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Last reviewed on 16 February 2021
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From gamified quizzes to treasure-coin rubrics, see if the approaches these primary schools are using could help you check pupils’ understanding during live lessons.

Our thanks to the 5 schools that contributed to this article - find out more about them at the bottom of this page. 

Please note: the inclusion of commercial products in this article doesn’t constitute an endorsement from The Key.   

Adapting normal practice for remote learning

It's not always necessary to reinvent the wheel if your normal formative assessment method could still work remotely.

Staff at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary in Norwich keep as much familiarity as possible in their lessons by using ‘rubrics’, a concept pupils are already familiar with, to achieve an ongoing dialogue around continuous assessment.

Using rubrics remotely to make formative assessment fun 

treasure coin rubric

At St Francis of Assisi, staff have turned success criteria into gold coins and explained these success criteria clearly - pupils in years 1 and 2 know they’re on the hunt for treasure when thinking about their own work, and what they need to do to go from 1 to 5 coins.

When speaking to pupils about their work during live lessons, staff ask them how many points they think they or their peers have earned, and what they need to do to get more.

treasure coins

How to make it work in your school

Turn success criteria into points, stars or coins to add that gamification element - you know your pupils and their interests best.

Have fun with it - think about the most engaging way to award your points remotely. Staff could: 

  • Use an interactive platform such as a live Google document or Microsoft OneNote to get pupils to award their points themselves 
  • Print them out themselves and hold them up to the camera 
  • Send packs of them home for pupils to award themselves, with matching packs for pupils in school  

Quick quizzes to check knowledge and adapt lessons if needed

Belgrave St Bartholomew’s Academy in Staffordshire uses gamified quizzing platforms to quickly practise knowledge retrieval at the start and end of lessons - pupils enjoy Kahoot! and Quizizz because they're fun and engaging. Both are free to use and give staff instant access to assessment data.   

Staff use quiz results to prepare for the next day's lesson and have the freedom to:

  • Plan flexible lessons to match pupils' pace 
  • React and adapt to what they're seeing in formative assessment 
  • Go back over concepts they’ve already covered if necessary  

Quizzes for end-of-unit assessments 

For some subjects, staff at Belgrave St Bartholomew's focus each lesson in a unit around a question they want pupils to be able to answer at the end of the lesson. At the end of a unit, they copy each question into an end-of-unit quiz - this saves them time as they won't have to think of new questions for the quiz. 

Quizziz allows longer text responses than Kahoot. 

Access to 80,000 questions from Learning by Questions 

Indian Queens Primary School in Cornwall has had a great response from pupils and parents to the Learning by Questions platform, which offers both a free and paid version (the latter comes with a 30-day free trial).

Both versions give access to 80,000 questions, from Key Stage (KS)2 to KS4.

Indian Queens Primary School has seen 95% of year 6 pupils engaging with Learning by Questions every day

Parents say the visual demonstrations that come with each question give pupils plenty of independence.   

The paid version lets you:

  • See which pupils need help by using a colour-coded system when they answer a certain question incorrectly. Staff have an overview of how everyone’s doing at once, so they can target support or, if they see everyone struggling with the same question, pause the task and refresh knowledge among the whole class 
  • Use an ‘ad hoc’ mode to take control of a particular pupil’s screen and offer annotation prompts to help them, if staff see they’re struggling with a certain question 

See more about the platform in this explanatory PDF created by staff at Indian Queens Primary School:

Comparing engagement during live lessons to the quality of work submitted    

At Cuffley School in Hertfordshire, staff set clear expectations during live lessons for how long a piece of independent work might take pupils, and when they should submit it. 

They can then get a picture of how well pupils are doing, based on: 

  • How well pupils engaged with the work during the live lesson
  • How long it takes them to submit the independent work, compared to the expected time period 
  • The quality of the submitted work, in comparison to the time taken 
  • Whether they’ve had any help from their parent(s) - see more on this below 

Staff set clear expectations during live lessons for how long a piece of independent work might take pupils

If you're alternating live sessions with independent tasks, set clear timing expectations: 

  • Ask staff to clarify how long they expect an independent task to take and when pupils should hand it in
  • If staff don’t expect the work to be completed but they want pupils to spend 30 minutes on it, they should clarify this so pupils don’t worry if it’s not finished
  • If pupils don’t hand work in for a suspiciously long time, it might indicate that they were waiting for someone to help them with it. If this happens, staff should:
    • Reassure pupils and parents that it’s OK if they find things difficult
    • Explain to pupils and parents that they’ll receive feedback to support them along the way if they hand things in within the expected time, so that they don’t fall behind. Read our guide to help you give engaging remote feedback

Ask parents to let you know if they’ve helped their child

This is so you can use this information to decide how much support their child needs and how to help them work more independently. Set these expectations out in your remote learning policy.

At Cuffley School, headteacher Wendy Wing finds that some parents reveal everything they’ve done, while others speak in more general terms. Staff use every bit of insight to inform their assessment of how pupils are doing.   

If parents are getting involved and don’t understand the work either, Wendy invites them to their child’s targeted support sessions - learn how to run remote small-group sessions effectively here

Get an idea of whether pupils are working independently

You’re never going to be able to fully monitor whether pupils are working fully independently - even in person, they may copy work from their peers. Use what you know about that child, their engagement and their confidence to help you best support them. As Wendy put it: It’s not perfect science, but it wouldn’t be in school, either!”

3 free tools schools are using to take formative assessment further  

If you’re confident in your approach and want to add another string or two to your bow, see if these tools that the Aspire Academy Trust uses would work for you.

Instant marking to accelerate understanding of how much pupils know 

TeacherMade is a free product that can turn any handout into a self-marking worksheet. At Mount Hawke Academy, this saves time on marking as one teacher digitises worksheets before sharing them across the trust for others to use.   

Collaborative platforms to easily see where pupils are struggling 

Tools such as the free version of Kami (which works with Google Classroom and Office 365) allow pupils to interact with and annotate on static documents, such as PDFs and images. This means staff won't have to print these resources to use them in class.

Quick voice-note interactions with pupils 

Mote (a Google Chrome add-on) allows staff to leave voice notes on pupils’ work as they watch them work on a live document, such as a Google doc. Pupils can respond vocally too, so staff can have a quick chat about how they're finding a certain part of a document. The free version caps at 30 seconds. 


We'd like to thank the following school leaders for sharing their approaches with us, so that we could share them with you:  

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