How to use
... in your lessons
topic using the hard-copy booklet,
further research using the links,
Rehearse or debate the topic
note that there is no suggestion that http://www.johndclare.net/ could
ever REPLACE your own teaching. So use your textbook sessions,
films, active learning, debates, dramas and games in your lessons just as
before. Graft on the materials to your existing strategies to
EXTEND the range of your teaching techniques
A Typical Lesson
teaching session using http://www.johndclare.net/ will look
Introduce the topic using the hard-copy
The http://www.johndclare.net/ booklets
were written for the lessons I teach to my own GCSE pupils, so they are
divided up appropriately for classroom teaching. You will find
that each unit in the booklet fuels about one lesson’s work.
realise that you can get Word versions of many of the materials on the
website which will allow
you to print off and duplicate hard copies? There is no copyright on
any of the materials as long as they are being used non-commercially with
pupils, so feel free to run off anything you want.
Introduce the topic
You can get hard copies of
all the booklets by clicking on the icon on the first page of every topic
(or alternatively by going directly to this
webpage). Please note that the text of the hard-copy
differs slightly from the text on-screen, but this is an advantage, not a
problem, for it makes pupils ‘stay awake’!
Just because you are working on computers does not mean
that you can abandon the normal rules of good teaching. THUS,
make sure you start off your lesson with a STARTER which locates the
subject in the pupils’ own experience. Also remember
to break up and differentiate the lesson elements just as you would always
do. And finish with a plenary to
These elements are
key to good learning, and they are MORE necessary, not less, in the
context of a practical computer-based session.
will start off your lesson as a ‘normal’ classroom session.
Start with a starter to locate the subject in the pupils’ own experience,
then read silently/ read round/ read out the text in the
booklet. Establish understand by Q&A, and discuss the
questions (and any other issues you wish to discuss).
no reason why this initial session might not include group
work/discussion/preparation and written work as normal – perhaps, for
instance, formulating a set of hypotheses from the booklet which they are
going to test during the computer session.
FAQ: Why bother
to read a hard copy version when the text is available
Because the written word is much more easily
appropriated on paper than on-screen. Also, it is much easier
to ‘get hold’ of and focus a class of 15-year-olds when they are sat in
class as normal with booklets in front of them, than in front of keyboards
and computer screens. And finally, it is easier to notice who
is not understanding when they are facing you and working as a whole
class, than when they are facing a computer screen and working as
Online: further research using the
are ready, give the pupils CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS and send them off to work on
The reason many computer sessions are noisy and ‘messy’
is that teachers – understandably unfamiliar with teaching using the
computer – are insufficiently clear/detailed in their
• Be very detailed about
your instructions (for instance, don’t just tell them to ‘research’; tell
them to go to a certain website and find out about a specific
• SHOW THEM – either by
letting them watch you on an interactive whiteboard presentation, or by
taking them all through step-by-step clicking together as a class –
exactly where you want them to go and what you want them to do.
Unlike ‘normal’ classroom History-teaching, computers
are a PRACTICAL SESSION, and different rules and strategies of pupil
Ask to observe a few good Design Technology teachers’
lessons to see what these different rules/strategies are.
Online: using the
thing that ALL pupils should do is to read the text on-screen and see
if/how it differs from the hard-copy text they read in the
The pupils will work better on the computers if you set
them off on their computer-based work with an ‘over-arching issue’ to
address. You may give them a number of specific tasks, but it
is best if they are told to do these tasks with an eye to solving a single
‘big question’ about the topic:
‘So, all the time you’re [doing these tasks], I want you
to bear [this question] in mind.’
Discussion of this
‘over-arching question’ will then form the basis for your Plenary
instruct the pupils to use the
links to add to their knowledge. (The links are always
situated in the right-hand column of each page.)
as possible, the links are differentiated, with the easiest at the top
and the harder at the bottom.
allow your pupils simply to ‘read’ the linked web-pages.
Insist that they MAKE NOTES on the sites they visit.
Moreover, DO NOT ALLOW them to make notes by copying and pasting – make
them open a new page in Word and insist that they type up their notes
FAQ: Why make
the pupils make notes – it slows them up terribly?
Unless you do this, all the pupils fall to
clicky-whiz – they call up the webpage, use the side scroll-bar to whiz it
up and down, and then click off never having read a word.
FAQ: Why forbid
the pupils to copy and paste – it means they produce next to nothing in
Unless you do this, the pupils simply copy and
paste (and run off on your printer paper) vast chunks of text which they
have not read. Making them make their own notes not only
forces them to read the web-pages they are visiting, it forces them to
appropriate the meaning, organise it in their minds, and then output it in
a different form (i.e. proper learning). Rather 6 lines of
real learning than pages of copied junk.
that your pupils use only the sites accessed by the links.
