Knowledge Organisers

(credit to Altrincham Grammar School for Girls for some of the content used below)

What is a “knowledge organiser”?

It is a sheet which organises all the most vital, useful and powerful knowledge about a given topic on a single page.

So just a revision sheet then??

Maybe but Knowledge Organisers are designed to fit certain criteria: Teachers try hard to choose the most valuable content that they want all pupils to remember for ten years and beyond. And for each unit, they should discipline themselves to distill it onto a single page, using sentences that should ideally not exceed around 25 words.

When a new teacher starts in a school, one of the first questions they have is ‘what do I teach?’ At a single glance, knowledge organisers answer that. Everything pupils need to know for the year is set out clearly in advance. In theory, any teacher can pop into anyone else’s lesson, look at the unit organiser, and see what every pupil is working on.

How else can a Knowledge Organiser help?

Pupils can develop their memory of the knowledge being delivered: Knowledge organisers ahould be given to all pupils at the start of each unit to help them remember what they’re learning. No longer out of sight, out of mind: instead of leaving behind previous units’ content, teachers can recap quickly and easily in lessons. Instead of forgetting all about it, pupils continually revisit and retrieve prior learning from their memories.

Every lesson, across all subjects, knowledge organisers can be used as a pack of in-lesson quizzes. The numbers and columns here help turn the grids into simple in-class quizzes. Emboldening key words allows pupils to peer-mark the more complex definitions, working out which terms are vital in them.

So they will help with revision then?

Absolutely. Whilst not always being exhaustive, they are designed to provide pupils with the key facts in a more easily digestible form.

And homeworks…?

Again schools are using Knowledge Organisers to try to structure meaningful homeworks. The French department at Michaela Community School says: “Pupils use the Knowledge Organisers for their homework. Each week they complete one A5 page of Self Quizzing on a section of the knowledge organiser. The quantity (how many lines?) and nature (particularly tricky phrases?) set can depend on the capacity of the class. Pupils are encouraged to read aloud as they write, to CUDDLE [do what?! any guesses anyone??] carefully, to quiz themselves regularly, for 10 minutes at a time, in order to embed the language. When they do their quizzing, they begin by copying letter by letter to promote accuracy. Later on, when they know the language better, they can take a more Look/Cover/Write/Check approach.

Each week, after pupils have done their homework, they will be set a quiz on the lines that they have learned, as well as recapping previous organisers, or practising de-contextualised HFV (high frequency vocabulary). The recapping of previous material is very important, as it impedes the forgetting curve.”

(Taken from

But I thought education was all about developing pupils’ skills?

Skills-based education in itself can be of limited value if heightened knowledge is not the end result. (The Michaela school says The problem with skills-based lessons is that they don’t require thinking about anything you can commit to memory. Nothing is learned because nothing is being remembered. Over years and years of skills-based teaching, children aren’t actually learning anything. They are simply practising some skills in a near vacuum.”).

See this piece which argues the importance of a knowledge-based curriculum:
(its summary is:
The more knowledge you remember, the more curious you become.
The more knowledge you remember, the more intelligent you become.
The more knowledge you remember, the more you achieve academically.
The more knowledge you remember, the more choices you have for your future.)

So what does a Knowledge Organiser look like?

Below is an example for History. There are many others to be found simply by Googling Knowledge Organisers then selecting images (clicking here should achieve the same).

Knowledge Organiser

Marking Tips

Graeme Cronin recently put together this set of tips as a way to keep the priority of marking alive – and meaningful/manageable – within the science faculty, and was happy to share them with you all:

Tips for effective marking – AKA “Gran, I want to show you how to suck those eggs.”


Have a timetable for your marking – this allows you to put time aside in your week when you will sit down with a set of books.

Keep a record of the last time you looked at your books – this will reduce your anxiety and will also let you keep on top of things.

Ask students to hand in books open on the page of the work that you want to mark.

Mark 5-10 books in a night, but do it every/most nights, and in 3-4 nights you have a set done painlessly.


Have a pen in your hand when you walk around the room – write tasks or advice in the margin of books; this is gold dust in terms of effective feedback (manageable).

