A Flying Start!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

How can teachers get lessons off to a flying start? And how can you do this and what does it look like?

On Friday, December 4th 2015, I delivered a keynote at the SSAT National Conference: Leading Learning.

Cut through the waffle, reduce workload

During my mainstage presentation at the SSAT National Conference 2015, I raced through one-hundred-and-fifty slides in just forty minutes. Throughout, I gave answers to the question ‘How would you reduce the burden of marking, planning and teaching for teachers?’

This week, the SSAT are sharing five short films taken from my presentation. They are:

  • What is a good teacher?
  • Do we really need lesson plans?
  • Marking is broken
  • How we cut out the marking frenzy
  • Flying Start.


Here is one example of a flying start. 

Click to play


Here is an engaging exercise that works just as well with staff as it does with students. (Strangely enough, I’m doing this at the end of my presentation as part of the ‘teach’ section of our Learning Policy).

It focuses on literacy, prior knowledge and things to come.

Equipment needed: several blank pieces of paper for each participant; a pen/pencil.


  1. Ask students to write their name and numbers 1-10 on a piece of paper
  2. Ask students to spell three words of your choice (eg waffle, workload, well-being, etc.)
  3. Get them to crunch the paper into a snowball and throw across the room! (there should be a 10-second countdown)
  4. Ask students to find another scrunched up bit of paper and open it up (if a student ends up without a piece of paper, they’re out(!) but can re-join in the next round.)
  5. Ask students to spellcheck the three words written on the paper (if there are any words spelt incorrectly, cross them out and rewrite with correct spelling.)
  6. Ask students to write their name on their new piece of paper
  7. Ask students to spell three more words of your choice (e.g. simplicity, priorities, teacher), then repeat process beginning with crunching up paper and throwing across room
  8. Open new piece of paper – add name – spellcheck all words – re-draft if needed
  9. Ask students to spell four final words (e.g. mark, plan, teach, trust) (should be total of 10 but there is no set rule) on their new piece of paper, then throw paper for the last time.
  10. To finish, you could ask students to throw paper into a bin, or aim for a target (including yourself!) etc.

Not all pieces of paper will hit the target, allowing you to focus on the pieces that do. You can then use a visualiser to zoom in on spelling and keywords, rewarding students who have hit the target and have proven their literacy credentials.

I’ve found this to be a great activity at any point in a lesson, with any age group. Even with teachers in training sessions!


shutterstock_324288155 Kid with jet pack draw sketch on wall. Child playing at home. Success, leader and winner concept

Image: Shutterstock


You can read my full blogpost here, Cutting Through The Waffle and download my full presentation here. Before you do, please click a tweet of thanks

Cutting Through The Waffle SSAT Conference Workload


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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, a simple Twitter account which rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK'. He is an award winning teacher and an experienced school leader and as @TeacherToolkit, curated this website you are now reading as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in the Britain' by The Sunday Times and one of the most influential in the field of education. He is the only classroom teacher to feature. He is a former Teaching Award nominee for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London' and has also written 3 books on teaching. Read more here.

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