The Book of Plenary

Here endeth the lesson ...

By: Phil Beadle


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 148mm x 180mm
Pages : 176
ISBN : 9781781350539
Format: Paperback
Published: July 2013

If you buy only one book on metacognitive strategies for the last ten minutes of the lesson this year, make it this one!

The Book of Plenary is part of Phil Beadle’s How To Teach series, in which he examines in detail every aspect of the modern classroom. The first half of this volume gives interested teachers a series of easy-to-set-up activities that make plenaries engaging and worthwhile. The second half is a detailed and almost serious examination of metacognition in the classroom. It seeks to give teachers the stimulus to prepare and research plenaries fully so that they actively seek to develop the metacognitive experience, knowledge and self regulation of students. Distanced from glib ‘learn-to-learn’ programmes, this book engages with available research about metacognition and presents its relevance to the classroom in a lively, although sometimes childish, manner.

Picture for author Phil Beadle

Phil Beadle

Phil Beadle knows a bit about bringing creative projects to fruit. His self-described renaissance dilettantism' is best summed up by Mojo magazine's description of him as a burnished voice soul man and left wing educationalist'. He is the author of ten books on a variety of subjects, including the acclaimed Dancing About Architecture, described in Brain Pickings as a strong, pointed conceptual vision for the nature and origin of creativity'. As songwriter Philip Kane, his work has been described in Uncut magazine as having novelistic range and ambition' and in Mojo as having a rare ability to find romance in the dirt' along with bleakly literate lyricism'. He has won national awards for both teaching and broadcasting, was a columnist for the Guardian newspaper for nine years and has written for every broadsheet newspaper in the UK, as well as the Sydney Morning Herald. Phil is also one of the most experienced, gifted and funniest public speakers in the UK.

Click here to listen in on Phil's podcast with Pivotal Education - How to Teach Literacy'.

Listen to the ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler' broadcast.

ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler Broadcast date: Thursday 19 July 2012

Click here to listen to Phil Beadle's interview with TalkSport - Listen in at approximately 29:09.


  1. The attention and detail given to plenaries in the classroom can be varied from setting to setting, but the importance of this part of this learning experience is currently high on the agenda with a shift from moving the plenary from the end of the session, to many mini-plenaries occurring within a lesson. Coping and managing this demand in any classroom environment can sound very challenging, but the plenary can look very different, with variety of style key to ensuring pupils reflect on their learning. In his “Book of Plenary”, Phil Beadle offers a great variety of plenary ideas, acknowledging the important place the practice has in Assessment for Learning. Offering 22 analogue plenary ideas (including a challenge to pupils to describe the exact opposite of what they have learnt in the lesson; not sharing your lesson objective until the end; and Spaced Repetition) as well as various ideas for integrating technology within the plenary, this book also discusses the importance of metacognition. This interesting chapter looks at how meta-cognitive approaches is the second most effective means of improving student outcomes -” teaching pupils strategies to plan and evaluate their own learning; a clear connection with the plenary which allows time to reflect on the learning in the lesson.

    One problem with schooling, timetabling and social demands is that time is not allowed for deep thinking. We expect the “Ah, I get it” moment from pupils within the classroom, whereas the penny might drop hours, days or weeks later as the brain processes the information in its own individual way. This is where the plenary can be dangerous, as a deeper understanding of the lesson objective may not necessarily take place within the 50 minute time slot demanded. One of the most effective strategies offered within this book is the -˜Spaced Repetition' process of plenary which allows and accounts for this processing, even as a topic moves on within the subject -” this is relevant for all subjects.

    Different plenary strategies will work better for some than others. Some classes will enjoy one method of plenary you use, whereas the same method will be an endurance to others. This book is a great resource to help you develop, mix and match your plenary sessions to pupils and is worthy of a place on any teachers book shelf for reference when plenaries need refreshing.

    For those wanting to use technology to support plenaries within subjects, here are a few apps ukedchat suggest that can help support classroom reflections:

