSE and Year 12 and 13 IBDP classes. Every Monday they must bring their journals to my room and place them in the right place, as shown below:

Learning Journal System

Then, after school every Monday I write one and only one post-it note of feedback for each student; which I stick in their journals. This keeps my feedback focused on the essentials and increases my productivity.

An example of what this feedback might look like is given in this reconstruction below:


Students pick up their journals (with post-it note feedback inside) every Tuesday, meaning that they are getting recurring, weekly feedback as well as regular, meaningful homework.

So far the system is working really well. The student-sign register system allows me to quickly see who hasn’t completed a journal and the fact that I force myself to get all of the post-it-notes filled in on Monday evening means that I can chase up late journals very quickly. 

The system allows me to give regular feedback to my students, and it seems to be showing in the progress they are making in tests and assessments.


  • Journaling is a powerful tool when used correctly
  • It can be applied to any subject area
  • It’s great for exam-level classes doing revision
  • Recurring feedback and meaningful homework come as part of the package
  • The students can be creative and present their journals in any way they choose (online is an option too)
  • The feedback process allows the teacher to get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses very quickly
  • The Learning Journal is a permanent record that the students can treasure and be proud of
  • Journaling is not used enough in the teaching profession. I aim to change this. 

Teachers can have journals too!

In this short video I explain how deciding to keep a professional journal was a life-changing moment for me. I show you how to keep a simple daily journal that will immediately transform your teaching and effectiveness at school. 

Recommended further reading/investigation:

Click on the image to take you to the Amazon purchase page.

Lakeshore Learning Materials: Lakeshore Draw and Write Journal


  • Perfect for children aged 5-7
  • Gets young learners used to the journaling process from a very early age
  • Large, clear format
  • A staple and an essential for all primary teachers (in my personal opinion)


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Peer or Self-Assessment? Benefits and Challenges

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)
Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Supplementary article to read (highly recommended): Effective Feedback – The Catalyst of Student Progress

There’s no doubt about it – getting students involved in their own assessment and marking has a wide-variety of benefits.

walking around wt laptop

Take this great summary by Rosario Hernandez at University College Dublin for example, which explains that peer-assessment benefits students in four key ways:

  • Promotes high quality learning
  • Contributes to skills development
  • Furthers personal development
  • Increases students’ confidence, reduces stress and improves student motivation

That’s quite a convincing list!

Peer assessment

Not surprisingly, similar things can be said of self-assessment. This great overview by the University of Sydney advocates for the wide-use of self-assessment with students for the following key reasons:

  • It encourages student involvement and participation, so it’s great for students who normally find group activities or active class tasks a little uncomfortable
  • When used in conjunction with group work it can be a great way to assess one’s personal role and contribution in the group experience and learning process


Academic appraisals aside, I’ve found from my personal experience that both self and peer-assessment are absolutely invaluable to the modern practitioner. They save you oodles of time as a teacher and students learn so much from each process.

But how should we use self and peer-assessment?

There are a number of different ways that self and peer-assessment can be used in the classroom. My experience has taught me (the hard way!) that the following tasks work really well:

  • Making corrections to tests and assessments: When any important test or assessment comes up, I don’t think it is appropriate to have students marking these themselves. They’ll get it wrong, even with a mark scheme to use, and will be overly generous on themselves and their peers (unless they’ve been trained for a period of time – more on that next). However, a great activity is to mark the tests yourself, then give the tests back to the students along with the a printed or online mark scheme. The students could then use a coloured pen to make full and detailed corrections to their test papers. You could turn this into an AfL exercise, with students writing down the question numbers they got wrong on the whiteboard, or on an anonymous piece of paper. You could then go through these questions afterwards to clear up common misconceptions. If you run a regular learning journals system (as I currently do), then students could write down the questions and the model answers in their learning journals. This causes very deep-learning to take place and is great for building long-term memory!
  • Assessing homework, classwork and regular assignments: A great time-saver for teachers. Just make sure the kids have access to the model answers. Don’t forget to collect the work in too – you need to know that the kids actually did the work you asked them to do.
  • Past-papers: Exam-level students really need to become familiar with the official mark schemes provided by exam boards. They need to become comfortable with key vocabulary, language and command terms. Provide exam-level students with regular past-papers to do as homework. Provide mark schemes too, so that they can self and peer-assess their work in class later. For older students (e.g. ‘AS’ – Level, SAT and IBDP learners) I’ll sometimes give them past papers and mark schemes to take home. Their task is to complete the past-papers under timed conditions and mark them using the mark schemes. The student then hands me the papers completed and marked (this is essential – I need to know that they have completed the assignment). I then check the papers for common misconceptions and target those in class. 
  • Technological means: There a number of ways in which technology can assist in the peer and self-assessment process. Google forms are great; as are online quizzes provided by trusted third parties (e.g. BBC Bitesize and MyiMaths) and online quizzes that teachers can build by themselves (e.g. Quizlets). Make use of these and others (e.g. Kahoot – great for getting kids to use their mobile devices), as they are really interactive and can offer a nice break from traditional methods. 