Peer marking is good. It is quick and effective if you do it right (manageable, meaningful) e.g – do a task (w/sheet? paragraph?) then ask students to swap books. In red pen students mark and put in corrections. You can (and should, especially with “go to” pupils) check for understanding as you go through (verbally questioning). At the end of the process you should highlight areas that might be recorded as www and ebi – students do this and then sign their marking, writing “PA”.

Self assessment is good. Get the kids to put the right answers in on a worksheet while you go through it in class. Does it matter if they “cheat” and fill it in? Depends what you’re doing – assessing or teaching. You can always scan through after (manageable).

Target your marking to a particular piece of work and mark this in detail. Do not try to do this for all of the book. Use the codes for any other piece of work that is poorly presented/incomplete/not underlined, etc. (manageable, meaningful).

DIRT time needs to happen – fill in a yellow box (meaningful).

PLEASE NOTE – These are not my own tips – I have gathered these from colleagues who are effective markers. Thanks to JPB ME JW ADM QSL LG and others; sorry if I asked you and forgot to add your name!

An easy tracker for behaviour

I have plugged this one many times before to a number of different staff and it is beginning to grow as standard practice…

In Music we use a simple system which entails opening a spreadsheet each lesson with the a green block for each pupil copied and pasted in a column underneath that day’s date.

I often emphasise to the class that they are all starting green as my expectation is that they will all have a great lesson. If the whole class has been green for a while then similarly I will stress how pleased I am at their behaviour and focus as a whole group.

If a pupil at any point does something to disrupt the lesson then their block goes orange and a note is made of the type of behaviour in the block. They can, however, come back from an orange – they can return to green if good for the rest of the lesson but the comment will remain.

Once orange if they disrupt the lesson again the orange goes to red which will stay red regardless. Two reds within a half-term triggers a detention.

That’s all there is to it but the clear advantages are:

  • Very clear to the pupils and can be displayed at anytime.
  • Focuses on the positive initially.
  • Allows pupils to try hard to redeem their orange status.
  • Can be referred to if another member of staff queries behaviour.
  • Provides concrete evidence if a parent queries a detention.
  • Can be printed off for use in a parents’ evening (or observation).

Obviously you can tailor this in terms of exactly what triggers a detention (do you want to count two oranges as a red?) or how “zero tolerance” you want to be in terms of what merits a comment/colour on the spreadsheet. Do you want to use this for progress as well as behaviour? Do some behaviours merit pupils going straight to red?


  • 1st disruption = pupil goes orange (plus one word comment)
  • No further disruption = pupil goes back to green (but keep comment)
  • 2nd disruption = pupil goes red (no going back from this)

Like I say this has worked very well in Music, is very low maintenance and easily becomes habit. Give it a go!

Tim Eden


A simple idea for parents’ evenings…

Given how well our pupils are responding to the simple-but-effective WWW/EBI process, Jill Moules has created a similarly simple-but-effective pro-forma for meaningful dialogue to take place on a parents’ evening. It also facilitates parents being able to take away some useful action points.

Jill gives out the pro-forma to pupils in advance of the evening and asks them to complete it by going through their exercise book and noting down all the WWW and EBI comments. Using the sheet, the pupils then lead their parents’ evening slots by talking through comments and explaining what they are doing to address issues within their work. Jill answers/clarifies any questions/issues at the end.

This certainly looks like something other staff could consider in the future…

Here is the pro-forma:~

Stepping Out of the Curriculum Comfort Zone

Having been a part of the Bridgewater furniture for more than a decade, I must confess I was starting to gather more dust than the shelves in the staffroom. Without talking myself out of my (much-loved) job, I was stagnating in my ideas and feeling a little stir-crazy within the walls of Room 97.

This year, I have discovered that it is true what they say, ‘a change really is as good as a rest.’ I have stepped (well) out of my MFL comfort zone and I am dipping a nervous toe into new waters (sorry) of Geography.  I have been transported back to NQT status and I experience all kinds of emotions, from self-doubt and paranoia to enthusiasm and elation, all within the same week!

The Geography department have been so supportive and welcome to the new members of the department! Cheryl Crawford and I have felt part of the Faculty from day 1, and we even have our own Faculty book boxes!

My first learning curve was finding how to teach in a different technique to French and German. With languages, you are constantly repeating the same structures, drilling language over and over and telling pupils facts that are best not to be questioned.  With a Humanities subject, suddenly the training about the use of questioning, growth mindset thinking and giving feedback all fit into place.  So, I am learning how to teach all over again.  I think that is a good thing.

