Tags: Classroom Teacher | Teaching and Learning

Why not pass the buck and let someone else do the work? But, to mix metaphors, when the buck stops, all your chickens come home to roost.

Purposes (what the activity is designed to achieve)

  • Thinking
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Independence
  • Interdependence
  • Multi-sensation Fun
  • Articulation

Particulars(what elements the activity contains)

  • Individual work
  • Group work
  • Moving about
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Looking
  • Choice


  1. Students work in pairs and have five minutes to begin a draft answer to a difficult question. It’s best if they work on large sugar paper or flipchart paper with felt pens.
  2. As soon as time is up, they pass their partial answer to the pair behind them and receive the work of the pair in front.
  3. They now have five minutes to continue, not their own answer, but the received answer from the pair in front, picking up from wherever it was left. They are encouraged not just to add, but to cross out bits they don’t agree with and redraft others.
  4. Again, when time is up, papers are passed on.
  5. The newly received answer is continued for a further five minutes.
  6. And so on until the process has served its purpose.
  7. Papers are then returned to their original authors, who, use the several contributions to draft the final polished version of the answer.


  • Exam preparation: pairs tackle SATs or GCSE questions to show how much precision and detail can be achieved in exam answers when they really think about it.
  • English: to bring out the difference between rushing an essay and planning an essay; extended creative writing; writing about the same subject for different audiences.
  • MFL: translations; writing open-ended stories; writing a story in target language from a storyboard.
  • Technology: generating or evaluating different designs to given specifications.
  • Maths: solving substantial problems; carrying out investigations.
  • Art: developing drawings and paintings in the style of a variety of artists (with longer times).
  • Revision: in any subject, ideal for getting students to recall material already taught.
  • Processing ideas: such as ‘What shall we do about bullying?’;’How shall we organise ourselves?’;’What are the priorities for school council expenditure?’;’What are the arguments for ‘¦ ?’;’How should the classroom rules be revised?’

Why do it?

  • This activity trains students in crucial exam technique, particularly the art of writing precise and full answers.
  • It promotes a more conscious approach to writing, including planning, accuracy, attention to time and speed, awareness of audience.
  • Even though the material might be heavy and serious, the activity itself is light. No one gets too bogged down. The pace and the passing make it sparky and fun.


1. There are so many variables in this activity, for example:

  • Vary the time for each round. Give four minutes for the first round, five for the second, six for the third and so on to allow enough reading and thinking time as the answers become fuller.
  • Vary the length and complexity of the tasks. Differentiation can be built in.
  • Vary the questions, so each pair starts with a different question – this really keeps people on their toes. Students have to switch their thinking to a new subject every round. This simulates the pressure of an exam.
  1. In the first round give people enough time to write a complete answer. Then, the pair behind don’t continue it: they redraft it.
  2. Or, the pair behind mark the answer to set criteria. This is particularly powerful if exam criteria are used. Students will need to know beforehand how an examiner approaches a script.
  3. As work is passed on, different pairs mark different features: one pair marks spelling, the next marks grammar and syntax, the next content, the next style, (in MFL you could have tense, voice, gender).

This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, April 2005.

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