Hello everyone! At the time of writing this post, the US is not sure if it has a new president, England has been grounded by the Prime Minister and 2020 is still not done being terrible (RIP John Sessions). Still, the world of Education never sleeps and so we press on.
We here in the world of education have reached, by some miracle, the second half of the Autumn Term, which can mean only one thing: WE ARE TIRED! The incessant planning, marking, reviewing, assessing has taken its toll and we're all looking for ways to lighten the load a bit.
One such way to unburden ourselves is to look to lesson planning services or online resources to free up our evenings. There are plenty out there (this may be very UK-specific) - Hamilton Trust, Save Teacher Sundays, TES, the BBC even have a bunch of offerings. Some are free; some are pay-as-you-use; some are subscription-based. I thought it would be useful to have a look at some of these to see if they actually do save time, or whether you end up spending just as many precious minutes hunting and adapting these off-the-shelf shortcuts.
I intend to look at as many as possible to bring you the most comprehensive guide to resources as possible - it's going to take a long time so I'd better get started...
Twinkl is a British online publishing house specialising in educational resources. Founded in 2010, they now have a worldwide reach and cater for parents, teachers and home-educators from Early Years through to GCSEs.
|Some resources are free; some are subscription only|
The website (www.twinkl.co.uk) is fairly user-friendly, although the filtering is not perfect. Despite a specific search for Year 6 materials, I was presented with several KS1 resources. One feature I particularly like is the ability to refine a search not just through subject but through National Curriculum aim.
Value for Money
Creating an account is free but the true benefits are locked behind a paywall. There are three tiers of subscription available and when you create an account, you will be offered 13 months for the price of 12. The three tiers are:
Core - £53.88 annually or £5.29 monthly
Extra - £74.88 annually or £6.24 monthly
Ultimate - £101.88 annually or £8.49 monthly
All tiers give you access to resources for all Primary age groups (Secondary is unlocked with the Ultimate package) and the editing suite, which allows you to customise some resources or create your own in a similar style. There are also digital storybooks and apps on offer.
The Extra package unlocks EYFS resources, complete schemes of work and a daily 'inspiring' picture and a set of teaching ideas it can be used with (for all subjects - this is a pretty good feature and could be used for homework choice boards).
The Ultimate package unlocks PE plans; interactive games for laptops, tablets and mobiles; Secondary resources; short-course intervention plans; phonics lessons and even a physical copy of their self-published books (you can select your preferred age-range) which can be used with their lesson plans. These are the same titles as the digital storybooks and are very high quality.
There are also specific memberships for Secondary Maths, English, Science, or all three, that pretty much match the Core and Extra tier. Schools can purchase a site license, priced per pupil and by request.
Is it value for money? That depends on how much you are going to use the resources. The complete schemes of work are very comprehensive and include not only full plans, success criteria and resources but also complete slideshows and homework projects. It could easily save a lot of time.
The ability to search via curriculum aim will help when assessments are due as you will know what you have been covering and which children have achieved the aim (especially if you use the included success criteria checkboxes).
I'm not sure that the Ultimate package is a great idea if you know you are going to be teaching one year group for the whole year. While the book club books are lovely, they are not essential and very few people are going to need access to every resource ever made by Twinkl.
Finding the resources you want is fairly straight forward once you learn the best way to do it. For me, that it using the dropdown menu at the top, selecting the relevant year group, subject, area then curriculum, aim (it sounds like a lot of steps, it's pretty quick). Otherwise, as I said, returns can be a bit hit and miss.
|Key Stage 2 Dropdown Search|
Once you have found a resource, you can download it to a local device or directly to a Google Drive, which is a nice feature (unfortunately, the slideshows are exclusively PowerPoint and require a little bit of tinkering to work perfectly in Google Slides - things like speech bubbles being corrupted and some animations occurring either out of order or not at all).
There are often multiple versions of the same resource available, such as eco-printing options and differentiated or editable varieties. Also, Twinkl allows you to save resources within your Twinkl account, making it quicker to find later on (useful if you're medium- or long-term planning). Even if you forget to do this, Twinkl will automatically keep a record of the resources you download in your account.
Answer sheets are provided and in the case of assessment papers, there is usually an accompanying spreadsheet pre-formatted for analysis of results.
In the rare occasion that answers are wrong, or something is missing or broken, the customer service team is quick and responsive, using live webchat, email or phone calls to resolve any issues.
Range and Updates
The range of resources is vast. Every time I have looked, there has been some themed pack based on the time of year or some celebration I never knew existed! Resources get updated regularly and, as I mentioned, on the Extra tier, many of them can be edited.
I'm not going to lie, it's a good service. I'll be honest, I avoided using Twinkl's resources for a long time. There were two reasons for this:
1) As a young teacher, I felt that it was 'cheating' to use pre-made resources. How could I possibly say I was catering to my children if I was using generic resources, after all?
2) I hate the name. It screams out 'babyish' to me.
However, I caved a number of years back and began to use the free resources on offer. As much as I don't like the logo, and it saddens me that in almost any classroom you are going to see the same font and display materials, it can't be denied that they're resources are very good. What's more, they're adaptable (subject to subscription), so you can individualise them. I've been an Ultimate tier user for the last couple of years (I teach a lot of children) and I feel that I'm getting value for my money. Even writing up this review, I have discovered features I didn't know about and am excited to use. However, like I said, I think the Extra tier will suit most people.
Even though I am a paid-up member of Twinkl, they have had no input in this review, nor have I received any compensation of any kind. In fact, they don't even know I'm writing it.
I'll be writing more reviews of teaching resources websites in the coming weeks and months so if there is one you have been considering but would like to know more about before parting with your hard-earned cash, drop me a line and I'll check it out for you.
Thanks for reading this far, I hope it has been useful. I'm not used to writing reviews, so I'll ask you to bear with my while I refine the format (any tips or tricks gratefully received). Look after yourselves and each other. It's been a crazy, crazy year but it can't last forever.