As Open Evening is approaching, many of us will be looking to update our displays. An interesting article on “working walls”, (which are most often used in Primary Classrooms), was a feature in this week’s TES. (See bit.ly/DisplayGallery). But working walls can also be used successfully in the Secondary Classroom, to support pupils in achieving objectives from a particular scheme of work. Annotated exemplar work, can be a useful scaffold  for learning and could also be a useful reference for pupils as they look to assessing or improving their work. Pupil work could be added to this to guide pupils in the process. There are some good examples already being used in School.
Another way that walls are being used to good effect is through “questioning walls”. Another idea here is “The Google Wall”,( other search engines can be used!) Create a set of search boxes. If pupils have a question, allow them to fill one in and stick it onto the wall. Other pupils can then research the questions and come back with their own result from their own “search”. These can be assembled underneath the question.

Tarsia Puzzle

Instructions on how to create your own Tarsia puzzle are attached. This is a program that you can freely download in order to create card games, another great way to get your pupils more involved in their learning. Read more for ideas on what you might create and how you might use them in your classroom.
How can teachers use it?
The advantages of this software are:
  • You can easily create wide range of activities, including jigsaws of various shapes and sizes, dominoes, matching rectangular cards and follow-me cards.
  • The teacher does not need to spend time cutting up the jigsaw as the software automatically jumbles up the pieces of the jigsaw in the Output section, thus allowing the teacher to simply print out a copy and hand it to the students to cut out and assemble.
Having selected what type of activity they wish to create, teachers use the Input screen to input as many questions and answers as they like. The software has a built-in equation editor to ensure that all mathematical symbols and expressions are available, and supports the importing of images. Teachers can then check their answers on the Table screen, before printing out the jumbled up version for the students. They can then either print out the solution or project it onto their interactive whiteboard for the students to check their answers. Completed jigsaws also make nice classroom displays.
Tarsia Jigsaw activities are incredibly versatile, and can be used for many mathematical topics and all ability levels. They promote group work and discussion, and are an ideal way to revise or consolidate a topic. Furthermore, they can be differentiated – by writing questions of varying difficulty, you can ensure that all students can access some of the activity whilst also providing extension material for the most able.
Possible Twists?
With a bit of tweaking, Tarsia puzzles can be made even more challenging, pushing your students to think even more about the topic in hand. Ideas include:
  • Missing Answers – choose a couple of the cards and leave the answer (or even the question!) blank so students have to fill them in for themselves
  • Deliberate Mistakes – announce at the start of the activity that you have made two mistakes in the puzzle and students must identify them and correct them
  • Use the Extended Hexagon so students do not know where the edges of the jigsaw are
  • Non-unique Solutions – have a couple of the answers the same, so students have to use logic and thinking skills to assemble the entire puzzle correctly
  • Order of Difficulty – when students have finished the puzzle, get them to select the three most difficult pieces to match-up and explain what makes them tricky
  • Revision Lessons – get students to create Tarsia puzzles themselves on difficult topics (it is a free piece of software so can be installed on all school computers) and challenge each other to solve them
  • Worksheet – one criticism of Tarisa puzzles is that once completed students don’t have anything to take away with them as a record of their work or to help with their revision. This can easily be rectified by printing off a version of the Table page and blanking out the answers. This way students can fill in the answers as they create the puzzle and then take the completed sheet home as a record of their work
Thank you to Ann Hughes for sharing this week’s teaching tip. Ann has used a tarsia puzzle during a CPD session, so do ask her if you have any queries.


This is an ideal active learning strategy which can be used by students after they have watched a clip, read a text, or as part of a revision game.
Students work in pairs. They watch a clip, or read a text. They are then given either/both:

1.’Summary cards’ These summarise key points from the text/clip, some of which are true and some of which are false: e.g.

•The left ventricle supplies blood to the lung
•Heart rate is measured in beats per minute, and if you are very fit your heart rate will be lower than average.

2.’Consequences cards’ which state consequences of the facts given in the text.  These consequences are not actually stated in the text itself.  Again some are true and some false E.g.

•If you blocked the left ventricle no blood would get to your head.
•Furring of the arteries would raise a person’s blood pressure.
Firstly, pairs of students decide which cards are true and which are false.
They then decide why the “false”statements are incorrect.
They re-write the false statements to make them true.
They can compare their answers and new statements with another pair and be challenged to produce an even better answer.
The activity can be differentiated for different student pairs.

Picture Dictation

This week’s teaching tip is once again taken from the MFL book of Starters.
Picture Dictation
1.Students sit in pairs.
2.One student sits with their back to the board.
3.A picture/ word / graph (or similar) appears on the board.
4. The partner who can see the image, describes it and the student with their back to the board has to draw it / guess what it is.
This would make a good revision task, or a good game to check key vocabulary or terms.
Many thanks to the MFL department.