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Robbie Campbell discusses his first experience participating in Instructional Rounds at Archbishop Sentamu Academy

Having been a part of the Instructional Rounds at the end of the Winter term, several people approached me with the hope that I would unveil the cloud of mystery that surrounds it. Through this article, I aim to quell any myths, but also share the positivity that bred from the Instructional Rounds, in order to encourage more people to get involved. Comments like, ‘It is judgmental though really…isn’t it?’ And, ‘did you see any shockers?’ Only support the need for this article.

The day started at 9 where I ran upstairs up collect my suit jacket, feeling that I should look  more professional. My hopes of feeling professional were dashed when I was compared to the trendsetting and fashion icon member of SLT, who also happened to be wearing non-matching jacket and trousers. The rules of Instructional Rounds were explained with an emphasis that the process was non-judgmental. We were only allowed to describe what we saw or heard and under no circumstances use judging language, especially steering clear of the word ‘good’.

We could all appreciate the vast amount work everyone had put in to preparing lessons and books. So much so, that we felt awkward observing having all been on the receiving end of the process. However, by the end of the morning, Anthony’s team took a commanding lead, 17 classrooms to 10. Throughout the teaching term we can feel that everything is against us, pupils not behaving, too much marking and generally feeling more tired than we thought possible. However, when we need it, from somewhere, we have a ‘moment’ where we feel that our sacrifice is worth it. Usually in the form of a pupil achieving something that they didn’t think possible or a hilarious moment when you get the chance to laugh with them. For me, Instruction Rounds was my ‘moment’ of the term. Going into other people’s classrooms really was an uplifting experience. We were able to see the whole educational experience of a pupil and escape the four walls of our classrooms where I often feel a bit trapped.

It was so interesting to see the way different subjects interpret the word ‘feedback’. From verbal coaching in PE and modelling in dance, to interim feedback in Art leading to second drafts, re-doing calculations in Maths, correcting spellings in English and extended questions in Humanities, the Academy was a buzz of teacher – pupil conversation.

Then came the time when we were require to discuss what we saw. If I was prepared to hear some juicy stories, then I was to be disappointed. Instead, we discussed the detailed workings of anonymous classrooms in the professional non-judgmental manner proposed at the start of the day. This gave Lee the moment he had dreamt of, getting one over on Linda. Seeing her squirm as she tried to describe one classroom without using the word ‘good,’ only to say it anyway, gave Lee the opportunity to say, ‘you can’t say that’ in the cheeky manner which only Lee could replicate. And yet he was right, we were discussing the intervention and how we could tell it had an impact for the pupil, we were not Ofsted.

This lead to us establishing key achievements and successes along with whole school areas for improvement. Rather than repeat these which Anthony will share, I would like to offer my own personal highlights. It was wonderful to see pupils in a new light. Seeing pupils I associate with laziness and disruption in Science, engage and feel passionate about learning in History gave me a sense that the pupil actually did have chances to succeed and that I should not give up on them in Science. I saw incredible relationships not just in one class, but academy-wide and between staff and students and the students themselves. There was a sense that actually, whilst we all make each others lives harder than it needs to be, there is a mutual undercurrent of respect, even if it is sometimes hidden.

So whilst I and the other staff conducting Instructional Rounds had a very positive experience, it would, I imagine have been a very nerve racking experience for the staff we visited. However, Instructional Rounds showed a glimmer of what the school could be like as we move away from judgement and more towards peer to peer support. Teachers from other departments being able to sit down and discuss education; what works or doesn’t, share ideas, try new ideas, ask for others to evaluate their ideas and learn how other staff do things, all without the feeling of being judged. The openness and trust required to have a open door policy is one thing, but reciprocating that trust by all working together without judgement is another. Now that would certainly benefit the pupils.

So if you haven’t guessed by now, I am a fan of Instructional Rounds, and if you don’t believe me, then sign up next time and see for yourself. The worst that can happen is that you have a day off teaching.

Robbie Campbell

This is my last blog for teaching and learning today as I move on to pastures new and a new role as Assistant Head. I wanted my final article to be on continuing the preparation for linear exams, so here is my last bit of advice.

Let’s be sensible and pragmatic in our preparation. Knowing your students is key but this is nothing new. Knowing where they are at ( data analysis) and setting aspirational targets (positive mindset meets praying-for-wind-to-be-blowing-in-right-direction on the day) is the norm now. This isn’t rocket science or mystic snake oil. It’s common sense and that’s what we need to keep sight of as teachers. Let others lose their heads; we need to be both dogmatic and pragmatic in our approach.

Yes, we need to make sure they are examinations-ready; but shouldn’t we have been doing this anyway? Reintroducing mock exams is one suggestion. I’m old school and never understood why some schools got rid of mock week in the first place.

But knowing a student’s data and making them sit countless mocks does not make a student learn. What makes them learn is engagement and interest in the subject – not examinations on it. What makes them learn is probably the same thing that motivated us to go into teaching in the first place: the love and passion we have for our subject – our ceaseless attempt to engage students in learning and capture the joy of learning. Dare I even mention here the f word? Yes learning should be ‘fun’, for the very reason that these are the lessons students remember and remembering is key to success.

If fun seems too much for you to handle in the run up to Christmas, think about the word ‘engagement’ instead. How can you ensure a student is engaged in learning? Because a student may sit a hundred mock exams (a ridiculous exaggeration to prove my point!) but they will never find joy in exam sitting!

If anything, it will ensure students lose the love and joy they associated with a subject and surely that will lead to a real decline in those opting for that subject at a higher level. Education has never been, and never will be, about death by testing. Yes, data has its place; but it is not the driving force for improvement. That comes from you, the teacher. Think of a lesson you loved and you will remember the lesson, the teacher, an anecdote or some crazy antic – you never remember a test! So let’s get back to being sensible – teaching and learning is central to improvement – not data, which simply informs it. Love your lessons and students will learn.

I recently saw a fantastic speaker, Rita Pierson, on Ted Talks deliver one of the most inspirational talks I have seen in a long time. She talked about champions in teaching ( of whom I have worked with many) and is the very reason we are all teachers. If you do one last thing before the Christmas holidays I would advise you to watch this:

! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFnMTHhKdkw

Enjoy and goodbye.

Avril Moulds

Profoundly good – Basic skills

Here are some ideas as to how to provide opportunities to improve the literacy and numeracy of your students:

  • Allow time for extended writing tasks in every lesson.  By completing examination styles questions in silence each lesson, students will become used to the style and content required to be successful at GCSE.
  • Teach the RUGS framework for answering a longer question.  Read the question and underline the command words and keywords.  Understand – check that you understand what the question is asking you to do.  List the keywords and key points (calculations) that you will need to answer the question.  Go! – Answer the question.  One mark = one minute.  Sensible?  Check – read the question again.  Read the answer.  Have you answered the question?
  • Make sure that students know the subject specific vocabulary needed for your subject.  This needn’t be just learning a long list.  Learning vocabulary can be made into lots of games.  Anagrams of key words make great hooks or activities on arrival.  You can allocate individual students a key word to become an expert on and test them on what their word is and what it means.  Have a word wall of the key vocabulary in your room and update it regularly.
  • Ask students to read out loud as often as you can.  It doesn’t need to be in front of the whole class, just ask them to read out what they have written or the question when they ask for help or you are moving around the room.
  • Use a reading strategy when asking students to read out loud to the class – “say popcorn when you want to stop and I’ll take over from you”.
  • Ask students to correct key spelling mistakes (x3/5/10 depending on how many times they have the incorrect spelling in their work) as part of their DIRT.
  • Make sure that you know what the Academy approach is to the Maths content in your lessons.  Use the Numeracy across the Curriculum guide to help you plan for how to make it accessible for lower ability pupils.
  • Use diagrams to make calculations more accessible for students.  There are examples of this in the Numeracy guide and on mymaths.co.uk.  Ask a member of the Maths Department for the username and password.

Independent Learning By Lisa Holbrook


‘A lot of people never use their initiative because no one told them to’ Banksy


Independent learning is not a new thing, but in the days of league tables and deadlines it is hard to find time to allow students the opportunity to find things out for themselves. A strict scheme of work/medium term plan makes creativity and fun in the classroom seem a distant memory sometimes; but with this new focus on independence we can now facilitate our students’ abilities to learn, rather than just teach them.

A number of years ago I watched a video called ‘shift happens’, it highlighted how fast the world we are currently living in is changing; how quickly things become out dated; how standards are being raised due to worldwide competition. Giving our students the ability to learn allows them to step into the world, not only with of strong exam results, but with the ability to evolve and keep up with the ever changing pathways that will form in front of them.

Independent learning does not simply mean that students should learn alone, that the teacher sets a task and leaves the pupils to get on with it, the role of the teacher is still incredibly important in the enabling and supporting of the pupils. Tasks should encourage cognitive thinking such as problem solving, memory and attention; learning what went wrong is just as important as getting something right. What Independent Learning does mean is that a wider range of activities can be taking place in a classroom, rather than every student doing the same thing.

The ability for students to work independently takes time to develop, clear expectations must be set to guide them towards the end result. Teachers can facilitate learning through the surrendering of certain prerogatives.

My first experience of allowing pupils to work independently was to simply give them choice. The GCSE English exam requires pupils to study how an author presents a particular character in a novel, in the past I have made the decision which character should be studied as it allows me the opportunity to teach the pupils about the character in detail; for my class I decided that they should be allowed to choose their favorite character to write about. They would need to research the character, choose the chapters they wanted to include, after they had chosen and planned they created a presentation which was then given to a small group from the class allowing questions and ideas to be shared. The range of characters chosen was wonderful, small groups bonded and the final essays were incredibly strong due to the fact the pupils were writing about a character they liked and knew well. My guidelines were clear and targets and deadlines were adhered to, this allowed me time to sit down with individual pupils and help them to develop their research without telling them what to do; it also encouraged self/peer assessment.

The fact that I started small gave me the courage to try other topics with my class.


Ideas for introducing Independence into your classroom

Key questions to consider when planning a lesson:

  • Do the pupils understand what it is they are being expected to learn?
  • Is there a choice in how they learn?
  • What decisions/choices do they have to make?
  • What strategies are they developing?
  • What research skills do they need?
  • What are they accountable for? (Deadlines, responsibilities)


‘How’ questions are a great place to start as it encourages pupils to look at a process, taking a topic and converting it into a problem requires pupils to look for a solution.

Other ideas:

  • Avoid tightly planned lessons where there is no room for flexibilty
  • Encourage questioning and dialogue
  • Make success criteria clear so that pupils know what they need to do to achieve
  • Exemplar work will help students understand what they need to do so they can just get on
  • Chunk tasks and set clear deadlines
  • Encourage students to evaluate
  • Encourage students to share references, resources, ideas
  • Encourage movement in the classroom- students can teach each other/ share their way of working
  • Set collaborative/ project based home works
  • Model your own learning process
  • Encourage students to lead the learning


What is DIRT?

Directed Improvement and Reflective Time

We often give detailed and effective feedback for it to go unnoticed and sadly for the student to make the same mistake!

Similarly, with a draft of their work they give the feedback a cursory glance, but they hurry on with supposed improvements and make the same mistakes once more. DIRT is about redressing that issue.

Ron Berger’s excellent book, ‘An Ethic of Excellence‘. describes it as this: “Most discussions of assessment start in the wrong place. The most important assessment that goes on in a school isn’t done to students but goes on inside students. Every student walks around with a picture of what is acceptable, what is good enough. Each time he works on something he looks at it and assesses it. Is this good enough? Do I feel comfortable handing this in? Does it meet my standards? Changing assessment at this level should be the most important assessment goal of every school. How do we get inside students’ heads and turn up the knob that regulates quality and effort” (P103, ‘An Ethic of Excellence’)

Essentially, DIRT is about having the highest expectations of students and them having the highest expectations of themselves.

Getting a student to reflect on their learning and how to improve it is simple at Archbishop Sentamu Academy we use DIRT. The green and purple pens help make it clear. It may be as simple as asking a question at the end of your marking or it may be setting them a learning target. At the start of the next lesson simply get them to respond to the comments in their books. It’s a fantastic easy starter but more importantly it helps them focus on what they need to do to improve.

1. Keep it focused. If you simply hand back work to students and tell them to improve it all then the response will invariably less than successful! Other than the few students whose work was lazily hashed together at the last minute, most students’ work is faulty because they don’t know how to make it better. They need specific support and to avoid overloading students we need to focus in upon specific improvements to sir work. In English, this often includes drafting and proof reading their extended writing. To ensure students can best manage their improvements, we would often narrow down the focus, such as reflecting upon spelling strategies and/or punctuation usage, then ask students to make improvements in these specific areas. Given this learning focus, students then need a really clear focus in terms of time. With clear task instructions, including timing and outlining exact expectations, students can be more focused in their DIRT time and considerably more effective.

2. Model and scaffold. Once more, letting students loose for twenty minutes to overhaul their work to reach new heights doesn’t simply happen. Chatter and disruption is more likely! A range of models and resources to scaffold their understanding are required. In English, our focus is mostly concentrated upon literacy standards. That requires the obvious scaffolded support of the teacher, but it can be supplemented by tools, such as a dictionary and thesaurus, literacy mats, their school planner etc. Models of work, with specific strengths or weaknesses, are crucially effective in determining what Berger describes as the assessment going on inside the head of students. Seeing an outstanding exemplar of a particular genre of writing, for example, helps lessen the load and gives students a high standard to reach for with their work. Reviewing a faulty example, picking apart its flaws with the teacher, or improving upon a weak example of work also helps scaffold their understanding about what is required to improve their own work. DIRT time may seemly be about independent work, but in actuality there is a great of reliance upon scaffolded teacher expertise.

3. Targeted feedback. If students are receiving regular quality feedback that is targeted and precise in each of their subject areas then cumulatively they should learn clear patterns regarding how they need to improve in specific subject areas as well as recognising common patterns. Marking is therefore crucial – it determines teacher planning and it can be a defining factor for successful DIRT. The evidence about the importance of quality feedback is well founded. Put simply, feedback and DIRT are essential bedfellows. If we give great feedback, with specific targets to improve, then DIRT is the crucial next step to deal with that feedback. As a rule of thumb, we can expect students to spend twice their time reflecting on their feedback as we devoted to giving feedback. Otherwise, really, what is the point of marking work and giving oral feedback?

4. Make oral feedback matter. Oral feedback matters just as much as written feedback; however, we shouldn’t neglect using it.  It is simply a staple of good teaching. If we establish a really clear focus for DIRT, with quality models, scaffolds and targets for improvement, then students should be sufficiently focused to allow the teacher to undertake quality ‘one to one feedback’ whilst DIRT is taking place. We have moved to recording oral feedback sessions, such as using stickers with targets on or stamps, with students noting their feedback around the stamp, or using an A5 pro forma, to ensure that such feedback is recorded so that students can respond to it fully and to ensure no advice is simply lost because they have forgotten.

5. Exploit the power of peers. Peer assessment is often derided or done badly, by both students and teachers. For students it can be a poor substitute for teacher feedback. What we can do is use peers as a positive support tool during DIRT time. If my year 8 group are working on spelling and punctuation, then working in pairs is often an effective strategy to lighten their load and help them make minor improvements. Once more, any peer work needs real focus. If we have peers analysing the work of one another for spelling, punctuation and grammar improvements, then guidelines and expectations need to be explicit. Small details, like getting pairs to sign their feedback can be a small, but powerful way to get students to fully engage in the task. Any pairings of students needs to be carefully considered of course, like any good seating plan.

This is a DIRT mat I use in English. It just gives then a clear focus on ways in which to improve.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 09.07.46

As every school in the country prepares for linear examinations we need to find tried and tested methods for effective revision. More importantly the onus is now on us as teachers to actively teach revision strategies. Below are some examples. This by no means is a definitive list but is meant to be a starting point for staff to map against schemes of work to ensure we prepare our students from year 7 onwards.

