From authors to authors: subject specific guidance

Over time we have collated guidance from our authors based on specific subjects for resource sharing on Tes. Here, you can find a breakdown of some of the tips which we think will help to support you.

Tes Author Team

Teacher author stood besides a gift that is passing on knowledge for specific subjects including maths, English, Science, Geography, History, etc.

Are you looking for some subject specific guidance for resource sharing on Tes? Below you can find part one of From authors to authors: subject specific guidance.




Where do you start when making an English resource to publish on Tes?  

When I first started, I was simply uploading any resource I made that I thought might be helpful. However, I quickly saw that the kind of resources that were most popular on Tes were ones that all English teachers would need at some point. This included resources that taught literacy skills or offered writing support, which could be adapted for any lesson.  

Now, when I start creating a new resource, I ask myself “What do English teachers teach all the time?” Then I do my research to create a resource that is universally applicable.   

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How do you cover historical context in a way that is relevant to your students? [English teacher] 

I choose to start the SoW with historical context, which might seem like an unusual choice as it isn’t necessarily the most obvious way of engaging pupils. However, I think it’s actually the perfect approach for studying the plays because it addresses the fact that Shakespeare’s time is so different from ours.  

For example, I introduce my class to the chain of being, which is actually quite a complex idea, but it is brilliant for grabbing pupils’ attention and can be applied to more tangible things. We look at the different theatre audiences, from the groundlings in the pit to the gentleman’s rooms, and relate it back to the chain of being, as well as looking at what is happening in the plays. For me, it’s not just about teaching context for context’s sake, but to explore these historical ideas in a way that supports students' understanding of the plays. 

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You say that grammar can be a very ‘dry’ topic. What can teachers do to challenge this perception? 

It has always been my approach that the drier the subject matter being taught, the more fun and creative the session needs to be. Introducing dice adds an element of chance. It is common to see dice used in a maths lesson to generate random numbers, instead of using a list of calculations. 

A games-based approach to teaching important grammar concepts will get more response than a worksheet made up largely of cloze passages. 

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What are your top tip/s for creating high quality resources for English? 

For those of you wondering how to make stand out products, I’d give one piece of advice: be unique. Teachers want products that will enhance their teaching and keep students engaged. Spelling snakes and ladders was requested by my Year 5s during wet playtimes, and now hundreds of other teachers use it with their own pupils. Dictionary conqueror was designed to be multi-purpose, either as a starter or by the students themselves because I couldn’t fit enough vocabulary tasks into my own teaching. Be inspired by what your own classes love. I guarantee others will enjoy the same things. 

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How can math mysteries be used to motivate learners? 

Quite simply, math mysteries make the moans and groans disappear! As we use math in many aspects of our lives, it is essential that students get lots of opportunities to practise numeracy skills in the classroom. These unique stories are a great hook and encourage even the least motivated learners to get involved, crack the clues and solve the case. 

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How do you create resources that will engage reluctant learners in the maths classroom? 

I make the lessons more practical for them, for example, measuring items in the classroom for converting units. An activity like this helps students to physically see the link between the diameter and the circumference of a circle. I really enjoy it when the students grasp a difficult topic or when their motivation has increased by doing fun tasks – such as maths bingo where they can win a small prize. 

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What are the key starting points for an author of maths resources? 

What is the purpose? Is it a simple assessment of existing knowledge, skills and application, or an assessment for learning? Is it to develop a topic they have met before, or to introduce an entirely new topic? Is it building on something recent, or something they met in a previous year? Can the learners access a new topic without an initial input from the teacher, and if not, does this have to be by a spoken demonstration, or a PowerPoint presentation?  Will it have stretch and challenge for all? 

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What are the key starting points for an author creating science resources? 

For me, science is about curiosity and opening the minds of students to how things work and why things are the way they are. Therefore, my initial starting point is to think about what my class need. What resources will encourage, challenge and inspire them? How can I achieve the best out of them? 

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Physics is often seen as a challenging subject to teach. How do you make sure your resources are accessible to learners of all abilities? 

