Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Perfect Plenaries

I won't lie, plenaries aren't my strong point. I'm frequently caught at the end of the lesson with 3 minutes until the bell with homework to dish out and a plenary still to go. However, I've picked up a few techniques for checking pupil progress quickly and effectively throughout the lesson.

Hinge Questions

A hinge question is a question that enables you to quickly gauge who is following your lesson and who is not. A hinge question could consist of 'How do we form le passé composé?' for example. Provide the pupils with four options on the board and they then write the correct answer on their whiteboards.

This allows you to quickly see who is where they should be and who needs more help. This type of mini-plenary is only effective though if you act on your findings there and then. Don't be afraid to stop your lesson and go back over a point! It's better to correct misunderstandings and move on than leave some pupils behind.

Gap Fill

You may have covered, or revised, a grammar point in class and what to do a quick check of how well pupils have grasped the concept. A gap-fill like the one above leaves no stone unturned and the support can be given or taken away dependent on ability. This type of activity also serves as a useful 'one stop shop' for the point covered.

Challenge Grids

Another really quick way to check understanding is to create a challenge grid with a variety of sentences in TL and English. Ask pupils to translate two sentences one from TL to English and one from English to TL on to a Post-It note and then place it on the board. Starred squares are more difficult and are there to stretch the more able. 

This is a great way of testing vocabulary from the lesson but also allows you to see which areas of a topic pupils are skirting round. If certain boxes are left completely empty, it may be worth covering that specific tense or vocabulary again.


Get pupils to write a sentence using the vocabulary that they have learned in the lesson so far and then stick it on the board. Then get each pupil to go and pick a sentence that isn't their own and translate it and correct it if they can spot any mistakes. This anonymises the process of error correction somewhat while testing both production and understanding of the TL.


Animal Splat for Year 7/8 Spanish and French.
This is generally an activity that you can let pupils run themselves. Put a variety of vocabulary on the board and get two class members up to the front. Get a pupil to provide a sentence orally using an item of the vocabulary and the classmates at the front have to hit the correct image. The loser has to then choose someone from their side of the class to take their place. This allows you to target your questioning while the losing pupil acts as a 'random name generator' by picking a fellow classmate at random.

It's also worthwhile creating a variety of slides with the same images on but in different places to keep pupils on their toes!

Toy Chain

Get a pupil to say a sentence that they've learned so far/within the lesson. They throw the cuddly toy to another member of the class at random who must then translate the sentence and provide a new sentence of their own in TL. They then pass it on and therefore create 'a chain' around the room. Step in at any point to provide more challenging sentences or throw to somebody who hasn't take part yet! 

Extend the Sentence

Simply place a basic sentence on the board. How far can pupils extend it with the vocabulary they've seen today. Encourage them to be as creative/inventive as they can. You may have taught time phrases, opinions or connectives in that lesson. Reward pupils who can create the longest/wackiest/most detailed/most accurate sentence from memory.

Here is an example of a year 7 plenary after teaching them about time phrases and opinions and how they can extend their work.

Some examples of the improvements.

Quiz - Whiteboards

A mini quiz placed mid-way through the lesson will allow you to get a broad grasp of how the class are doing with regards to progress. This can be a quiz of 3-5 questions with answers that can be again written on whiteboards so you have an instant gauge of progress or areas for concern.

For example:
  • Quick fire vocab questions.
  • Grammar checks -  'How do you say...?'/ Change this infinitive into a past tense.
  • Sentence translations.
  • Put questions on the board and pupils have to write an answer in TL using vocab from the lesson.
Do you have any ideas for plenaries?
Leave a comment below or @MLMusings

1 comment:

  1. We use splat, but call it 'Slappy hands'! We play it with fly swats - brilliant fun. Also, to play in groups with printouts of the slides