Art class

Training students to assess themselves

“An AMAZING book!”

This is a gradual process and basically involves exposing students to exam-style questions and past-papers; along with their mark schemes, over a prolonged period of time. The process is straightforward but can be monotonous: provide past-papers as homework, classwork, projects and even through a special past-paper ECA club (which I’m currently doing with my IGCSE and IBDP students – it’s very effective). 

There are a number of creative ways to train students up in proper exam-technique:

  • Cut up the questions and answers to past-papers and hand them to students one-at-a-time. They can only come and get the next question when they’ve effectively answered and marked the previous one.
  • Give students the answers to questions and get them to write the questions! Use the same method as the previous bullet-point above, or set up a large display and get students to put their answers on post-it notes which they can stick to the display.
  • Get a big container filled with cut-up exam questions. Students have to pick out questions from the container in pairs or threes, and work on them. No two groups should have the same question. 
  • Students can make revision videos, websites and even stop-motion animations that contain exam-style questions and answers. Get students to record the process through a learning journal system. 

sitting on the carpet

Challenges when using self and peer-assessment

There are a few challenges, but these are greatly outweighed by the the benefits. I’ll offer some notes from my own personal experience and some solutions.

  1. Some students won’t want to swap during peer-assessment. This can be an issue in some classes. Some students can find themselves isolated and excluded by social groups, and may not be able to find someone to wants to swap their work with them. Whilst this kind of social exclusion is totally unacceptable, and must be dealt with through the appropriate school channels, there is a way to mitigate it in the first instance: collect in every piece of work and hand them out again randomly to different students. That way, they should all have someone else’s work to mark. 
  2. Different ability levels: There will be some students in the class who have such a limited knowledge of the subject that they won’t be able to effectively mark the work in front of them, even if they have access to the mark scheme. You could offer a ‘clinic-style’ system, where you sit at a special desk in the room and offer ‘consultation’: where students walk to see you to clear up misconceptions if they don’t understand the work or the mark scheme. You can also walk around the classroom and sit with individuals to have one-to-one discussions.
  3. Students being too generous: This is a common problem, especially for exam-level students who are new to past-papers and the peer/self-assessment process. At first, you might want to project the answers on the whiteboard and go through each question one at a time, but you’ll find that this takes ages (unless it’s an MCQ test) as students will have lots of questions to ask along the way, and you’ll have to answer verbally to the whole audience (which isn’t ideal in every case). Even better – you could collect in the assignments afterwards and double-check them. Speak to students who have lost marks after you’ve double-checked the papers and really make sure they understand the mark scheme and where they went wrong.
  4. Poor handwriting: This can be an issue for some students. It’s really important that examiners can actually read a student’s work. Students with poor handwriting need to be identified quickly and intervention measures put in place (e.g. special classes). You don’t want anyone to lose marks just because the examiner couldn’t read what the student wrote!

card games


The benefits of peer and self-assessment are numerous and incontrovertible. However, students must have access to official mark schemes and model answers for the process to work properly, and they must be involved in actually correcting their work (not just ‘ticking’ and ‘crossing’ and working out a score/percentage).

Students need to be trained in proper peer-assessment. Do not tolerate over-generosity: collect the work in afterwards and double-check that it was marked properly. 

Watch out for common misconceptions – these crop up a lot in a peer-assessment. See this as a good thing: you can use this information to inform your teaching. 

Use a wide-variety of technological means in the peer and self-assessment process. This will keep students on task and provide exposure to vital Information and Communication Technology: building skills that will be essential in the future.

Be on the lookout for students who refuse to swap their work (or accept another student’s work to mark) and address this issue promptly. No student should feel excluded by a peer group at school – this is tantamount to bullying and must be addressed appropriately.

