How Quizlet can boost English teaching and learning

For Lauran Hampshire-Dell, discovering Quizlet was a revelation – from tracking class progress to boosting engagement
Teacher & Pupil Looking At Computer In Lesson

I love September: the smell of newly sharpened pencils and the excitement of an empty classroom waiting to be filled…once you've got through another Inset day.

I'm not a huge Inset fan, but last September we had an outside speaker come in to inspire us to use technology in the classroom. He went through a lot of things I've seen before but then he opened Quizlet - and it was love at first sight. 

Quizlet is an incredible online learning platform for any teacher, but it has revolutionised the way I teach English. Here's how.

Quizlet: Planning

It's no exaggeration to say that we have less time to plan lessons than ever, and, as an English teacher, most of your free time can be spent marking rather than planning.

Quizlet takes a lot of the stress out of planning: you could spend hours creating batches of quiz questions for your classes (for example, covering the five acts of Macbeth), but with Quizlet's study sets, there are whole groups of free quizzes available instantly, saving you huge amounts of time.

Quizlet tests can also be printed, meaning that you are not fully reliant on technology. This is fantastic for schools that have less access to technology or strict phone rules. For me, the real saving grace is using these tests for cover lessons - they keep the routine of your regular classroom teaching embedded, even when you're not there.

Finally, to keep things neat and tidy, Quizlet allows you to make folders of study sets, so you don't lose any sets or have to redo work from one academic year to the next. You can also organise classes on Quizlet, which makes structuring your term's resources really simple.



Spot the gaps

Regardless of your subject, we've all been hit by the demands of the new exam specifications in recent years. In English, we're battling with two GCSE qualifications and the time to only teach each literature text once in two years. With this in mind (and the fact that students are studying a range of other subjects, too), it's inevitable that gaps will appear. 

Quizzing is a great way to spot these gaps and address them. Quizlet Live is great for this but I find its power is in the organic discussion moments it produces. If students (who are working in teams) get questions wrong, it's clear there's a misconception and I need to pause and go over the content again. Students have far less fear from being wrong on an interactive quiz than an essay, and because they're focused and engaged it's a positive learning moment for the whole class.

Quizlet also allows students to track their own ability and spot their own gaps, too: you can use this information for them to do self-directed revision as well as a competition tool. Both my KS4 and KS5 classes loved revising where they'd dropped points because they wanted to be ready for our next Quizlet Live lesson.

The competition was motivational to them and gave them an interest that made them feel like their revision was purposeful.

Retention

Without a doubt, I'd say that knowledge retention has been the biggest new challenge to my teaching in the past couple of years. Students begin Year 10 nervous about how much they would have to remember and honestly I was worried, too.

Low-stakes quizzing is transformational: it takes students who would go blue in the face telling me that they can't "do" English and increases their confidence and self-esteem so it becomes a subject they can learn and revise. This in turn shows up in their test scores, which improve as a result. 

For example, Quizlet has hundreds of quotation, plot and contextual background study sets (or you can make your own - it's easy to do) that allow students to keep revising over and over. Study sets can appear as flashcards or quizzes but there are also two games - Match and Gravity - that work as almost sneaky revision: we know they're revising, even if they don't feel that they are.

You can also encourage students to use Quizlet at home, too, utilising the flashcard or game functions (which are great options because we don't need to mark them). One of our favourite ways to use Quizlet as a class was collective quizzing. Students pair up and create a study set for the rest of the class and take the role as teacher. It's collaborative and engaging, and students feel a level of control about what they're studying and how they're studying it.

SPaG

Call me old-fashioned, but I love a spelling test. They're all the rage at primary school, but fizzle out at secondary. Some of the vocabulary at KS4 and KS5 is tough, though - "equivocation" and "denouement" being two prime culprits.

Quizlet's spelling test function can be set as homework to revise or do. It also makes a fantastic lesson starter - you can even play the spellings through your classroom speakers. This not only saves planning time but really does make a difference to students.

One of my favourite bits about study sets with spelling tests is the definitions given: students can use these study sets in any of the ways mentioned above, but the definitions really help to cement their learning when I'm not around to ask.

This is where the game functions are handy, especially Match, where students need to pair spellings and definitions. Setting this as a quick in-class task or a homework exercise keeps a subtle focus on vocabulary that over time becomes embedded naturally into student writing and speech.

Quizlet has hundreds of uses in the English classroom and with a new academic year underway, what better time to give it a try for yourself? 

Lauran Hampshire-Dell is a secondary English teacher