Key Stage 3 Revision Skills

1. Getting Organised – create learning / home learning habits (every student completes homework/hands it in/on time.

2. Staff adhere to homework timetable, students are taught to time manage

3. Remembering Information (knowledge) using techniques such as:

  • quizzing at the start /end of lessons
  • learning by rote
  • memory games techniques (making memory connections)
  • mapping ideas
  • making lists
  • flash cards
  • revision postcards


Key stage 4 Revision Skills

1. Getting Organised – this should include:

  • Long term map of subject with examination dates ( countdown to exams )
  • Revision planner -how to complete it so you use it.
  • Revision Map/ long term plan
  • Revision audits – students knowing what they need to revise and how confident they are about the knowledge, skills and understanding covered in the unit. They can then prioritise their revision

2. Time management becomes a priority both for revision and home learning

3. Remembering Information (knowledge) using techniques such as:

  • quizzing at the start /end of lessons
  • learning by rote
  • memory games techniques (making memory connections)
  • mapping ideas
  • making lists
  • flash cards
  • revision postcards

Revision Techniques

There are a range of revision techniques available for students. We explore some strategies below.

Blank Sheet

This is a good starting point for revision. Students choose their topic to revise and write for as long as you can on a blank sheet. You’ll be amazed what they remember. And it’s a revision task that makes you think. Students could do it in the exam room before they open their paper and see how much actually turns up in the exam questions.


RAMBAM (Read a minute, bullet a minute)

Reading through notes without a purpose is really dull. Scan a page or two of notes or a book for a minute. Close it. Then spend a minute  writing a list of bullet points containing the information you remember. Repeat this.

Story Telling

A good story is something that is easily memorable. Encourage students to make stories up in order to remember key concepts. A story board could be created as a revision tool (as this uses the idea of images as a tool for remembering).

The power of images

Images are more potent messengers, the brain is basically an image processor, the brain prefers images to words. Images are concrete and instantly memorable. In order to remember something, it’s possible to transfer the knowledge to pictures.
A series of pictures will be easier to remember than a whole page of words. Allow students to create pictures/take photographs in the lesson to refer to later. Ask students to transfer written information into a series of images and then explain the images.

This is a great way of remebering things, for example if you think about what you had for your evening meal last night, you will recall the image of it. Think about your favourite place and you will recall an image of it.


Depict concepts, terms, processes in vivid colour.
Use photographs where possible and images.
Give each concept its own individual image.

A pictogram works well, put the main topic in the centre, allow leaners to record the information in pictures.

Create icons for things that need to be remembered (think about how APPs work, the icons are easily memorable).


Summary Post It Notes

At the end of each lesson, write a summary sheet of identifying the key points and examples.  From this then write post it notes, which just consist of the key points. A few days later, review the Post it notes and on a blank piece of paper write down the examples or principles the key points trigger in your memory. Compare this to your summary sheet or lesson notes.

Order your index cards into subject groups and then prioritise. Before another lecture on the same subject, review your index cards to refresh what you have learnt.

This reviewing helps aid your long term memory.

Transformation (Revision in Disguise)

Your text books contain a lot of information. Some people can read this information and remember it! If you find it hard to retain information that you read then do something with it. For example take a piece of text and transform it into a diagram.


Learning by asking

Question party: Students move around the room as they would if they were at a party, when they greet another student they ask a question. It could be a question they know the answer to, or something they are unsure of. If neither student knows the answer then they stop someone else and ask the same question.

After the exchange of question answer, students move on their way to ask someone else something.

Question marathon: Put students in pairs and designate them ‘A’ and ‘B’. A asks B as many questions as they can in 3 mins, then they swap.

Question Ball: Pupils write down a question they have on a piece of paper, they screw it up in a ball. Coolect the balls in a bucket and then redistribute around the room.

Put your cards on the table: Pupils write questions linked to the topic on blank cards, collect the cards, shuffle and distribute. Each learner in turn reads the question, the students have 30 seconds to answer (could make it like a game show with points and prizes).


Talk about learning

Make time in the lesson to talk about what has been learned, make the plenary a group discussion. Students can ask other members of the group about the objective of the lesson. Discussion cards could prompt the quieter students and these could be used as a revision tool at home, pupils could talk to their family and friends about what they have learned, or write out the answer to the questions.


Mind Maps

Mind maps can be great, but their effective use requires a bit of thought, but students can get hung up on the wrong bits. The misconceptions that are embedded within a mindset. Here are a few ideas: Start in the middle and leave lots of space – a concept map is never really finished. Basic principles or ‘headings start near the middle; work outwards towards the fine details. Colours don’t matter unless they add meaning. If red is used to mark ‘dangers’, or green for ‘examples’, great. Too often students reach for coloured pencils to avoid thinking. Bubble writing is a waste of time. Just because it’s easy to give students mind maps doesn’t mean we should.

Copying them, however, is pretty much a waste of time. So how can we make sure that what they produce is worthwhile? Give them the material (or some of it – differentiation opportunity!) on blank cards and ask them to arrange them in a concept map. I sometimes colour code sub units and sub concepts. Ask each student to write three key ideas on a post-it and then have them make the concept map on a table. Introduce an extra step by having them start by making one in groups, either the whole topic or one part of it. Give each student or group a specific range of pages in the revision guide, or from their folders, as their source material. Tick (perhaps with a pencil) the notes as they are ‘translated’ into the concept map. Peer review them! Divide them into groups and have them reproduce a printed mindmap in short bursts – each team member has 20-30 seconds to look at the original, then 2 minutes to write down what they remember. The rest of the team can prompt and suggest but not write in that time. More able groups may be organised enough to each focus on a different branch. Alternatively, let them all look at the same time as see how far they can get together. Give them a mindmap  but photocopy it with blank areas. Can they fill in the gaps? Can they improve what’s there or add connections?

Example of a Mind Map 





They can use this as an audit to check what they are confident with and what they need to focus on. You could also give students the main headings so they have some structure, perhaps with he next link if you think they would benefit. I think it’s very important to help the students realise how varied concept maps will be. People will produce very different maps, even if they have the same headings to start with. This is true for three able students, or even three teachers – it’s not about ability or knowledge but about how we show the links between concepts. Having members of the class compare their mind maps and give constructive feedback to each other can be very interesting – especially if you then have them add comments to the board, divided into ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’

A return to some traditional teaching methods have been well received, regular spelling tests and learning by rote two of the revision techniques suggested. Here the look cover spell method works for maths.

Condense It – 1

Read a paragraph of text and condense it into one sentence.

Condense It – 2

Read a paragraph of text and identify the six most important words. Highlight them.


Teach It

Another useful method of learning information is to try and teach someone else what you have learnt.

A good method to use is to write down the key points of what has been learnt over a set period e.g. 3 lessons and try to teach the other person, who questions everything he or she cannot clearly understand. Try also setting a test on what you have taught. The  other person’s answers will clarify your own thinking!


Last Person Standing

Get into pairs. Take it in turns to talk about a subject e.g. key words / definitions / explanations. The first person to pause for 5 seconds will sit down. A winner plays another winner. Continue until you have a final.


Create a list of key words and make a set of mnemonics.

Example – processes of coastal erosion in geography =




Hydraulic Action


Look, Say, Cover,Write, Check

Ask students to review a page from the revision guide, hand them 2, 4, 6 pieces of card. Ask them to try to remember the key info about the topic and to produce revision cards. Once they have done that, ask them to review what they have written and then add to it, again using the revision guide material as a reference. Display in the class room, or on their bedroom wall. Ask permission first. Another suggestion is to print out sections of the preferred text and ask students to read all text and take notes in order to summarise. Students can also create key questions to ask a peer. Their partners then attempt the questions and then join up with another pair to review their thinking. The group of four then prepare exemplars

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.08.52 Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.09.13 Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.09.37 Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.10.00


Post-It Notes

Fran Dean suggests strategically placed post it notes to help with maths revision

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.13.05 Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.12.40

The power of images:

Images are more potent messengers, the brain is basically an image processor, the brain prefers images to words. Images are concrete and instantly memorable.
In order to remember something, it’s possible to transfer the knowledge to pictures.
A series of pictures will be easier to remember than a whole page of words.
Allow students to create pictures/take photographs in the lesson to refer to later.
Ask students to transfer written information into a series of images and then explain the images.

This is a great way of remebering things, for example if you think about what you had for your evening meal last night, you will recall the image of it.
Think about your favourite place and you will recall an image of it.


Depict concepts, terms, processes in vivid colour.
Use photographs where possible and images.
Give each concept its own individual image.

A pictogram works well, put the main topic in the centre, allow leaners to record the information in pictures.

Create icons for things that need to be remembered (think about how APPs work, the icons are easily memorable).

Talk about learning:

Make time in the lesson to talk about what has been learned, make the plenary a group discussion. Students can ask other members of the group about the objective of the lesson. Discussion cards could prompt the quieter students and these could be used as a revision tool at home, pupils could talk to their family and friends about what they have learned, or write out the answer to the questions.
Mnemonic (Memory) Devices:
These are a great way of helping people remember important information.
Acronyms work well:
FLAP: Format, Language, Audience, Purpose
PEACE: Point, Evidence, Analysis, Connotation, Link

The rhyme: ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’ helps you to remember which way to turn a lightbulb, screw, etc.

Along the corridor and up the stairs, helps when plotting a graph.

If you know there’s A RAT in separate, you will always spell it correctly.

Ask pupils to create funny rhymes as a way of remembering key information.

Trigonometry: Sausages only half cooked are harmful to our appetite
sin = opposite / hypotenuse
cos = adjacent / hypotenuse
tan = opposite / adjacent

Story Telling:

A good story is something that is easily memorable. Encourage students to make stories up in order to remember key concepts. A story board could be created as a revision tool (as this uses the idea of images as a tool for remembering).

In Class you can Use the idea of getting learners to learn by asking:

Question party: Students move around the room as they would if they were at a party, when they greet another student they ask a question. It could be a question they know the answer to, or something they are unsure of. If neither student knows the answer then they stop someone else and ask the same question.
After the exchange of question answer, students move on their way to ask someone else something.

Question marathon: Put students in pairs and designate them ‘A’ and ‘B’. A asks B as many questions as they can in 3 mins, then they swap.

Question Ball: Pupils write down a question they have on a piece of paper, they screw it up in a ball. Coolect the balls in a bucket and then redistribute around the room.

Put your cards on the table: Pupils write questions linked to the topic on blank cards, collect the cards, shuffle and distribute. Each learner in turn reads the question, the students have 30 seconds to answer (could make it like a game show with points and prizes).



If you have a technique to share please leave a comment below.


Sharon Porter, Lead Practitioner in Maths (Bristol Brunel Academy) and Specialist Leader in Education (Cabot Learning Federation) provides excellent advice for Recently qualified teachers. You can follow Sharon on Twitter via @SPorterEdu.


This is your second year as a teacher (possibly your third year if you have been doing this part-time) and you’ve had the support of a subject mentor, an NQT mentor and help from your usual friendly staff for the entire year. So who’s going to help you now that you are no longer an NQT?

Over the summer, I’ve thought about the support I usually give to NQT’s and new staff and how I can improve this support/guidance. This blog is a direct result of my reflections and hopefully, will provide you with guidance and some thinking points for this academic year. You may well be in the same school that you were in for your NQT year but then again it might be a brand new start for you; new school, new colleagues, new students. The following, although not an exhaustive list (albeit a long one!) should help.

If you need help, ASK. Most folks now see you as ‘a teacher’ and no longer ‘an NQT’, so they will not necessarily be looking out for you (this is not intentional). You may not have realised it but whilst you were an NQT, your entire department would have been making sure that you were not struggling with:

• tricky classes

• writing school reports

• phone calls home for problematic students …and so on.

I still find that I speak to colleagues in my department, around school, at other schools and on twitter, about anything from resources for CPD to lesson ideas. Besides, others may well have taught such a lesson recently and may have hints and resources for you.

There are days however, when you will literally need to just stop what you are doing, clear your head and directly ask someone to help you. Do not be embarrassed by this.

Remember to speak to other teachers and vent when necessary; whomever you are living with (unless, they are also teachers), no matter how patient they are, they do not necessarily want to hear about Mary ruining her book in your lesson, Keith constantly talking, Sam trying to charm you because of late homework….at the end of each day.

Spend some time each day or a couple of times a week making a note of what has gone well in lessons and generally what has gone well for you in school. An electronic diary/planner that you can just dump your thoughts into, is ideal or if you really enjoy writing, set up a blog. Write some regular posts about your experiences this year, both good and bad and I promise you, it will be of use to another educationalist.

Taking a note of what has happened on a good day also serves as a pick me up. If I were to tell you that I have cards, sketches and letters from students, letters from principals and ‘notes to self’, stuck on the inside of a cupboard door in my home office you might think that I was weird. Alright, it is a little strange but sometimes, when I’ve had a particularly tough day, (students not being particularly nice) I know where to look to confirm that I am able to do my job well and that I am a good teacher; it always makes me smile.

This your new mentor. Take advantage of what’s on offer. Give feedback on the sessions and let the CPD organiser know if there is something you want to have in the next session; others may want this too. Try not to get caught up in the negativity that sometimes surrounds CPD.

Shhhh I'm hiding from the negative people

Shhhh I’m hiding from the negative people

If you think that the session was bad or could have been better in places, be the brave one and speak up. Let the organiser know by email or find them for a quiet chat.

I’ve had to run a few CPD events and I know that I will be running more this year. I am always open to suggestions, ways to improve a session and I’m always on the hunt for new resources to share. I don’t think your CPD person is any different…they will listen.

Time & Responsibilities
Teaching & Learning Responsibilities (TLR’s), Academic afterschool sessions, Break time duty, Breakfast Club, Chess Clubs…the list is endless so do not feel obliged to do it all! Break duty and Academic afterschool sessions may well be part of your role as a teacher at your school and you will not be able to opt out. Just be careful, you are still on a journey as a teacher and you are still learning. Make sure that you have the time to continue performing your main role well; the role of a teacher.

Try to plan some of your time outside of school too. If you don’t schedule time for yourself or to visit friends/family, you risk isolation, working continuously and possibly making yourself ill which is never a good thing.

Needing more time is something you have more than likely heard colleagues talking about in the staff room, in corridors and in meetings. I hate to say it but you will lose your additional 10% PPA that all NQTs are entitled to. Do not panic. Stay organised. You will become even more efficient.

Furthermore, get comfortable with this word… “NO”

You have got to learn to say no sometimes and not apologise for doing so. Try not to feel guilty about it either. Some colleagues may try to take advantage of the fact that you are the newbie, the kind one, the smiley one, the youngster on the team, the one who is often always helping out others. They will get over it. The following is a good example of what I mean.

I was having a conversation with a colleague (sorry Sir, you know who you are) and we discussed how busy we were and the ridiculous demands being placed on us. We both have TLR’s, we had both recently been asked to run workshops at an event for a number of schools, we had presented at various Teach Meets in our area and we were in the process of marking many mock exam papers (I can’t remember if it was near the end of term 5 or the start of term 6 but it was hectic!). However, at a point in our conversation he said “…I need to start saying NO to requests.” Of course I agreed and informed him how well it works when you say “No. I’m sorry but I can’t do that…” whilst smiling. It really confuses people; ‘let me get this straight, you’re smiling at me whilst refusing to help…okay then, I’ll go and ask someone else’.

Sure enough, within 30 minutes, another colleague entered the workroom and said “I’ve had an email from Mr X at School Y and I said that you might both be willing to present at his Teach Meet next year”. Guess what? Yup that’s right, my colleague, without even thinking, said “yeah, I think that will be okay.” Me? Well, I said I’d think about and see what my workload is looking like.

Covering lessons can be really interesting. You can get an insight into how students behave in a different environment, with a different group of students and sometimes even a different time of day. Most importantly; get ready for it. You will probably be asked to cover a lesson (unless you have a plethora of cover supervisors at your school) and you will still need to be prepared. More often than not, you will know at the start of the day, in which case, try to find someone in that department that can help you find books, be there to unlock the room, etc., If your colleagues are good they will have provided you with a register of students, seating plan and would have emailed or already printed what you need to do in the lesson. Remember to thank them for leaving clear instructions and just enjoy it (you might find a love for a new subject).

You would have had many observations in your NQT year. The good news is that the number of observations may decrease AND you probably do not have to keep a massive log of everything you do (which standards have you met, which ones have you achieved? T5a – tick! T7c – tick! You know what I mean). Any observations that you now have will be for your Performance Management (Performance Review or some similar name) and these will not be as frequent. The expectation to achieve Good or Outstanding lesson observations will vary from school to school for someone at this stage in their career. As Dan@DesignThinking so kindly reminded us…

Consistently Good is Outstanding

Consistently Good is Outstanding

Although a sprinkling of outstanding is always nice!