    Socrative for iPad or Android - (Free) A great app, and web service that allows teachers to gain feedback and reflections from pupils.
    Eidetic - (iOS -” Free) Eidetic uses a technique called spaced repetition to help you memorise anything from important phone numbers to interesting words or facts.
    AnkiDroid - (Android -” Free) - AnkiDroid lets you learn flashcards very efficiently by showing them just before you will forget. It is fully compatible with the spaced repetition software Anki (including synchronization), which is available for Windows, Linux and MacOS.
    MindNode Mindmapping - (iOS -” '£6.99) Mindmapping is a great idea for plenary. Read our review on one of the best iPad apps here.
    Teach Quick (iPhone -” '£0.69) Teach Quick provides over 200 lesson starter and lesson plenary ideas to help you plan exciting, original and thought provoking lessons to keep students engaged and help with learning. A free (lite) version also available here.
  2. The first in a new 'How to' series, all written or edited by Phil Beadle, and published by inspiration specialist, Independent Thinking Press, 'The Book of Plenary' really is a convincing candidate for the role of -˜the only book about plenaries you'll ever need'.
    Yes, there are penis jokes, and sarcasm, and an almost visible swagger throughout-¦ but there is also intelligent, sharply written analysis of what `the plenary' is actually for; innovative and easily implemented suggestions to help you make sure that yours are really doing what the audience and you want them to; invaluable experience informing every page; and plenty of passion from a teacher-author who is proud of his profession, who thoroughly disapproves of thoughtless box-ticking, and who never, ever falls into the trap of underestimating what and incredible things every young person is capable of achieving, as long as he or she is lucky enough to get the kind of teacher that he or she deserves.
  3. Sometimes funny and sometimes touching a nerve, 'the book of plenary' will provide plenty of food for thought. If you recognise yourself as someone whose heart is not really in the 'plenary', then Phil Beadle's book will give you a fresh new look at how to fill those final 10 mins of a lesson.

    A great mix of theory and practical strategies which will revolutionise your thinking about this relatively short, but vital part of the learning process.

  4. Phil Beadle writes in a refreshingly honest manner. If he doesn't agree with something or can't see a point to it then he -˜tells it like it is', as we would say in Barnsley -˜he calls a spade a shovel!' His latest book made me rethink my approach to the plenary of a lesson and raises searching questions about -˜if you can't articulate what you are learning then are you actually learning it?'
    Although he plays down his own work by using humour -” -˜this book is already the seminal text on it (ie the plenary): no one else could be bothered to write it', -he clearly explains the need for well planned, effectively timed plenaries which fulfil their basic function ie -˜consolidating knowledge.' He is scathing about plenaries which are -˜bolt ons' and box ticking exercises., and seriously questions the idea of mini plenaries.
    Part one of the book is an -˜overview' of the plenary. I have never met Mr Beadle but from his writing I would imagine a passionate, bold person who is unconcerned whether you agree with him or not -” he knows what is important to him and stands by his clearly outlined principles. If he disagrees with a theory he will tell you that it's utter -˜nonsense'. His style is clever in that he outlines theories and then either accepts or rejects them leaving you to work out if you agree with him or not.
    Part two of the book is called -˜Analogue Plenaries', which are described as -˜off the shelf' (vinyl as opposed to CD) and -˜probably the reason you bought this book.' Some of these ideas I had come across before but never as explained in the -˜Beadle style', I laughed, spluttered, cringed and screamed -˜you can't say that'-¦but have now got several off the shelf plenaries lodged in my brain.
    Part three is concerned with metacognition and is a thought provoking section which helpfully unpicks many theories on motivation, goals and thinking.

    The final section is labelled -˜Digital plenaries' which are plenaries in which -˜meta analysis' plays an important part. Mr Beadle maintains his writing style of directness and leaving you in no doubt about his opinions of -˜mind numbing homework' and -˜1970s PE teachers' along side -˜overpaid mockney balding educationalists' all of which leave you chuckling, spluttering and then thinking around the ideas that he puts forward.

    I think you may have blown your cover here Mr B, you may appear to be cynical and argumentative but you obviously care a great deal, you may not suffer fools or foolish ideas gladly but you know how to challenge and obviously reject any shoddy and poorly thought out practice. You did what you set out to do and turn something -˜intrinsically boring' (your words not mine) into something interesting.

    Your references on p 52 made me smile! You refer to your book -˜Could Do Better' as -˜not really any good don't bother' but you are unhappy with your -˜paradigm shifting' work -˜Dancing with Architecture' being described by -˜brain dead Amazon reviewers as -˜a bit whacky' -” I did read that but didn't review it as I could decide between genius and barking mad!
  5. It's a small gem. This book made me re-evaluate the role of the plenary and the importance it has in our children's learning. Full of good practical, engaging and meaningful activities which can easily be used in the classroom. The concise and well explained information on metacognition was both interesting and enlightening. I am recommending it to colleagues and circulating it round school as I am positive it will be very well received.
  6. I found Phil Beadle's latest book, which focuses upon the importance of 'plenaries' (the summing up of learning in a lesson) really useful and engaging as well. If I'm honest, it's a part of my teaching repertoire that I could do with significantly improving, since too often I don't plan for my plenaries in a satisfactory fashion. Phil shows how the latest educational research by experts like Hattie, Wiliam and a host of other teachers, indicates that when you get the plenary right you attain much better results and improve children's learning generally. I really like the no-nonsense tips, like ending lessons with the learning objectives and starting with a gag; they're workable and don't involve tonnes of preparation. As ever with Phil's books (and work generally) thoroughly recommended. He's a very rare voice of sanity and good fun in an increasingly dogmatic and dispiriting educational landscape.

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