KS3 – SoW and Assessment Strategy

I’ve noticed a lot of chatter on Facebook lately about assessment at KS3 and about what to put into schemes of work / schemes of learning.

Since my department and I have spent a lot (a LOT!) of time over the last couple of years completely reworking all of the above I figured it wouldn’t do any harm to share it. It’s a team effort and includes some fantastic ideas and units for which I can take no credit at all. No warranty is given or implied and your mileage may vary!

If you want the resources with none of the reasoning or justification then just head on over to pi.mwclarkson.co.uk and download away. If you DO care about the justification (which I think it quite important, as it goes), then read on.

Thematic Units

For a long time we used to teach a half-term on spreadsheets, a half-term on databases, a half-term on image editing, etc. And the visit each topic again in maybe a year, maybe 18 months. This meant we could spend a good chunk of time focusing on one area, but the retention was poor.

We decided a little while ago to try more thematic units – so we have a unit about my Aunt Mabel who bought a zoo on a whim. She needs a spreadsheet to find out if she can afford to feed the animals, some image editing to create a gift voucher, a database for annual membership, etc.

When specifying the equipment needed for a new youth club the students design a floorplan, create a spreadsheet to track and adjust costs, write to their local MP, learn about networking and create a slideshow to convince the PTA to help fund it.

And so on – the key phrase for me is ‘little and often’. The disadvantage is that students don’t spend a big block of time looking deeply at the skills, so you need to remember to make sure to teach about slideshows and DTP skills, not just expect students to ‘know’ what good design looks like and what specific skills to use.

We’ve also gone for an approach that includes a fair bit of computer science (programming, binary, logic gates, algorithms) but also a lot of multimedia topics (mind maps, storyboards, image editing, comics, video editing, audio editing) and ‘traditional’ IT (spreadsheets, databases, posters and PowerPoints). This is partly because we have 3 routes at KS4 – GCSE CS, Cambridge Nationals Creative iMedia and GCSE ICT / vocational ICT to come, and also partly because we think (as a department) that our job is to help prepare students for life and for their future, not just an optional GCSE that not all will pursue.

Online vs Dead Tree submissions

Being a massive Moodler I’ve been an evangelist for online assessment for years. We’ve tried online discussions, wikis, self-marking quizzes, ePortfolios and much more. And, honestly, we never got it right.

When it comes to work scrutinies I was often tempted to drop a URL off in each box when SLT wanted the books, but ultimately I had to cave. And I admit it – the books are a better solution.

Each student gets an A4+ sized exercise book and they sometimes do work in there, but more often print off an assessed piece of work. It’s not ideal for animations, but you can include a screengrab which is usually enough to trigger a memory from circulating during the lessons and you can also encourage students to annotate or justify their work, demonstrating knowledge as well as skills. In addition, the kids can find their work and refer back to it easily. Having to negotiate a VLE once a week and expecting the kids to really understand the underlying structure isn’t as realistic as it might sound to those of us who use these systems multiple times a day and might well have computing / IT degrees.

It’s not perfect, but honestly I feel the books are the best solution I’ve used so far.

Regular Assessment / Deep Marking / WINS

The policy at my school is that we do a solid bit of marking every 5 lessons / 5 hours. This means that we don’t have to mark every piece of work, but that students are getting regular feedback throughout their studies.

The structure of the feedback has to be in the WINS format (What was good, Improved if, Next steps and then a Student response). I’ve heard of PENS in a number of schools which is very similar (Positives, Even better if, Next steps, Student response).

We also have a grading system that goes MEP – EP – BEP – UP (More than Expected Progress, Expected Progress, Below Expected Progress, UnderPerforming). This is printed on and highlighted.

Given that one of my colleagues will have 330 KS3 pupils next year we had to make the marking manageable – so we’ve produced one pre-populated WINS sheet for each unit with all of the likely comments written in and 3 differentiated questions for students to tackle that are designed to make students reflect on their work at different levels (think Bloom’s).

I wanted to avoid having students working on something for 5 lessons, then getting some feedback, then spending another lesson making improvements and resubmitting it. You end up in ever decreasing circles and lose valuable time for moving on – and with the ‘little and often’ curriculum we’ll be coming back to those skills again soon enough.

Tracking Progress / Assessment Without Levels

In order to better track progress all of the subject leaders at my place were tasked with describing the knowledge, skills and application that students would be expected to gain each term, all without using levels. These AWoL sheets are heavily skills focused for us and are broken down into the three strands of IT, Media and Computer Science. They relate directly to the unit WINS sheets and are easily attacked with a highlighter once a term.

In addition we have an overall tracking sheet with the 3 strands, each split into 2 (so IT has data handling and presenting information, Media has creativity and planning, CS has programming and technical understanding). By highlighting these at the same time as the termly sheets we can show overall progress.

It costs a bit in highlighters but saves a lot in blue, black, red, green and purple pen!

I’m not promising it’s perfect, and I would never claim this is the ‘right way to do it’ – but it’s what we’re doing and you’re welcome to use it.