Further qualifications
Do you really need them just now? Can’t a Masters wait? What are you trying to do? Are you trying to impress someone? Can you teach full time, plan lessons, run extra-curricular activities, complete a module in a masters programme, have a social life and mark books at the same time? Yes, of course you can. If you run yourself into the ground and possibly make yourself ill that is. Not ideal really.

But, if you think you can handle it, then do it. I have seen teachers take on Masters modules in their second year and they have passed. Some of these teachers express their annoyance with themselves because they didn’t get the best grade or that their lesson didn’t go as well as usual with 10B or that they can’t understand why 7a haven’t settled well.

Think about it. When you were studying for your degree, you were just studying for your degree. You were on point, you were focused and that’s why you got top marks.

In Class
I’m sorry but…

Don’t apologise for what you’re about to teach. I have observed many a lesson where teachers have said to students “I’m sorry but this is going to be a bit boring…it’s in the curriculum… we have to teach it…”

You need to continue to do what you did in your NQT year and this will include writing your lesson plans; don’t get too lazy. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you find this interesting? What are the students supposed to do whilst you are explaining something? Taking notes or just watching you? Think carefully about this.

Try new resources, move to a different location for part of the lesson, get students to sit on the floor or their desks, find a guest speaker (another teacher!), involve the students in planning (great story by @Thrasymachus), include stories to make the lesson more exciting to give the students a hook into what they are going to learn. Hence provide them with a unique way to remember the topic.

Doug Lemov covers this beautifully in his book ‘Teach like a Champion’ pg. 51-56. The section is entitled “Technique 5: Without Apology”. Here Lemov encourages teachers to avoid apologising and blaming others for the content that needs to be taught. In the chapter he talks about making the material accessible by using ‘alternative statements’:

• “This material is great because it’s really challenging!”

• “Lots of people don’t understand this until they get to college, but you’ll know it now. Cool.”

• “We’re going to have some fun as we do it”

• “There’s’ a great story behind this!”

These are just a few of his ideas but the entire book is definitely worth a read. Try to get your Teaching & Learning guru or librarian to get a copy for your school.

You may find that this year, class 8b is remarkably different to last years’ 8b; more noisy/quiet, studious, lethargic, etc. Just remember that each student and every class is different, even if they appear to be of the same ability on paper!

If you have been entrusted with an “A’Level” class, remember they are still kids. A CPD session at one of my previous schools was centred around this “…sixth formers are just year 11’s in jeans”. They will still need discipline, clear instruction and you leaving them alone to do their work. Yes it’s a strange thing, but sometimes, the group will just get on with what you’ve planned; so don’t interrupt them.

Ensure that you gain (or retain) a good set of routines for your students. As an NQT (or new member of staff), you would have more than likely had your own classroom. This should have made it easier for you to get your students into an entry and exit routine. As a teacher who does not have her own classroom, I know that it can be challenging; turning up to a classroom to find that students have let themselves in and are just ‘making noise’ or someone has switched off a pc that you had set up earlier, because they thought it was accidently left on. Even if you are in this situation, try to make the best of it and let your students know your expectations of their entry/exit from day one. Some of my colleagues have students line up outside of the classroom until the majority arrive, others insist on students entering, collecting their books and getting on with a settling activity immediately, uniform checks and so on (See Lemov, D. Technique 28: Entry Routine pg. 151/2). Whatever you choose to do, stick with it because students will follow a routine; Whether it’s a routine that you have devised or one that they have become used to following because you have not put anything in place.

As a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE), I have had the opportunity to see entry/exit routines at a number of different schools and was fortunate to work on such routines with a fellow SLE at my own school. The feedback that we provided has enabled some members of the department who were struggling, to improve this aspect of their teaching lives.

If you are lucky enough to have one, enjoy it! You will be spending a lot of time in there (yes, I am jealous). Do you like having students’ work on display, professionally made glossy posters or are you more of a minimalist; clear walls? Whatever you prefer, take the time to make this space your own. You will find numerous blogs on classroom displays and the use of classroom space (desks, walls, ceilings, windows) all over the internet so I won’t go into what you could do. Besides, I’m sure you have already been in over the summer to ‘do your thang!’ to your classroom.

If you are like me and many other teachers; you are not loaded. Don’t spend your money on buying lots of items for your classroom; ask your friends/family for donations, look at websites where you can get things for free (freestuff, Gumtree, PreLoved), be smart!

Find out if there is a Childrens Scrap Store near you (UK Directory). They have some weird and wonderful things that are always really cheap. Your school or someone in the Art Department may already have an account. As an example, for a Maths project, a couple of my colleagues were able to fill the boot of their car with materials for students to use on their Pythagoras and Loci Takeaway Homework…it only cost them £4.50!

Some teachers worry about being able to project their voice on the first day of teaching after a long break. Don’t! Seriously, do not worry. Just hum loudly (and then sing if you are so inclined) on the way to school and this will loosen up your vocal chords…you will find your teacher voice in no time.

Well done for staying with me to the end! This certainly turned out to be a bit longer than I intended, however, writing this post has reminded me that I need to look out for fellow teachers who are in their second (third, fourth or even their twentieth) year of teaching. It would be great if you could do the same…it will be appreciated. I hope that some of this has been useful for you but as always, I’m open for suggestions. If there is an aspect that I’ve not covered or you have some advice to share, please do this in the comments section below or contact me via twitter @SPorterEdu.

Happy Teaching Ladies and Gentlemen

Today I choose to be happy!

Today I choose to be happy!

Lemov, D. 2010; ‘Teach like a Champion‘ 49 Techniques that put students on the path to college. Jossey-Bass Teacher (A Wiley Imprint)

Why I went back to school!

Avril Moulds explains why sitting a GCSE was more than she had bargained for. 

This academic year I, like many other teachers, taught a new syllabus. Nothing new there I hear you say. Teachers regularly have to keep abreast with changes in specifications and the curriculum – it’s what we do. Like most teachers who have been teaching a number of years I found myself teaching outside of my subject speciality. I, like the next person, love a challenge.  We had opted to teach GCSE Film Studies as new course at our academy this year. I was eager, initially hoping it would provide light entertain and possibly an opportunity to watch some great movies. How wrong could I have been?

Whilst studying the syllabus- someone (and I genuinely can’t remember who it was but I know it wasn’t me) had the great idea that the staff delivering the course would sit the exam along with the students! How hard could it be?Enthused, we all agreed. In fact we generated a buzz and more teachers opted in for the chance to sit the exam. Two of those opting to take part were SLT! Obviously, the rest of us wanted to beat them! Altogether twelve teachers opted in and signed up to sit the GCSE examination in June along with our year 11 students. My own daughter  who is currently in year 10 at another school joined in the competitive spirit and signed up to study it on an evening and sit the examination with us. We had generated a buzz within our subject. We became creative with our classes, each convinced we had the best strategies and revision techniques to ensure our own class achieved the highest grade. We became more competitive with our own work, in a desperate attempt to outwit and out perform our colleagues. The game was on!

My first piece of work was filming, something I had had little experience of. I realised that creating, staring, filming and then editing my own movie trailer was a lot more hard work and time consuming than I had first anticipated. I gave my own class options but I had exacting standards and wanted to be able to model a piece of work that was A* level to my students. I picked the task I believed to be the most difficult and challenging. If an ancient technophobe who hadn’t sat a GCSE ( O level in my day ) for a lifetime could do it, surely they knew it was within their grasp. I wanted them to know I was there with them, I felt their pain! Well actually, they simply thought I was mad, but joined in the competitive banter asking about the work of others and joined in our competitive spirit.

I learned how to edit images; I can now photoshop my pictures to make me look thinner, younger and more amazing. I don’t think that was the criteria but it was certainly an added bonus! I became aware that it all took a very long time and was all consuming. This was particularly challenging along with my work and family commitments. I went through bereavement and somehow managed to meet deadlines with my own work and that of my class. I was cutting it as a student.

I knew the syllabus practically word for word. I soon developed a whole new language, where I discussed mise-en-scene and connotations and denotations. I was a film geek. I started to love the studying. It was a bit like the sober bit at university and I loved it.

Along the way we experienced a number of casualties. Staff fell at every hurdle. They were busy, had family commitments and workload issues to name but a few. We were left with a hardcore of staff, only 4 teachers from the original 12 remained. The exam approached and I can honestly say my confidence wavered. Thoughts of exam failure kept me awake at night. I needed to get my revision head on but I found it hard. If my own daughter hadn’t have been siting it along with me I may have been tempted at this point to quit. But the pressure was on. I had to not only set an example I had to beat her!

I found ways of revising that I had suggested in the past to my students and actually used them. I made notes, I condensed and I mapped. I was a model student. Then the exam arrived and I can honestly say I was unbelievably nervous. I wanted to pass I wanted to do well.

My first exam I very nearly missed as I somehow had confused the dates. Nevertheless we were there. The die hards. The crazy ones. The first paper was hard, that threw me. I knew to get higher grades I needed to get every bit of information down and after what seemed liked minutes (not an hour) it was all over. Paper two was the same. A blur. I came out relieved, happy and doing the ultimate examination postmortem ever. We compared notes, laughed, screamed and had a mild panic when on reflection I noticed I could have possibly picked up an extra mark.  I was a student again and I loved it.

When we had finally calmed down  and had time to reflect I realised many things. I had learned more than the course requirements and a few skills. I had learned a real lesson in education. I had a real understanding of what our students go through and I only sat one exam not ten! I knew that life and all the messy things associated with it get in the way of studying. Would we accept the excuses given from staff (sorry guys but hang your heads in shame) from our students?  Hell no! Of course we wouldn’t, we expect them to focus. To get a grip and to get on! I went back to school and sat one single GCSE and it was hard. We expect ours to do an awful lot more than that. So I can honestly say it was not only a valuable exercise. It’s one I think every teacher should do. It keeps you focused, motivated and skilled. It gives you an empathy with your students that nothing else can. Will I be as confident on results day?  No. Of course not.  I will be as nervous as my students and my daughter. Do I want to beat the one remaining member of SLT who sat the exam? No, I don’t care about that- I just don’t want to be beaten by my daughter!


Personalisation and Challenge by Dave Craven

Today as we sit preparing lessons and thinking about how to challenge the great learners of ASA and enable them to reach for their sky we need to stop and think a little clearer about the level of challenge we provide for the learners in our classroom.

Recently myself and a few colleagues got together to discuss this and we came to the conclusion that to create bespoke challenge there is a need to find common ground before launching into higher order thinking and set challenges that simply don’t let all within the room benefit. As a group we decided to plan effectively for personalised challenge.

Firstly we thought about level ladders which let the learners decide their level of challenge and came up with slides in which learners can choose (with a bit of coaxing) their challenge, this was displayed to classes as challenging outcomes. The learners were asked to choose three challenges.

This research is loosely based upon cognitive acceleration of science education initiatives (CASE) (Shayer, M. & Adey, P.S, (2002).  CASE is about the learners being presented with a thinking task and allowing themselves to make mistakes and learn form them, (meta cognition) and the awareness of development of processes in which progress can be achieved by working out for themselves or in small groups how to meet the outcomes they have chosen (concrete operational phase, bridging phase).

So why challenge? In order for learners to make progress themselves, they have to be able to make choices, meet dead ends and learn from errors and be able to correct them. Personal challenge has been thought to be effective when:

learners are active in their learning, becoming increasingly independent in thought, planning and evaluation; learners experience a variety of patterns of working alone, in pairs and in groups. Whole-class or group teaching will be used to introduce new ideas, or plan an activity. The learners themselves choose the level of challenge.

In my year 8 science class I decided to focus on science skills and wrote a set of challenging outcomes which would enable learners to progress, yet face challenges that they themselves have set. This needed a little explaining to the learners.

All learners were up for the challenge, naming variables, collecting data, constructing graphs, analysing and evaluating their findings. This needed two lessons for all their chosen outcomes to be achieved. The next step is for the learners to peer assess and give feed back against their colleagues chosen levels of challenge.

Points to note are:

Learners who are unmotivated needed coaching in the requirements of this project, a seating plan evoking more able to assist those less able was effective despite differing levels of challenge existing for this group. Some less able learners required a scaffold and breakdown of the scientific process as a prompt. Learners who deliberately chose easier outcomes to pursue where persuaded to change them for more challenging ones. Each learner had a peer review before this challenge began, they knew their science targets and had their appropriate level of challenge before them.

The highs for myself were watching the learners choose an appropriate level of challenge and also to talk some reticent learners into challenging themselves. I also was very pleased by most learners achieving their own outcomes and being very proud of themselves for doing so.

The lows were letting go of the reins and allowing learners to choose for themselves and learn at their own pace. Another low,  personally was that the pace of the lesson was affected by learners moving on at their own rate, also my movement around the classroom was constant due to health and safety and questions from learners at differing stages of the experiment.

I will shortly be re-evaluating and letting colleagues know how my lovely year 8 class get on with their future learning.

Thank you’s go to Lisa Holbrook, Robbie Campbell, and 8A1.


How do we stimulate creativity in students when so many of them are trapped in a world of computer animation? by Toni Galbraith 

I do understand that this computer generated world is inevitable, but my eleven year old son still has a vivid imagination, even though every available second would be spent sat in front of a computer screen; if I let him. However, inside the classroom I have found that the most practical way to stimulate the imagination and boost creativity is to read, read, read and play word games. These simplistic little things help to boost students self-esteem and often gives them the motivation they need to be creative. This is because most students struggle to put pen to paper when faced with any writing task. I do feel students should want to share their own artificial world, that is illustrated and brought to life through their writing, but lack the confidence to do so!

I feel really passionate about creative writing in children as it helps to stimulate the child’s mind and helps to increase their concentration levels. This is due to the fact that children can get absorbed into their own artificial world they have created; which is fantastic. Personally, I love watching children’s faces light up when they realise the possibilities are endless, with regards, to their writing and imagination. The students seem surprised to find that their imagination and their writing can be entwined together, so they are able to be as spontaneous as possible throughout their creative process.

For example, in my Key Stage 3 classes, I introduced the students to creative writing through the use of drama games. I wanted to encourage the students to develop deeper into their imaginations and discover their own creative thought process through words. We all sat around in a circle and I blind-folded each student and placed an item into their hands. This item could be anything from a button, a banana or even a key. The student had to describe the item in detail to the other students without actually saying what the item was. The students found this task hard, but extremely funny! The students then had to remove the blind-fold and create a detailed mind-map using all different adjectives to describe the weight, texture and colour of the item. The mind-map had the name of the item in the centre with numerous adjectives scattered around it. An example of this is illustrated below:

mind map

mind map

This brief example helps the students to visualise how one item can be described using different words. The students often worked in pairs for this exercise; which gave them the chance of seeing the object from another child’s perspective. This example is usually displayed on the white board to illustrate how one item can be described in detail.

The students were then given a short sentence on a piece of paper with an image on it. The students had to rewrite each sentence to ‘show not tell’ the reader what they meant. An example of this was presented onto the white-board:


‘I talked quietly’  becomes ‘I whispered’

‘I shouted loudly’ becomes ‘I screamed’

‘I ran becomes ‘I sprinted’

‘The woman was upset’ becomes ‘The woman cried with loud uncontrollable sobs’

The students needed to realise the new sentence showed the reader the same information. Eventually, the students discovered that they were able to illustrate the characters emotions and feelings through words. However, I have noticed that the majority of Key Stage 3 students lack confidence and need constant reassurance and positive praise about their own creative ability. If this happens; then persistent positive praise is needed and guidance should be used with the lower ability students. To differentiate with regards to ability in a class, then this should be made to the child individually, either through simple sentences or asking them lots of open ended questions. This helps to encourage the child to carry on writing and to feel more confidant in their own ability. I really believe these writing prompts will help to boost the students confidence and help to encourage individual learning.




I display the following on the board and talk about the importance of sensory language in descriptive language. I ask the students to think about the importance of the five senses and we have a group discussion about how this sensory language will help in descriptive language.


The 20 minute writing task:

Although this is the main task of the lesson; it is often criticised by students. This is because these students are not engaged with the lesson or just lack clarity with the task. However, students who understand the task in hand are often the students who do not have writers block. I believe that each student needs to be given guidance which can take the form of a sentence. This sentence could be the start of a story or even the end sentence.

