Encouraging Independence


Each time I finish explain a new topic, I set the students off on task feeling confident that there’s no way they could have not understood my explanation. However, as I walk away from the board…

“I don’t get it!”

“Which bit?”

“All of it!”

I find it really frustrating that many students won’t even attempt tasks without me sitting next to them talking them through. They can be given clear steps, several examples, and shown exactly why every step needs to take place. It seems to make no difference.

In an attempt to get students to become more independent, I have made some “Question” cards.


Each student will receive two of these at the start of each lesson. The idea is that if a student wants to ask a question, it has to be a valuable one as they are limited to only two questions per lesson. All my classes know that I encourage brains, book, buddy, boss anyway, so really this is nothing new to them. It’s just more concrete than before.

I’ve only tried it with year 9 so far, but I’m happy with the independent work combined with pair/group discussions that went on in today’s lesson. We are fortunate enough to be an iPad school, so the majority of students have their own iPad to support with learning. This, in effect, adds an extra step in between ‘buddy’ and ‘boss’ as they are able to research online further if they are still unsure.


Today’s lesson was an assessment review. After each assessment, I ask my students to look back over the assessment to correct their mistakes. Obviously they often don’t know what the mistakes or misconceptions are to begin with (otherwise they would have got it right in the assessment!) so they skip out the ‘brains’ stage. The question cards meant that today my year 9s didn’t ask me for help with EVERY question (this is often what has happened previously).

By the end of the hour-long lesson, all students had corrected their errors and the majority were using their books or iPads to practise skills they had forgotten. They’re possibly not independent learners yet, but I’m hoping these question cards will help them get there.



#assessment #maths #independentlearners #independence #questions #teachingstrategies #teaching

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