If you do decide to adapt and improve it, please consider sharing and please give some credit to the team that helped put it together (Egglescliffe School Computing & ICT department, past and present).

Teachmeet Tees 11


Originally uploaded by ThomasLife

What better way is there of spending a wet and windy Thursday evening? More sandwiches than you can ever eat, an opportunity to play Kinect with Steve Bunce and getting on for a dozen short presentations by teachers sharing excellent ideas.

The atmosphere was cosy, the cupcakes inviting and the hosts (Steve Bunce and Simon Finch) genial.

I couldn’t possibly mention all of the presentations, but Alasdair Douglas‘ Angry Birds project, Martin Waller’s Growing Greener summary and Dominic McGladdery’s campaign to allow mobile devices to be used in the classroom were personal highlights.

Once more I find myself with some free CPD inspiring me to go out and try more things I don’t have time to implement (time when I should be writing up what I’m already doing, and thanks for the prod Dominic!).

Right then… when’s the next one?

Teachmeet Northeast

Last night was my third Teachmeet, TMNE10-2. For those who haven’t come across the phenomenon that is Teachmeet, they are a simply fantastic event. Imagine teachers from all over the region that want to get together in their own time to share ideas, tips, stories, thoughts and more. Imagine that no-one is allowed more than 7 minutes. Imagine that you are discouraged from using PowerPoint. Imagine there are no tables in the room, certainly no desks, just comfy sofas. Imagine there is free food. And wine. Awesome.

I know how easy it is to get overloaded with brilliant ideas at Teachmeets, and trying to implement too much makes it difficult to succeed. I’ve tried taking a laptop and writing everything down – but you risk losing the moment – so this time I went with nothing but my wits and a cunning plan.

What plan? Three things. Aim to leave with 3 things. Darren Mead (@dkmead) describes any form of learning simple as ‘change’. So try to leave with 3 changes. That way I can take away what I think is most important to me and my classroom practice without drowning in the flood of ideas.

To quote one of my Year 10s… “Epic fail”.

There is no way on this Earth that I could leave let night’s Teachmeet with 3 changes. No way I could leave with 5, or even 10. There were jut so many great presentations from so many inspiring colleagues that I couldn’t help but to soak up much more than that. So the new plan? Every day (give or take) between now and the end of term I’m going to write 1 blog post about 1 change – whether it be some piece of knowledge, a new skill, growing confidence in my own knowledge or a loss of confidence in knowledge that might be false (did I get that right Darren?).

And that’s the first one…

Apparently Scribd are evil…

There has been a bit of a ruckus in recent weeks over Scribd, a website for sharing and embedding PDF documents. Rather than just uploading and downloading the files you can read them online and embed them in a website or blog with incredible ease.

The furore is over their new policy of requiring users to be premium members to download archived documents (that is, documents that have been up there for a good while – although I’m not sure how long is too long). I can understand that this might be frustrating for those who have uploaded their documents to Scribd with the aim of sharing them (as I have) and a lot of the complaints centre on the lack of clear communication about this issue.

You can tick a checkbox to exclude your documents from the archive (although I’m not sure whether this means my documents will always be available for free or not…) and while it’s not ideal, a lot of documents have a limited shelf-life anyway and all of the resources I really like I post up at Mukoku anyway (eventually, at any rate). Embedding / reading the documents online is still free regardless of the age of the file.

I assume Scribd have bills to pay and can’t really begrudge them trying to make enough money to survive. They’re still offering a valuable service for free and a tweet looking for good alternatives came up with exactly no responses whatsoever. So I’m still using them and have just uploaded a Scratch tutorial for a sharks and fish game I ran with my Y10 Computing class this week.

Grand Designs


Image: roach family

You’ve seen the TV show (if you haven’t, it’s a documentary following people building their own houses), now you can do the unit of work!

At the start of Year 9 we do a full term (12-14 weeks) based around the designing and promoting of a new housing estate. The students plan the estate, design the houses in Google Sketchup, do some financial modelling, create some form of advert and finally present their work to a board of directors (because only 1 proposal will be successful and only one student will be paid!). There are also easy tie ins for data handling and even sequencing (using some of the house-based Flowol mimics).

If you’re interested, you can see all of the resources and even download them as a full Moodle course at Mukoku.


Mukoku LogoMukoku is a Japanese word, meaning ‘out of resources’. I thought it was the perfect name for a Moodle site I’ve been wanting to set up for a while – a place where I can stick resources I want to share with the world. The plan is not to stick to ICT specific topics, but to post a whole range of resources; including presentations and suggestions I’ve made for conferences, my Techy Tips newsletters and a whole range of cross-curricular ideas – in addition to some ICT specific resources as well.

Previously I’ve used mwclarkson.co.uk and also stuck stuff on a webserver and posted links to it when requested. This way there is a permanent place and I can format things more carefully and with a lot more space than I could with the old website.

Dan Humphreys (@MoodleDan) has kindly given me the url mukoku.vl3.co.uk and in time, it would be nice to have other people contributing things as well. So let me know what you think, subscribe to the RSS feed and feel free to point others in my general direction 🙂