I have also learned this year that pupils love to argue. I am getting to know a different aspect to pupils and it is amazing that in your own language, it is easier to get to know pupils’ personalities and to hear how they think.

Denise Tobin has ventured into the English Department this year. She reflects, “As a language teacher I was delighted to be given the opportunity to take on some English lessons this year. Many of the pupils I teach French/German to are also in my English classes, so for me this gives me a great opportunity to get to see what they are capable of in their native tongue as well as using the ‘English’ part of my degree. I am greatly enjoying teaching a wide range of topics in English, from the complexities of grammar, persuasive speech writing to analysing war poetry, (which I hadn’t done since my own ‘A’ levels) and even a bit of creative writing which I most enjoy! I am also delighted that my year 9’s now think I am ‘really clever’ as I can teach 3 languages!”

Alison Swaffield has been teaching RS and English this year for the first time. About this new experience, she says, ‘I have learnt that I’m a stronger person than I thought I was. Teaching out of your comfort zone is scary, and you constantly worry you’re doing it wrong. It’s ok to ask for help when you need it, it’s makes you a more versatile person. After initially being overly negative, I now see it as a professional development aspect, giving me a wider range of teaching subjects. After all, you never know what the future holds! ‘

Stepping into another Faculty has many rewards, but it is also rather daunting. When you are supposed to be a trained expert, it can be difficult to admit problems and ask for help.  Alison Swaffield adds, “At first I was overwhelmed by teaching 3 subjects, as well as leading a department and delivering new GCSE and A Level courses. I still am to some degree, but I know people are there to support me if I need it. It’s also difficult to mark different assessments out of your subject area. There’s a constant worry that you’re doing everything wrong, and that you’ll be asked something in class you don’t know the answer to!”

I am learning and trialling ways of engaging teenagers into the wonders of the world. I am still working on that one.  I think that there is no greater self-reflection than working in another subject area.  Getting to see pupils working in a different way, in a new light and for me, in a whole different language is rejuvenating, exciting and highly recommended.

Julie Burrows


Turning AWOL on its head?

Here’s an interesting approach to AWOL as exemplified by the English department. By creating E/N/S/D columns for each pupil (they stick this in the front of their book) it becomes easy to track for each skill whether a pupil has Exceeded, Mastered, etc..

Not only is this a clear, visual way of seeing which skills still need working on but if, at a later date, a pupil improves on that particular skill (where this is one which is repeated in the next block) then they can be moved along a column. This means that progress over time becomes very visual too and gaps in learning (the fundamental basis behind AWOL) can be addressed clearly.

I have created an example here using my standard ukulele playing, singing, etc. model from Music and added some appropriate dates.

As ever, this approach won’t suit all subjects but is certainly worth sharing as an innovative approach.

HeadGuruTeacher’s no nonsense advice

For those of you who haven’t discovered Tom Sherrington, aka HeadGuruTeacher, he is one of the nation’s top educational bloggers. As a current working headteacher, he has lots to offer in terms of genuine working solutions and speaks in a way which just seems to make perfect sense most of the time.

It is worth following him on Twitter for those of you who have accounts. He is a big music fan and shows his more personal side by uploading many posts regarding this also (including his own guitar skills!) which can be equally entertaining.

For those of you wanting to dip your toes in, have a look at these three great articles.

Or why not lose yourself in his Pedagogy postcards…

If you see any potentially valuable blogposts or websites of your own that you think staff might benefit from, feel free to pass them on to



Twilight CPD off to a flying start!

We were extremely proud to see our brand new internal CPD programme launched with a thought-provoking and informative session courtesy of Mark Malam, supported by Cath Pountney.

For those unfamiliar with our new internal CPD initiative, a list of proposed sessions was sent out to staff last year in order to ascertain which would be most popular in terms of staff need. This whittled-down list was then circulated to staff so that every member of our teaching staff (including teaching assistants) could select three sessions to attend over the year as part of their twilight INSET hours.

Each member of our SLT has been allocated two sessions each to deliver, assisted by one or more of our whole staff team, with each of these two sessions being delivered twice each throughout the year to aid staff attendance.