DO NOT ALLOW them even to go ‘one step further’ by clicking on external
links on those sites.
restrict the pupils to the links specified on the http://www.johndclare.net/
It will stop them ‘wandering’. I
have done the google search and sifted out the best sites anyway – they
will not do better than me. Meanwhile, they are restricted to
a limited set of pages that you will find you can recognise from a
distance – which reduces the opportunity to play games or access
Online: differentiated task
lesson is using the computer for further research, then there is no reason
why that can’t be ‘the task’ you set, provided you have given the pupils
an ‘over-arching question’ to chase which you can then come back to in the
Since the links on the http://www.johndclare.net/ web-pages
range from easy at the top to hard at the bottom, there is even an element
of differentiation to this exercise, since the pupils choose pages
suitable for their ability.
the web-pages include two elements that will allow you to set specific
exercises if you wish.
Train your pupils – whether they are using the cloze
exercises or the ‘green box questions’ – when they have finished, to copy
and paste their work into a new Word page before they print or save (i.e.
they print or save the Word page).
For Printing, it allows them to improve layout and save
• For Saving, it
ensures that the page saves safely, and that they don’t lose their
This is so much easier that trying to teach them a set
of procedures so they can print or save from the exercise window
On each http://www.johndclare.net/ webpage
you will see, to the top left of the title, a icon. If the pupils click on this, they
will access a very simple ‘Hot Potatoes’ cloze exercise. This
allows even the least able to make neat notes on the topic content,
although it is appreciated by the more able pupils as a quick and easy way
to acquire assuredly a set of basic notes, allowing them to spend more
time extending their notes by extra research.
I often set this as a differentiated task against
note-taking, with the more able pupils in the class making their own notes
on the basic http://www.johndclare.net/ notes,
and the less able making notes using the cloze exercise.
I allow the pupils
to decide whether they wish to be ‘more’ or ‘less’ able in this
Note that with an able
class you can also set the cloze exercise as a pre-homework, so that the
pupils begin the lesson with a certain amount of their own
Alternatively, at the bottom of every web-page in the
www.johndclare.net booklets you will find ‘the green box questions’:
FAQ: Why do you
allow the pupils to choose whether they do the ‘less’ or ‘more’ difficult
task – surely it just lets able pupils be lazy and less able pupils be
This is true to a certain extent.
However, pupils usually choose wisely. At the same time, it allows
constructive freedom for the less able pupil who wishes to ‘stretch
himself’, and the more able pupil who wishes to finish the task quickly
(for whatever reason – e.g. to do some extra research – not always from
laziness). Particularly, since therefore the choice of
differentiated task does not strictly follow academic ability, pupils are
able to maintain self-esteem – it isn’t always the ‘thickos’ who are doing
the easier task, or the ‘swots’ who are doing the harder.
box questions’ ask exam-style questions – specifically, the kinds of
question the pupil will meet on that AQA Paper, although they are
appropriate for ANY GCSE board – and provide a ‘box’ for the pupils to
type their answer into. Teachers may wish to set a time limit, as in
on the ‘Produce Script’ button then automatically produces a formatted
answer ready to print (though I train the pupils to copy and paste it into
Word, as suggested above).
clicking on the ‘Markscheme’ links, the pupils are able to gain access to
generic markschemes for each kind of question, and thus remind themselves
of how to score the highest marks possible.
Some lessons, instead of teaching the topic
subject/content and then asking the pupils to do a question on it, why not
teach them HOW TO DO a specific kind of question, and then get them to
practise that kind of question using the content on one of the
Each pupil going into the exam should:
1. Know exactly what kinds of question to
expect on each paper;
2. Start each question by thinking: ‘Now HOW
do I answer this kind of question?’
Drill them in this until they are automatically
Just as I
sometimes set the differentiated task with the self-elected ‘more able’
making their own notes and the self-elected ‘less able’ doing the cloze
exercise, at other times I set the differentiation with the ‘less able’
doing the cloze exercise and the ‘more able’ doing some or all of the
‘green box questions’.
FAQ: Why not
just set the pupils to write their answers on paper?
There is considerable evidence that the pupils
prefer answering questions online to answering them on paper ALTHOUGH
BEWARE – part of this is that they think less deeply and write less
online than on paper.
Of course, a typed/printed answer is much
easier to read and mark than a written answer!
Rehearse or debate the topic
computer-based lesson, it is the easiest thing in the world to ‘run out of
time’ to do the plenary. However, because of the ‘practical’
nature of computer-based learning, it is more important than ever that you
build this into your lesson plan.
have set them an ‘over-arching question’ as part of their computer-based
experience, then the actual content of the plenary session will be