The following work was completed by a Year 9 student at the Hopewell centre. Although his original draft lacked confidence; the student has managed to redraft his work and it may look complete, but his tenses are a bit confusing. Nevertheless, the student has made an excellent attempt at writing a story from the following title:

Write a story, using first person, with the ending ‘there was no chance I could pass the examination now.‘

Below is an image of Charlie’s work

Charlie's Work

Charlie’s Work


Do students enjoy reading poetry? Probably not! However, we try and illustrate to the student, how easy it is to read and interpret poetry. The technical stuff and the terminology will become clear to the student over a short period of time.


Poetry is something I feel really passionate about. I believe poetry illustrates to the  students another creative process that uses words. Poetry is usually stignmatised for being boring. This is because students usually have misconceptions about poetry and feel poetry is full of love or Shakespeare language that they don’t understand. However, getting rid of these negative beliefs is hard, but reading children’s poetry illustrates to the students that poetry can take numerous forms, but most importantly, poetry can be fun and exciting!

The following example below is of Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake poem. The poem is found in his poetry collection titled ‘Quick, let’s get out of here.’ 


Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate cake.

And when I was a boy

I loved it even more.


Sometimes we used to have it for tea

and Mum used to say,

‘If there’s any left over

you can have it to take to school

tomorrow to have at playtime.’

And the next day I would take it to school

wrapped up in tin foil

open it up at playtime and sit in the

corner of the playground

eating it,

you know how the icing on top

is all shiny and it cracks as you

bite into it

and there’s that other kind of icing in

the middle

and it sticks to your hands and you

can lick your fingers

and lick your lips

oh it’s lovely.




once we had this chocolate cake for tea

and later I went to bed

but while I was in bed

I found myself waking up

licking my lips

and smiling.

I woke up proper.

‘The chocolate cake.’

It was the first thing

I thought of.

I could almost see it

so I thought,

what if I go downstairs

and have a little nibble, yeah?

It was all dark

everyone was in bed

so it must have been really late

but I got out of bed,

crept out of the door


there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?

Past Mum and Dad’s room,

careful not to tread on bits of broken toys

or bits of Lego

you know what it’s like treading on Lego

with your bare feet,






into the kitchen

open the cupboard

and there it is

all shining.


So I take it out of the cupboard

put it on the table

and I see that

there’s a few crumbs lying about on the plate,

so I lick my finger and run my finger all over the crumbs

scooping them up

and put them into my mouth.





I look again

and on one side where it’s been cut,

it’s all crumbly.

So I take a knife

I think I’ll just tidy that up a bit,

cut off the crumbly bits

scoop them all up

and into my mouth


oooooommm    mmmm



Look at the cake again.


That looks a bit funny now,

one side doesn’t match the other

I’ll just even it up a bit, eh?


Take the knife

and slice.

This time the knife makes a little cracky noise

as it goes through that hard icing on top.


A whole slice this time,

into the mouth.


Oh the icing on top

and the icing in the middle

ohhhhhh oooo mmmmmm.


But now

I can’t stop myself.


I just take any old slice at it

and I’ve got this great big chunk

and I’m cramming it in

what a greedy pig

but it’s so nice,


and there’s another

and another and I’m squealing and I’m smacking my lips

and I’m stuffing myself with it


before I know

I’ve eaten the lot.


The whole lot.

I look at the plate.

It’s all gone.


Oh no

they’re bound to notice, aren’t they,

a whole chocolate cake doesn’t just disappear

does it?


What shall I do?


I know. I’ll wash the plate up,

and the knife

and put them away and maybe no one

will notice, eh?


So I do that

and creep creep creep

back to bed

into bed

doze off

licking my lips

with a lovely feeling in my belly.



In the morning I get up,


have breakfast,

Mum’s saying,

‘Have you got your dinner money?’

and I say,


‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’

I stopped breathing.


‘What’s the matter,’ she says,

‘you normally jump at chocolate cake?’


I’m still not breathing,

and she’s looking at me very closely now.

She’s looking at me just below my mouth.

‘What’s that?’ she says.

‘What’s what?’ I say.

‘What’s that there?’


‘There,’ she says, pointing at my chin.

‘I don’t know,’ I say.

‘It looks like chocolate,’ she says.

‘It’s not chocolate cake is it?’

No answer.

‘Is it?’

‘I don’t know.’

She goes to the cupboard

looks in, up, top, middle, bottom,

turns back to me.

‘It’s gone.

It’s gone.

You haven’t eaten it, have you?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You don’t know? You don’t know if you’ve eaten a whole

chocolate cake or not?

When? When did you eat it?’


So I told her.


and she said

well what could she say?

‘That’s the last time I give you any cake to take

to school.

Now go. Get out.

no wait

not before you’ve washed your dirty sticky face.’

I went upstairs

looked in the mirror

and there it was,

just below my mouth,

a chocolate smudge.

The give-away.

Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.


I always read this poem slowly, then re-read it, but with more pace. This is to show the students how poetry sounds when speaking slowly and more quickly. The students response is often mixed, but most of them enjoy listening to the poem. Nevertheless, the majority of students seem surprised when they realise this piece of writing is actually a poem. After I have read this poem out I often asked the students questions like:


Did you enjoy this poem? Why?

How did it make you feel? Why?

Did the poem sound different when I read it a second time? Why?

Would you know that this piece of writing was a piece of poetry; if I hadn’t have told you?

When I told you that we would be looking at a piece of poetry today; what did you think?

Have you changed your opinion on poetry? Why?

We then talk about the poem as a group and answer any questions the students may have.



I then display the following on the white board and give the students a copy to fill in with their own definition. I do this to find out what the students know and don’t know.



I give the students between 10-15 minutes to complete the table. For those students who are more able, I give them a copy of the completed table and let them compare their answers whilst we wait for the other students to catch up.




Recently, my Year 8 class have been working on the poem ‘Search for my tongue’  which is written by Sujata Bhatt. Originally, my class was disinterested by this poem, but after reading it as a group and discussing it, I found the students were engaged and seemed confident about voicing their own opinions and thoughts about the text. Therefore, I feel this is down to the students understanding the concept of PEE statements in their answers. Once the students grasp this notion; then they realise that their own opinion is crucial to everything and anything they want to say. My year 8 students have finally grasped that their personal thoughts and feelings towards a text is more important in their answers, as it illustrates to the reader, how the student has understood and interpreted the text. Therefore, I feel this confidence comes down to understanding the concepts of poetry and creative writing and students being given the opportunity to be heard.

Annotated Example

Annotated Example

Therefore, I have found that students need to believe in their own creative ability. I think that finding and inventing new practical ways to stimulate the imagination and boost creativity in students, can be achieved, if the teachers are willing to be as unique, creative and take chances in their lessons as the students need to be in their writing. I believe that students will develop a better understanding of the creative world around them if they are shown that interpretation of any text is about opinion and textual evidence to support this. Fundamentally, students communication skills will improve as they will feel confident when voicing their own opinions and they will feel able to take chances in their writing when faced with a new creative challenge. I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but breaking away from the shackles of a computer generated world is crucial; to inspiring students to be creative thinkers in all aspects of their school life.


Remembering Subject Specific Words by Jill Maunds


Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat …

It’s getting the time of year again when pupils are about to sit GCSE final exams and we’ve been looking at revision, how to ensure pupils remember information and exam technique.   We’ve been looking at doing more mock papers, practice questions and how to tackle the exam paper.  Revision sessions in class have included going over key concepts and facts that pupils need to know and then answering past questions on these.  Giving feedback to pupils on these questions on how to improve their answer and repeating the questions in order to gain marks and doing the same with mock exam papers.  Pupils have been given revision packs, revision books and even video clips to revise from.  What I’ve found in all of this is that something is missing … the pupils are struggling to remember key words and terms, basic facts and meanings and without being able to remember these in the exam, on the day no amount of exam technique is going to get them the marks they need!

As a result we’ve gone back to looking at the key terms and meanings that pupils need to know at a basic level in order to have enough information to be able to answer short answer questions in the exam and give the information to be able to answer longer answer questions.  As departments we’ve been asked to focus on revision and recap as part of starter activities in lessons and have decided to look at using these as a basis for this.  I do feel as though this sounds very, very basic, but without the key knowledge terms and their meanings pupils simply cannot tackle the exam paper so I thought we’d give it a go.

The exam board provide us with a glossary of terms that are used in the course, so I used this as a starting point.  I then looked at how I could use these key terms and means for as many activities as possible.  My plan is to try to immerse pupils in keywords and to expose them to them as much as possible in the hope that by constantly revisiting these something might sink in!  Taking the words and the means (just for A at first) I’ve been able to do the following:

  • Flash cards
  • Draw an image on the flashcards to represent the meaning of the key term
  • Card sorts
  • Dominos
  • Bingo
  • Spelling test (sounds very old fashioned but they need to know how to spell it!)
  • Guess the meaning by reading out the key word
  • Guess the key word by reading out the meaning
  • Use the keyword in a sentence
  • Making file index cards with keywords and meanings
  • Produce a spider diagram with keywords and meanings for ‘A’
  • Finding past exam questions with the keywords and meanings and ensuring that the keyword is used in the answer.

These can be done at the beginning of each session to revisit the key term and the meaning as well as sent home for homework and revision.

Below are copies of the card sort and flash cards and the domino cards to give you an idea of how they could be produced.  None of these ideas are anything new but I thought going back to basics and trying out some old repetitive memory techniques might be worth a try.


Food Keywords

Food Tech Key Words



Fran Dean and Colleagues explore Traffic Light Seating Plans

Trying to get some of our “motivationally-challenged” students to put a bit more effort in has been at the top of my wish list.  Along with several colleagues I have been using a system of grading effort with coloured stickers whenever I’ve marked exercise books.

Students who work hard each lesson are given a green, those who don’t always work well are given a yellow/orange and those in need of much improvement a red.  When the students receive their book back the first thing they do is look for their sticker and read their feedback.

Those with green stickers can choose where they sit, those with orange or red sticker sit where I want them to sit.   Parental contact is made for students on reds and and after two consecutive ambers. One green student is selected for a reward (positive phone call/ referral slip/  text home/ sweets!).

I’ve found that this is motivating for the students and that I’m giving out more green and less red/orange stickers.  I’m hearing less comments like “why do I have to sit with…?” and the usual complaints that you get after you’ve spent hours devising what you hope is the perfect seating plan.  Students know what they need to do to choose who they sit with and that’s a good enough excuse to put the effort in!

Traffic Light

Traffic Light

We take great pleasure in being able to share this great text analysis tool developed by teacher  Robert Strang. You can follow Robert via @rstrang1989 You can download the text analysis tool here: Text analysis tool

Text Analysis Tool

Text Analysis Tool

An Experiment in Feedback


A couple of weeks ago, after 9b3 had completed their end-of-topic assessment, I decided to do a little experiment. Remembering the wise words written in ‘Working inside the black box’  (Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall and Wiliam, 2002) I I wanted to see the effects of handing back an assessment without including the students’ levels. The results, in my opinion, were astonishing.

Before I summarise the results it is necessary to explain a bit about both the assessment and the class. In RE we use standard assessments for Key Stage 3 to ensure fairness and reduce subjectivity in the marking of assessments. Each assessment is out of 30, but as the final two questions are aimed at level 6-7 students, these final two questions are not given to each class. Any student who completes the assessment in the set time and (after checking thoroughly) wishes to attempt the higher level questions will be given the higher paper. Each assessment has a total of 30 marks available, allowing students to achieve up to a level 7a (but some students are given questions 1-20 only, allowing them to achieve up to a 5a). If a student achieves a 7a they are given extra time in the following lesson to complete a level 8 question.

The data for this class shows them to all be working at level 4-5 with challenge targets of 4-5 also. In class, their work is often of a high standard, however in assessments, they often let themselves down. This is, I believe, due to a lack of revision.

Usually when handing back an assessment, I would have the students write down, in the back of their exercise books, their mark out of 30, their level and their improvement strategy. I would then get them to redo one of the assessment questions. For example, if a student only achieved 2/4 for an ‘Explain …’ question, then it is likely that their target would be ‘Use the word ‘because’ or the phrase ‘This means that ‘ to explain your answers.’ They would then redo the 4 mark question, ensuring they used one of these words/phrases.

This time I wanted to see how these students would react if they were not given their levels. Would they read the feedback more carefully, or would they just demand their level? The answer is a bit of both!

They received their assessments back with only a mark out of 30 and an improvement strategy on. It was explained to the class that after they had written down their improvement strategy and made the necessary improvements that they would be given their levels. As I started to hand the assessments back, I heard many students making noises of disappointment: “I only got 11 out of 30. That’s ****!” I was trying to both console them and reiterate the importance of revision when one student said, “Can I do it again?” Then they all started to show signs of agreement. When asked how many students would want to redo the assessment after some whole-class revision, all but two students put up their hands. I was astonished!

After a quick discussion with the Teaching Assistant, we decided to postpone the lesson I had planned in favour of redoing the assessment. I talked through the command words and some other general bits of advice, getting the students to annotate their assessments in red pen while I was talking. Then the students were asked to teach each other. For each of the 5 questions, I asked students to put up their hands if they had achieved full marks for that question. Students who had not achieved highly on that answer were then asked to look around the room so they knew who to go to to teach them. After some time where students were allowed to discuss and compare answers and basically teach each other, they were given the assessment for a second time.

When I marked the assessment that evening I was elated! Every single student had improved on their original attempt. Two students improved by one mark only, meaning they did not move up a sub level. But every other student did. The other results were as follows:


8 improved by one sub level.

5 improved by two sub levels.

5 improved by three sub levels.

1 improved by four sub levels and

1 improved by five sub levels!


We still have to tackle the problem of revision but I think this has taught me that some of the students really do want to do their best. I believe it was because they did not receive their levels and could not measure their progress (and therefore be either completely disheartened or complacent) that they had such a passion to improve. I am going to continue to return assessments in this way and am trialling this with marking some KS3 books as well. It is the personalised feedback and improvement strategies that must come first and I think this is a good way of ensuring that this happens.

Revision Postcards by Avril Moulds

At the moment one of my greatest challenges in this life is convincing my  15 year old daughter that revision really is quite important. I have spent ages trying to make things more exciting or appealing with very little effect. Then I tried learning postcards (and you had thought the RollaDesk was obsolete!) to record information at the end of a period of study.



The card was small and didn’t seem as much effort as some of my previous suggestions of mind maps and infographics.

I piloted the idea with my favourite guinea pig (my daughter) then one of my year 11 classes and so far the feedback has been fantastic!


In light of the changes in many qualifications to linear examinations the problem of how to make sure knowledge is secured is increasingly a challenge for teachers. I have found this is an easy way of keeping track and creating effective revision notes. They also make great plenary cards. A key factor in their success is making sure whatever is written is used again the next lesson and then used again as revision notes.


One problem that I did experience was with storing them. The old RollaDesk storage systems are no longer readily available so I came upon the technical idea of an envelope stuck into books! So simple I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. Although I love technology sometimes the simplest of things are the most effective.


You can download the Ten RE Exam Commandments by our RE team here: The Ten RE Commandments

RE teacher, Holly Lockyer, shares Private Study resources

As part of my Professional Development Review (PDR) this year I have been focusing on ‘private study’ and how I can differentiate it for the needs of students in my classes. I have focused on Year 11 as I have 11a/RE1 this year who all have very high challenge targets and therefore my ensuring I set challenging tasks to extend their knowledge and ensure they revise the content for each topic it will hopefully help to embed the key knowledge they need for their GCSE RE examination.

I started with the Death and the Elderly private study booklet and developed from this to the Rich and poor in British society and finally the Crime and Punishment society booklets complete with a revision poster to even further support students in their revision.

I also ensured to include when revision sessions were available and who with to promote revision even further with our Year 11 students.

I found that on 2 occasions I had students come to RE revision to work on different private study tasks and ask for help and support with something they didn’t fully understand within the lesson. This allowed me time to explain and ensure understanding for the students to further help them prepare for their exam.

Private study booklets:

Crime and punishment private study booklet

Rich and poor in British society private study booklet

Death and the elderly private study tasks

Revision Audit in Geography

Revision Audit - Geography

Revision Audit – Geography

To make sure students know what they need to revise the Geography department has introduced revision audits. Below are several revision audits used by the Geography department. Each document simply lists the key areas covered in a unit of the specification. The students identify how confident they feel about their knowledge of the topic. From this they can develop a revision timetable. The columns labelled 1-3 are used to record the number of times they have revised the topic. The tick the test column once they have tested themselves e.g. completed an exam question.

