My favourite question: ‘What do you not understand?’

I can still remember studying Julius Caesar at secondary school. My teacher took us through the play line-by-line and, even now, his face, his classroom and even the Times Roman font of the cheap edition I read from spring vividly to mind whenever I think of the words ‘Beware the Ides of March’ or ‘Et tu, Brute?’ Later on, during my A-Level and undergraduate years, Shakespeare became tougher: I had to wring out the meaning for myself. I learned to enjoy the challenge, the endless pouring over footnotes and re-reading of lines.

I have always hated not understanding what I read. I think many of the children I teach feel the same way and that might be why without careful teaching, tough texts can lead to disenchantment with reading and literature. Probably the most challenging teaching decision I face daily is how to balance explicitly telling students what a phrase or word means with giving them the space to tease out the meaning themselves. Students need to be encouraged to think hard, and yes they can work out an (albeit limited) amount from considering the context of the word/phrase, but they cannot always be expected to pluck accurate readings of difficult text out of thin air.

If you then consider the diverse and unique store of knowledge (of language and of the world) that every individual student inevitably brings to your lesson, the problem is made doubly tricky.

So, a simple question I have started to ask is this:

What do you not understand?

I then give students time to annotate the text. It is important that they attempt to decipher meaning for themselves so I ask them to quickly annotate their guesses where they can (to be replaced or extended on later as necessary). As an extension task, I also ask them to come up with their own questions too. The strategy seems to work for two main reasons: 1) my later explanations target the sweet spot between what they know and don’t know, and 2) it helps me to avoid assumptions. (I was surprised this week, for instance, that many of my Y8s did not know what a raven was, let alone its symbolic meaning.)

I would especially recommend this question to new teachers or those teaching a topic for the first time. Student responses gift you with a ready-made plan for next time you cover the topic. Some might argue that with the right scaffolding, every child should be able to discover meaning for themselves. I have tried this for many years and it has rarely been successful for any but the most able, especially when teaching Shakespeare.

A further variant– inspired by a discussion with my colleague Chris Woodcock this week – is to encourage students to devise the hardest questions they can think of to try to catch you out. Another is to replace the hackneyed plenary question of ‘What did you learn today?’ with the more useful ‘What did you not manage to learn today?’

I like turning the tables so that the students ask the questions. Lessons are more interactive and less ‘lecture-like’, yet without diminishing the fact that the teacher’s subject expertise should always be the force driving the lesson.

Related posts:

English teaching and the problem with knowledge

Can we teach students how to make inferences?

Closed-question quizzing – unfashionable yet effective

tharby open closed final
Image: @jasonramasami

Back in the misty past of teacher training I was introduced to two golden nuggets of wisdom:

1. Closed questions are the devil.
2. Open questions are the apotheosis of virtue.

We green-behind-the-ears newbies were encouraged to observe the lessons of experienced teachers with a clipboard so that we could tally up the ratio of closed questions to open questions. I left many a classroom shaking my head in disbelief! Why were teachers still wallowing in the ignominious shame of when, what, who and where?

In my quest to become the all-conquering teaching equivalent of Genghis Khan, I vowed to build my empire on the solid ground of why and how, and in doing so consign their backward cousins to the windswept steppe of deepest, darkest teaching Mongolia…

Recently, however, I have come to think of the closed question as a really quite wonderful thing. I would now go as far to say that lists of closed-questions, especially in the form of quizzing, are amongst the most dependable and useful of everyday resources. Not only do they have multiple functions in the English lesson and beyond, but they pave the way for analytical thought rather than stand in its way.

Quizzes are like raincoats – unfashionable and effective in equal measure. (Apologies in advance if this post points out the bleedin’ obvious!)

Retrieval practice

The evidence collated by Dunlosky et al (2013) – nicely summarised here – asserts that retrieval practice is one of the most effective learning strategies there is. If students are encouraged to actively recall information from memory they are more likely to remember it in the long-term than if they are encouraged to re-read their notes or other material. Re-reading creates ‘illusions of fluency’ – it feels secure as we read the material, yet it quickly decays from memory. I use short, low-stakes quizzes at the starts of lessons to encourage students to recall information from the last lesson and further back. If I have not got time to write out a quiz before a lesson, I will write a list of answers on a piece of paper and make up the quiz verbally as I go. Read this post for more.

