Since the profession moved to remote learning in Spring there has been a notable increase in the discussions about booklets or workbooks on Twitter, with queries about their use, design and research around their benefits.

There is also a glut of great blogs out there on booklets and recently the fantastic Dawn Cox (@missdcox) has pulled these together in her own bible of what is out there, Using booklets in teaching: Research, pedagogy & practice

Throughout this period many schools have been turning their existing resources into booklets to aid home learning. This is something my department has done across KS3/4 and they are used to injunction with teacher Loom videos (Example, I must thank @MrPattisonTeach for also hosting them on his HisTV YouTube channel) and Socrative quizzing

Others have thought about using them to support the return to the ‘traditional’ teaching from September (If we ever return to that in 2020). This is certainly a sensible approach as booklets can provide the consistency required for those providing teaching in school and remotely.

We have been using workbooks for almost a year now, trialling at both KS3 and KS4 level with the eventual plan to completely roll them out.
Coronatime has provided me with the perfect time to write up this mega thread from February (Link) on my thoughts on their design, use and impact.


My initial decision to create a booklet was to support a new GCSE class which contained a considerable amount of LPA students, with Y11 targets ranging from a 2-5. I am under no illusion that GCSE history is challenging for many students, due to the depth of content, exam stems and skills required, therefore a more thought out approach was needed. These students need to have the best possible start to their 3 year GCSE, and I thought a carefully designed and constructed booklet would be the answer.

I was also struck by a tweet by @MrSamPullan, which chimed with the extensive notemaking lessons we do at GCSE.

This idea of “use the notes, don’t do the notes” would allow us to spend more time practicing, applying and discussing the history. Moreover, with a class who would struggle with such heavy note making, I wanted to focus our valuable time on practicing writing, and not just copying from the board.

Secondly, I wanted to apply much of the cognitive science principles and evidence based practice that I have learnt over the last few years. I’m very lucky to work at a Research School and I wanted to ensure we are maximising all that have learnt about evidence based practice that helps students, including cognitive load theory, retrieval practice, interleaving, spaced practice, deliberate practice etc. of course the work of Rosenshine. I won’t go too heavily into the Rosenshine & research stuff, it’s everywhere and there is so much out there that explains it better than I ever could.

Finally, I wanted to provide consistency across the curriculum.
By providing a booklet as a blueprint for the teaching, there is basis of quality content that is guaranteed in every lesson.
Now this does not mean I don’t encourage independence, staff are free to go off piste with their individual classes and I certainly do, but a booklet provides the same strong core for all students.

How do I use booklets?

To start, I thought I would give some basics on how they are used.

  • Every student is given a printed booklet for each unit/enquiry
  • Everything is in the booklet (see below)
  • I annotate my own copy of the booklet and go through using a visualiser, but also use PowerPoint to supplement.
  • Tons of questioning, discussion, scripted explanations and direct instruction goes into the lesson, based around the booklet
  • Verbally we push lots of elaboration using the booklet, lots of ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions to make students explain and daw links between new and existing information. I love the idea of ‘knowledge is velcro’ the more you have, it’s easier to pick up more!

*They are also provided with messy exercise book, this is used for feedback, redrafting and anything else. They just get 1 for KS3/4

All in one place

These booklets contain everything that students need for the lesson, their assessments and revision, it’s all in one place.

FeedbackRetrieval PracticeHomework

This means no printing or flapping about for sheets, resources for each lesson, or even glueing things in!

Providing a contents page means its easy to provide instructions on where to go for the less

The contents can also be RAG’d to self audit their confidence during revision planning


I’ve been realised impressed by the work of @adamboxer1 and other scientists who have lead the way in booklets over the last years, especially their SLOP ones. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what SLOP meant for ages, but Shed Load Of Practice, makes perfect sense as they provide just that.

Therefore, I was keen to ensure that my booklets provided to this also
Be this disciplinary skills (sources, chronology), testing substantive knowledge or their historical writing


Having spent a long time studying CLT and the Worked Example Effect, I was keen to put as much of this as possible into the booklets.

Therefore, the booklets contain tons of worked examples, live modelling, completion examples, example pairs and the gradual phasing out of teacher guidance. I’ve written about I, We, You before (Here) and I’ve use this great method throughout the booklet, with gradual phasing out of the ‘I’.

I kind of cheat with live modelling too, I write out the model paragraph in their booklets but pretend that I am writing it live infront of the class, it works every time. Planning your worked example is great, it means you can rehearse the questions you will ask and parts you will focus on.