AQA A – Rocks, Resources and Scenery

AQA A – The Coastal Zone

AQA A – The Restless Earth

RE Revision Resources by Holly Lockyer

Holly Lockyer, RE teacher at Archbishop Sentamu Academy shares revision resources and techniques used with Key Stage 4 students.

Exam Question Audit
To aid our students in their understanding of exam questions and the skills they will need for their exam I have constructed this document to show them the last 4 years questions that have appeared on the GCSE examination for religious studies.

I have used this in lessons and asked students to read through the questions and colour the questions red/amber/green. Students coloured in red questions they didn’t understand, amber – questions they were not 100% confident on and green for questions they would have no problem answering. The purpose of this was to check the actual exam content was understood and to boost confidence in understanding the structure of the exam questions.

RE Questions – last 5 yrs

Revision Maps
This revision resource has been used for students of all abilities. I wrote the key topic titles on each section of the revision map to focus students revision.

I encouraged my higher ability students to read the information given in the revision guide and only write down information they didn’t know/couldn’t remember.

With lower ability students I created some revision sheets and encouraged them to read them and then make short bullet points and key words.

Revision Maps

Snakes and Ladders Revision
This snakes and ladders revision game is intended to encourage students to work on several elements of the GCSE course and skills. There are key word questions, explain/describe questions and key religious teachings that students must learn.

This is differentiated by outcome as students depending on their ability will explain further and give more in depth answers on the positive/negative describe questions.

One of my students in 11a/RE1 actually said today, ‘I love snakes and ladders’. This aim of this revision tool is to encourage students to revise but in a fun way and in groups to work on collaborative learning skills.

Death and the elderly – SNAKES AND LADDERS

Matters of life SNAKES AND LADDERS

Snakes and ladders TEMPLATE


Crime and punishment SNAKES AND LADDERS

Revision Videos
I created these revision videos as part of our Research and Development project at the start of the year. I have used this as a pictionary revision tool, showing students the images, asking them the key word and then asking them to tell me the definition and explain what it means. For higher ability students I asked them if they could link a religious teaching to the key word, for example – factory farming – Buddhists would be against it as it is not looking after the animals with the ‘right intention’ they are not free to roam outside, the animals are kept in small indoor spaces, often in cages for the entirety of their lives.

You can view the videos here: http://www.sentamu.com/re/

Exam question templates 
I used the AQA exam specification and examiners guidance to create these exam question templates. As a department we have used these in lessons and to set private study tasks so that students get used to the wording of the actual examination criteria. This allows students to see what they must include to gain full/high marks.
I have also ensured that when students peer assess after completing an exam question, they must use the wording of the criteria to set a target if their parent has not achieved full marks. For example, ‘to gain full marks you must show further understanding by explaining your answer further’.

2 mark question
3 mark describe question
3 mark explain question
3 mark opinion:statement question
Describe 4 mark question
4 mark explain question
5 mark explain question
6 mark question – statement

For and against revision grid
I created this revision resource to support students in structuring 6 mark opinion questions. This is the question worth the most marks on the AQA examination we enter our students for. As it is opinion based, this grid is used to help students think of points they could use to gain the higher level marks in the 6 mark examination criteria. Students use the sheet to give a for/against/Christian and Buddhist point of view for each of the key words. It helps students in remembering and retaining the key words but also helps students to structure their exam questions as to gain 6 marks they must include for/against/religious views and a personal opinion.

For and Against


Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail by Lisa Holbrook

The students in my classes will tell you that one of my favourite motos is ‘Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail’ (my other is: ‘How long is a piece of string’).

Planning, in my opinion, is the most important part of the writing process; it gives the writer a clear, focussed place to start. In a plan there is room for mistakes, for movement of ideas, the ability to perfect content and structure, to determine what is important and what is not.

I first discovered writing skeletons about five years ago when my son was in year six; he’d been given booklets to help him plan for his SATS test and I was interested in how they worked. Armed with the name of the creator of the designs (Sue Palmer), I googled them, I was impressed by the simplicity of them, and decided to give them a try.

The writing skeletons offer the opportunity for students to work through their ideas in a logical sequence  rather than just throwing all their ideas down on a mind-map (the modern ‘buzz’ plan of choice), the skeletons allow students to see the shape of the piece they are writing which helps them to understand what the teacher is asking of them.

The plan can be completed in many ways, key words can be attached to the frame, key information, diagrams, pictures can be used as a reminder/ basis for development; basically anything that sums up a chunk of meaning and makes it memorable. The process is a way of making thoughts, learning, and ideas visible.

A blank sheet of paper, a blank screen can be incredibly intimidating and the pressure of creating a master piece from scratch is a daunting task. The plan/ skeleton helps to make writing productive.

The students that we teach on a daily basis come to us from all walks of life and range hugely in their ability to write, Palmer says: ‘To be a fluent writer you need good spoken language skills, good reading skills, the ability to think clearly and organise your thoughts coherently.

These skeletons help the thinking and clarity, it’s a halfway house between what’s going on in the head and the finished product- the content is there it just needs to be converted into writing.

Students benefit from the skeletons as they are focussing their thoughts on one task at a time rather than trying to think/plan/structure and write all at once.

We live in a massively visual age, we want to see and understand information as quickly as possible- the skeletons allow the students to do this.

There are five different writing skeletons, each with its own focus:


recount skeleto

The recount skeleton allows pupils to plan something in chronological order, there’s a clear start and things are plotted in the order of events until the end.



Report Skeleton

The report skeleton allows the students to give lots of information about a specific topic. It allows students to think about all of the things that are associated with the topic and then decide which order would be best to look at them.



Discussion Skeleton

This discussion skeleton allows arguments and information to be seen from different viewpoints, it also helps students see which argument holds the most strength; this allows them to choose an argument they can win, and avoids the problem of running out of steam.



Persuasion Skeleton

The persuasion skeleton (or I call it nose and whiskers), makes a case for a particular point of view- what it also does is encourage students to elaborate on their point using the whiskers.

My students are very good at offering points, however they always need encouragement to state why they think what they think, this skeleton expects them to add that information to the plan.



Explanation Skeleton

To explain something clearly it is necessary to put the information into a series of logical steps; begin with a general statement and then continue with the series of events.

Year 10b4:

Below are pictures of how the planning tool has been used in my lesson;

Example 1


Example 2


Example 3


Example 4

Year 10 have used it to plan a speech that discusses how the media uses photo-shop to set unrealistic expectations.

The photographs make it clear that there is a clear pattern of thought, they also help the students to see a clear structure for their argument.

As a result of planning, expected progress has been made- with some students exceeding their projected target grade.

Skeletons can be downloaded below:

Writing Skeletons templates for planning < Keynote

Writing Skeletons templates for planning < PDF

You can also access copies by following the link: new teacher homepage accessible in ASA by opening Safari > toolbox > skeletons

Below are the presentations used during CPD sessions on Monday 28th April 2014.

Profoundly Good – ABe

Making Learning Stick – AMo


What_is_challenge – DCr


Revision techniques infographic

Revision techniques infographic

If you would like to customise or edit this poster we’ve made this document available as a Keynote file below. All we ask is that you credit the poster as follows: Based on the work of staff from Archbishop Sentamu Academy – www.teachingandlearningtoday.co.uk

Revision Techniques_09

6 steps to revision poster

6 steps to revision poster

If you would like to customise or edit this poster we’ve made this document available as a Keynote file below. All we ask is that you credit the poster as follows: Based on the work of staff from Archbishop Sentamu Academy – www.teachingandlearningtoday.co.uk

6 steps to revision_09


‘No Opt Out’

I recently downloaded a copy of ‘Teach like a Champion’1 to try and see if I could find a little inspiration for use with my most ‘troublesome’ class. The premise of the book is that it demonstrates 49 different ideas/techniques to improve the quality of your teaching. I felt sure that that I might be able to find a couple of ideas to try but was very surprised to find that virtually all of them merited my further attention.

Here is my attempt to describe my attempts at #1 which is called ‘No opt out’. The premise is that when you ask a student a question and they don’t know the answer (either genuinely or they are trying to exert some unwanted influence), you simply ask another student for their answer. I can see you looking puzzled ‘Why is it called no opt out then?’ and here is the explanation: when the second student has given their answer, go back to the original student and ask the same question. They now have the answer (provided by a fellow student) and so should be able to ask successfully.

I tried this with a couple of classes, not sure exactly how it would be received, but determined to at least try it over the course of a lesson or two. The first question, posed randomly, was directed at a student who often wants to be the centre of attention. I asked my question and it was immediately met with a response of ‘I dunno’ and some quiet laughter from the student and his friends. Instead of my normal approach along the lines of ‘yes, you do…’ and trying to extract the answer one detail at a time (often doing most of the work myself), I simply asked the question again and selected another student. Everyone looked a little puzzled but I got a correct answer from the second pupil and just when the original pupil thought they were off the hook, I asked them the question again. This shocked them and he tried to provide excuses why he shouldn’t answer such as ‘you know the answer now’ to which I replied I had known the answer all along and it was him who apparently didn’t. With nowhere to go, he repeated the answer and I carried on as if nothing had happened (but rest assured that I was grinning on the inside). That particular student has not used the ‘I dunno’ response again. He has answered some questions incorrectly but has always tried to answer. This has become the norm for all my classes and I’ve shared this with colleagues who have observed similar responses. My main fear was what happens if you ask a student and then when you return to them you get the original ‘refusal’. This has only happened once (I’m surprised too) and the only reasons can be that they haven’t understood the response (so ask second student to repeat their answer) or that they are deliberately defying you (and I am not going to tolerate that – time to invoke the school’s discipline policy).

This is an incredibly simple, yet incredibly powerful, technique. It breaks down barriers to learning and gives you, as the teacher, a little more authority in the classroom.

Try it and post your findings!

Bob Jackson


Click and Clap – A method to improve student engagement.

Imagine you are on a train and a very odd person gets on board.  You can see the anxiety in the other passengers’ faces as they wait to see if they will be the unlucky person chosen to sit with and see the rest of their journey disrupted by strange conversations. As soon as ‘the victim’ has been selected, everyone else relaxes (and if we are being honest, we settle down to ‘watch the show’). This is my analogy to posing a question and then randomly picking a student to answer – initially everyone is involved but when they hear the name of the ‘victim’, everyone else loses focus. I’d looked for ways to get more people involved such as mini whiteboards but they are usually time consuming and have a negative effect on the lesson. My solution is once again to turn to the book ‘Teach like a Champion’1 and the following is a really simple technique which forces everyone (well nearly everyone) to be involved, improves listening skills and lets you take a snapshot of  exactly where the class is in terms of its understanding.


The technique is simple , pose the question, select your victim and then……..

….when they respond, the rest of the class either click their fingers once to indicate they agree with the answer given or they clap their hands once to show that they disagree.

Responses need to be quick or it sounds like a field of crickets and has a detrimental effect on the pace of the lesson. If you are getting both ‘clicks and claps’ simultaneously then there are obviously issues with understanding and use it as a chance to address misconceptions. Because students responses are out in the open, if you didn’t see who it was who ‘clicked or clapped’ incorrectly, just ask and usually someone will admit it and then you can begin to address any issues.

I’ve used this with a couple of classes with very positive results, often the person I thought was least involved in lessons was the first to respond.  This technique is difficult at first because students often wait for other responses before giving their own. Stick at it and it improves rapidly.

The other major problem (and this affects me) is what if you can’t ‘click’? I’ve found that simply saying ‘click’ out loud, as the teacher, has actually reinforced the technique and students are happy to do this (some students who can use their fingers prefer to say the word as well).

This has become a technique that my students love to demonstrate when someone comes into the classroom.


Bob Jackson


1 Lemov, Doug: Teach like a Champion, Jossey Banks, 2010


question pic

Avril Moulds Looks at preconceived ideas about revision

Study (verb)

The act of texting, tweeting and watching TV with an open book nearby.

As teachers we have certain expectations of our students when it comes to revision. We also make certain presumptions (probably based upon our own experiences as children) about how students revise, what for and for how long. Those of us who are parents to teenage children will understand just how frustrating they can be when it comes to revision. However, with experience comes a certain wisdom, as we are able to (hopefully) work out what motivates and what ‘makes moody’ the average teenager!

Nearly every Y11 student in A population completed a survey on revision. They were asked questions about where they revised, what they revised and how revision could be improved. They were asked to be honest and say what could be done at home and school to support revision. Although presumptuous that A population represent our most motivated students, which we know is not necessarily the case, the majority do represent students who are expected to achieve a minimum of 5 A*-C grades at GCSE. It is by no means a scientific study but does give us an insight into our student’s revision habits.

One of the most shocking responses was regarding a designated study space ( a desk to you or me). Most of our students admitted that they do not have a desk in their bedroom. Only 31% of our A population students actually had a desk, dressing table or kitchen table they were able to work at. The majority of students revised on or in bed. Many of those who did have a desk in their room shared their bedroom with siblings so were not able to work in silence. These were the ones that stated that family were a huge distraction to revision and it was hard to find quiet time in order to revise.

Only 16% of those students surveyed informed us that they could revise in silence in their own homes. The rest cited that family, especially siblings, television and music were constant distractions in their homes. Many students commented that they believed their parent’s didn’t understand the importance of revision. Two of our students commented the opposite, that their parents had set times in which they were told to revise but these were not necessarily when they felt most motivated.

When asked about revision and where they revised only 15 pupils out of the whole of A population said that they never revised in front of the television! Yes, please re- read that again, only 15 don’t! The rest stated that they sometimes or always

revised in front of the television. The most shocking statistic was that 65% said they often leave revision until the night before their exam!

When asked to discuss what distracted them most from their studies every single student admitted that social media and mobile phones were their main distraction and most were aware that they needed to limited their mobile phone usage whilst revising. A large number also stated that family support for either peace and quiet time or to test knowledge would also be beneficial to their learning. Students were then asked to identify revision techniques that they used. The majority said they simply read through notes. The majority never looked on websites or revision sites or used a revision timetable.

When asked what they would like from the academy to help support revision they made the following suggestions:

• provide after school clubs/support;
• subject revision sessions;
• provide school made revision booklets;
• sell GCSE revision books, provide revision timetables;
• revision videos made by staff;
• provide revision paper and pens, and a revision website. • Open the academy for longer hours!

These suggestions whilst great don’t necessarily link with the findings. A student who revises the night before an examination in front of the television is hardly likely to attend additional after school sessions or watch a revision video.

Our task now is to change the revision mindset. This applies to us all; staff, students and parents. We need to ensure students see revision as something that is both positive and beneficial. This needs to be as ingrained into their study as high expectations and target grades are. Effort and achievement are inextricably linked. A student who works hard is more likely to achieve. Revision needs to be subject specific and focused. Revision timetables need to be provided in many formats. If these are the norm, revision will follow.

Over the next few weeks we will be publishing revision materials and timetables. It’s time to teach revision.

I’ll be honest, as a pastime marking is up there with sticking needles in my eyes. It is time consuming, boring and often repetitive. To make matters worse all of this is in vain if pupils do nothing with the carefully crafted words of wisdom offered. So, we need to be smarter. How about reducing the amount of time we spend marking by using keys for formative feedback then planning dedicated improvement and reflection time (DIRT) in lessons for pupils to make appropriate improvements or practice the skills and/or knowledge they have recently gained (a bit less to plan for the lesson too!).

Below are a range of examples of the use of marking keys and learners being given the opportunity to act on feedback from teachers at Archbishop Sentamu Academy.

The example below is from a maths exercise book.

Feedback, marking keys and DIRT in Maths

Feedback, marking keys and DIRT in Maths

The example from Maths above shows:

1. Positive reinforcement about effort
2. An area for improvement
3. A symbol linked to a started activity next lesson which will help develop the skills / knowledge the pupil needs to work on (see image below)
4. An effort sticker (these are RAG rated – then students are seated according to effort – see our blog post on Improving Attitudes to Learning)
5. Time allocated to making the appropriate improvements the next lesson (DIRT)
6. Learner response to teacher comments

Dedicated improvement time. The symbol the teacher has put in the pupils exercise book corresponds to a starter activity  next lesson which is designed to help develop knowledge / understanding in an area where he/she needs to develop or consolidate

Dedicated improvement time. The symbol the teacher has put in the pupils exercise book corresponds to a starter activity displayed on the whiteboard at the beginning of the next lesson which is designed to help develop knowledge / understanding in an area where he/she needs to develop or consolidate

The example below is from a research lesson on the tropical rainforest in Geography. The pupils were asked to research 6 key questions relating to the rainforest.

