Category Archives: Teachers

How to survive your first 5 years of teaching

Ross Morrison McGill, aka @TeacherToolkit believes that becoming a teacher is one of the best decisions you will ever make, but after more than two decades in the classroom, he knows that it is not an easy journey!

Packed with countless anecdotes, from disastrous observations to marking in the broom cupboard, TE@CHER TOOLKIT is a compendium of teaching strategies and advice, which aims to motivate, comfort, amuse and above all reduce the workload of a new teacher.


Check out an extract from TE@CHER TOOLKIT by clicking the link below and join the conversation! #VitruvianTeaching


9781472910844 Teacher Toolkit


The ingredients of a brilliant revision programme

John Mitchell, author of 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Revision, explains the influences and ingredients of a revision programme at the heart of his book

Revision Word Cloud
Revision Word Cloud

‘How do I write the thing?’

The offer is made. The offer is accepted. Excitement! Then the excitement fades and the thought enters your head – ‘How am I going to write it!’ This is what happened to me when I was first asked to write 100 Ideas for Secondary School Teachers: Revision for Bloomsbury  in February 2014. I had to decide on a starting point for my research from which I could structure the book and the 100 ideas around. The inspiration would be what Andy Griffith and Mark Burns would later call their own book – Teaching Backwards – start from the outcome and consider what you want to see from your own students at the end of revision. The best way to find this out, I felt, was to ask my own students. I am lucky that I work with a strong student body who engage in discussing teaching methods and ideas and are articulate in expressing what they want to see in a revision programme. After a number of discussions with a variety of students from different Key Stages and of different abilities, it was clear that there were three common factors students wanted to see in a revision programme. These factors were:

  • Engaging and active revision tasks – how can we revise in class?
  • Equipping students with revision skills – such as stress management and time management.
  • Independence – how can I revise on my own?

I decided that these three factors would inform every section on my book and give teachers a toolkit of easy to implement ideas that would help them develop their students’ revision skills as well as, more importantly, in my view, develop their students as effective independent learners both in school and beyond it.

Revision targets
Revision Targets


Engaging and active revision tasks – How can we revise in class?

One common point that emerged from talking with students about revision was what they perceived as an overemphasis on the text book and making notes. Of course, making notes is an important part of the revision process but should be part of a wider diet of revision activities within the classroom. We are all guilty as teachers of sometimes relying on the text book in a sequence of lessons as this is the ‘safe option’ – especially when we are tired and have little energy to invest in constructing outstanding lessons with sparkling resources. Also, it is the safe bet if we are teaching a second subject or content we are unfamiliar with.

However, it does not have to be like this. There are so many activities out there on the internet or in the ever-growing variety of books on teaching activities which are ideal in a revision context. Active tasks must be at the heart of an all-inclusive revision programme which engage and reinforce knowledge giving students the confidence that ‘they know it!’ These activities must be varied and include games, larger main lesson tasks and a variety of note making tasks from which students can choose which style suits them the best. Writing a collection of such ideas was at the heart of my thinking as well as that the vast majority of these ideas must be easy to implement with readers being able to dip in and out of the book and select an idea that they could include in a lesson the very next day. Underneath this the ideas must have real substance too and that a real impact upon students’ progress rather than the ‘bells and whistles’ ideas which look great but may lack meaningful impact upon student development.

Visual Hex exercise book
Visual Hex Exercise Book

Equipping students with revision skills – such as stress management and time management

Revision at any level can cause stress. Whether students are preparing for an internal assessment with the only objective being to check and demonstrate progress or for a public examination which can decide what life-changing options are open to students depending on the results – revision can highlight the need to assist in the development of important life skills, such as time management and stress management. Because I wanted the book to touch on every area of an effective revision programme, it was important not to neglect this potentially decisive and critical area of preparing students for assessments and examinations.

Therefore, the book contains a number of easy to implement ideas that can guide teachers in preparing a holistic revision programme, which equips students with the skills to cope with the stresses and strains of the revision period. In doing this, I felt, that this would give the book a wider appeal and not just for subject teachers. More often than not, subject teachers do not have the time to deal with the wider revision skills that are required, instead this falls to the form tutor or PSHE department. When I was writing this book, I was fortunate to be a form tutor for a group of young people preparing for their GCSEs and as a tutor, I was frequently asked to lead sessions on revision skills. More often than not, I found the resources provided to lead such sessions perhaps lacked depth and were less than engaging. Part of my research was to improve these resources and use them with my students, who would then feedback and discuss. Therefore, my book would have something in it for any teacher involved in helping students to revision skills in a wider context.

Bingo revision
Bingo Revision

Independence – How can I revise on my own?

At the end of the day, students are going to be on their own in that examination room. Teachers will not be there holding their hand, guiding them and giving timely advice on what to do. The end product of any revision programme is to develop a young person with the confidence to be independent and less reliant on the teacher. This is difficult and scary for a young person, stepping back as a teacher can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially in times of high stress, like the exam season, when students can need you the most. Therefore, any revision programme must foster students’ independence and the ability for students to conduct revision on their own outside the classroom without direct intervention from the teacher.

