Trivium Tutor Time Challenges (tutor time activities part 2)

“Trivium: Latin for “three roads” refers to the three stages of learning: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric”


The idea of ‘trivium’ first struck a cord with me after reading this blog from Tom Sherrington. In the article Tom explores the book “Trivium 21c: Preparing young people for the future with lessons from the past” by Martin Robinson.

I was not in a position to implement these ideas across a whole school however I was keen to see how I could embed the ideas of Grammar, Dialectic & Rhetoric into my teaching to raise achievement in my lessons. I was and am still also conscious it should be a skill set that is cross curricular and so as Head of Year I inserted these ideas in my tutor time, in what I named so aptly tutor time challenges.

The vision of these challenges that I have sold to tutors and the year group is that – this is your chance to learn stuff that isn’t always on the curriculum but could win you a fair amount on a quiz show like ‘who wants to be a millionaire. Of course, there is so much more to it than that. I have found it is a brilliant opportunity of students to explore learning (work out which methods of learning really work for them and be able to make mistakes in a low pressure environment out side of the classroom) and to reflect on these mistakes. This links in nicely with our metacognition and self regulation whole school focus. I want tutor time to be organised, productive and worthwhile – this fits the bill nicely.

The challenges have so far initially designed by myself and have included the NATO phonetic alphabet, learning the states of America and capitals of Europe. Topics are also being designed by tutors in their fields of expertise such as PE (Olympic based), History (Kings and Queens)   A period of learning time is given to students in groups and after which they are quizzed on the topic. I then asked tutors to mark the quizzes and I hand out little prizes for the winning group in each tutor group.

So far different students have won, as the expertise can come from anywhere. Some tutors have told me how suddenly some students have really come out of their shell when studying certain topics and others have shone as it is linked to a passion or experience out side of school (Phonetic alphabet for those that go to cadets for instance).

So you may ask how is this linked to Trivium?


  • Tutor group challenges – using Trivium ideas
    • Grammar –> Knowledge –> Teacher Input: The Capital Cities of Europe
    • Logic –> Understanding–>Student discussion, collaboration + learning
    • Rhetoric –> Wisdom–> Output: Application of Logic

We start with the Grammar! The Knowledge this can a be heavy tutor input to begin with however once the students have the notes they move on to the Dialectic. Dialectic, starts with the discussion of how best to learn the information. This dialectic or logic, is when students can really start to independently put ideas together. This needs to be practiced – retrieval practice; self quizzing; group quizzing to gain wisdom or rhetoric.

Today I took a tutor group for registration and went through the current challenge The Capital Cities of Europe. One student knew them all, he printed off a list at home and read and quizzed himself on them. I could not have been more impressed.

See some examples of what I have created so far and use them yourself – including quiz sheets  (downloadable from TES)

Learn the NATO phonetic alphabet

Learn the United States States

Learn the European capital cities

See other ideas to do in tutor time here

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