Delivering ramped worksheets

I’ve been getting a lot of love on twitter recently for my “ramped” worksheets; this will be a short post on how I deliver these resources to students.

Back in September 2017; I was a trainee teacher & had never stood in front of a class before. I had no idea of teaching pedagogy & while wide-eyed and bushy-tailed I didn’t quite know what to expect. What I did quickly learn, what that there was a lot that I needed to learn. And fast.

I arrived to teaching from a university background and my first half dozen lessons or so were delivered in a lecture-like way. It was what I was used to. There were no clear instructions of what students should be doing at any given time, and almost no independent work for the students to complete. I learnt very quickly that:

  1. Students cannot simply sit still and listen for an hour. (Hell, I can’t…I don’t know why I’d expect my students to). And if you try to make them do this as a trainee teacher then behavioural issues will quickly arise. Behavioural issues that I wasn’t yet competent at dealing with.
  2. Students do not learn by simply listening. I was shocked by how little students could recall at the end of a lesson.

Thankfully, this was the first thing that my brilliant mentor picked up on. Students need independent work. They need to concentrate on a body of work to solidify their strengths and to highlight weaknesses. There were a couple of worksheets already on our computer system (written by another teacher) with three levels of difficulty (basic, medium and hard). The first lesson I delivered one of these was far more successful than before.

Seeing the results of this and, after doing some wider research on deliberate practice, I was sold. I decided to make it a routine for all (well, most…) of my worksheets following this pattern at KS4. They were easy to deliver, and student outcomes were vastly improved.

My routine for delivering one of these tasks has developed as follows. This is loosely based around “I do, we do, you do” from Teach Like a Champion:

I do: Students copy the “core” notes in silence before a teacher explanation of the topic. I like students to have finished writing before I start the verbal explanation so I know that they are listening. Any students that finish the notes have a small “stretch” question on the board.

 The teacher then reviews the stretch and models how to answer some questions live on the board (for example in a calculation lesson I would be performing a calculation on the board while verbalising the thought processes). Following this, I will cold-call some students to check for understanding and I’m if happy that students are prepared for the worksheet then they’ll begin.

We do: Students start the worksheet at whatever difficulty (basic, medium and hard) they find appropriate. If a student mis-selects and tackles some questions that are, for example, too easy then I nudge them onto harder ones. Vice versa if the level selected is too hard & a student is struggling.

If the worksheet is written carefully then the basic questions can scaffold students onto the medium questions and the medium onto the hard. It is “ramped” in difficulty with scaffolding being removed as students progress through.

 I classify this as the “we do” section as I am circulating, live-marking and helping students when stuck. I also allow students to help each other during this time should they wish. At the end of this time (usually lasts for 20ish minutes) I’ll put answers on the board and students will self-mark any that I haven’t.

You do: This section is my plenary and is usually an exam question based on the topic of the lesson. I call this section “struggle time” and I verbalise to students that it’s supposed to be hard & it’s important to show resilience when tackling hard problems. This is in exam conditions and students again mark their own questions at the end of this time. I will flick over these exam questions at the end of my lesson & this is what I’ll use to gauge the success of the lesson.

I’ve now standardised most of my KS4 lessons to run like this; and students feel comfortable that they know what the format of a lesson with me will be like.

Hopefully this might help when delivering some of my resources; if you have any suggestions/comments then I’d love to hear about them.