top of page


Ian White, Vice Principal at Skinners’ Academy in Hackney recently posted a thread about pace on Twitter (@ianwhite21) and with his permission, I have collated it into one place here for you.

Pace will fall into many parts of the Teacher Standards but primarily under Teacher Standard 4 “Plan and teach well-structured lessons”, specifically 4a “impart knowledge and develop understanding through effective use of lesson time”.

Pace has become a dirty word, a proxy for learning sought after by judgmental observers. But slow, dreary lessons with blank faces are no-one's friend. So here are some tips for keeping lessons energetic, fun and pacy!

1. Authentic – try to find an authentic version of yourself to magnify and accentuate. Quiet and nerdy, loud and brash, zany, daft, nurturing – whatever it is try being an accentuated version of who you are. Kids love authenticity and we need to let them see it!

2. Countdowns – standard technique but often not optimised. Count down quickly, narrating what you want to see: ‘3 - pens down, 2 – eyes on me, 1 – thank you James....and silence.’ Explain what countdowns are to the students and use them consistently.

3. Voice as a tool – try varying volume and pitch of your voice – avoid droning. Remember that your tone matters as well. Put in pauses at key points – scan the room to hold the tension – and then give the answer. Actors use these techniques – we're on a stage as well!

4. Volume – linked to voice as a tool but needs special emphasis. You must be loud enough. And the students who give answers must project. The most common killer of pace that I see is when students start giving answers and no-one can hear them. ‘Whole class voice please!’

5. Relationships – nothing kills pace like poor behaviour. And nothing builds pace like your class knowing you genuinely love teaching them. Work hard in and out of the lesson to build strong, fun relationships. Develop nick names and in-jokes. Tell the class they are special.

6. Front loading – ensure that you clearly explain what students need to do and how they need to contribute. A real killer of pace is when students are set off, look at each other and go immediately off task because the instructions weren’t clear.

7. Narrative – tell a story to the class which describes where they are now, and where they will be at the end of the unit/year. 'Right now, we don't know much about the Buddha. In 10 weeks, we'll know more than most adults. Let's get started.'

8. Do Now – use a snappy, fast and well-pitched Do Now task to start the lesson. Do the register as they are completing the Do Now and hand out any resources. Students can then enter and work immediately and you have wasted no time at all. Don't let this become sluggish.

9. Natural breaks – I use this phrase for when you need to make a change to the pace. There is shuffling of bums, blank faces, a miasmic dullness has started to descend. Stop, and change the activity. Get them writing, do a think, pair, share – something to change the pace.

10. Cold call – not only vital for sampling understanding, it is also a tool for building pace. Be dramatic: ‘We’re not there yet...please tell me WHY a Christian might see this as MURDER.....Abdul.’ Every student is thinking, all answering in their heads, the pace is maintained

11. Timings short or weird – keep the time to complete tasks shorter than you think (30 seconds to pair discuss is ages) and make longer times weird - ‘You have 7 and a half minutes to write your paragraphs – go!’ Weird timings are memorable and seem deliberately chosen!

12. Question DURING explanations – teacher talk is great. But we can easily overload our students with long, winding explanations which may not be landing. Question as you explain; in order to explain. Constant assessment refines your explanations and maintains pace.

13. Claps, clicks and bangs – if you are struggling to keep the energy levels up, try introducing some signifiers for students which mean ‘Time to focus!’ These can be claps, clicks, bangs on the table – little actions which communicate ‘Stay with me!’

14. Don’t linger – if a student doesn’t know a clearly definable answer, move on! Don’t try and tease the answer out of them at the expense of the rest of the class. This is a common mistake I see. It’s often faster to just tell them or ask another student.

15. Guess what’s in my head – please don’t play this. ‘Can anyone tell me which theory this is alluding to? Sarah? ….. No that’s not right. Anyone else? Anyone?' If you spend ages trying to get students to guess an answer, pace will die. Paired discussion helps avoid this.

16. Routines – handing out resources, paired discussion, peer assessment, entry – all of these will kill pace if there is no clearly defined routine. It doesn’t have to be super strict per se – just clear what they are expected to do and for how long.

17. Going off task occasionally – it's fine to go off on a tangent every now and then. It helps to build relationships. I would argue these moments ironically end up building pace if used well. The gains in class culture pay off. Lots of my nick names come from these moments. ALWAYS check with a student before using a nickname for them in front of the class. I’ve got this wrong before – what I thought was a totally harmless name had started to be used by the others as an insult. Tread carefully and if in any doubt, don’t.

Worth mentioning here that ‘pace’ was used as a harmful proxy which encouraged teachers to prioritise a series of fast changing tasks rather than deep learning and memory. Increasing pace at the expense of learning is bad. But pace AND learning is just...good.