A quick assessment tool

A quick closed-question quiz at the start of a lesson, or indeed at any point during the lesson, can double up as an assessment tool. The great advantage of quizzes held during lessons (rather than at the end) is that we receive student feedback there and then. We can quickly ascertain misconceptions and knowledge gaps and act fast. I find it best to create a dialogue as answers are fed back so that I can re-explain material when necessary or encourage students to elaborate.

A five-minute quiz is a great way of testing the temperature and retrieving in-the-moment data. I cannot hear every students’ answer during feedback (and hands-up are not always trustworthy) so I simply circulate the classroom and peer over a few shoulders as they are writing.

Fine reading

Any densely-packed piece of writing – or indeed verbal or media presentation – presents a problem. Many children will scan the words but fail to digest the finer nuances of meaning. Closed questions encourage close reading and also allow us to guide students towards the key information. Questions can be provided before reading – to prime students for what to look for – or later if you would prefer them to establish the gist first. Whenever I teach a poem now, students complete a closed-question short answer quiz. I used this one only on Monday with Ted Hughes’ ‘Bayonet Charge’:

1. What was the soldier doing just before the poem started?
2. Which ‘r’ is repeated in the 1st and 2nd lines?
3. What is coming from ‘a green hedge’?
4. What simile is used to describe the rifle he is lugging?
5. Which ‘p’ is used to describe the tear that he once had?
6. What does he ‘almost’ do?
7. What is he said to be running like?
8. What simile is used to describe his foot?
9. What creature brings him back to reality?
10. What are this animal’s mouth and eyes doing?
11. Which four items drop from his mind?
12. What does he want to escape from?

These questions help students to target key evidence and break down complex and dense meaning into manageable chunks. As they feed back the answers, we elaborate together on the greater significance of this information.

Closed questions encourage comprehension and more acute understanding. Students will almost always perform better in later open-ended tasks when they have time to build their knowledge of basic meaning first. Some would argue that this kind of simple quzziing is not challenging; I would argue that on the contrary it makes challenge all the more possible later down the line.

Focused research

Most students struggle with research. When we say “Go and look it up” rather than tell a child a piece of information we are relying on their existing world knowledge to pull them through. Let’s say I asked a child to look up ‘volcanoes’ for homework. Here’s Wikipedia on the topic:

“Earth’s volcanoes occur because the planet’s crust is broken into 17 major, rigid tectonic plates that float on a hotter, softer layer in the Earth’s mantle.[1] Therefore, on Earth, volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging. For example, a mid-oceanic ridge, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates pulling apart; the Pacific Ring of Fire has volcanoes caused by convergent tectonic plates coming together….”

The vocabulary here – converging and diverging for instance – is very tough for novice learners, as is discriminating  between the important and less important information. Such tasks are simply inaccessible to most but the very able. However, a series of very simple questions to research before the lesson can help to manage focus so that they arrive with something useful and concrete. The question “How many major tectonic plates are there on our planet?” means that all can find the answer (17) and will come to the lesson primed and ready for an explanation of just exactly what a tectonic plate is.

Encourage thinking

Last of all quizzes are highly efficient. Children know how to complete them and no time is wasted explaining unnecessarily complex tasks. They allow for total focus on subject content and so fit comfortably with Daniel Willingham’s now-famous maxim, “Memory is the residue of thought.” Questions cut away the unnecessary.

I would argue, too, that children genuinely like doing them. Even the most restless of classes can be pacified with a list of twenty-five juicy questions – and, yes, on those Thursday afternoons in November too! If, like me, you are sometimes sceptical of collaborative tasks, students are usually well-focused when answering quiz questions in pairs.

Children answer questions at different rates, so it is always worth your while to have an extension question planned too. I tend to choose an open one that hinges on developing the closed question answers – e.g. Now that you have answered these questions, which of the three pigs has the qualities to become the leader of Animal Farm?

They are great, too, if you use exemplars as a modelling tool. How many quotations does the exemplar use? Which word is used instead of ‘walk’? Does the writer use a topic sentence? Once again, you are ensuring a close reading that will ensure that students identify the writing techniques you would like them to emulate themselves.


