10 Takeaway tips for teaching like Ant and Dec

Carmel Bones

Carmel Bones is an honorary fellow of the Historical Association and member of the national secondary committee. An advanced skills teacher, former HOD, GCSE and A2 examiner, she now works nationally and internationally helping schools to optimise outcomes for learners and teachers. For GCSE 2018, Carmel has written for BBC Bitesize, Clickview and Studytracks, was consulting editor for Hodder Dynamic Learning, showcased VR 360 at the Bett Show and is co-author of GCSE revision guides (AQA and OCR, published November 2017 and January 2018 respectively).

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Originally published on 24th March 2016 Originally published on 24th March 2016

Everyone loves a good double act: Morecambe and Wise, Laurel and Hardy, French and Saunders, Wallace and Gromit. Now Ant and Dec are the ‘nation’s favourites’. They recently scooped the National Television Presenter Award prize for the 15th year in a row, so they must be doing something right! The opening show of their latest 2016 series of Saturday Night Takeaway attracted 7.3 million viewers.

So, if they have found a winning formula, what can we learn from it?

1. End of the show show

Start with the end in mind. Ant and Dec constantly remind us of what their ‘grand finale’ will consist of; everything points towards the razamatazz of their showbiz ending, and it is made clear from the outset. This ties in with the idea of Teaching Backwards, and the backwards-planning work of Griffith and Burns. For teachers, the idea of visualising and sharing with the learners the desired outcomes is motivational. There will be learner clarity and buy-in if the content, process and benefits are outlined. They are more likely to rise to the learning challenges and enquiries launched. Similarly, involving the learners in drawing up the ingredients for What A Good One Looks Like means they are pilots, not passengers, helping to direct and control the learning and crucially they have a tangible outcome to aim for.

2. An immediate hook

REV up your lesson with something relevant, engaging and visual. Arouse curiosity by asking learners to perhaps predict, apply, recall. Making links and connecting your lesson to something familiar means learners may care more about what follows.

3. The power of two

Make use of your colleagues’ expertise to cater for all learners. Be sure to team up and plan with your teaching assistant. Lack of time can prevent much ‘rehearsal’, but even sharing the scheme of learning, providing a textbook in advance and / or offering access to the online resources means the TA can become familiar with the content you are aiming to embed.

4. The Guest Announcer

Use your other teaching and non-teaching colleagues to play a part in your lesson. In my classes, Mrs Paterson (from Glasgow) was a fabulous Mary Queen of Scots. Mr Hurst (an ex-bingo caller) could announce and challenge anything better than anyone, and Mr Bloy (his creativity knows no bounds) made guest appearances dressed up on request! Mrs Barnsley would readily judge competitions and, just like on Saturday Night take Away, there were lots!

5. “Don't just watch the ads... win them!”

Competition is motivational and exciting. Whether it’s a game of You Say We Pay (from Richard and Judy), a check test, the best commemorative plate or the best question of the lesson, be sure to include the learners in drawing up the criteria and the rule-making. A combination of advertised events, spot prizes, running records and league tables increases expectations and heightens engagement.

6. The best seats in the house

This is a real favourite. Have a cushion, a beanbag, a special director’s chair or give over your fancy swivelly chair (!) to a deserving recipient who has particularly impressed you. This is an immediate lesson-on-lesson quick win. You can decide on the winner, the class can nominate or consider a mixture in your running order.  

7. Sing-along live

This ‘all together, now’ approach is great for reinforcing key teaching points. It is especially important to rectify misconceptions and build learners confidence, since there’s safely in numbers! The use of choral reading, CuePrompter, or just an ‘all together, now’ moment ensures learner inclusion. You might need a few sound and understanding checks, but there’s nothing better than mass participation!

8. “I’m a Student… Get Out Of Me Ear!”

I’m not proposing ear pieces here, but I am suggesting that learners can act out what they are learning about. For this they need to listen to each other, choose their words carefully and think about what individuals are both most likely to say and least likely to say. This neat trigger can help learners interrogate initial stimulus matter and develop their inferential skills by making succinct judgements based on the application of their contextual knowledge. It can help with summarising, too, by reducing information down to a soundbite to illustrate learning.

9. Little Ant and Dec

Building autonomy and empowering your learners is more vital than ever given the forthcoming linear exams. Learners need to be self-regulating, resilient and able to both critique and support each other. To this end, devolve responsibility whenever possible. Have students in the spotlight, out at the board demonstrating, modelling, asking questions. Team them up as ‘study buddies’. Also when it comes to organisation and logistics, ask learners to help direct operations by being in charge of the lights, the books, the blinds, the equipment and the time checks. This means you have a few floor managers to ensure a slick production.


10. Super Computer

I’m sure our proud Geordie celebrities ‘magpied’ this idea from History teachers, who have been using random name generators for almost two decades, as part of the ClassTools package offered through @activehistory. The excitement generated by this uncertainty has been a feature of innovative teachers’ classrooms since dinosaurs roamed the astroturf!


The ideas contained within this article have emerged from the creativity and talents of the phenomenal teachers I have had the great good fortune to work with. Notably; The St. Aidan’s County High School History department, Andy Griffith & Mark Burns, Catherine Benbow, The Design & Technology Department at Pendle Vale College in Nelson, Dr Mike O’Neill, The History Department at Rainford High School, Imogen Kent, Karen Thornley, Kristina Marsh, Laura Daniels, Russell Tarr, Tiffany Dyer, Wendy Brown, Waine Davidson, Ian Young, Mags Winn, Julia Seggie and Jen Wright.

Do you have any teaching heroes from the TV? Let us know below!

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