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Try a Double Decker lesson plan

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

I have been reading a lot recently about teaching techniques and I keep hearing this new phrase the “Double Decker” lesson. The original idea was from Geoff Petty in his book ‘How to teach even better: an evidence-based approach’ (2018). So I thought I would find out what this might look like in the business classroom.

Essentially the central concept of Double Decker lesson plans is that the lesson is divided into two sections. The Top Deck and The Bottom Deck. So if you are teaching two-hour lessons, spend one hour on The Top Deck and one hour on The Bottom Deck. The central idea is this should be a fair split. Depending on your context we may need to shoehorn in lesson objectives, expectations, a starter, a plenary, a mini plenary and retrieval activities, so this can all be a planning challenge, especially for shorter GCSE business lessons. My Year 9 business lesson is just 1 hour, so it can be hard to get everything in.


As you may know, the top deck of the bus is where all the cool kids sit. If you were first on the bus you could rush up the stairs to bag a prime spot at the very front. Afforded maximum views and the exclusivity of having no passengers behind you (as the back of the seat formed part of the spiral stairs).

The top deck part of the lesson is the skills element. In business this could be:

  • Working with students on chains of reason

Ideas for this are using Padlet as a class to put together some answers to given questions. Offer some connectives on the board, hand out some model answers and ask them to create chains of reason.

  • Helping your students to find out about PESTLE factors

This works well if you use large letters or stick them onto a card. Move them around so students keep adding to the factors until they cannot think of anything else. Then hand out 10 case studies and they write at the bottom what they think the PESTLE factor would be for that question. Keep circulating these, there may be more than one answer.

  • Evaluation is a valuable exercise

Here is an essay answer, now write the conclusion or evaluation. Also give the case study, the original question etc. This means you will need to have a bank of these but you could type them to save time.

  • Exam technique - How to read the case studies

Read once now turn it over and write 1-10 down the page. Can you answer 10 questions on the case study? No? Then read the question first and actively read the case study looking for short quotes to use to support the answer.

  • Essay plans

I am a huge fan of this, apparently, it’s called ‘fading’, when we start with an essay planning sheet and a model answer and work up to asking students to complete a timed essay in class without these scaffold documents.

  • Annotation – use numbered arrows to show where the marks are awarded

Perfect for short answer questions. Also good for the high tariff essays so they can see what analysis and evaluation really look like. They can do this for a self or peer-marking activity.

  • Ranking skills

Give students three answers to a question and ask them to put them in order of best to worst. This means you have to write an A*, B and C grade answer. Shorter questions work best for this. Also, calculation questions that are missing the workings out, or correct format e.g. %. This is a nice pairs activity. They may do this quickly but will have to justify their choice. What can they learn from this?


In a nutshell, this is the idea that there needs to be some linking activity to bring both decks together. Petty (2014) suggests this could be through simple questions.

  • We’ve just planned a business essay:

    • What new methods did we learn today?

    • Why was it done that way?

    • Is there a better way?


The bottom Deck of the lesson, therefore, is the content and this could be delivered in a number of ways:

  • PowerPoint and worksheet

  • Video and worksheet

  • Discussion

  • Debate

  • Role play and so on....


Then the last activity should be a review of the Top and Bottom Deck activities

  • Explain how you did that

  • How could this skill be improved?

I sometimes teach some content first to give me a topic to play with in the skill section. The review would then be the plenary, which would include retrieval of the content and explanation of the skill learnt. Not as hard as it sounds and gets students into the habit of writing good answers straight away, rather than six weeks of ‘even better if’ written on their feedback, which is a grim way to learn how to write a business essay or answer.


Try it in a safe group, then try it in a challenging group and see how it goes. If it works you will improve grades, lessons will be more interesting and you will have happy students. That, as they say, is a win-win.

Sarah is a business teacher trainer; she has taught business for 23 years and has been a business examiner for over 20 years. If you would like to book a staff CPD session or exam revision session for students (via Zoom) please email:

Link to buy Geoff Petty's book here:

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