I am not in the least suggesting that we dispose of open questions, just that they are often best answered when a child has mastered the basic knowledge beforehand. Quizzes provide a simple, effective and powerful tool to bring this about and ensure that every student is compelled to take part.

Come into my lessons with a clipboard and I will  happily disappoint you.

Probing the continuum


From time to time, we happen upon a simple and effortless strategy that makes a fundamental difference to a key element of our teaching. Over the years we hone this down to something close to perfection, yet because it is so easy and straightforward we just assume that everyone else is doing the same thing. Forgive me, then, if you already do this, but here is my awkwardly named ‘post-it discussion’ in all its glory. It is simply the best strategy for initiating quality discussion I have ever put to use in my classroom, and this week it has become even better…

It works like this.

I give students a question – say, ‘Did Steinbeck present a completely pessimistic view of the world in Of Mice and Men?’ – and show them a continuum, from ‘yes’ to ‘no’, on the board.


2. I tell them that I will give them a post-it note on which they will write their name. I remind them that they can stick the post-it along the continuum wherever they like. As I am dawdling round handing out the post-its, I let them chat to their neighbours about where they will place themselves. (The dawdling is a deliberate tactic that enables me to feed in a few ideas to those who are unsure or lack confidence as I go round.)

3. Once all the post-its are up on the board, it is time for the discussion to begin. I now know the broad sweep of opinion in the class, and can conduct the discussion however I like. In true Carol Vorderman style – ‘one from the left, one from the right and now one from the middle’ – I pick off the post-its, asking students either to comment on the reasoning behind their position or to feed back on the opposing comment we have just heard. As always, it is important to probe and refuse to accept badly reasoned points. I do also allow hands-up comments too as I think a total ‘hands-down’ policy can sometimes be counter-productive (as I explained in this post here). Giving an option to move the note to a different position along the continuum mid-discussion is also vital.

Above is the simple premise, but it is the recent tweaks I have made which have really excited me.

  • The first is to encourage students to use the ABC – agree with, build-upon or challenge – discussion format that Alex Quigley discusses here.
  • The second, which I put into action yesterday, added an extra dimension to the process comes from Doug Lemov’s comment on Alex’s blog. If students want to comment on another student’s point they raise two fingers rather than the whole hand (in the ‘victory-sign’ way, of course!) My initial feeling is that this makes them listen to each other more carefully and, when I want to liven things up a bit, I turn to a ‘two-finger’ student to turn the discussion on its head.
  • Another variation is to ensure that students have key words and concepts available as cues. If we are discussing a text, I like this to be available too so that they can support their ideas with textual evidence.
  • The most exciting I have left until last. I have been fascinated by the ‘art of the sentence’ idea that Doug Lemov has been blogging about recently – here. By giving students sentence starters, such as ‘at first glance’ or ‘throughout the poem’ not only are we prompting ideas, but we are giving them a syntactical structure that helps to generate new thinking. Getting students to practise using these structures during the discussion will neatly set them up for later extended writing tasks.

Have a look below at my Mark II slide:


So why might it work? First, unlike some other ‘no opt-out’ strategies there is lots of opportunity to think ideas through before speaking. Second, the continuum promotes balanced, ‘shades of grey’ thinking when used repeatedly, especially so when in conjunction with sentence prompts. Third, if used judicially in the learning cycle it can feed directly into the scaffolding of writing. Last, despite the fact it seems to have become an unfashionable word in the blogosphere, it promotes engagement. This kind of engagement in language and quality thought seems to me to be very beneficial.

Two words of warning before you give this a try. Be careful when wording the question that you do not give students an option to take up a weak line of argument that could lead to genuine misconception. Note how above I asked the question ‘Did Steinbeck present a completely pessimistic view of the world in Of Mice and Men?’ rather than ‘Did Steinbeck present a pessimistic view of the world in Of Mice and Men?’ Watch out, too, for those shrinking violets who try to hide their post-it under another’s!

Please give it a try and let me know below how it has gone for you. More tweaking ideas would be gratefully received.

A special thanks to Dan Brinton – @BelmontTeach – for pointing out how risible the original title for this blog was and suggesting the slimmer title it now has!