Be aware that some students will not have the ability to peer and self-assess effectively, even when they have access to the model answers. Provide one-to-one assistance in these cases, either by walking around the room and helping out or having students walk to you for help. 

Recommended further reading

Click on the images to go to the Amazon page for the book. 

  • Peer Feedback in the Classroom by  Starr Sackstein. Great for gaining a deep understanding of what meaningful feedback looks like. Highly recommended!

peer feedback in classroom sackstein

  • The Perfect Assessment System by Rick Stiggins. Great for all educators and those involved in education management. Really puts assessment into a whole-school context and is a great read for anyone who wants to up their game and empower their students through effective feedback. 

Perfect assessment system.jpg



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Marking Week 2: What Should Teachers Actually Mark?


An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)
Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

This article follows on from last week’s popularMarking: Why, What and How? blog post: A highly recommended read!

Week 2: What and How?

The long, dark journey of my PGCE was long over. Gone were the constant lesson observations, full-page lesson plans and intense work-scrutiny from my university tutors and in-school mentors. Now I had autonomy. Now I was trusted.

With the onset of my first year as a qualified teacher came the intense sense of duty that one acquires when realizing that this is your chance to ‘sink or swim’.

And swim I did: as hard as I could with the tools I had at the time. But it wasn’t enough.

At about this time of the year in 2006 I was entering my February half-term holiday with an absolute ton of marking to complete. I took inventory of my week’s stock of coffee-inducing baggage and found that it contained:

  • Classwork
  • Homework
  • Tests
  • Online work
  • Journals (which I’d just started after receiving the idea from a friend)
  • Classwork/homework in the form of loose bits of paper and worksheets
  • Coursework for GCSE Science
  • The data entry that would come with recording all of this stuff

with-ukedchatIt was quite a sight to see and I remember Friday drinks with my colleagues that week in which I brought a huge sports bag into the pub. “What’s in the bag, Richard” some said; to which I replied “Marking”. The place erupted with laughter as my friends saw the gritty and not-so-pleased look on my face!

I’m sure they sympathized with me deep-down inside as they were merrily propping-up the bar.

Get a Marking Timetable in Place!

Back then I didn’t have a marking schedule in place and that was a bad idea! Work would just come to me as and when I set the deadlines and I would let it accumulate until I had some semblance of free time in which I would mark, say; four notebooks!

It just wasn’t sustainable.

Nowadays, I follow a very strict marking timetable so that I spread out my marking evenly across a recurring two-week period. I’m happy because I’m getting things done, my students are happy because they are receiving acknowledgement and feedback and parents are happy because they can see measurable steps of improvement due to the way that I mark (more on that later).

walking around wt laptop

I know, for example, that on Tuesday Week 2 I am marking Year 10 IGCSE books. I see them that day so I can easily collect their books. I also know that I’m marking Year 13 IB Diploma books on Friday Week 1; so I’d best get those done on Friday otherwise I’ll have two loads to do the following Monday.

Get a marking timetable in place if you don’t already have one. It’s a self-discipline tool that will set you apart as an organized teacher who actually cares about the everyday work that your students do.


Some types of marking must take priority over others. 

Take Year 11 GCSE coursework, for example. Now if you had a choice between marking that on-time or marking Year 7 notebooks, then you’re definitely going to go for the coursework. It’s a greater priority.

As teachers we are messing up our schedules and creating added stress because we do not ruthlessly prioritize enough. It’s absolutely essential.

All marking is important: every student must receive feedback and acknowledgement for their efforts. However, you may have to give your exam-preparation classes more detailed feedback than your younger classes at certain points in the year. You may also have to give it back in a more swift and timely manner too (e.g. when you’ve just finished the mock exams, or when you’ve had an end-of-unit test). 

High five

Learn to prioritize. I’ve known some teachers in their first year who were desperately trying to cover every single scrap of work with ‘two stars and wish’, ‘targets’ and literacy/numeracy feedback. This level of dedication is admirable, but it does not accurately reflect the differing needs of different classes. It may also cause long-term health problems for the teacher!

The Students Should be Doing More Work Than The Teachers!

Lazy teachers are the best teachers because they get the students to do all of the work

These words spoken to me in 2008 by a former colleague got me wondering about my workload as a teacher. Was I spoon-feeding my students too much? Was I giving them too much guidance without giving them the chance to think for themselves?

