Advice for Teachers

           How to use

... in your lessons



Introduce the topic using the hard-copy booklet,

Online: further research using the links,       Online: differentiated task,

Plenary: Rehearse or debate the topic





Please note that there is no suggestion that 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

A typical teaching session using will look like this:




Introduce the topic using the hard-copy booklet



Online: further research using the links



Online: differentiated task



Rehearse or debate the topic






Introduce the topic using the hard-copy booklet


The 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.


Did you 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 rehearse/evaluate learning.

       These elements are key to good learning, and they are MORE necessary, not less, in the context of a practical computer-based session.



Thus you 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).


There is 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 on-screen?

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 individuals.


Online: further research using the links


When you are ready, give the pupils CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS and send them off to work on the computers.



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 instructions.

•   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 topic).

•   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 management apply.  

Ask to observe a few good Design Technology teachers’ lessons to see what these different rules/strategies are.



Online: using the links

The first 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 classroom.




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 session.




Next, 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.)


Issues to note here:

  1. As far as possible, the links are differentiated, with the easiest at the top and the harder at the bottom.


  1. Do not 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 themselves.



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 notes?

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.


  1. Insist 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.  



FAQ: Why restrict the pupils to the links specified on the  webpage?

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 porn.



Online: differentiated task


If your 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 plenary.   Since the links on the 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.


However, 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 paper;

    For Saving, it ensures that the page saves safely, and that they don’t lose their work.

This is so much easier that trying to teach them a set of procedures so they can print or save from the exercise window itself.



Online: differentiated task

On each 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 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 respect.


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 knowledge.



Alternatively, at the bottom of every web-page in the 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 unrealistic?

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.




The ‘green 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 the exam.


Clicking 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).


By 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 web-pages?

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 detail-perfect.



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


In a 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.


If you have set them an ‘over-arching question’ as part of their computer-based experience, then the actual content of the plenary session will be easy.