The programme is intended to have a huge impact upon Teaching & Learning here at Bridgewater and we will be measuring both this impact and the programme’s success later in the year. We will also be filming as many sessions as possible for staff who would like to watch additional sessions at their leisure. Obviously all Powerpoint presentations will be available to staff too.

Tonight’s session gave staff plenty to think about with regard to behaviour for learning, including some suggested top tips to try out, a little of the philosophy behind effective behaviour management, and also some real world scenarios for staff to discuss how they would deal with such behaviours.

Thanks again to Mark and Cath for getting us off to such a great start and we look forward to seeing not only some of the practice discussed being rolled out across the school but many other powerful sessions being delivered as this programme continues…


Speaking Their Minds

Below is a set of questions which Chris Yates endeavours to get all of his classes to answer at least three times a year. It’s a very powerful example of how student voice can have genuine impact. Have a look at the questions and consider how they could be developed for your own teaching, then read Chris’s own insights beneath.

  1. What went well for you this term / year? Where have you progressed? How has this happened?
  1. What have been the barriers to further success in English?
  1. How have you contributed to lessons?
  1. What have you enjoyed about the lessons?
  1. What did you not like about the lessons?
  1. What would you change about the lessons?
  1. Do we do enough pair or group work?
  1. Homework – too much, too little?
  1. Seating – does it help or hinder you where you’re sat?
  1. What have you seen other teachers do / use in lessons that you think would be suitable for us?
  1. How’s life in school generally?
  1. What are your next targets for the coming term / year?

I try to use this at least three times a year with each class, although sometimes it may not be appropriate or I may not ask all the questions (or time simply runs out). It was intended to give the students an opportunity to voice their feelings and ideas without having to do it verbally – they certainly seem more open when writing things down.

I’ve got a lot of useful information from these, about relationships in the class, what excites them (and bores them) and in the absence of regular observations of other teachers, it gives me an insight into what other teachers are doing. I tell them to avoid names or subjects, but they do say that such and such a teacher has this great starter, etc.

The task helps me to get to know the students better, too. The response to ‘How’s life in school generally?’ are often very revealing and moving – the quieter students seem to see this as a vehicle to reveal their true feelings about their daily experiences at school.

The important thing is to act on what’s written. I produce a rough sheet of the points made, both positive and negative, about my lessons – and I show it to the students to let them know that their opinions are valued. Sometimes you need a thick skin, when 20 out of 30 students say your lessons are boring compared to Teacher X, but that’s valuable too.

Finally, doing these helps them compose and articulate their thoughts for a lesson, breaks away from the syllabus and, as I try to do them towards the end of terms, gives me what I see as a valuable lesson, rather than putting them through half of ‘Finding Nemo’ for the umpteenth time. No student deserves that.

Thoughts on building relationships

Graeme Cronin shares his musings on building good relationships with pupils…

Some teachers just seem to be able to get even the most difficult students to make progress. As an NQT (that was a while ago!) I remember being in awe of experienced colleagues who just had a calm working environment, no matter who they taught…

So how to achieve this?

If a positive relationship is built up with the student, you are halfway there. So here goes – a (non-exhaustive) list.

  • Be positive. A wrong answer to a question still took effort from the student, and arguably more nerve than providing a correct one – so try saying “good effort”, “almost” and “thank-you”.
  • Don’t shout. Then when you do shout, they know you really mean it.
  • Share some of yourself with the class. I talk about my own kids – perhaps by asking for advice on how to handle requests for sleepovers. Talking about food is good too – everybody likes food (ok, almost everyone).
  • Be consistent. Students that know what to expect will feel less hard done by if they receive the same treatment as everyone else does.
  • At the same time, be flexible.   Are they just having a bad day? Would a handy escape route from a confrontation benefit you and them (and your future relationship)? As the adult in any potential confrontation, you have the greater skills in de-escalation and peaceful resolution – so use them.
  • Catch them being good, and thank them for it – when we draw attention to positive behaviour, kids are more likely to display it again. Linked to this is “proximity praise” – thank the conforming student sat next to the one messing about; 9 times out of 10 the poor behaviour stops.
  • Prepare interesting lessons and mark books. This shows that you care.
  • Use humour. This is a tricky one, and should never be at the expense of a student – that’s on the road to bullying. My repertoire includes baldness jokes at my own expense and being a bit silly sometimes: remember that they are just kids.

If you have anything to add to the list please get in touch.