Carousel English Launch!

Carousel Learning
8 min readFeb 1


English teaching sits in the fraught space between “teaching knowledge” and “teaching skills.” We want students to be able to think deeply and creatively about literature and to be able to produce interesting, insightful and idiosyncratic analysis. But we also know that we first need to break down the text ourselves and model the way that we analyse and dissect it. We have to give students raw material from which to construct their own understandings and interpretations in a way that is both intelligible and memorable, and then support them in consolidating that new knowledge in a way that allows them to deploy it later. Fundamental building blocks must be provided and learnt to enable students to later flourish and go further in their analyses.

When we spoke to English teachers about this issue, they told us that they were in need of a tool that could help them communicate these building blocks and help students commit them to memory in a workload-friendly and efficient way. Because Carousel is designed with issues like this in mind, and via its flashcard, quizzing, marking, feedback and whiteboard functionality, we knew that it could prove to be an enormous help to English teachers.

Carousel’s flashcard system, which students use to revise before taking an online test.

Carousel relies on Question Banks: series of questions designed to help students learn core knowledge. We set about preparing Question Banks to cover commonly used GCSE texts, and asked a group of expert English teachers to help us write them. We conceptualised these questions very specifically as a “floor” not a “ceiling” — they are there to support teachers and students, without limiting them. We do not believe that our questions are the final word or that students knowing the answers to them is the goal of English education. We do believe that our questions will help students gather the raw material needed to think and write creatively, originally and idiosyncratically.

Carousel’s Whiteboard mode, which is designed for in-class retrieval practice.

The idea would be that, having taught a particular text, teachers could set flashcards for their students to learn key points from the text, covering AO1, 2 and 3. Students can then take a quiz on those questions which they self-assess. Following completion, teachers moderate student self-assessment (see below) and can highlight particular responses for later discussion in class via the Whole Class Feedback function. Teachers can also use the questions as in-class quizzes and writing activities via the Whiteboard mode.

Carousel’s marking and feedback screen, which allows you to review and moderate students’ responses, as well as highlighting particular answers for later class discussion.

Below, we have sampled a range of these questions for you to have a look at, and we asked the authors of each Question Bank to give a little bit of insight into their thought processes in writing them and using them in the classroom. If you’d like to know more about Carousel generally, click here and if you’d like to discuss subscriptions click here.

To book your place on our free webinar, where a panel of experts will be discussing the use of retrieval practice in the teaching of English Literature, click here.


These questions push students to make connections across the text, which is the most significant — and sophisticated — route into understanding the nuances of the play and Shakespeare’s characterisation. I like how certain questions force the students to look beyond simply identifying linguistic devices in a bid to secure those all-important AO2 marks; instead the questions guide them to identify where patterns are either emerging or being disrupted.

Kate has taught English for 14 years in three different London schools. Having been head of English for 6 of those years at a school in White City, Kate now leads on Teaching and Learning at The Totteridge Academy in North London, with a focus on T&L in subjects that require students to do frequent extended writing.

Romeo & Juliet

The fourth question here prompts students to focus on individual words within a quotation, which is something which my own students are currently working on. If we stop to look at patterns across that line, the repeated pronouns are clear, and then we can see that the line is centred on her and her evident distress. I like the way that the answer also models good practice for the students, but in a concise and succinct way. Again, this is something that my students need to develop in order to hit the language analysis criteria in their exams, and this kind of modelling will really help them along the way.

Sarah teaches English at Orchard School Bristol. She is currently the whole-school reading lead, and has also been a Head of English and Assistant Headteacher. She is particularly interested in promoting reading and appreciation of literature at all levels in order to transform the lives and future chances for young people.

Jekyll and Hyde

What key idea about the Victorian gentleman is symbolised by Hyde’s ‘contorted’ body being found ‘Right in the middle’ of this scene?

This is an interesting example of how pausing to consider something simple, like the arrangement of a scene that a writer is trying to describe, provides opportunities to develop conceptualised interpretations that explore patterns across the whole text. Here, the broader implications of the precise positioning of Hyde in the very centre of Jekyll’s cabinet — that Hyde represents a threat from within gentlemanly society — can be examined at other moments when Hyde’s position or location is significant: for example, when in Utterson’s nightmare Hyde moves through streets likened to the Labyrinth; or, when we glimpse the inexplicable luxury of Hyde’s rooms in Soho.

Rob teaches English at Orchard School Bristol. With a background in historical studies, he is particularly interested in exploring histories of identity and resistance through literature, and specialises in histories of writing about urban spaces. Rob also teaches classical civilisation and has worked for a number of years on widening participation in the Classics.

A Christmas Carol

The ‘feeble fire’ at the schoolhouse mirrors the ‘small’ fire in Scrooge’s counting house in Stave 1. Why might Dickens have chosen to link these two fires with similar descriptions?

I really like this question because it works as a way-in to exploring the (many) patterns and motifs across the text. The answer is also a simple yet effective modelling of a conceptualised approach to analysis — the idea of the child being ‘the father of the man’ (as Wordsworth wrote). What I like about this question in particular is its ability to act as a springboard for broader considerations, such as the tracking of fire as a motif across the entire text. As a result, students become better-equipped to identify the same in more obscure passages, such as the fire lit by the labourers repairing gas-pipes in Stave 1. So what begins as retrieval of knowledge becomes far more nuanced as it evolves into application of skill. One of my favourite exercises is providing students with more obscure extracts from the novel (but ones in which Dickens revisits a key motif) and seeing where they go with their considerations of the ‘what?’, the ‘how?’, and the ‘why?’.

Currently a Lead Practitioner at Harris Academy Ockendon, Katie has worked as a lead teacher and Head of English in schools across London, Essex, and Kent. In addition to marking several series as an examiner, Katie has gained a reputation as an expert teacher in her field, supporting teachers and leaders in creating and sustaining excellence in the English classroom and beyond. Katie has a particular interest in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, and enjoys delivering CPD for new and experienced teachers, both in-house and across the federation.

An Inspector Calls

I think that these questions show the range of content that we’ve put into these Carousel banks; from the light-touch retrieval to more developed language analysis. I also think that the AO1 questions here can lend themselves to a more detailed and thoughtful consideration of language and context.

Sarah teaches English at Orchard School Bristol. She is currently the whole-school reading lead, and has also been a Head of English and Assistant Headteacher. She is particularly interested in promoting reading and appreciation of literature at all levels in order to transform the lives and future chances for young people.

Animal Farm

I believe that the range of questions exemplify the variety and complexity of knowledge that students need when studying Animal Farm. From simpler retrieval practice questions, to more in depth responses including methods and focusing on developing a tentative style, the complexity within the bank is also balanced with simplicity. The questions above give a snapshot for teachers of what rich knowledge their students could have access to when using Carousel for English.

Susan is currently working as Head of English and Drama at a Catholic Secondary School in Bristol, and she completed her own Literature degree with the Open University in order to teach. She is particularly interested in equity within education and enjoys developing resources and supporting other teachers in their own teaching.







Carousel Learning

Carousel is a retrieval practice and online quizzing tool that helps students to embed knowledge in their long-term memory.