Responsive questioning


Before Christmas I wrote about teacher responsiveness and differentiation – here. Since then I have been considering the importance of responsive questioning, of how we respond to the unpredictable – and sometimes downright bizarre! – verbal feedback we receive from our students. Once again, this is about our on-the-spot agility, our knowledge of our students and our subject expertise.  We are actors in a forever unscripted play; planning can only get us so far.

It is helpful to consider the purpose of questioning in the classroom before we begin. It often seems a vague area. Is it to check learning or is it to springboard further learning? Even though both are relevant, I am more interested in the latter than the former. For me, it is about helping students to formulate new perceptions, about challenging lazy preconceptions and, in English at least, about encouraging nuanced interpretations. When successful, questioning will lead to discussion, and it is in these episodes that we build our relationships with our classes and cement the ethos of our classroom. Perhaps the crucial point is that questioning, I think, is about initiating and sustaining a high level of academic rigour; the more we probe, the more we push the discussion forward, the less we leave unchallenged, the better our students learn. For me, this is just about the toughest skill to master. I struggle along, if I am honest, failing at it every day.

When it comes to this kind of questioning, I am wary of ‘silver bullets’.  The current thinking tends to advise the following:

   Questions should be thoroughly planned before the lesson.

   We should avoid hands up.

   We should avoid too much praise.

   We should avoid repeating what our students have said.

   We should use random-selecting strategies – such as the lolly stick – to avoid allowing some to dominate and others to remain passive.

   We should use PPPB. Pose a question, Pause, Pounce on a student and then immediately Bounce it to another student without interfering.

   The teacher should keep quiet and let the students do the talking.

All of this advice is useful, but only partially so. Our complex classroom environments are far more fluid than some would have us think; more than anything else, we should listen to our students.

I remember hearing the ex-England goalkeeper, David James (he of the ‘Calamity James’ sobriquet), describing how he would spend hours in the shower visualising penalty saves over and over again. He found that this helped to hone his reactions on the pitch. In this manner, I have attempted a ‘visualisation’ of a short questioning sequence to demonstrate the kind of sharp thinking required.  I am asking the class about Curley’s Wife from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.


ME: So, what do you think Curley’s Wife’s role in the novel is? You have twenty seconds to think about it…


ME: Josh, what do you think?

(My question was deliberately vague; I am after divergent thinking here. I pick Josh for a reason – like some others in the class, he jumps to conclusions too quickly. This is my chance to challenge these pre-conceptions from the off.)

JOSH: I think she is meant to be the evil character because she destroys the dream.

ME: When do we see her behave like this?

JOSH: Well, when we first see her she cuts off the light in the doorway.

ME: Is that enough to call her ‘evil’?

JOSH: No, not really. She also treats Crooks badly and flirts with Lennie which leads to him killing her.

ME: Interesting. Matt do you agree with Josh?

(I have probed Josh to give evidence, yet remained non-committal about his response.  Matt’s thinking is more refined and I know he will challenge Josh. If I had used a random selector at this point, there may have been the potential of the discussion finding itself in a repetitive cycle without the degree of insight I am searching for. The PPPB system is working well, but I do feel you have to pick your second student wisely. Most likely, students will all be rehearsing their answers to the initial question in their minds, so to ask for feedback on Josh’s opinion too takes a degree of multi-tasking; this may have an impact on the working memory of some leading to a muddled point.)

MATT: To an extent, but the way Steinbeck describes her death makes her seem weak and defenceless.

ME: Do you remember how Steinbeck described her?

MATT: No, not quite.

(Emily’s hand goes up. I nod to her. If I did not allow ‘hands-up’ at times this useful addition would not have occurred.)

EMILY: She was “very sweet and young.” (I look back at Matt. He is used to my body language. He knows I expect him to say more.)

MATT: So ‘young’ shows… (I shake my head; ‘shows’ is a banned word) illustrates that she is just an innocent child.

ME: Right everyone. Josh suggests that Curley’s Wife is evil, yet Matt feels she is innocent. Have a think about it. Where do you stand?

Pause. Choose Sian.

SIAN: Well, I think she has some of the characteristics of a villain but she’s also a victim. Steinbeck was making a comment about women in those times: Curley’s Wife is a victim of a masculine society who has no choice but to be the villain.

ME:  A* answer, Sian. Wow. That’s the kind of balanced interpretation we’re looking for everyone.

