Research into practice: Teaching Self-Regulation in English 2

This is the second post in a series of reflections on teaching self-regulation strategies in English

In my last post, Research in to Practice: a plan for teaching self-regulation in English, I outlined my plan to explicitly teach students how to study and self-regulate, using class surveys. Since then, In have started at my new school and selected a class, Year 10 more-able students, to focus on.

In the first few lessons I set the students work which I collected and viewed without ‘marking’. I created a spreadsheet with notes on the students’ presentation, SPaG, effort and the quality of their work, including their annotations of a text.

In a lesson the next week, I administered the Learning Strategies and Attitudes to English RAG survey at the beginning of a lesson. A few examples of student responses are posted, (with the students’ permission) below.


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Sample Size

The class consists of 29 students, and I have received 26 responses to the survey. The gender split for responses is 50/50.

Interesting outcomes: Attitude to English

The majority of students reported that they enjoy English, which is not surprising given it is a group largely selected based on prior achievement. The highest target grade in the class in 9, and there are two students with target grades of 5. Most fall at targets of 6 or 7 or language and literature. Girls were far more likely to report they enjoy English, (n=10), with three students saying they do not enjoy the subject. By contrast, the boys were on the fence, five reported enjoying the subject, four reported they do not enjoy it, and four neither agreed nor disagreed that they enjoy English.

Only one student reported that they did not agree they wanted to ‘make good progress in English’, which I found interesting. This student was also the only person to report they were not a successful learner in the subject. This is really useful information to know as it will allow me to target the student more meaningfully. Perhaps if they develop more strategies in self-regulation, they will feel more successful and want to make more progress. All other students agreed with the statement.

Also of note was the low return on students who said they would study the subject at A level, with 3 girls and 0 boys reporting they would study the subject further. This is a number I hope to see shift when I re-administer the survey in about 6 months time.

Overall, half the class reported being ‘successful learners in English, and this was positively correlated with enjoyment of the subject, perhaps unsurprisingly. These students were also more likely to report positive experience and good skills in the self-regulation habits.

Focus on Self-Regulation

Most students reported confidence in note-taking in English (n=20). Of those, 9 reported confidence in summarising, and 1 in self-quizzing, so I have decided to focus explicit instruction on self-regulation on using note-taking as a vehicle to teach summarising and self-quizzing. The first lesson I taught on self-regulation after administering the survey was to teach the Cornell method, which I read about on Twitter when @MsHoldenEnglish posted about teaching it to her students.

I chose this method because I liked the way it would help students to organise their notes, and the focus on summary and retrieval. Ultimately, it would be the goal for the students themselves to come up with my daily 5 by 5 retrieval practice questions (because ultimately I’m pretty lazy and yay for reducing teacher workload).

Example Responses:

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Method for Teaching:

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This half-term the focus of teaching was English Language Paper 1 (Explorations in Creative Writing). I had chosen Alice Walker’s short story ‘The Flowers’ as the focus text of the week, with the supplementary text of ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Through the Tunnel’ by Doris Lessing, which we will study next week to be read for homework.

The four driving questions for the week were:

  1. How and why do writers use symbolism?​
  2. How can we recognise when symbolism is being used?​
  3. How do we write about symbolism?​
  4. How is childhood and the theme of moving from innocence to experience presented in a range of texts?

In order to support students to answer these questions through their work, and ultimately write a narrative, applying symbolism at the end of the week, I new I would need to use direct instruction of structure, motif, symbolism, biblical allusion, American history, and intertextuality. With so many key-words and challenging concepts, it was a good week to try out the Cornell Notes system!

Firstly, on Monday, I flagged up that I would be introducing the notes system, and presented students with an example of what it would look like.

On Tuesday, I directed students to rule up their pages, and flagged the key words they should use. We discussed the benefits of the system, and why we were using it. To avoid overloading them, I didn’t go into the specifics of summarisation and self-quizzing.

We practised again on Wednesday, with the students independently drawing up their pages. This was a lesson where I taught students some history of lynchings in the American South. It was a revelation for them, as all of the students had initially either missed the core theme of the narrative, or thought it was about a suicide. It was important lesson on layers of narrative and meaning, as well as supporting interpretation. We used ‘Strange Fruit’ to look for intertextual references between the two texts and how to detect similarities in semantic fields and symbolism.

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Students filled up their notes sections, and independently noted the new key words.

Moving towards self-regulation and developing spaced retrieval practice through summary and self quizzing, tomorrow (Monday), I will model summarising the notes from Tuesday and Wednesday as our starter, and the plenary will be to create a question from the summary, with the idea that they will have a bank of retrieval practice questions that develops over time.

Hopefully I can also mine this bank for my 5 by 5 questions for starters!


I think this is a really effective way to get to know my students, and to reflect on the impact of my teaching. The survey was easy to administer and analyse, and has given me a firm platform to support teaching the students how to study. It’s also prompted me to think in more depth about different methods of learning and I enjoyed learning about the Cornell Method. I only wish any of my teachers had thought to show me how to take more ownership of my learning when I was younger!

As always, if you are interested in running this experiment with your own classes, feel free to download the survey in the original post  and get in touch  or tweet me @A_R_zanetti

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