Rainforest research sheet

This is the sheet the students used to research issues relating to the tropical rainforest.

After their first lesson completing research the teacher started marking the work (see below) and it was obvious that they needed some further guidance to help deepen their responses.

Formative feedback in geography

The teacher started writing detailed formative comments on the work. The response by the pupil can be seen at the top of the page.

The teacher soon realised it was going to be a long night marking all 26 research sheets in this level of depth. Therefore an improvement challenge sheet was developed with an associated key to help reduce the amount of time it took to go over the 26 research sheets. The marking key and an example of a pupil acting on feedback is included below.

Example of marking key and DIRT in geography

The image above shows the marking key the teacher introduced and en example of a pupil acting on feedback.

Below is an example of a teacher time saver in Technology.

Pupils work on the large sheet as shown below.

Example of technology work

Pupils complete their work on the large sheet.

Formative feedback is given via the green pen and oral feedback.

verbal feedback stickers being used as part of formative assessment

Verbal feedback stickers are used by the students to record the feedback given to then during lessons.


Example of formative and summative assessment

The teacher uses green pen to indicate progress using the levelled check list and give formative feedback comments. Red pen is then used for the summative assessment.




At the start of every year, term or after a poor lesson, thousands of teachers sit down to try and devise the perfect seating plan for their classes. I’ve personally spent hours moving names around the page trying to achieve the perfect balance between keeping my students happy and ensuring my weaker students or ones with challenging behaviour make the maximum amount of progress. The next lesson, as students enter the room to be greeted by the new seating plan on the IWB, my perfect seating arrangement is ripped to shreds as I find out that 2 of my pupils are not allowed to sit together or a hardworking student is distraught at being moved away from her friend who she works well with, to end up with the ‘class clown’ next to her, as I try to surround him with conscientious students so that he doesn’t have an audience.

My personal solution gives the students some choice, rewards the hardest working and avoids many of the problems I routinely come across. For the last few years, when marking books I always use a coloured sticker to indicate each student’s level of effort. These colours are green (good), yellow (disappointing) and red (unacceptable).

An example of the use of coloured stickers for effort / attitude to learning

An example of the use of coloured stickers for effort / attitude to learning

At ASA, I am expected to mark exercise books at least every 2 weeks (which is a good match for this approach) and I have adopted the following system to seating to fit in with this requirement. After I have marked the books, I designate some of the desks for students with red stickers (usually at the very front of the classroom), another area (usually behind the ‘red area’) for the yellows and the rest of the room is available for the remaining ‘green students’.

Colour coded seating plan which corresponds with coloured stickers in pupils books.

Colour coded seating plan which corresponds with coloured stickers in pupils books.

Students with green stickers have free choice as to who they sit with (as long as they also have a green sticker), yellows also have a degree of choice and reds are directed as to who they will sit with. As always, I reserve the right to move any student if I feel that their choice isn’t working. Because of the fact that a red sticker denotes an unacceptable effort level (over possibly a 2 week time frame), those students can expect me to make contact with their parents. This also applies to students who have received yellow stickers for 2 consecutive marking periods.

I have been amazed by the impact that this has had on many of the students, especially the ‘reds’ who rather than complain about being moved to the front usually say that they will be green next time (and usually are). Students who are working hard every lesson not only get to choose who they sit with but also feel that their consistency is being valued. Once they have chosen where they are going to sit, I complete my seating plan which is a simple drag and drop exercise.

An important part of the whole process, are the conversations it promotes with students especially being given the chance to explain why I feel they deserved a particular colour of sticker.

OFSTED have just released their 2012/13 Annual Report for Schools and can be downloaded from here. Below are the key summary findings relating to Teaching and Learning for teachers.

Key points:

“The best teachers always challenge children to do better, minute by minute, lesson by lesson, day by day. They exude authority and accept neither mediocrity nor work that is less than good. However, teachers can only teach well, and challenge pupils to do better routinely, if behaviour in class is orderly and attentive.”

The ‘School inspection handbook’3 sets out what inspectors must do and what schools can expect under section 5 of the Education Act 2005. It emphasises the importance of considering the extent to which: teaching engages and includes all pupils, with work that is challenging enough and that meets their individual needs, including for the most able pupils

  1. pupils’ responses demonstrate sufficient gains in their knowledge, skills and understanding, including of literacy and mathematics
  2. teachers monitor pupils’ progress in lessons and use the information well to adapt their teaching
  3. teachers use questioning and discussion to assess the effectiveness of their teaching and promote pupils’ learning
  4. assessment is frequent and accurate and used to set relevant work from the Early Years Foundation Stage onwards
  5. pupils understand how to improve their work


In our ‘Moving English forward’ report,6 evidence from three years of the inspection of English found that learning in schools was limited by some common misconceptions about what constitutes good teaching. Inspectors do not expect to see a particular teaching style, but senior and middle leaders in schools too often mistake a ‘busy’ lesson for a good one, or adopt an approach to planning, teaching or observing lessons that is overly bureaucratic. Common misconceptions include the following:

  1. Pace

As a number of people are looking to experiment with the flipped classroom I’ve put together this post as a practical guide to creating and sharing videos using a Mac. If you are liking for background information on what the Flipped Classroom is there are lots of useful resources here:

Tech Smith website: http://www.techsmith.com/flipped-classroom.html and on Scoop it: http://www.scoop.it/t/the-flipped-classroom .

The Flipped Learning Network is a site full of useful resources: http://flippedclassroom.org

Lots of resources here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IOI5-tXZvOEVCFhoN5hlsccnRa-8_77nx3GDdB6C-tE/edit

Also worth a look is this eBook: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day

Kindle eBook (download the Kindle App for your iPad first!) – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flip-Your-Classroom-Student-ebook/dp/B008CIW2GC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1350850892&sr=8-2

Creating your video

To get started you first need to create your video. There are a number of ways this can be done. The guides below vary in difficulty.

Step 1 – Creating a video – beginner 

The first type of video, and probably the easiest to make, involves you recording yourself talking to the computer. To do this all you need to do is open photobooth on your Mac and record yourself. Below is an example of Gerard and Joe doing this.

Munich Putsch from ASA History on Vimeo.

To create your video using Photo Booth follow the steps below

1. Launch Photo Booth

2. Click record a movie clip icon (third icon along in the grey bar)

3. Click record

4. Press stop when you have finished

5. Drag the video file to your desktop (this is so that you can upload it to the web later)

Step 1 – Creating a video – intermediate 

The second type of video involves recording yourself talking over a keynote presentation you have already created then exporting it as a video file. Below is an example of this (it was my first go so be kind)

Y8 Rocks from Anthony Bennett on Vimeo.

To get started:

1. Open / create your Keynote presentation

2. Click on the first slide of your presentation so that it is displayed on the screen. Go to File > Record Slideshow

3. Talk over your presentation as you move through it.

4. Press escape once you have finished. If you have made a mistake go to the slide where you want re-record from then got to File – Record Slideshow. Make sure you select Record and Replace. You will have to re-record any subsequent slides from the point where you started rerecording.

5. Go to File > Export > Quicktime. The video will then be exported

Step 1 – creating a video – advanced 

Quicktime Player allows you to record anything displayed on your screen. This means you can open multiple files, images, internet pages, Notebook documents (including recording yourself writing on a page)  and even video and record it as you display it on the screen. You can also record a voice over as you display this information.

1. Launch Quicktime Player. Go to File > New Screen Recording.

2. Make sure the right microphone is chosen. To do this click the arrow pointing down on the right hand side of the Quicktime Player software. Choose Built-in Microphone: Internal Microphone.

3. Click the record button. You can then either choose to record the full screen or drag out an area that you want to record.

4. Record your presentation

5. Press the stop icon that has appeared in the top menu (where the time is displayed on your mac)

6. Go to File > Save > save the video in an appropriate place.


Sharing your video

Once you have created your video you then need to share it online with your students. There are a number of ways you can do this.

Step 2 – sharing your video 

The easiest way to share your video is to upload it to a video sharing site such as Vimeo or YouTube. You could set up a Youtube or Vimeo account for your department and share the login details so that all your video files are in one place. You can then share the link to the video via Show My Homework.


Follow up Activity

Step 3 – Cornell Notes

follow up activityIt is useful for your students to complete an activity during or after watching the video. Once thing you could ask them to do is to make notes while the video is on. You could ask them to use the Cornell Method of recording notes. The pupils generate questions based on what is included on the video, they then write appropriate answers to the questions they have written. You can find out more about the Cornell method here: http://www.usu.edu/arc/idea_sheets/pdf/note_taking_cornell.pdf    and here http://lsc.cornell.edu/LSC_Resources/cornellsystem.pdf

Step 3 – Google Form

Another way you get students to demonstrate their understanding of what they have picked up from watching the video is to get them to fill in a Google form. You can set up open ended and multiple choice questions in the form. When your students then complete the activity the results will be posted into a spreadsheet which will contain all their results. Easy for checking and marking!

Here are a couple of examples of how the technology department are using Google Forms with Flipped videos:



If you have any questions or need any help please use the comment box below.


Action Research in Teaching Using the PDSA Model

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.”


“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Wayne Gretzky

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed’

Theodore Roosevelt

‘Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly’

John F kennedy

The idea of trying something new in our classroom can be quite daunting, especially if what we are already doing seems to be working, is tried and tested and, lets face it, is sometimes the easiest option (because we’ve done it before!).  Failure…what if it all goes wrong, what if the pupils don’t behave or what if they just don’t get it?    Lastly, with the huge range of new technologies available, initiatives and teaching strategies it can be quite overwhelming deciding what to actually try.

The PDSA model of action research is a model of trialling and evaluating the impact of strategies to improve teaching and learning through small scale action research. Once the teacher has established a need, researched a strategy, resource, system or technology the model simply breaks down the steps to trial and share the action research.

PDSA Model

PDSA Model


Plan – To use one of the strategies or one of your own ideas and produce a lesson, resource, strategy or use of technology.  This should be small scale and is a trial run.


Do – Use the strategy in the classroom with one group.  It may take more than one lesson to trial this and it worth noting any issues or problems that occur.  Adapt the strategy if appropriate.


Study – The impact on the students (grades, interviews, questionnaires etc.)


Act – Spread the practice within your classroom, department through Teaching and Learning Today and Academy.


We’d like to know what you are trialling and researching so please let us know. If you need any support with your research please get in touch with any of the Lead Learning Team.

Improving teaching through research: Modelling Extended Answers.

Having been a teacher of a GCSE class for the first time this year I have noticed that the biggest difficulties my students faced were questions that required an extended answer. After speaking to my Head of Department, and the AVP for basic skills, I soon found that this was a school-wide problem.

As a result of this I started to research modeling techniques to find a way to help my students write an extended answer. In order to do this I had to analyse the exam answers to find where the areas that students struggled. I came up with a list of 3 major issues. First of all, the students did not include enough keywords to score high marks. Secondly they provided little or no evidence to support their answers. And last but not least they just did not understand how to describe, explain, compare or analyse something.

I developed an extended writing framework that included a focus on the key words that would be expected to be seen in a typical answer. It also included a list of all the command words used in extended questions and what these command words actually want the students to do. I trialled the framework with a high ability class and I modeled the process of breaking the question down into keywords, the key points and the things I would need to describe, explain or compare etc. At first I modeled each section in detail but as the year progressed I encouraged the students to be more independent and they would model sections of the answer to each other.

Modeling techniques such as this have had a huge impact on the quality of answers in the group with many students achieving high marks where previously they were losing marks. After the first end of unit test in October the class achieved only 5 C grades on the foundation paper, this increased to 9 in December, 12 in February and 13 in May. I believe the focus on writing extended answers was a factor in this improvement and as a result of this I have shared the

extended writing framework with my department and it is now embedded as part of the scheme of work for all GCSE classes.


What key words would you expect to see in this answer:

Look at the literacy board, what command word does the question want you to use?

Give an example of this command word:

List the key points you need to answer this question: 1)


Sort your key points into an order:

Using the literacy wall Turn your key points into an extended answer:

Command Words

Describe: Say what something or someone is like or give an account of events.

Explain: Give reasons why something is as it is or how it works.

Define: Give a meaning.

Compare: Write about the similarities and differences.

Justify: Give good reasons for.

Criticise: Make a negative judgement.

Contrast: Show the difference between two things.

Analyse: Explain your view of why the main points are important.

Evaluate: Make a judgement about the quality of something taking the evidence into account.

Discuss: Explain the advantages and disadvantages of something and give your opinion.

Research and Development at Archbishop Sentamu Academy

Research and Development is another name for action research in education. There are many ways of defining it but these are the most user friendly:

Action research is a form of investigation designed for use by teachers to attempt to solve problems and improve professional practices in their own classrooms. It involves systematic observations and data collection which can be then used by the practitioner-researcher in reflection, decision- making and the development of more effective classroom strategies.

Parsons and Brown (2002)

Action Research is a fancy way of saying let’s study what’s happening at our school and decide how to make it a better place.

Emily Calhoun (1994)

Action research is a natural part of teaching. Teachers are continually observing students, collecting data and changing practices to improve student learning and the classroom and school environment. Action research provides a framework that guides the energies of teachers toward a better understanding of why, when, and how students become better learners.

A. Christine Miller (2007)

So how can I improve my own classroom practice with research and development?

By working on a research and development study of your own choosing you can focus on an area of study that interests you. Even better it gives you the opportunity to work with other teachers and work collaboratively with staff who you may or may not be directly linked to your department.  With research and development the process of carrying out the research and being involved is as important as the results.

Research methods used – How can I evidence my research?

Action research lends itself to qualitative research methods, such as interviews, focus groups, observations, diaries, journals photographs and video.

We use the PDSA model -Plan your project, Do – try it out on a chosen class or classes.  Study – analyse why it was effective, or why it failed or how it could be improved. Act – share your learning and findings with others. Sharing the outcomes from practitioner based research projects is virtually as important as the process.

Others can learn from what you have done – it’s good to share and celebrate learning.

The process of reflecting on the research project whilst writing or preparing a presentation can improve the actual quality of your findings as this enables the researcher to think about their findings and analyse it in a way they might not initially have thought of. Sharing research experiences and outcomes can provide valuable lessons to others in similar circumstances or facing similar problems. Research  and development starts from the premise of changing something for the better.

Used within a classroom setting, it can be an accessible and effective way of investigating educational issues, gaining a greater understanding of classroom behaviour and a means of professional development for practitioners! A win win situation for everyone. So get thinking what can you study to make your classroom a better place?

More information to follow.


Remember the halcyon days of teaching? Care free without observation and constant new initiatives? Oh to young again! Actually no. When I first started teaching I was given chalk to use on my blackboard, yes I am that old! I hid my chalk and squirrelled it away from other teachers whose supply never lasted quite as long as my own. Supplies were always short and most teachers bought pens and even paper before the April budget was released.


So why you may ask are some teachers nostalgic for the past? Teaching then wasn’t driven by examination results and league tables but it wasn’t easier either. Without the tracking systems for data that we have today in place students often failed to meet their potential. Or worse teachers had fixed mindsets that students achieved what they deserved and it was a lesson in tough love if a bright student failed.


My daily dread were the cover lessons, as teachers lost free periods to cover staff absence. Woe betide anyone stupid enough to annoy the member of SLT responsible for cover as your name would appear daily on the board. I’ve covered every lesson in the world including boys PE when I attempted to referee a match where nearly all the boys seemed to be called Wayne, Dwayne or Shane! Non wore a PE kit and no one stuck to the offside rule! It was ace, anarchy in action. Did they learn anything- absolutely not. Did I? Yes you can’t ref in heels!


Smoking room was another thing of the past. Teachers would sit in their own spot in the staffroom and smoke! Hard to imagine this was ever the norm in most schools.


Inspections were also different. We had week long OFSTED inspections with teams sent direct from Hell! The worse thing was the three months notice we were given to prepare which meant misery and no rest in between. Give me a no notice inspection any day. Over and done like a visit to the dentist.


So would I bring back the old days? No absolutely no not EVER! I like the way Teaching doesn’t have to be directed from the top. Despite Mr Gove attempting to control all what we do. The passion for teaching in on the shop floor where everyday teachers do amazing and exciting things in their classrooms. Yes you! You do amazing and exciting lessons that make learning fun and make school a memorable experience. You reflect on your teaching and strive to improve it. Like our Academy moto you ‘aspire’ for more.