After a difficult self-appraisal, I took a rough-guess that I was somewhere in the middle.

It was at this point that I started to write questions on students’ work. “What is this part called” on a diagram, for example, or simply a “?” next to something that wasn’t clear. 

Mai's wprk
Have you spotted the question I wrote in this IBDP Biology homework? 

Make sure to check that students have actually improved their work! You can set ‘work-improvement’ as a short homework or classwork task. 

Use Marking as a Means of Encouragement and Motivation! 

We all love positive feedback: especially when it’s sincere.

Make your feedback useful and sincere by writing (or saying) “Well done for….” from time to time. It will help the student to store the concept in their long-term memory and will prop-up their confidence so that they enjoy your subject more and more in the future.

Be aware that this must be constantly reinforced. Once or twice won’t be enough – we should be praising the positive attributes of our students’ work on a regular basis for maximum effect. 


 You should definitely use your school’s reward system for this. If your school doesn’t have one, then create one (stickers, class points, the chance to win chocolate at the end of the month, etc.)



Placing students’ work on display is an excellent way to take the motivation and inspiration element a step-further.

In my current school we have a weekly ‘Science Stars’ noticeboard where every teacher pins up an excellent piece of work for that week. Students regularly stop by to see their friends’ work, and it offers a great sense of achievement for those students who have been selected to be ‘Stars’.

Showcasing provides a benchmark for other students to aspire too. It shows examples of work considered to be detailed, presentable and accurate, and should aim to teach about the importance of effort in achieving the desired outcome. 

Showcasing doesn’t have to be done on a weekly noticeboard. It can be done electronically on a VLE or school website or blog, and can even be as simple a task as standing in the middle of the class and showing the students an excellent notebook. 

Showcasing also adds an extra level of effectiveness that day-to-day marking doesn’t always reach – it shows that the teacher is noticing things! It makes it really clear what stands out and what does not, and raises the bar for all students to aspire too (when done regularly). 

Recurring Work (Very Powerful)

I use journals a lot in my teaching. It’s a shame they are not used more in the profession as a whole (I write about the amazing effectiveness of student journaling in an earlier blog post here)

Every Monday my Year 11, 12 and 13 Chemists bring me a journal filled with:

  • Revision notes
  • Answers to exam style questions and test corrections done in class
  • Mind maps and memory joggers, such as acronyms and mnemonics
  • A summary of what they’ve learnt that week

Journals used in this way are designed to instill self-discipline in students as they require one to regularly review work done in class. They are also a very excellent way for me to see and address weaknesses quickly, and I can provide feedback on a weekly basis, which helps a lot with focus and improvement.

The students bring their journals to class on Monday and sign their names on the big sheet on the wall. I then read through every book and write one sticky note of feedback in each (this keeps my feedback focused on the essentials, reduces my marking time and ensures that students get a rapid response).

Every Tuesday my students collect their journals from my room, read my feedback and hand them in again the following Monday. 

The kind of regular, recurring feedback is great for me and my students. Common misconceptions become clear very quickly (allowing me to address those issues) and my students feel that their teacher cares deeply about their learning (which he does). 


I’ve found that consistency is key; no matter what methods of marking I use. My students need to know that I care about the work they produce. Often, this sense of ‘someone actually gives two hoots about the work I do’ is the major factor in a student’s success at school.

I think John Hattie summarizes the importance of feedback as a tool for improving performance much better than I can: 

The aim is to get the students actively involved in seeking this evidence: their role is not simply to do tasks as decided by teachers, but to actively manage and understand their learning gains. This includes evaluating their own progress, being more responsible for their learning, and being involved with peers in learning together about gains in learning. If students are to become active evaluators of their own progress, teachers must provide the students with appropriate feedback so that they can engage in this task.

Recommended books for further reading (click on the book images to go to their Amazon pages):

Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie. Includes excellent strategies for using feedback to dramatically enhance learning.


Formative Assessment by Margaret Heritage. Great for new and experienced teachers alike as it really shows how assessment can be used inform teaching in a practical and easy-to-understand way. 



NEXT WEEK: Peer-assessment vs. Self-assessment – The Best Methods to Use


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Marking: Why, What and How?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Week 1: Why?