Dan Warner-Meanwell (@mrwmhistory) has also shared a brilliant PPT slide (here) that allows text to be written ON SCREEN(!) using Active X magic, so this is great for those of you, like me, who suffer from woeful handwriting

Oh and also invest in a modelling book (I’ve left mine at school so I can’t photograph it) but write all your models etc. so you have one for keeps, winner idea I saw on English Edutwitter.


Booklets have also coincided with increasing the amount of time students spend reading academic texts and scholarship. Now this is something you could do without a booklet, but I’ve found that I now plan more time to do this as I’m thinking more strategically when I design the booklet.

Dual Coding

I’ve been trying to ensure that I both follow *some* of the design principles that Dual Coding has suggested, whilst keeping the rich imagery that history and also designing how I like it. Each booklet, and everything I do, is produced using PowerPoint, which is an incredibly powerful tool

One example I have enjoyed using is @olicav’s Recount and Review using timelines and flow diagrams, a method perfect for history.

For the PowerPoint we use to support the teaching, this has been honed down to the very basics and using diagrams to support our teaching of new concepts etc.


We provide tons of opportunity for retrieval practice throughout the booklets and I have tried to be more meticulous in planning out all core knowledge being tested.

Every lesson starts with a retrieval activity (à la Rosenshine), based on previous content. We have a bank of ‘Starter’ pages that correlate with each week, roughly, so we can cover space testing it both new and old content.

I love using MCQ’s, as either hinge questions to tease out misconceptions that I can immediately focus on, or as a quick and effective quizzing method. As always, the emphasis on the design of these MCQs, which itself can be time consuming. Harry Fletcher Wood (@HFletcherWood) is the man for hinge questions/diagnostic questions, his blog here brings a lot of recent work together, here

In the last year I’ve also trialled using them for evidential work in history, for example for making inferences and source analysis. Thanks to Paula Lobworth (@PaulaLoboWorth) for the idea for this.

The booklets contain tons of recap sections to review, retrieval and apply knowledge I’d say my classes fingertip knowledge has improved

Next year plan is to use more responsive quizzing, using @MissBKearns retrieval map, targeting issues weekly


All of our assessments are included, with spaced testing on quizzes and exam questions (from previous units e.g. migration, cattle industry in AW)

We also love using Socrative quizzes which are linked to the booklet, these are used formatively as we can do live feedback whilst they are doing the quiz and fix any gaps/errors

Developing Metacognitive Learners

I’ve really wanted to improve students metacognitive thinking over these last fews years, especially these three strands when pupils approach a task
1. Our own abilities and attitudes (knowledge of ourselves as a learner)
2. What strategies are effective and available (knowledge of strategies);
3. This particular type of activity (knowledge of the task).

Therefore, I have begun some tentative work on this in our booklets.
Disclaimed, *it’s nowhere near there* and I’ve got more to do on this over the coming months, I’ve got the EEF report to go through again.

The EEF has said one of their key recommendations is ‘Explicitly teach pupils metacognitive strategies, including how to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning’ (Guidance Report, 2018). The modelling work I do builds into this too, by using backwards fading guidance to build up independence, but also through how we approach revision and preparation for assessment.

We include exam wrappers to encourage self regulation, whilst before each assessment we also include an exam question checklist, which includes an honest valuation of their revision and the methods they have used.
This includes simple things like writing out a checklist for the each questions and micro-planning essays.

Post assessment we have built in time for reflection and review also.

Cognitive Load & Working Memory

  • Students get overviews of each topic, KO’s and keyword banks to provide them with the big picture at the start of the unit, which allows us to define the core knowledge of the unit and helps the development of schema, these knowledge webs
  • Key concepts and content are introduced in smaller steps
  • Lots of practice and tons of questioning & instruction


A common question I get is ‘How do you feedback on the booklets?’

Well, we continue to provide feedback as we have done for the last 4 years, using whole class feedback

All assessments have clear feedback sheets, which we highlight and provide whole class feedback.

Assessment feedback is also given whole class, which is stuck into the exercise book.

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Students have an exercise book complimenting their booklet to do any feedback work in.

This may be quizzes, more practice, redrafting or simply reteaching the content

We also quickly skim the workbook itself on a regular basis to provide WCF on a number of things:
– Presentation
– Literacy
– Completion & Effort
– Practice Questions and Answers

Students either improve booklet or add to their exercise book


Self marking quizzes are based on the Knowledge Organiser, which is included at the front of the booklet. Students can see what they are being tested on in advance, in the hope it reduces some of the fear many have.


Keyword banks, lots of definitions and using language to drive historical thinking (thanks to @JamesVWoodcock for this).