As teachers we are all reflective practitioners, we change the name of what we do and call it Action Research or Research and Development. But simply put it means we show that we are not afraid to try new things. Even if we try and fail, we try and learn. That’s what research is and that’s why we are good at it. So next time someone talks about the good old days of teaching, smile to yourself and remember they are not talking about teaching in general but reminiscing about Friday lunches spent down the pub! Take my word, the rest of it was rubbish.


 Bob Elliot looks at  – Using iMovie to create a Hook for lessons and to further enhance students learning experiences during lessons.

Hopefully by the time you will have read this, that my advice and experience maybe of some use to enhance some of your classroom practise or provide an alternative strategy for use in your classroom. One of the three Music National curriculum statutory requirements is Listening and Appraising is a third of what is delivered in the classroom. I create resources in iMovie that serve the following purposes:-
Focuses students, a different method of promoting Learning Objectives and Outcomes, another strategy in presenting new information and discovery and a change to some of the teacher led activities during the lesson.
Some of the material that I import into iMovie for my listening and Appraising activities are imported from YouTube via a programme called GetTube available on the Internet. This is a simple user friendly & excellent programme as it is easy to use and allows you to save Video clips in a format that iMovie recognises. The clips can also be converted to mp3’s if you need any audio clips. The iMovie allows students to see Musical situations as well as Listen and Appraise. As a music teacher, my philosophy is that students should have the whole experience of visual and auditory experiences. Once you imported the clips into imported to iMovie, you can add captions, voice overs ( I change my voice on the movie in a bis to confuse students as to who supplies the voice over.
When adding a voice over, you can control the sounds of your voice, as they can be slowed down or speed up and add echo to make it sound like X factor!)  I ensure Objectives and Outcomes are shared on the Video which are voiced to reinforce these and to provide an overall context for what they are about to watch and learn about.
Once you have added captions to explain your outcomes/objectives or asked questions relating to the nature of the topic, and experimented and fiddled about with the movie, you have a resource that can be placed into your keynote or as a stand alone movie. I usually type up an accompanying worksheet to ensure that students maintain focus but understand the main purpose as to why they are watching this and the relevance to the topic they are studying,
This has many benefits and in my experience, provides interesting stimuli to students and also a good settling activity should students arrive to your lesson in high spirits!  Hopefully this can provide another strategy that you can use or to enhance your current classroom practise. If anyone would like any guidance or to see any examples feel free to email or ask! Have fun!


Modelling for good practice in a practical setting

Simon Edwards, Head of Design Technology

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA BTEC Level 2 Extended Certificate Construction 2


Personally, whenever I start a job, be it at work or at home, I have a look around so that I know what a good example of what I am trying to achieve looks like.  Why else would Jamie Oliver put a picture of a finished meal next to the recipe in his book? 


Giving pupils the opportunity to see a piece of work marked at a pass, merit or distinction has played a vital role in improving attainment in my BTEC Construction lessons.  


My subject is populated exclusively by boys, so I cater for male learning styles which tend to be visual and kinaesthetic. I produce resources at Pass, Merit and Distinction before every lesson where the pupils will be producing assessed work. This gives them something to strive towards and compare their work to when it is finished.  


I start these lessons by giving pupils assessment criteria and several examples of work, ranging from poor to very good.  The pupils work individually and then together to look at the work, award grades and discuss the grades they have awarded and why.  For example, when they are completing a joinery task, I would show them several completed wood joints, give them the criteria and ask them to measure tolerances with a steel rule before issuing a grade.  It works brilliantly, not only to demonstrate the lesson outcome, but to give them an aspirational goal for the lesson. 


During the lesson I use reflector app on my iPad. This allows a video feed to be displayed on the board from anywhere in my classroom. I regularly stop the lesson to check progress of the group. Again, this lends itself very well to group discussion and peer assessment.


This technique lends itself really well to written work as well.  I can give pupils examples of work of varying quality, the assessment information, a box a highlighters and off they go.  They can then use this self-assessed work when they are planning their own writing.  


This technique requires a lot of work up front but once the resources are made, they are reusable and the amount of time you save in the long run is considerable. It will also improve attainment in your class by a huge margin. Give it a go. It’s proper ace!


Lisa Holbrook looks at how we level student’s work.

Lisa Holbrook
Levelling is Like Cooking!
What does a level 4, 5 or 6 look like?
What’s the difference between a D, C or A*?

Everyday we are consciously informing our students of what their projected level is; multi coloured graphs, basic black and white stickers or academic reviews all state a level to be worked towards-

Well Joe Bloggs, don’t you know you are currently working at a 5C and you target is a 5A?
Don’t you know that your target is an A and you’re only working at a C?

I’d like to ask you a question, this may seem random but bear with me:
How many of you buy cook books?
How many of you only bake/cook the meals that have a picture next to them?

I have to admit, when I first left home the meals I cooked were always straight forward, coasting meals, stuff I knew I could already make without fear of failure. Trying something new was scary and I was terrified it wouldn’t work.
Stage two in the cooking was trying stuff from books that had a picture- why? So I knew how it was suppose to look. That way I’d know if I’d done it right or wrong!
Obviously now I am a domestic goddess and can turn my hand to most things, but there was a time when I was scared of failure!

This happens everyday in our lessons, kids coast along doing what they feel safe doing; telling them they need to be a level and not showing them how to get there is a pointless exercise.

In my lessons I regularly show students exemplars of leveled work (many I’ve written myself). I ask them to use marking criteria to mark examples. I ask them what makes one piece better than another.
If they can see what we’re asking them to produce, what the difference is between what they are doing now and what they need to do then they are more likely to achieve it.
(It’s like cooking with pictures)

Peer assessment off the back of this will also help, mix your learners up- put your weaker students with your stronger ones, give them time to discuss the work they have produced and offer each other feedback.


I Just Called To Say…
Laura Aldridge looks at the benefit of involving parents.

Not too long ago, I called home for a student who I was concerned was not making anywhere near enough progress in my lessons because of his lack of effort and at times poor behaviour.  I was concerned that when it came to his exam, he just wouldn’t have the knowledge and the skills to be able to pass it to a standard he was capable of, so I thought I’d call home and voice my concerns to his mother.  When I spoke to her about my concerns, she asked me this: “Why haven’t you called me sooner?”  She was under the impression that everything was going swimmingly and was quite shocked when I told her how her son had been performing in our lessons.

If nothing else, the phone call I made served to highlight a very important question for me: how much do parents really know about how their children are getting on at school?

When kids get home from school, do parents and guardians ask them, ‘How was your day at school?’ and if they do, will the kids respond with anything other than a grunt and a shrug of the shoulders?  Or if we’re lucky a ‘Yeah, it was OK’?

I use phone calls home as a teaching and learning tool not only to voice my concerns but to offer praise and sometimes, just some general comments about how they did today.  I have recently been using this technique:

At the start of a lesson, all of the students’ names go into a pot and I tell the students that at various points throughout the lesson, I will pull a name out of the pot.  At the end of the day, those names – usually about five of them – will receive a phone call home.  Usually, the first thing they ask is ‘But what if I’m good?  Will I still get a phone call home?’ which leads me to believe that as teachers, the only time we call home is with bad news – I’ll come to this a bit more later.  When I explain to them that my phone call home will reflect the lesson they have, they get it: if they do well, the phone call will explain that.  If they don’t do well, it will explain that too.  I’ve noticed that with most students, the prospect of a phone call home does focus them a little more and encourage a better approach to their work and the lesson.  I think this is mainly for the reason that they want the positive call home, not just that they want to avoid the negative one.  It also makes for a good dialogue with the students at the end of the lesson – they want to know how they got on in your lesson and what you’re going to tell their parents and guardians.

This has been a positive trial of phone calls and I plan to keep using it with my classes.

Another thing I noticed, which I mentioned earlier is that we are predisposed as teachers only to call home with bad news and while I think it is important that parents and guardians know when their child has caused significant problems or cause for concern, the impact of a positive call home is equally as useful.  In my short time at the Academy, I have made more positive calls home than negative ones (which is a nice thing to be able to say!) and in most cases, parents and guardians really, really love to hear nice things about their children.  A lot of them are also very appreciative of the fact that I have taken the time to call with praise.  I have heard quite a few parents say ‘We don’t get many good phone calls’ or ‘It’s nice to hear some good things’, but the most common phrase from parents is ‘Thank you for calling.’  It’s also a nice way to start the next lesson with these students.  I ask them ‘Did your mum/dad tell you I called?’ which reminds them of their positive conduct in the last lesson and encourages it again in the next one.

Once a dialogue like this has been established with parents and guardians, if ever I do need to make the not-so-nice call home, it is good to be able to refer to the more positive conversations I’ve had with them as reminders and encouragement of the behaviour I expect and have seen from their children in the past.  And I also think that if a parent knows I’ve called home before on better terms, they’re more likely to support me in encouraging their child, because they know I’m not just ‘picking on them’ or ‘having a go’ – I call when it’s good news too, so there’s no excuse!

I would say I use phone calls home – either as a threat (which is sometimes enough) or as a more integral part of my day-to-day teaching – quite a lot.  It can be time consuming, and I don’t do it all the time, but the vast, vast majority of the time, I find that making a phone call home, like a good cup of tea, can sometimes solve a lot of problems.

For a technology geek I was a late adopter when it came to Twitter. I honestly couldn’t see much point in using this social media, with its 140-character limit, as a way of communicating.  Having taken the plunge and used Twitter for the last 18 months, and seen how others in the Academy use it, I have to admit I was very wrong.  So, why should you get into Twitter?

There are a huge number of people in education who use Twitter to generously share resources, ideas and teaching tips. Many teachers use Twitter to make people aware of new resources and blog posts posted on their personal / departmental websites.

In the Academy there are a number of staff who use twitter to network with other schools, departments and people from industry. Kat Johnson (@ASA_Business) has used Twitter to get work placements for 6th form students who participate in Career Academy. The Technology team (@SADE_ASA) has successfully built links with a number of Technology departments across the country.

A significant number of our students already use Twitter and can be easily engaged through this social media. Peter Croft has been running the Maths Department twitter account for several months (@ASAMaths) and has been setting daily GCSE style questions for students to complete. A large number of students (a number of which you might not expect!) have engaged in this.

Twitter is also being used to engage parents with news of extra curricular activities. The PE department (@ASA_PE_Dept) frequently use Twitter to share the results of games etc.

If you are interested in setting up a department Twitter account to engage students in revision etc please let me know and I’ll help you get up and running.

Twitter can be a bit daunting to the uninitiated but Twitter is anything but complicated! You simply visit Twitter.com and create your account. A little light searching using key words for your areas of interest will soon yield a list of interesting people to follow. There are plenty of websites offering advice on getting started and how to avoid a few common beginners’ faux-pas. The trick is finding the right people to follow. In terms of people (in education) worth following I’d suggest any of the below:


Once you are following people their ‘Tweets’ (messages up to 140 characters) will appear in your timeline.  You can send a public message to someone by including their Twitter username e.g. @theirusername and your message and this will be flagged on their Twitter account and they will see you have addressed them. You can send a direct message (private message) to someone once you are following each other.  Hash tags are words or phrases prefixed with the # (Alt + 3 on a Mac) symbol. Hashtags provide a means of grouping such messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it. #teach is worth a look as is #edtech. If you’ve joined the darkside then #sltchat might float your boat.

If you are concerned about students following you on Twitter is it possible to lock down your account so only people you allow can follow you and read your Tweets.

If you’ve not ventured into the world of Twitter set yourself  half an hour aside and have a play and don’t forget to follow our new Twitter account @tandltoday

Anthony Bennett

What do we actually mean by gifted and talented?

This article examines what we do here at Archbishop Sentamu Academy for our Gifted and Talented students and offers some suggestions to further develop in our classrooms and curriculum areas.  At Archbishop Sentamu Academy our expertise includes creating classroom challenge, critical thinking, personalisation,  independent learning and assessment for learning. Our aim is to inspire and raise the achievement of all learners through an inclusive approach. We believe that all learners are entitled to be stretched and challenged.The introduction of Challenge Weeks has been designed to challenge all students. With that in mind we now need to establish what we as an academy do to address those who are classed as either gifted or talented.

So who is gifted? and who is talented?

The department for Education states that:

‘Gifted and talented’ describes children with the ability or potential to develop significantly ahead of their peers:

  • ‘gifted’ learners are those with abilities in one or more academic subjects, such as maths or English
  • ‘talented’ learners are those who have practical skills in areas such as sport, music, design or creative and performing arts

Skills and attributes such as leadership, decision-making and organisation may also be taken into account.

Whilst we as an academy use a variety of strategies to support both gifted and talented students below is a list of different ideas that you may want to adapt and use in your classroom for all students.

  • Plan for differentiation for gifted and talented pupils as much as for pupils with special educational needs.
  • Differentiation need not necessarily be extension or enrichment. They may need something quite different to their peers.
  • Ensure that marking is based on assessment for learning. Gifted and talented pupils need to be moved on just as much as pupils at a lower level. Set targets just as rigorously and refer to targets as often as for other pupils.
  • Ensure resources meet the needs of and challenge these pupils adequately.
  • Not all gifted and talented children have high self-esteem. Teachers’ planning needs to involve activities specifically designed to build self-esteem and foster inclusion.
  • Use creative questioning techniques.
  • Ask open-ended rather than closed questions, such as those that invite discussion and opportunities for several interpretations.
  • Don’t accept the bright child’s answer first each time or allow that child to dominate. Give time to others. Using lolly sticks ensures every student has an opportunity to answer.
  • Equally, don’t discourage the gifted and talented child from answering.
  • Wait until several hands are up and you can see that several have the right answer; say (for example) “Five people have an idea on this one, six, oh, good, now seven. Matthew? Yes. And Katie, is that what you were going to say?” Pupils then feel that all those with hands up had their answers acknowledged, even if they haven’t had a turn to speak.
  • Play the “on the right track, getting warmer” game with answers, allowing everyone to have some input before a final answer is reached.
  • Place any gifted and talented children in the kind of seating that allows you to maintain good eye contact in lessons; to monitor for “switching off” or to agree that child will signal to the teacher when he or she knew the answer offered by another child.
  • Use a “point-and-pick” rather than a “hands-up-to-answer” policy some or all of the time.
  • Allow gifted and talented children to remain quiet in some discussions and to come in on the end or after the lesson if they like.
  • Provide explicit and clear feedback on identified aspects of work and/or behaviour.
  • Specifically teach thinking skills, research skills, study skills, personal organisation and time management at levels where these are appropriate.
  • Teach social skills, for example, sharing, managing groups, listening to others, giving feedback or being assertive.
  • Use the challenge weeks to develop project and encourage independent learning.
  • Gifted and talented pupils must be offered a climate in which they feel free to fail sometimes but not to fail deliberately. Stress that it is important to have a go and reason out answers, even if these sometimes turn out to be wrong. The challenge week 4 has a focus on ‘getting stuck’ and creating mysteries, this is  to develop an environment of challenge and learning for all students and nurtures the concept that learning to fail then correct mistakes is acceptable.
  • Vary levels of praise according to the personality of the child and include praise for the unusual insight that doesn’t necessarily come from the gifted and talented child.


As an academy we offer a range of ways in which we can support our students.

  • Acceleration – Students can be accelerated across the year or within subjects. Students in the newly formed  X population follow a curriculum based on the individual learning needs of pupils. Depending on subjects this may include early entry to GCSE. Alternative academic courses and possibly developing AS units with younger students.
  • Differentiation – an over-used term, it means creating something to extend the child in your class; richer or more challenging tasks. The term challenge is key here and the whole purpose of Challenge Weeks at the academy is to ensure every child is challenged in order to maximise their potential.
  • Teacher-student matching – matching personalities as well as learning styles, whilst some teachers use a seating plan and ‘cluster’ gifted students, we know that learning is deepened when they are able to teach others.  A teacher should use their professional judgement as to how gifted students are best placed in individual leaning situations.
  • Mentoring/cross age tutoring – matching younger or older students with similar interests/abilities to enhance learning of both. Many of our 6th form students work with younger students to support their learning.
  • Independent Negotiated Programs – student interest and skills determine the scale and scope of the project, negotiated with staff regarding resources, etc. This is evident in D&T where students have developed their project and presented nationally.
  • Competitions – individual, team, internal, external – there are heaps of them! We are always very proud of our house competitions  as well as the others that take place in a variety of subjects including English, Science, D&T as well as many others.