As a PGCE Student going through two school placements in North Wales back in 2005, I found it hard to keep up with daily admin. Just planning lessons and trying to deliver stimulating content and keeping the students engaged throughout, was challenging enough. Marking: I dreaded it, and found it almost impossible to fit it into my weekly regimen of teaching, planning and completing assignments for university.


Fast forward to today, and marking has become an enjoyable part of my job. I find it relaxing and I enjoy the thought of the motivational effect it will have when I write “Excellent effort. Well done for…..” on a student’s assignment. 

Marking is an essential part of a teacher’s job. Get it right, and you’ll have a massive impact on the success and emotional well being of your students. Neglect to do it, and students will become lethargic and lack-luster, and may even resent you personally (or, at the very least, dislike the subject). 

Why should we mark our students’ work?

#1. Acknowledgement

“An AMAZING book! 5 stars!”

First and foremost: marking provides acknowledgement for work completed. This is essential, as all students need to know that their time and effort has been noticed, is being monitored and has been recognised.

Whilst working in a previous school some years back I was immediately hit with the reality of this truth.

At the start of the academic year, students handed in reams and reams of homework that they had been assigned over the summer. Thankfully, none of it fell on my shoulders, as it was my first year there.

Stacks and stacks of Physics booklets, Maths past-paper questions and English assignments were handed in and piled on a large table in a special room. It was quite a sight to see. Lots of marking for many teachers and they hadn’t even taught their first lessons of the year yet!

Teacher-led assessment

Three months later and I remember walking in to that room just out of curiosity. I was shocked to see that many (but not all) of the student work was still there and hadn’t been marked at all. One student confided to the Head of Department that she would “Never do summer homework again. Teachers don’t even look at it!”. This was then passed on to us in a departmental meeting. Needless to say, there were some very sad-looking faces sat around the table that day. 

Students have to know that their teachers care about the work that they do. They need to know that it matters, and that their time and effort is appreciated.

If you’re finding it hard to get your marking done quickly because of other commitments, then at least give your students some specific verbal acknowledgement before they get their work back. “I was looking through your Chemistry homework on Acids and Bases, Jonathan, and I have to say that I was very impressed with your Kc calculations. Well done for learning the correct formulae. I appreciate your time and effort in doing this work. You’ll get it back at some point next week.”

#2. Praise

Every human being responds positively to sincere praise. It motivates us, keeps us working hard and provides us with a sense of validation.

studying with com

A nice personal story I experienced some years back illustrates this point.

I had just started as a Science teacher at a school in the U.K. and I was given a Year 9 bottom set class to teach, and they were quite a challenge both behaviorally and academically. 

Conversations about this class, and individuals in it, were overwhelmingly negative whenever it was raised in the staff-room coffee break. This negativity became quite infectious, and many teachers saw little hope for many of the kids in this class.

I decided on a different tactic. I had learnt on my PGCE that praise always works better than sanctions (NB. Excellent article from Trinity College London here.). I decided to find anything I could to praise these students for. I decided that for two weeks I would not reprimand them for anything unless it was serious. I would ignore low level disruption and just focus on praise. 

Quite a bold move some would say, but the effect was dramatic.

If a student drew a half-neat diagram, I would notice the straight lines and colors. If a kid underlined the date I would acknowledge that and say “Brilliant! I’m so pleased that you’re taking great care to present your notes properly”. Handing in homework – instant praise for being organised and responsible.

be enthusiastic

The result was that by the end of two weeks my students were literally running down the corridor to get to Science class (a little too excited!). They all worked well and behavior management became rather easy. There were marked changes in student attitude, and many confided in me to say that Science was their favorite subject. 

This was a good start, but it wasn’t enough to be sustainable.

#3. Correction

Overwhelming praise is great in the initial stages of getting to know a class, but eventually errors in work must be addressed.

So how do you do this in a way that isn’t confrontational or demotivating?

The best way I’ve found is to mention one improvement area first, before addressing a number of praiseworthy acts. This improvement area can be phrased as a ‘target’. This can be done verbally, one-to-one or can be written as a comment:

“Target: Your handwriting a little unclear. Try to make this neater next time. I love your description of solids, liquids and gases. Well done for making your particle diagrams so neat and clear!”

#4. Practice

Assessment for Learning pedagogy, which has been active for around 15 years now, identifies student self-reflection and a mindset of “taking responsibility for my own learning” as key impact areas for marking to be successful.

In short, it means that students should be encouraged to go back over their work, correct it, and formulate targets for improvement and growth.