I spend a lot of time breaking down the language, making sure the terms I use are clear and trying to relate content back to everyday life. Of course, science isn’t a world away from what we do every day; however we need to contextualise the content for students. That is as important as teaching the equations and explaining how they influence the physics. 

I make my resources accessible by using a clear, consistent format throughout all my lessons. I find a colour-coding system works effectively too; orange for a question you have to answer, purple for something more challenging etc. Simple formats help students quickly access the content and make it clear what they should be doing during the lesson, as well as highlighting the key information they should take away. 

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What are five tips would you give to teachers looking to create science resources? 

1. It’s about what students need, not what you want. It doesn’t matter how amazing that video is, or how cool that activity looks, if it isn’t at their ability level or within their interest, it’s not going to work. 

2. If it takes longer to create than complete, you’re doing it wrong. It took me far too long to realise this. I spent hours one year making space Monopoly boards for my class. It took me the good part of a day. They finished it in 25 minutes. The five hours it took to make seemed worth it as I thought I would use it forever. Then in came the Australian Curriculum, which meant a change in programme, and a set of very dusty boards. 

3. It’s about balance. If you spend two hours creating an amazing lesson on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for one class, the other classes are going to get less that day. This is OK! There is nothing wrong with having an outstanding lesson for a class, and a run-of-the-mill lesson for the next one, as long as you share the good stuff across different classes. We’re human and there are only so many hours in a day. 

4. A piece of information is nothing without an activity. So many resources are just an article, website or video with no description of what it looks like in action. I put a great video on the staff drive once on F=MA looking at male versus female MMA fighters. My class loved it, but none of the other teachers used it. Some time after, someone said they hadn’t used it because the science was wrong since the variables weren’t controlled. I explained that my class had analysed the video for the good and bad science and then had to design an experiment that was valid. That teacher then used the video in a lesson, as they understood how to deliver it as a teaching stimulus. 

5. Sharing is caring. Form a team, pass things around and have a collective drive for resources. You can’t create everything. The modern teacher doesn’t have the time. But if you make something whizz-bang and someone else does the same for a different class, you’re one step ahead. It's far easier to modify a resource that already exists, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

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What are your tips for creating science resources?

I’ve found over my time teaching that pupils can have a very narrow view of the world. I’d encourage teachers to create science lessons that direct pupils beyond the immediate as there is so much more choice out there in the world and opportunities for great careers in the sciences.

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What are your top tips for teachers looking to create resources for students with educational needs? 

Do not reinvent the wheel! Have a clear idea about what you want to create and keep things simple. If you have extra time, then look at making your resource aesthetically pleasing.  

Building in assessment to measure progress is essential, as I believe that, ultimately, a teacher’s focus should be on student attainment.  

Finally, test out your working documents with the students, be flexible and keep adapting the resource until you are happy. 

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How do your resources support the study of Shakespeare for learners with autism or severe learning difficulties? 

My scripts, made up of words and symbols, outline the bare bones of the play. Take Hamlet, for example. The basic plot is that the king is killed by his brother, the son finds out and wants to kill the usurped king, his uncle. The tricky part is ensuring the key themes and feelings also remain. 

I make sure the scripts make use of familiar lines. In Macbeth, we use “Double, double, toil and trouble…” over and over again, but in a different tone of voice to convey meaning. At key crisis moments, it’s sometimes more useful to sing a song to a well-known tune and mime the action. These are also written into the scripts. 

My resources are best used as inspiration. They have been developed over time to cater to my individual students’ strengths. The relationship between the teacher and the cast is just as important, if not more so, than the script. 

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How do you make a subject such as history accessible to primary students? 

The key is to make it as hands-on as possible. My lesson plans involve everything from making Roman roads out of biscuits and sweets, to creating podcasts about mystery artefacts from the Kingdom of Benin. 

History comes alive when children are able to engage imaginatively with the past and all of my resources aim to make this happen in as many creative ways as possible. 

Cross-curricular links are also important so all of my planning packs include ideas for linking history to other subject areas. 

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Go to part two