This video blog by Jon Tait discusses how to increase the pace and challenge in your classroom in two easy steps. For more classroom inspiration check on Jon's education blog at

If you can get past the initial slightly cheesy joke, the following video is also useful:

n this video, PSW Education & Leadership explores effective ways that teachers can plan lessons that include appropriate pace.

The key questions that teachers should consider when planning their lessons are:

1- How does my lesson flow?

2- Do I have timed sessions and do children know my expectations?

3- Have I planned too many static activities? Can I change these for shorter and more 'punchy' tasks?

4- Where could I increase pace to aid learning?

5- Can I use collaborative learning techniques to help pupils become more engaged?

In this video, PSW Education & Leadership explores different ways teachers can improve their lesson 'pace'.

Top tips include:

1- Considering fluency and varied pace for different lesson sections

2- Avoiding a consistent pace for the entire lesson

3- Using time limits and prompts

4- Collaborative learning techniques and how they can benefit 'pace'

5- Taking learner feedback and acting upon it

Further Reading from the ECF

[Further reading recommendations are indicated with an asterisk.]

Alexander R.J. (2020) A Dialogic Teaching Companion, London: Routledge.

*Coe, R., Aloisi, C., Higgins, S., & Major, L. E. (2014) What makes great teaching. Review of the underpinning research. Durham University: UK. Available at:

Donker, A. S., de Boer, H., Kostons, D., Dignath van Ewijk, C. C., & van der Werf, M. P. C. (2014) Effectiveness of learning strategy instruction on academic performance: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 11, 1–26.

Donovan, M. S., & Bransford, J. D. (2005) How students learn: Mathematics in the classroom. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013) Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Supplement, 14(1), 4–58.

Education Endowment Foundation (2016) Improving Literacy in Key Stage One Guidance Report. [Online] Accessible from: [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Education Endowment Foundation (2017) Improving Mathematics in Key Stages Two and Three Guidance Report. [Online] Accessible from: [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Education Endowment Foundation (2017) Metacognition and Self-regulated learning Guidance Report. [Online] Accessible from: [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Improving Secondary Science Guidance Report. [Online] Accessible from: [retrieved 10 October 2018].

*Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit: Accessible from: summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/ [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Elleman, A. M., Lindo, E. J., Morphy, P., & Compton, D. L. (2009) The Impact of Vocabulary Instruction on Passage-Level Comprehension of School-Age Children: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 1–44.

Hodgen, J., Foster, C., Marks, R. & Brown, M. (2018) Improving Mathematics in Key Stages Two and Three: Evidence Review. [Online] Accessible from summaries/evidence-reviews/improvingmathematics-in-key-stages-two-and-three/ [retrieved 22 October 2018], 149-157.

Institute of Education Sciences. (2009) Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Response to Intervention for Elementary and Middle Schools. Accessible from:

Jay, T., Willis, B., Thomas, P., Taylor, R., Moore, N., Burnett, C., Merchant, G., Stevens, A. (2017) Dialogic Teaching: Evaluation Report. [Online] Accessible from: [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Kalyuga, S. (2007) Expertise reversal effect and its implications for learner-tailored instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 19(4), 509-539.

Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., Kirschner, F. & Zambrano, J. (2018) From cognitive load theory to collaborative cognitive load theory. In International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 13(2), 213-233.

Leung, K. C. (2015) Preliminary Empirical Model of Crucial Determinants of Best Practice for Peer Tutoring on Academic Achievement Preliminary Empirical Model of Crucial Determinants of Best Practice for Peer Tutoring on Academic Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(2), 558–579. .

Muijs, D., & Reynolds, D. (2017) Effective teaching: Evidence and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pan, S. C., & Rickard, T. C. (2018) Transfer of test-enhanced learning: Meta-analytic review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 144(7), 710–756. .

*Rosenshine, B. (2012) Principles of Instruction: Research-based strategies that all teachers should know. American Educator, 12–20.

Sweller, J. (2016). Working Memory, Long-term Memory, and Instructional Design. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 5(4), 360–367. .

Tereshchenko, A., Francis, B., Archer, L., Hodgen, J., Mazenod, A., Taylor, B., Travers, M. C. (2018) Learners’ attitudes to mixed-attainment grouping: examining the views of students of high, middle and low attainment. Research Papers in Education, 1522, 1–20. .

Van de Pol, J., Volman, M., Oort, F., & Beishuizen, J. (2015) The effects of scaffolding in the classroom: support contingency and student independent working time in relation to student achievement, task effort and appreciation of support. Instructional Science, 43(5), 615-641.

Wittwer, J., & Renkl, A. (2010) How Effective are Instructional Explanations in Example-Based Learning? A Meta-Analytic Review. Educational Psychology Review, 22(4), 393–409. .

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002) Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview, Theory Into Practice. Theory Into Practice, 41(2), 64–70. .

762 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page