It can be time-consuming to get the kids used to this and trained up, but once embedded it can be used throughout a child’s schooling as a very powerful way to catalyse improvement and encourage a ‘growth mindset’.

Try writing questions on pieces of student work (see below). “Whats the name of this part”. “How did the Montague’s react to this?”, “Well done for mentioning the word “deforestation’. How could this be a contributing factor in localised flooding”

Especially important for exam-level classes is repeated past-paper practice. Get your students familiar with the language of official mark schemes. Encourage them to correct the papers they’ve done by being very strict with themselves when following the mark scheme. 

Recommended Book: Mark, Plan, Teach

This is a great book that puts the importance of marking in it’s full context as a means to enhance teaching and learning. Full of great examples and practical advice. Highly recommended. By Ross Morrison McGill (Twitter: @teachertoolkit).

Available at Amazon.

mark plan teach.png


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Back To School After Christmas: Teacher Survival Guide

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Firstly, may I say Happy New Year to all of my readers! May I wish you and your families a happy and successful 2018. May we all learn from the past, regret nothing (we can’t change it), and use our experiences to inform our decisions this year. Good luck to everyone!

sit n talk

2017 has certainly been eventful for me. A number of my articles have passed 10,000 views, including my pieces on Spatial Learning, The War on Masculinity in Schools and Efficient Lesson Planning. On top of this, sales of my book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, were up by 40% in 2017 compared with the previous year. The book also reached number one in the Amazon Bestsellers list for Classroom Management in December: a first for me! Thank you so, so much to all of my followers and fans – your support keeps me going despite the obstacles of life that we all face. 

“An AMAZING book!”

I’m truly humbled and honored to be able to help so many teachers with my writing. I don’t always get it spot on, and I’m never perfect, but I do try to offer ideas that are easy to implement and quick to put into action in the classroom. 

Keep following my blog and social media channels (such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for future book giveaways, Amazon promo codes (for discounts on my books) and the future release of my next book: Classroom Genius: Top Teaching Tips.

Back to school after Christmas

I happened to be very ill for almost the entirety of the three weeks that I was off school for Christmas. Bad luck I guess, but I still managed to squeeze in a 3-day trip to Jeju Island, South Korea (highly recommended). I didn’t get everything done on my list that I wanted too, but I did manage to get a few items checked off (including writing a reference for a former colleague – so pleased I could that done). 

At Jeju Island with Nicki

Let’s go through a few checklist items for primary and secondary teachers: top priorities upon returning to school.

Secondary School Teachers

  • Mock exams: Make sure papers are printed and ready and are easy to read and that the rules, length of the paper and space for candidate details are clearly displayed on the front page
  • Have you already prepared the mark schemes for your mocks? Get those done ASAP because both you and your students will need those model answers for assessment and reflection.
  • Termly plan: for your own personal use. Do you know where you are up to and where you are going? Are you ahead or behind schedule with your teaching? Have you planned in adjustments? 
  • Personal targets: Is there anything you could have done better last term? For me, my marking of student notebooks was regular but I know it could have been better. My target for this term is to get a good weekly marking schedule in place so that I can provide my students with even more regular feedback to inspire and motivate them (and to plan ahead when I know that school events are going to affect my personal marking schedule). Want to improve your teaching skills? Check out this great book list on Amazon. 
  • Coursework: Do you know all of the deadlines? When will it be sent off for moderation/marking? What do you need to do to make the process as helpful to the assessor as possible? Are your students clear about what’s expected?
  • Revision: Term 2 will move like a steam train. Before you know it, your kids will be sitting their final exams. Have you worked revision time into your schedule? Maybe some after-school sessions will work for you?
  • Take a look at the primary school teacher list below: some things apply to us too. 