I’ve also begun to compliment the definitions using in the booklet with the Frayer Model when using the booklet to teach, my plan is to create a Frayer pack to go with each unit. We use this to explicitly teach key Tier 3 vocab.

I’ve also included some of the bits that I’ve learnt from the Writing Revolution such as But, Because, So, but this is a future task, especially on building sentences.


I’m also aware that I still want to teach the same lessons as I’ve done before, so I’ve kept many the same activities we’ve always done.
Booklets should not restrict how you teach, they are a tool to support you and the way you want to teach.


Another common criticism is that booklets are quite rigid and what if you want to do something spontaneously? Well, just do it.

I’m not chained to the booklet and I’ve often gone off the ‘plan’ re-explain, model and do different activities which have gone in our messy planning books. Twitter is terrible for being us idea magpies out there, and if you see something you want to do, just do it anyway and add it to Version 2 next year.

Our booklets are constantly evolving, like the curriculum should, they are not ‘done’ when you’ve finished and can press print.

Focus on history

The continued focus throughout the booklet is just good history teaching, and planning each KS3 Enquiry and KS4 unit for these workbooks has allowed me to be really tight on the ‘What, why and how’ of our curriculum.

ScholarshipClear focus on
2nd order concepts
Substantive Knowledge
Local HistoryEnquiresWorldbuilding

I’d say that using booklets has allowed my teaching to become more knowledge rich, as by honing do. The below is an example of our current Y7 unit on Liverpool and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, its deeper and more challenging than we’ve ever gone before.

Furthermore, these are taken from my Y7 lower band class, set 7/9.
The booklet has empowered me and them to learn more, grow in confidence, love history and importantly succeed. I saw the brilliant Matt (@26mxw) talk at the #WLFSConference about raising the bar for his KS3 students through learning more and being more challenged, and rather than struggling, they are thriving. This really stuck with me throughout the creation of these booklets.

Catch Up

Anyone who has missed the lesson due to absence or illness, can just catch up using their booklet and the Loom videos which were are creating to accompany each lesson. These are time consuming, but this lockdown period is allowing us to get some traction going.

Secondly, how often do you get new starters in Y10/11 who have missed whole units? This will at least provide them with the content and activities to support their catchup, rather than copying out an exercise book or just handing over a revision guide.

Additional Bits

I’m also keen for students to review their learning, so I include Cornell Note pages to summarise parts of topics, I will admit…I don’t like them, but I appreciate the benefits of using them.

Also, after having student request for blank paper to make notes, scribble or draw things our, I have included some dotted and squared pages throughout the GCSE booklets, so they have space to do it. You could use the messy exercise book also for this too

I’ve also been adding QR codes to pages in the booklets for a range of things:
– Videos to support revision or explanation (GCSEpod, Loom or Youtube brilliance by @bennewmark)
– Socrative Quizzes
– Seneca
– Quizlet
– Our GCSE Revision Portal

Personal CPD

The design and construction of these booklets has made me a better teacher, I just know it – it helps me develop my subject knowledge and focus on using the best methods to maximise learning

Strong teacher subject knowledge is essential to excellent teaching, and creating these booklets means that I know the content inside-out, and I understands all the hardest parts and misconceptions, which I can plan for. (Obviously this changes class by class, but there are common ones we see on a yearly basis. If I don’t know something, I can ask my team or the great history community on twitter, and my questions will be answered and I can make any amends. This happened most recently during my planning of the Slave Trade unit, which I have since gone back and replanned for nex year

Beyond subject knowledge, the desire to be evidence informed means that I am constantly trawling books, blogs, journal articles and engaging with the Twitter for new ideas. This in-turn informs my practice and the booklet.

For example, the Curricularium session by Mike Hill (@michaeldoron) about worldbuilding in history immediately shaped the introduction to my new Anglo Saxon unit. Please do watch Mike’s video, it’s incredible, link here


So far my Y7, 9 and 10 classes have enjoyed using the booklets, despite the minor gripe from my top set girls who want to make fancy notes (you can’t please them all!)

I was, as part of my appraisal/CPD targets this year, doing a mini trial in school between two Y9 classes (treatment w/booklet and control w/o booklet) on the use of booklets. Unfortunately, coronavirus took over before I got chance to finish the unit and make any meaningful comparison over the longer term.

Anecdotally, I have a strong feeling these booklets work. The fundamentals are backed by evidence, whilst my classes are confident on the both knowledge and application of this, in comparison to other classes I’ve taught. I know this is not perfect, but next year hopefully I can finally finish my trial.

Final thoughts

Despite the time consuming nature of creating these booklets, I feel the process has made me a better teacher and they really have become labour of love.

Apologies for the rambling incoherent mess, this is why I don’t blog often!