What’s inside my head? – a quick and easy plenary

This is activity involves the teaching thinking of a key word/event/idea related to a topic. The person/people who are doing the guessing need to write 1/2/3 on a piece of paper. The person who is giving the clues asks the group to guess the key word/event/idea they are thinking of by giving three clues to the answer. On each clue, the group members write down beside their 1, 2, 3 what they think the word is. The clues range from the very broad to the last that is highly focused. Each clue is a separate round.

Key event – Dunkirk Evacuation
Clue one – Event in the Second World War.
Clue two – Happened in 1940
Clue three – Involved the BEF crossing the English Channel.

US tactics in the Vietnam War resources

This PowerPoint outlines the key features of US tactics during the Vietnam War and comes with two activities – a series of anagrams based on the key vocab of the topic which can be used as a starter and a learning grid which can be used as a lengthy plenary to check progress and understanding. For more about learning grids, please see a previous post of this blog which outlines this activity in detail. I used this with my Y11 class.

US tactics Vietnam War

What could [have] happened next? – a short lesson activity

An image based activity that can be inserted into any part of a lesson. Present students with an image and ask them to predict/guess what happened next. I used this with a picture of US soldiers on patrol in the Vietnam War and asked this question. This encouraged students to think about how they could be attacked by the VC and apply their knowledge.

Patrol Vietnam

Tattoo Review – a cheeky plenary

At the end of a lesson, announce that the students have to come up with an image or a word that best sums up the lesson. They are then to draw the said word or image on the back of their hand as a reminder which they then present to the person next to them. The best one in my lesson was a Year 7 boy who drew an English flag in the shape of the crown to summarise a lesson on the contenders to the crown in 1066.

This idea was taken from Invisible Learning by Dave Keeling and neatly fits his RING principle of teaching.

Tweet my Lesson. Using social platforms in your classroom

Perhaps the most popular idea to come out of my Signposting Progress work at Berkhamsted School’s Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference was the ‘Tweet My Lesson’ idea. Inspired by Historical Tweets, it was popular because it taps into the students’ knowledge of social platforms, it adheres to Dave Keeling’s RING – Relevant, Interesting, Naughty and a Giggle – principle. Even better, it needs absolutely NO preparation on the teacher’s part in checking progress.

This simple little strategy works like this as described in my Signposting Progress workshop booklet –

The Twitter formula can be applied to a plenary task to summarise student learning and progress. Ask students to write a tweet to summarise what they have learnt in your lesson. A tweet comprises of a message of 140 characters, which includes spaces and punctuation. They can also use hashtags and @ symbols. Of course, students are very familiar with writing in this way and can be extremely creative in their tweets.


Not only can this activity be used to summarise a student’s progress but it can be used as an empathetic exercise in which students can image themselves as a historical figure, for example, at a particular point. So for example, William has just won the Battle of Hastings, he gets his iphone out and goes onto Twitter – what would he write?

In lessons, I just have to ask students to write the subheading ‘Tweet My Lesson’ and they automatically know what to do unless I have add a twist and ask themselves to image themselves as a historical figure.


A wonderful short exercise which not only summarises student progress but also, if used regularly can help construct a learning dialogue in exercise books.

Two fat ladies! Bingo in your lesson!

One of my childhood memories is my grandmother loving bingo. Twenty [or so?] years later and I have stolen this idea and replicated it in my lessons as an effective plenary or revision exercise.

This was taken from the people bingo idea which has been often used as an icebreaker and now used to check knowledge rather than get to know each other. Here each student is given a bingo card on which there are 16 or so squares which they must fill in. To fill the square in they must acquire the knowledge asked for in each square by someone else. In each square they must fill in the name of the person who gave them that knowledge. The knowledge can be given in different ways – for example in a jingle or an acrostic – to add a twist. Give the students no more than ten minutes to ask each other the questions from the bingo card and set a limitation on the fact that they must ask at least ten different people for the information rather than just ask one or two of their friends. In the debriefing of the task, students then nominate other people to answer each question in accordance to who they filled in in their bingo card.

Good fun and an interesting way of getting students to collaborate and share information.

Please find some examples of bingo cards below


People’s Budget bingo card

Learning grids – A Question of Sport in your lesson

US defeat in Vietnam mixed doubles board

Perhaps the most engaging activities I have found so far this term are learning grids or mixed doubles. I first found this in Improving Classroom Performance by the Dragonfly Team of Stephen Chapman, Steve Garnett and Alan Jervis and then covered in much more detail by the recently published Engaging Learners by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns. Griffith and Burns discuss different applications of this activity in depth but this blog post will focus upon my experiences of using this with specific reference to History teaching.

Henry VIII and six wives mixed doubles board

The activity itself involves a grid of 12 to 16 squares – each square is numbered. In each square there is a word or image – they are all connected to a topic or a sub-topic. The grid is either given to the students on a piece of paper or more conveniently, projected onto a IWB on a PowerPoint slide. In pairs, students are given a die which they roll twice. Using the grid, they locate the corresponding boxes on the grid from their two rolls of the die and aim to link the two images or words together. So for example, using the prohibition board below if a student rolled a 3 – the picture is of a speakeasy – and a 7 – which is a bootlegger – the student would have to make a link between speakeasy and a bootlegger and write this link in their exercise book. Therefore, the students have to apply their knowledge and make links between different aspects fo the topic which encourages them to use subject specific vocabulary [OFSTED literacy box ticked!] as well as thinking more deeply about the subject content.

Cuban Missile Crisis mixed doubles board

Learning Grids promote curiosity and an added element to this was when I brought 12 sided dice to be used with the activity. When you hand out these unusual dice, the students are already hooked being able to use equipment that is different and unusual. Such dice are readily available in many colours and designs from The Dice Shop – an excellent online retail site.

Learning Grids promote challenge as some links caused by the random nature of the dice can be extremely difficult and students have to think laterally as well as apply their knowledge to make an effective link in some cases. However, the real value of these resources are that it provides students to work collaboratively [again ticking the OFSTED box of student talk and working independently], peer-teach, discuss their learning as well as allowing AfL to be signposted in your lesson.

Also, Learning Grids can be easily differentiated from using images and subject specific vocabulary to leaving some squares blank and allowing students to choose for themselves what should be in a particular box. In terms of where the activity fits within a lesson – it fits best as a plenary reviewing the work students have completed and giving them an opportunity to discuss their work and you an opportunity to assess how much progress they have made. Also, Learning Grids make a superb revision activity reviewing work completed some time ago- for example looking at a topic taught in Year 10 when revising for Year 11 mock examinations [which was my fate this morning during Period 1!].

Once the students are used to this activity, it deepens the learning when they make the Learning Grids themselves. I experimented with this last Summer and I was extremely impressed with the level of work students produced who were so proud of their Learning Grids and even the weakest students were freely sharing their work. Indeed, such was the quality of their work, they had built up a bank of Learning Grids that covered their entire GCSE History course and that I was willing to use them for this year’s Year 11s – but only as examples as they will have to make up their own!