Primary School Teachers

I might need your comments and help with this one, as I’m not a primary specialist. However, after some careful research, the consensus seems to be that you should be focused on the following:

Start easy. Don’t overwhelm your kids. Many of them will have been waking up late in their pyjamas over Christmas. Starting the day with a printable worksheet reviewing 10 maths problems they’ve covered since September wont go down too well. Try the following open ended tasks to ease them in:

  • Blank paper to colour and draw on
  • Morning boxes to explore (unifix cubes, pattern blocks, play dough, lego, etc.)
  • Journaling
  • Drawing or writing about Winter break
  • Puzzles
  • “Make a list” (For example: Make a list of as many Christmas words as you can think of. Draw or write the words on your paper.)
  • Create a “Welcome Back” greeting card for a friend

I have to give credit to Christina Decarbo for these excellent ideas here. This article of hers is filled with great after-Christmas tips for primary teachers. It’s well worth a visit! 

alphabetic mat

Get organised. Plan your outfit –  for me that involves a lot of washing and ironing so all the better to start now! Pack your teacher bag. Clean out any remnants of holiday treats. You may find that the bottom of your teacher bag is pretty much coated in glitter from sweet cards from students and candy that escaped from cookies on the last day before break. It’s time to avoid an ant infestation! Plan and pack your meals and snacks for the first week and be sure to go to bed early.

Expect the worst. Some kids will be late. Some will not turn up for a few days. Some will forget things – they’re getting back into the swing of things too. Be prepared, Have extra pens and materials on hand for kids who forget stuff. Maybe plan for kids who forget their packed lunch. 

Once again – I can’t take credit for these last two ideas. This article at the Happy Teacher Happy Kids blog is filled with great advice for surviving the first few weeks back after Winter. 

Have a great second term everyone! Don’t forget to comment below or contact me if you have any questions or comments – your feedback is my lifeblood! 



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A Teacher’s Christmas Holiday

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

The Christmas vacation is finally here. Many of us in the teaching profession can now look forward to a good couple of weeks of much-needed rest and recuperation. 

Our students deserve a break too.


I agree that time spent with family and friends is an absolute essential right now, but I’m also mindful of the workload and duties that will hit me like a tornado when I return in January.

When it comes to school holidays I always see them as time to ‘go at my own pace’. The way I see it, I have two choices:

  1. Do nothing for the whole holiday and totally chill out, returning to the normal barrage of work that hits every teacher at the start of Term 2
  2. Still have a holiday and some rest but do some little things to make my work more productive when I get back
“An AMAZING book! 5 stars!”

I’ve always found that trying to do option 2 is the best, even if I don’t get through all of the ‘head-start’ work that I plan to do.


An admission of failure before I even begin? Maybe, but here are my plans made as realistic as possible: meaning that I can have a rest and do around 50% (minimum) of these things too:

  • Requisitions and orders: I’m a Science Teacher, so I need to order chemicals and equipment for my lessons each week. This Christmas my first priority will be to get all of my requisitions done for each week of Term 2, ahead of time. This will save me many a long night when I get back to school, and will help me to plan ahead and reinforce my long-term curriculum mapping.
  • Termly review: Every Christmas I make it a priority to evaluate where I am at now, and where I want to be with my classes by the end of the term. This kind of self-analysis allows me to see where I’m behind and where I’m ahead and how to address those issues. This is really important for final-level exam classes as they must have covered the whole syllabus and have revised by the time the terminal exams come along. 
  • Getting back to gym: I’ve been slacking off lately. No excuses this time. I’ve got every day free for a few weeks so I’ll be up early and out for a jog before hitting the weights later in the day.
  • Responding to student e-mails: Some students in my exam classes will be e-mailing me with questions about past-papers, coursework and subject-specific stuff. If I can help, then I will help. 
  • Clothes: I’m running out of a few things (such as shirts that actually fit me!). Time for a wardrobe mini-makeover so that I continue to look half-decent at work.
  • Writing my next book: My first book was quite well-received, so I’ve decided to have a go at writing my second. Classroom Genius: Top Teaching Tips will explore the themes of classroom management and assessment to inform learning in even greater depth and breadth than my first book. I see this as ‘downtime’ for me because I really love writing. Can I count this as ‘relaxation’?
  • Going back to karate: Another thing I’ve been putting off. Time to get a regular schedule set up.
  • Contacting people I should have contacted ages ago. Chasing up old leads and projects that I’ve allowed to slip.

on the bike

Of course, as well as all of this I plan to enjoy my freedom in Thailand as much as possible. A trip to the beach is compulsory, along with my long-awaited visit to the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi (still haven’t done that yet – it needs to go on the list!),

How will you use your free-time this Christmas? Is it all one-big holiday or can you think of some small ways to make your life easier when you get back to school?


Don’t miss the Christmas Giveaway for 2017! From 25th – 29th December, Richard’s book will be free to download on the Amazon Kindle store globally. Merry Christmas and enjoy (and tell your friends)!


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