Standardise the Format

Standardise the format is an important technique in Doug Lemov’s Teach like a Champion (TLAC). In this blog, I will explore what the technique means, why it is particularly important right now and what it looks like in practice.

What and Why?

Taken directly from TLAC, to ‘standardize the format’ means to ‘Streamline observations by designing materials and space so that you’re looking in the same, consistent place every time for the data you need’. In the book, this technique is grouped together with a number of others relating to ‘gather[ing] data on student mastery’. So the purpose of standardising the format is to make it easier for teachers to find out information about pupils’ understanding and to do this quickly.

I would argue that there is an additional reason why we should standardise the format of pupils’ work and that is to support the organisation of their notes and therefore their ability to revise effectively. This will undoubtedly also improve presentation in exercise books and folders, but the focus is on organisation over presentation. This means:

  • How easy is it to find the important information?
  • How easy is it to revise from these notes?
  • How clear are the relationships between ideas?

Why now?

There are three reasons why this is particularly important now:

  1. Following a period of remote learning, it is important that we identify gaps in pupils’ learning. This is a strategy for speeding up that process.
  2. The limitations of teaching from the front mean that we need to be able to review pupils’ work more quickly – often at a glance.
  3. The gaps widened by lockdown will have disproportionately affected those pupils with existing gaps. This is a strategy that helps to level the playing field by ensuring that all pupils have high quality notes for revision.

What does this look like?

What a standardised format looks like depends on the subject being studied and the task being completed, but the following examples should help to illustrate what this could look like in practice.

1. Be specific about presentation

Being specific about presentation ensures that pupils’ notes are organised clearly and helpfully. It also speeds up the process of checking exercise books, either during the lesson or when providing whole class feedback.

An example PowerPoint slide on presenting the work for a lesson

2. Use note organisers

Using note organisers or specifically prepared worksheets means that pupils are supported in organising their notes in a way that is clear and helpful. Note organisers can be specific to a particular lesson, or generic like the examples below.

3. Use standard formats for notes

Much like the notes organisers above, we can teach standard note-taking formats to pupils. This is not only helpful to ‘Standardise the Format’ but also as a means of delivering study skills. The method we’ve most commonly discussed in school is the Cornell Method. The format looks like this and the image below also includes some top tips. There are also other standard note-taking formats like outlining and mind-mapping.

That’s it on ‘Standardise the Format’ I hope this blog prompts you to consider how this technique applies to your classroom and subject. Have a go and share your ideas.

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