Taking the ‘temperature of learning’ in lessons: a few tried and tested strategies

‘Progress’ appears to be the buzz word in schools at the moment, especially during lesson observations. The new Ofsted framework specifically looks at how teachers enable students to make progress in lessons and over a series of lessons. I believe progress is only as good as the learning objective you measure it against, so making sure your learning objectives are clear and differentiated is vital. This should not be a hoop you jump through for observations but a means to take the ‘temperature of learning’ in a lesson. The information obtained from students can then be used to direct the course of the rest of the lesson.

Below is a range of strategies I have used in lessons to try and get students to take a more active role in their learning and take some ownership of the progress they are making.

1. RAG progress scale using post it notes


This is very easy to set up and use in lessons. At the beginning of the lesson I will ask students to place their post it note somewhere on the RAG scale to show me their current understanding of the learning objective / outcomes. At various points during the lesson I will refer back to the learning objective and ask students to move their post it note if they feel they are making progress. This gives me as the teacher a quick summary of how the whole class is performing and I can adjust my lesson or choose who to go and help based on the outcome of students moving (or not moving) their post it note.

2. Happy / Sad face ‘Mexican wave’ progress scale

happy face progress scale

This works by displaying a scale on the board under a learning objective with a happy face at one end and a sad face at the other. I ask students to raise / lower their hand as I move my finger along the scale from sad face to happy (creating a Mexican wave of sorts). This method is similar to the RAG scale and gives me a quick summary to see which students may be racing ahead and ones that may need a little more support.

3. Task check-list


This is a really simple strategy but I found it had a big impact on students keeping check on their progress. I displayed an example post it on the board and then asked students to write down today’s tasks and estimate a finishing time for each task. As students went or ouch e lesson they ticked off the tasks – evidence of ‘some’ progress being made.

4. Learning Place Mat (courtesy of Dan Aldred)


I have only used this once so far but got really positive feedback from SLT who were observing me at the time. This is a great Way not just to demonstrate progress but for students to take ownership of their learning and get far more involved with the mechanics of a lesson. I must admit I think this strategy needs to be used a few times to get students use to it. I used it with a mixed ability year 8 class and although not all students managed to get to grips with it, the potential of this resource was clear to see and I will be using it again! I envisage using this resource in the future to get students to plan their own lesson.

Check out Dan’s website here for more information about the Learning Place Mat.

5. Solo Taxonomy


I used this with a fairly high achieving year 9 group that were investigating what the Internet is and how it works. Similar to the LPM this was the first time I used SOLO and its something that students need to be trained in. Once students are comfortable with the different terms and corresponding levels of progress SOLO can be used to great effect to demonstrate progress in lessons. Its a great tool for getting students to link up their ideas and make connections between different things that they are learning. Solo provides a great structure for students to reflect on their progress.


6. Learning dialogue – showing progress over time

photo (7)

This is something I have started doing with all of my classes. A simple resource to create a learning dialogue between student and teacher. I have tried doing this both electronically and on paper and it was one aspect of my lesson that led to the observation being graded as Good with Outstanding features.

“I’ve taken the temperature of learning, now what?”

Once you have taken the temperature of the learning in your lesson, the next thing is do something with the new information you have. It could be to give students more time to complete a task. Perhaps some questioning is needed to obtain a clearer picture still. One technique I tried which contributed to my lesson being graded as outstanding, was to create differentiated activities to act on students responses to a RAG system. Students were asked to hold up a red, amber or green card to show their understanding of writing a simple procedure in JavaScript. I then used that information and acted on it straight away by offering differentiated (RAG style) activities (see below) to follow up the progress check.

photo (4)


It’s important to remember that variety is the spice of life and that using just one method to show progress in your lessons is not sustainable as students will get bored with and dis-engaged. Try lots of methods and get an arsenal of strategies to show progress. Interchange them between lessons to achieve and sustain a higher impact on your students. After all these methods will only work if you can get your students to buy into them!

photo (5)




      • claire carter (@Carter61C)

        This is really helpful not just to teacher trainees but all of us! I liked the task list-use this a lot with intervention students alongside learning objectives as it keeps the focus on time and so keeps the pace up.

  1. mrocallaghanedu

    Getting students to add a symbol (happy/neutral/sad face) next to each task once they have completed it would also give some instant feedback for the teacher to act upon…

  2. Shah

    Thank you for sharing these lovely tips . Could you share your lesson plan where you achieved outstanding in the lesson. This would be extremely helpful.

  3. Pingback: Measuring Progress | brentwoodteachingandlearning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s