(Because, for me, class discussion is about searching together for the best ideas, I think it is important to stop and draw attention to quality answers. If praise is over-used, I find it can put a stopper on the discussion; you can inadvertently send out the message that that was good enough, no more need be said. )

ME: So, Sian, are you sure there were no other choices available to her?

(All assumptions, even the best, can be challenged.)


The sequence above certainly represents a good day at the office (and, yes, my students rarely speak as incisively as Sian). Responsive questioning requires knowledge of the student, knowledge of the subject and lots and lots of listening. When students are less forthcoming, I often try the following:

   Give the student the answer you are looking for and ask them to explain how you got there.

   Give them two options, and get them to explain which they agree with most.

   Scaffold the sentence for them. ‘On the one hand, Curley’s Wife is the villain of the story, yet on the other…’

   Revert to hands-up mid-discussion. I tend to bounce a question round and when it begins to dry-out, I will listen to some hands-up. Is it right to leave great thinking unshared?

   Turn the tables. This is one of my personal favourites. The teacher takes on a role and the students question you in this role. On many an occasion I have found my meagre dramatic skills pushed to the limit in the role of a character or an author.

   Embark on a round of quick-fire closed-questions to cue memory and then go back to the original question.

   Stop the discussion and teach. I often find myself frustrated when the discussion has not elicited the level of perception I am after. I probably should not feel this way; it is entirely normal. As the expert in the classroom it must be the right thing to stop wherever we are to explain the learning they have not yet grasped.

I am dubious about hard-and-fast rules for classroom discussion and questioning. Listening sharply lesson after lesson is a tough ask, yet it is in the glow of these moments that I enjoy being a teacher the most.

warm glow

Further reading:

Tom Sherrington on probing questioning – here. Lots of great probing questions in this post.

Old Andrew on alternative ways to use hands-up – here.

My post on using a stimulus – here.

11/01/14 – Alex Quigley has written a great practical blog on conducting class discussion – here. Make sure you read the comments too.

4 ways to use a stimulus to develop thinking

Looking back over the lessons and sequences of lessons I have been most happy with in the past few years, they have almost always had one common factor. They have begun with a great stimulus.

The benefits of the perfectly designed or sourced stimulus are manifold: to generate curiosity and anticipation, to provoke or entertain, to shock or engage, to surreptitiously drip-feed the key learning of the lesson, to stimulate discussion and higher-order thought, to find out where the students are, to find out where they need to go… and the list goes on.

Some of my favourite strategies are as follows:

1) Use of a picture or video in some way linked – or even juxtaposed – to the learning of the lesson.
2) Use of music – great for setting the mood you desire.
3) A fictional – invented by the teacher – real-life scenario that the students can empathise with.
4) An object or objects that can be passed around, the stranger the better. I once worked with a teacher who, to introduce a poem, passed around a glass jar telling the class it contained her own pickled umbilical cord saved from birth. It was really a butcher’s off-cut, but the class were none the wiser.
5) A physical role-play task linked to an idea you wish the class to explore. I know a teacher who, when teaching the theme of class in the play Blood Brothers, asks half the class to make boxes and the other half to take part in a halls-of-residence shindig (minus the alcohol, of course). The animosity for the middle-class party-goers generated among the working-class box makers becomes a palpable entity in the classroom!
6) One of my favourites. Give students two minutes in pairs or small groups to form a freeze-frame in some way linked to the learning of the lesson. Once they have frozen, choose one pair and use this tableaux as our stimulus – a stimulus that we can easily reposition and manipulate.

And the list goes on… Yet, there is a danger.  My brilliantly thought-out stimulus can fall flat on its face. When this happens, it is like the home side conceding a goal in the first minute of a match; if the class do not respond in enough depth, the atmosphere goes stale… and will often remain so.

The truth is, it is not the stimulus itself that matters, it is how we use it. More specifically, the lion’s share of planning time needs to be devoted to the questions we will ask about the stimulus – or we expect students to ask each other – not the creation of the stimulus itself. The stimulus is not the point of the lesson; it is a useful resource which serves as a shared springboard for thinking. Take the role-play task from above: if the role-play becomes all about having fun, with insufficient deeper questioning, then even though the lesson may be memorable, the learning point might fizzle away. (David Didau has written very persuasively about the delicate balance between fun and learning). Moreover, careful consideration needs to be given to how we introduce the stimulus – if gravity and maturity are required in student responses, we must establish this tone ourselves before the stimulus is unveiled.

