Classroom Clinic – Mini-Plenaries


“Dear classroom clinic,
Thank you for all the guidance prior to my interview lesson – I got the job!

Unfortunately, I ran out of time to do the lesson plenary so my feedback was that I didn’t explicitly show progress.

Do you have any more advice on how to include explicit Assessment for Learning throughout the lesson?” 


Firstly, congratulations! It’s so great to hear back from candidates we’ve helped place and to continue our supportive role. Now onto your great question that many teachers struggle with. We can all use questioning to quickly ‘sample’ a class that we know well, but showing explicit progress checking of a whole class of students you’ve never met before can seem impossible.

A successful lesson is one in which the children have met the objective, so you must be able to actively assess the progress students are making through the lesson. You should check the progress of the whole class against each objective to demonstrate progress to the observer. This can be done in a quick assessment for learning activity between each main task, which will also allow you to break up the lesson and ensure all of the students are still engaged. Here are some common ideas:

  • One of the quickest assessment for learning activities that can be carried out in any lesson is to have the students tell you how confident they feel about the learning objective. This can be done by holding up fingers from 1 – 5, or with a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’.
  • Mini-whiteboards are available in most primary classrooms and are great for children to carry out guided practice before starting individual work. These can then be held up to check student’s answers as a whole class, rather than having to check individually.
  • True or false quizzes based on the lesson’s content will show you which groups or individuals are excelling and which may need extra help. True / False activities are a good test of student understanding and don’t require any equipment, simply ask students to use their thumbs to show you what they think.
  • Quick 5-question quiz (you can use scrap paper for this) – use questions with one-word answers and get the students to mark these out of 5. You can then ask students to raise their hands if they got 3 or more to find out if there are any students in the class that are really struggling. Mini-whiteboards can also be used for quizzes, meaning students can show you their answers after each question.
  • Self-assessment or peer marking is also really helpful. Schools will usually have a student assessment policy, for example writing in green (or sometimes purple) ink to give feedback on their own or their partner’s work. If simply marking answers correct or incorrect, have the students feedback to you about how they did. For example, if you have questions marked out of 10: “raise your hand if you got 5 or more out of 10… keep your hands up if you got 6 or more out of 10… 7 or more…” etc.
  • Using success criteria or a mark scheme to prompt self-assessment or peer-marking: Ask students to swap work and give each other ‘next steps’ or ‘two stars and a wish’ as feedback. Post-it notes work well for this kind of peer-to-peer feedback as it keeps the comments short and to the point.

Even when covering lessons or on a supply day, use peer or self-assessment, a pop-quiz, mini-whiteboards, think-pair-share etc. to gauge understanding throughout the lesson. This breaks up the learning and means students are less likely to lose focus and if you notice particular students are struggling you can work with them after the checking activity.

If you’re looking for more creative ideas have a look here:

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