A few of the ideas in the book tackle this issue head on. It is an important one for teachers and students to work together on. Indeed, the philosophy of one of my key influences in writing this book, Jim Smith, is for students to become so independent in lessons that you become a ‘Lazy Teacher’. Therefore, many of the ideas which relate to revision games and resources can be easily made by students who can make a whole series of revision aids – whether they are resources for revision card games, visual hexagons or revision totem poles – outside the classroom. This means that a crucial part of a revision programme must be to train your students in making these revision aids which they can bring into lessons and use and share as part of the revision process. You know you have cracked it when near the end of the revision programme and the exams are looming, you are not needed as a teacher and instead become a facilitator while your students are actively revising independently, making more resources, playing revision games and working collaboratively – there is nothing better than the sound of a revision buzz in your classroom!

9781472913753 Revision

While this article focuses upon the influences and the ingredients of a revision programme which make up the heart of my book – 100 Ideas for Secondary School Teachers: Revision – a second article which details how the book was written can be found on my blog.

Summer relaxation tips from the Bloomsbury Education team (includes cake, gin, dancing and…biscuits!)

So, you’ve made it through the school year, you’re still standing, and you’re planning on returning to the classroom in the autumn (at least we presume you are if you’re reading this blog). Well done!

At Bloomsbury Education we know how hard teachers work, and so we’ve put our heads together to share nine tips that we use that we hope will help you relax this summer.

1376334_10100750573741613_1317165519_n1. Emily K – Cycling
One of my favourite ways to relax is to cycle. I love planning routes in the countryside (I lie, my husband plans them) and going out with friends. You have to get the balance right though. It might be fun to pretend you’re a pro cyclist and throw in a challenging hill or two, but there absolutely must be either a pub lunch or coffee and cake involved. Exploring new and beautiful places and catching up with friends is a great way to switch off.

IMG_25772. Helen – Gardening (and gin)

For me, it’s a spot of gardening accompanied by a delicious gin and tonic made with elderflower cordial! Add the cordial to the gin, pop in some ice and mint, and then top up with tonic. Perfect for that end of day, relaxing in the garden moment…

3. The Music Team (A.K.A. Rachel, Flora, Milly and Philippa) – Listen to some classical music

The summer is Proms season; so get involved with the world’s largest classical music festival. Whether or not you can make an event at London’s Royal Albert Hall, you can listen on the wireless or watch on TV. From Bollywood and Bhangra to Sondheim and Schoenberg, there will be something to transport you away from the day to day. Our music team picks include: The John Wilson Orchestra performing Frank Sinatra; Evelyn Glennie alongside pianist Philip Smith; Bryn Terfel in Fiddler on the Roof, and Monteverdi’s Orfeo under John Eliot Gardiner. Enjoy!

228548_10151046309988722_1220889285_n4. Emily L – Climbing
How about trying a new sport or going a bit out of your comfort zone – I go climbing at an indoor bouldering centre. It’s a good way to switch off, it’s surprisingly energising and it’s good exercise. Plus it’s a good way to take out your energy in a friendly competition with the other climbers/willing housemates.

5. Holly – Dancing
One thing that I do when I want to relax is YouTube music video dance routines and learn them! It is a great bit of exercise, you get a real feeling of achievement when you have learnt it, and you are concentrating so hard on learning the steps that you forget about any work worries you may have previously been fretting about.

My favourite is Beyoncé Single Ladies:

Make sure you close your sitting room curtains before making a start if you get stage fright!

fox6. Rhiannon – Painting
I relax by painting as many woodland creatures as I can – painting pictures of them, as opposed to running after squirrels with a paintbrush.

Turn on some chilled music, put on some slacks and get creative! And if you need to vent your frustration, grab a huge sheet of canvas, go outside on a sunny day and flick paint EVERYWHERE. Cathartic. (And your neighbour’s fence definitely needed brightening up.)

Claire running7. Claire – Running
One thing that relaxes me without failure is running! There’s nothing like ‘pounding the pavement’ to empty the head and unwind. Dodging through the sea of the London workers crossing Waterloo Bridge can be a bit stressful, but it just gives you a reason to run even faster. AND you get to eat cake afterwards and not feel guilty. It’s a win-win situation.

Warning, running in the rain can make your face look like this. BUT you do get to buy some pretty amazing shoes!

8. Hannah – Baking
One thing I like to do when I need to relax is a spot of baking. Here is a recipe for old-fashioned ginger biscuits.

• 1 lb / 450 g plain flour
• 5 oz / 140 g butter
• 8 oz / 225 g black treacle
• 8 oz / 225 g sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 2 oz chopped crystallised or stem ginger
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / gas mark 4. Sieve the flour, ground ginger, and bicarbonate of soda together. Rub the fat into the flour, and then mix in the sugar. Add the treacle, stem or crystallised ginger, and the egg and mix everything together.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and blob desert spoon sized lumps of mixture onto it. Bake for 10 -15 mins, and dig in!

FullSizeRender9. Isobel – Reading
We’re all bookworms here (as you’d expect those working at a publishing house to be), therefore my ‘tip’ to help you relax is READ A BOOK, or two or three…

Immersing yourself in a good book is a fantastic way to switch off. You’re temporarily transported to another world, and consumed with the lives of the characters, which is a great way to forget about the stress of your own.

If you’re in need of some suggestions, I have just finished Stephan Kelman’s thought-provoking second novel, Man on Fire, and Ali Smith’s weird, but wonderfully witty How to Be Both. These two novels are completely different, but both fab! I am about to begin Harper Lee’s globally anticipated Go Set A Watchman, and am hoping (praying) that it will live up to the magnificence of To Kill a Mockingbird. (If that’s even possible – I will report at a later date…)

So there you have it, nine wonderful suggestions to help you wind down this summer, and surface refreshed and raring to go when September rolls around. Enjoy!