Speedy mini-plenaries and AFL

Click here for more blog posts about teaching.

On the amazing, but busy, mfl-resources mailing list, someone asked for ideas about how to do assessment for learning (AFL) whilst keeping a lesson pacey. Here were some ideas I gave in an answer. The point of AFL is to check that ALL learners are making the appropriate level of progress, and to test progress against learning objectives. These things should help you to do that.


“Turn to the back of your book. Write the numbers 1-5. Write the French for dog, cat, fish, mouse, tortoise. You should have le chien, le chat, la souris, la tortue. Mark your own work. Show me on the fingers of one hand what you got.”

(even quicker if you have the test and the answers on slides, which you can quickly type up during another activity or have ready before. Ofsted don’t need a lesson plan, just evidence the lesson is planned. Having mini-plenary tests up your sleeve is a clear sign you knew where the lesson was going in advance)

Whole class multiple choice activities

Teach your class the sign language for A B C D – you can do this pretty quickly the first time you do it, and subsequent times they will know it already and only need a little reinforcement. Then you can run through multiple choice questions on the board very fast and see instant feedback whether they are getting it right.

You can generate multiple choice questions on a set of vocab using Task Magic and then use them as a whole class activity this way.

I have seen class sets of coloured laminated cards with A B C D on, held together by treasury tags, which is also a good way to do it, but I still prefer mine with the sign language (it’s also “citizenship”)

Get feedback from routine tasks

For listening exercises out of eg 20, you can get a “numeracy across the curriculum” tick on your observation with “Take your score. Halve it and round up. Halve it and round down. Show me on the fingers of one hand what you got.” (this takes a lot of practice before most of them can do it and an awful lot of niggly questions about basic maths)

How are you feeling?

My PGCE tutor in almost every university session we had would do something along the lines of “show me how you feel – thumbs down if you are not getting it. Thumbs sideways if you are starting to understand, thumbs up if you think it’s time to move on to the next thing. Everyone show me altogether now!

You can also give the thumbs a numerical score: thumb up if you got 15-20, sideways 7-14, down if under 7.

What do the walls think?

I’ve started to do pointing at walls – left wall if you think the food item I mention is gesund, right wall if it is ungesund.

Similarly, a series of sentences on the projector: “Many of these sentences have a fundamental mistake. Read the sentence quickly then work out the error. When I say so, altogether, point at the left wall if the mistake is word order. Point at the right wall if the mistake is to do with the verb and point at the ceiling if the verb and time phrase do not match properly. Fold your arms if the sentence is correct.”

(the altogether is key otherwise the weaker ones take their lead from the stronger ones)

(copy where to point onto every slide so they have no excuse for misremembering which wall is which)

(a friend invested in a clicker with a laser pointer so she can do activities like this from the back of the classroom facing in the same direction as the kids for the avoidance of left/right issues.)

Mini whiteboard – les ardoises

Mini whiteboards, obviously, so long as you don’t spend longer distributing resources than you do using them. “I know we haven’t done family members since Y7 so some of you will have forgotten this, but I want you write the French for ‘my dad’ on the mini whiteboards and hold them up. Yours is wrong. Yours is completely wrong. Yours is just missing one teeny tiny accent. Yes, perfect” – for correct answers take a board off a kid and show it to the others.

Le and La on different sides of the mini-whiteboard, then students can just flip them – chat is it le or la, souris is it le or la? Ditto mon and ma. This can also be done with walls.

(you have to be careful with “le on one side, la on the other” or they write the words on different halves of the same side. I now model what I want with an overly dramatic flip of the board.)

Groups or rows in your classroom?

Two colleagues have decided to move from rows to groups this year, mainly because it makes resources easier to deal with. Each group table can have a pile / basket with glue, MWBs and pens, dictionaries. One friend even has a stock of cheap biros with her name stuck onto them so that kids who come without pens don’t even need to tell her, they can just get on with it. Phil Beadle things that if sitting in groups, plan to have higher ability boys paired with slightly less able girls – high girls with low boys will mean the girls do all the work and the boys nick it, the other way around the machismo will mean the boys work and then help the girls.

Do please comment if you find these posts useful. I find it strange to hear that people are sharing my ideas with their departments, when I rarely get any feedback myself.