Here are some ideas that work for me:

1. The key is to scaffold the questioning through a carefully planned sequence, moving gradually from lower- to higher-order questions. Shaun Allison at my school has developed a ‘learning journey’ poster which is very useful for this. Bloom’s taxonomy is an excellent tool – you can find useful question stems here – but for me I usually fall back on the questioning tiers I was introduced to during some P4C (Philosophy for Children) training I had in my second year of teaching. P4C,  an educational movement based on the work of Professor Matthew Lipman, was designed to stimulate children to ask philosophical questions in a ‘community of inquiry’. In P4C thinking, questions are divided into four categories: ‘comprehension’, ‘knowledge and research’, ‘speculation’ and ‘enquiry’ (or philosophical). It is a really useful tool not only to teach students how to formulate a philisophical question, but also to help structure whole-class questioning and promote creative and conceptual thought. Below is a stimulus I use before starting a thematic unit on ghost stories, along with the questions I have designed using this format (to be shared verbally with the class).



The ‘link question’  enables students to apply their divergent thinking to the learning that will follow. Whichever method is chosen to help design the questions, it is the scaffolded sequencing that is most vital. Probing Socratic questioning throughout the feedback is also a must. ‘Can you clarify what you mean?’ ‘Give me an example?’ ‘How might somebody argue against what you just said?’ ‘But if that happened, what else would result?’ ‘Is that always the case?’ (Alex Quigley’s Hunting English blog on the subject of questioning is excellent.) We must bleed our stimulus dry, and if it takes a whole lesson to do so, then so be it.

2. A stimulus is particularly useful when introducing analytical exam skills. The trick is to set up the stimulus so that students have to respond to it by unknowingly deploying exactly the skill you want to them to develop later in the lesson. When teaching the analysis of close detail in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, I use the famous Great Depression photographs of Dorothea Lange.
Students are asked to find the small details in the photo that give us clues about her plight: the expression in her eyes, her clothing etc. Once they have investigated these in some depth and made some inferences about life in 1930s America, they will transfer these same analytical skills to the text itself by closely analysing the words and phrases Steinbeck uses to describe a character or setting. A similar strategy is used by a colleague of mine who makes all the children in her class throw their books on the floor and asks them to imagine they are taking part in a piece of conceptual art: ‘If we were an installation at a conceptual art gallery, what would the artist have been suggesting modern education?’ She then moves on to teaching the class how to respond conceptually to poetry, and thus transferring the skill to a new context. Sheer genius.

3. Using a stimulus that is at first appearance disconnected from the learning of the lesson works particularly well. Take this example. My Y11 students had been studying an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show for a spoken language project. In the sequence, Kyle is conducting a fierce verbal assault on his troubled teenage guest, Ryan. At the start of the next lesson, I showed them a video sequence of a giraffe fight from David Attenborough’s Africa. By finding the metaphorical connections between the two seemingly – at first – unrelated TV programmes, they could better understand Jeremy Kyle’s tactical use of linguistic features. On the back of this rather brutal stimulus, a few students quite brilliantly structured their controlled assessment essays like an analytical boxing commentary. Others referred to the manner in which Kyle viciously assaults Ryan’s use of local dialect, referring to it as his ‘vulnerable underbelly’.

4. Lastly,  introducing a series of stimuli, or using a single stimulus in more than one way, works particularly well at the start of an Ofsted-graded observation lesson. When introducing Y8 students to argumentative writing, I give them a series of questions. Depending on their beliefs, they have to move to one side or the other of the room, ready to feed back their ideas. I might start with ‘cats are better than dogs’, then move on to ‘friends are more important than family’, until I get on to ‘ambition is a stronger attribute than honesty’. The level of challenge is scaffolded in stages;  students rapidly gain in confidence and their responses become more sophisticated as they move through the statements.  Before each statement, I feed in a new argumentative skill or two, until by the final statement, students are using a range of argumentative language devices as well as taking part in a structured debate across the classroom. Even before the learning objective is set, students have gained verbal confidence in the skills and knowledge they will develop independently in writing later in the lesson.

So there you go. A stimulus, I believe, can genuinely make – or break – a lesson.