Further information and reading list for those who want to delve deeper into this subject:

Betts & Neihart (1988)

Practical Tools – Understanding Giftedness (the link to Gagne doesn’t work but the PDF files do and provide useful information and strategies

Gardner and Multiple Intelligences: Styles, Thinkers, Concept

Gagne and Differentiated Models of G&T and a graphic of the differenciated model here.

Article by Avril Moulds

Holly Lockyer looks at using marking stickers to improve progress in Religious Education.
Within the Religious Education department we have noticed that students love having their books marked and seeing the positive comments, however, they often do not acknowledge the marking and detailed staff comments when it comes to the next piece of written work or assessment. The marking stickers I have created for use within the department ensure students get both positive teacher comments as well as specific targets to help them make progress and move up to the next level.
The student comments box on the bottom ensures students make a comment back in response to the feedback which has had a very positive impact on the amount of work actually produced by students and the quality of work. Staff noted a real improvement in the level of written work in RE and commented that work seems to be more focused and of a distinctly better quality than prior to using the stickers. It also gives students the opportunity to ask questions and has lead to level lead discussions within my lessons.These learning conversations have also improved levels and responses from students.

After the initial introduction I found that students  generally have responded really well to the stickers and have engaged with them. I have found they like writing the comments back and it has encouraged them to ask questions about their levels and lead to discussions about progress.
Students feel they are being pro-active in their own learning which is brilliant.

marking sticker

Michelle Reveley writes about new technology in the classroom
iBooks Author and iTunes U Manager

I will discuss two apps that I have used to create teaching resources for 6th form pupils.

The first one is iBooks Author, this free app allows teachers to create text book style electronic books that pupils can access using their iPads. iBooks can be created for any subject and allows teachers to not only add text and images, but interactive elements. Such as: video, audio, presentations etc.

The second one is iTunes Manager, this free app can only be run using the operating system OS Mountain Lion. This is a great app for typing up units of work including learning objectives and task information. Web links can be added to the posts so that pupils can gain access to further reading. Also presentations, audio, video etc. can be added to.

The 6th form pupils I am using this with have already developed the skill to open the app and locate the part of the course that they are working on. They are able to work at their own pace as they can access the next task without me introducing it all the time.

The above two can be used together to form a great learning resource which encourages pupils to work independently and at their own speed. Of course this does not make the teacher redundant as you can imagine, pupils ability levels will always require teacher input at some stage of the lesson.

If staff want to trial iTunes U please contact Anthony Bennett for an account both he and  Michelle will be able to  support.

Inspire, Serve and Celebrate Achievement

I am a big believer in creativity and individuality; I want, and need, to be inspired daily by things that are going on around me. As an English teacher people would expect me to learn easily by reading, I don’t.
Yes, I’m a big fiction reader- new worlds, different experiences, but in the grand scheme of things- facts, figures and information are a real effort.

The students we have in our lessons today are changing, they are bombarded everyday by visual imagery, music, technology; they demand more. If we’re going to compete with the outside world and inspire them to learn we have to up our game. Trust me, this is not a death by powerpoint kind of article, (for the record I dislike power-points, especially the really wordy ones!). Our new macs are great and do all sorts of whizzy things, but there are a wealth of resources out of there for you to dip into that leave power-point and keynote at the wayside.


Youtube is one of my favourite resources, I use it all the time. It has helped me teach empathy, creative writing, persuasive writing, culture, the list is endless.

The key to Youtube is thinking outside of the box. Let’s say I want to teach year 10 the art of descriptive writing; it’s all well and good telling them the rules of painting a picture with words, or downloading a video of descriptive writing tutorials; but let’s face it, it’s boring.

I like to share something of myself when I teach, bring a little of me to the lesson; I am a big Mark Ryden fan, an eccentric American artist who paints pictures of meat, trees along with Jesus. His video video called ‘Incarnation’ shows the speeded up process of painting a huge canvas.

Ryden begins with a pencil sketch and slowly builds up the layers; by stopping the video at different points I can show my students the difference between anything from a G grade response up to an A*.

Although we’re working with images rather than actual writing they can tell me in great detail what the differences are between the images and also how this relates to their writing and the exam criteria.

If I was to do this with a written piece of work it would involve reading eight different exemplars and making copious notes, a timely and tedious process. The video itself is on for a period of four and a half minutes; pausing the video at regular intervals allows time for class discussion and focussed comparison with the marking guidelines. The class are fully aware by the end of the video what they need to do to secure their target grade. My job is done in less than half the time, they haven’t been talked at and everyone either loves or hates the painting (it’s one of those Marmite things).

Along with descriptive writing, Youtube has also helped me teach transactional writing; a topic where pupils are asked to give their opinion on something. For this task I used the Linkin Park video “What I’ve Done’ along with the Disturbed video ‘Another Way to Die’, both videos show the effects of pollution and global warming. Class discussion has a focus and the images serve as prompts to help create and secure opinion. If we add to the music, the lyrics, the camera angles and the use of colour we can cover a whole host of topics, again avoiding the telling and relying on the inspiration.

The old saying: ‘A picture tells a thousand words’ never was so true. Thinking outside the box isn’t just the job of the eccentric genius, it is, in today’s teaching world, a necessary tool of the trade. Youtube helps us in our journey towards creativity and inspiration by giving us the tools we need to harness thought and originality.


I like many people love music. Music we know can change our mood, remind us of a memory, a loved one, an experience in life; it can help us to form judgements and fall in love.

A tool as powerful as this can surely be harnessed for the greater good of education?

I teach song lyrics in the same way as I teach poetry; they were written to inspire us, to tell us a story. The music itself was written to awaken something inside of us, an emotion, a memory.
Our English Literature paper has a piece of unseen poetry that the students have to respond to; in order to get them use to the idea of looking at poetry I give them songs. I explain that they may not understand a song the first time they hear it, but having listened to it several times the meaning becomes more clear- this is the same with poetry.

I have in the past taught The Lost Prophets ‘Where We Belong’ track- it helps with stereotyping, anthems, imagery, biblical references, empathy, the list is endless. I am unsure that Ian Watkins had any idea that his song would be so useful to a teacher when he wrote it, but I am so very glad the words were put to paper.

Throughout history music and lyrics have captured moments in history: political crisis, war, famine, celebration, love, hate, dreams, etc. There is a catalogue of information and a wealth of knowledge out there just waiting to be tapped into.

The whole purpose of my writing this article was to share what I am doing in my classroom. I am a big fan of trying new things, creating and inspiring original thought. I want my class to tell me things I don’t know about a text we’re studying, I want them to bring themselves and their opinions to my lesson; I want to step away from the telling and promote the asking and the thinking.

These are just two resources we should be inviting into our lessons, don’t be afraid of it, embrace it and let it work for you.

Creativity in Teaching

by Avril Moulds

While science may lead you towards truth only the imagination can lead you to meaning.

C S Lewis

When I first started teaching I remember being given a list of texts that as a newly appointed teacher of English I had to ‘get through’. The task seemed forever boring and I spent many long hours thinking or wild and wacky ways to make these texts come alive in my classroom, some were hugely successful, such as making a film of Macbeth being interviewed on a Jeremy Kyle style show and held to account for his behaviour! Others failed terribly and I am not ashamed to admit it.However my errors were a learning curve and I was able to resolve why my lessons were not successful through self assessment. It is because of these failed attempts that I was able to gain the confidence to try something more creative in my classroom.

I was once asked by an OFSTED inspector how I could ‘bottle creativity in order to market it,’ I will confess my response, a mute silence was less than creative. If I had of found a solutiond iand devised a way to bottle creativity I would be a very rich woman today! This makes me pose the question what is creativity?

Creativity can mean different things to different people; for some it means

being imaginative or inventive, taking risks or challenging convention. For others it is about original thinking or producing something that nobody has come up with before. Some believe that the term ‘creativity’ only applies only to those who possess artistic talents. 

Traditionally, creativity has been associated with the achievements of extraordinary people such as Mozart, Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci, and a good deal of the early research into creativity has focused on the work of highly creative people or those considered to be geniuses. 

Focusing on extraordinary individuals, however, simply perpetuates the myth that creativity is about special people doing special things. Research shows that there is no specific personality type associated with creativity. It is possible to be creative in any activity that engages our intelligence because intelligence itself is essentially creative. Creative processes are rooted in the imagination and our lives are shaped by the ideas we use to give them meaning. We all have creative capacities but in many instances we do not know what they are or how to draw on them.

What is creativity?

Historically,In the past creativity has been seen as a painful or mystical process, attempted only by mavericks and AST’s!

Today, we are less in awe of the creative process. Now, creativity is recognised as a practical skill, one which can be taught and which everyone can achieve. It is a way of thinking in which we look at familiar things with a fresh eye, examine a problem with an open mind about how it might be solved, and use our imagination rather than our knowledge to explore new possibilities rather than established approaches.

Creativity is clearly important on a national and global level for economic growth and development. But there is an increasing recognition that it is key at an individual level also. Creativity improves the self-esteem, motivation and achievement of learners. Pupils who are encouraged to think creatively:

  • become more interested in discovering things for themselves

  • are more open to new ideas and challenges

  • are more able to solve problems

  • can work well with others

  • become more effective learners

  • have greater ownership over their learning.

Creativity learners become more interested in discovering things for themselves they become more independent learners. They are able to problem solve and work as an effective team member. They then feel they have greater ownership over their education. In a nutshell they become more effective learners.

Developing creativity

‘We really need to stop considering thinking as simply ‘intelligence in action’ and think of it as a skill that can be developed by everyone.’ Edward De Bono, 1982

De Bono believes that in order to foster creativity effectively we have to develop specific thinking techniques. He argues that although the brain is capable of great creativity and ingenuity, it is not designed first and foremost for this purpose and, as we grow older, it is more difficult to think laterally because thinking patterns become so well established and comfortable. Over the years, De Bono and other writers have promoted the view that creative thinking is something that can be developed by anyone and they have formulated a wide range of practical techniques to develop thinking skills. 

The main messages

Creativity is about generating ideas or producing things and transforming them into something of value. It often involves being inventive, ingenious, innovative and entrepreneurial. Pupils who have the ‘Big Picture’ be more creative as they have clear direction and focus and are not afraid of challenge. An idea here is to give prompts and get students to guess the objectives from the prompts or to devise individualised learning objectives . Creativity is not just about special people doing special things, it is the sort of things we do every day in classrooms every day it is something we are all capable of.It is the lessons we produce when we have an inspection and it is what keeps us awake at 4am wondering just how it will work out.  We all have the potential to be creative and creativity is a skill that needs to be developed. 

Creativity embraces both hard and soft thinking. The most powerful creative thinking occurs when the left and right hemispheres of the brain combine to apply both generative and evaluative processes. 

How do we develop a creative learning environment when we are constrained with curriculum? A curriculum which is fixed, compulsory may pose challenges stimulating creativity. But it is these very constraints that give us the challenge as teachers to focus on making our lessons more creative and stimulating to our captive audience, they are the lessons they enjoy and remember long after they have left the academy and the ones they reflect on when they talk about their favourite lesson or favourite teacher. However creativity is not a popularity competition it is about engendering a new and initiative way of experiencing learning where they participate and enjoy. At the new academy we are surrounded by new technology most of which the students are far more familiar with then we are, but embrace the challenge and take the risk, try using the ipods or comic book and lets get back to creativity. As I started off with a quotation about science it seems only fair to end on the same note, Albert Einstein once said;

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ 


creativity In Education‘2001, Craft, jeffery and Leibling

Continuum Press

Creativity in Schools 2007 Anna Craft

Lateral Thinking- A textbook of Creativity Edward de Bono2004

How to Have Creative Ideas: 62 exercises to develop the mind 2005


Jill Maund Examines how practical subjects use mini plenaries.
Teaching a practical subject it often feels hard to fit everything into a lesson.  Preparing for learning and a starter activity seems to fit naturally, as do learning objectives and outcomes, giving pupils new information, facilitating them practicing their skills in finally demonstrating their skills in the lesson.  However, when it comes to the plenary right at the end of a lesson it just seems hard to fit it in!

No matter how long a lesson is there always seems to be a student with cooking still in the oven, then it has to be taken out, cooled and stored ready for them to collect at the end of the day.  This is, of course, multiplied by 25 students and the endless battle for them to do the washing up, clean the work surfaces and polish the sinks.  It is really hard to force pupils to sit still for 15 minutes at the end of a practical lesson to review what they’ve learnt while their much anticipated baking burns to a crisp and of course no matter how many times I seem to ask them well thought out and planned questions their standard response is ‘Can I go and check the oven?.

As part of the TEEP cycle we constantly review learning and this is ideal for practical subjects.  Instead of getting tied down by the TEEP cycle I have found it useful to go back and forth between giving new information, practicing new skills and demonstrating learning, reviewing it at each stage of the lesson.

During a typical lesson I give new information by demonstrating each stage of making in a method for a food product, review what they pupils have learnt about what they have seen, ask them to apply and practice these new skills to demonstrate their learning and then review what they have done again before moving on to the next stage in making.  This means that pupils are reviewing what they have learnt throughout the lesson making the overall plenary much easier and less time consuming.

I have found it particularly useful to develop a set of standard questions based on Blooms Taxonomy that I can ask during each mini plenary (adapting them to match the lesson and stage of the lesson I am at).  By going through each stage of Blooms Taxonomy during my questioning and targeting specific pupils it is also possible for me to support pupils by asking recall and comprehension questions and challenge the most able pupils by encouraging them to develop their own thinking and apply their knowledge to other situations and scenarios.

This makes the plenary at the end of the lesson a far less onerous task and pupils are used to their progress reviewed regularly.  However, it doesn’t stop them complaining about doing the washing up!

Long and Medium Term Planning
At curriculum level their are long and medium term plans (sometimes called a Scheme of Learning) that will ensure that pupils are able to make progress.  How the development of these are allocated are very much dependent on on the subject area and staffing but it is vital that these are clear, share the objectives and outcomes of the course in the long and medium term and how pupils learning will be assessed in the longer term.  It is vital is that these documents do not become a ‘to do’ list or list of activities or pages from a text book.  The focus is what pupils are learning, what outcomes they need to achieve and how learning could be assessed.

As departments and practitioners we need to work together to ask ourselves:

As a department do we have a long term plan in place for delivering the curriculum?

Does the planning show what pupils are aiming towards at the end of the key stage/course/unit of work?  What do they need to be able to do at the end of it?

Does the course/unit of work have a series of activities/suggestions for activities that would enable learners planned for this purpose?

Is it clear how learning will be assessed?

Are regular assessments planned?  How often is often enough?

Is the method of assessment fit for purpose?

How do we make sure that assessments are valid, reliable and comparable?

Only differentiation has the answer!
By Charlotte Bowes
“Can I go to Student services”…… “ I need the toilet”. “I don’t have a pen”.
Pupils can be very persistent and creative when it comes to avoiding work. However, when a pupil does this we need to ask ourselves why? Is it general lethargy or have they created their own strategy to avoid feeling embarrassed, singled out or to stop their self confidence getting a beating?
We are all aware that meeting the needs of pupils in a class of 20 -25 is not an easy job. When some of those students have AEN Additional Educational Needs(which is the case in most classes), the task becomes even more challenging.

Over the next few Leading learning newsletters I will be focusing on differentiation and give practical strategies for you to use in your lessons (hopefully). 
There are many ways of thinking about differentiation. Good teachers manage to do it all the time, intuitively to some extent, without really having to put in a lot of extra planning or preparation. Phrasing a question in simple terms, moderating language, simplifying vocabulary – all of this can help to make the curriculum more accessible to pupils with AEN.
However,sometimes we need to do a little more. When many of our pupils have limited literacy skills, finding an activity that is achievable, but which at the same time shows progress or consolidates their learning, is no mean feat. This is especially challenging when there is no other adult in the class to support children.
Often, a simple adjustment can make all the difference. Three of these adjustments are; matching, sequencing and text marking.

This can be a useful activity, requiring no writing and allowing pupils to show what they can read, remember and understand. Pre-prepared and laminated cards will have a reasonably long life. Alternatively, paper images, a glue stick, and a pre-prepared grid/record sheet or simple page in an exercise book/folder can result in a good piece of work at the end of a lesson. It’s important however, to avoid the task being about cutting out and pasting skills; the child should be concentrating on the actual matching.

Use matching activities for:

  • Picture-word match: to learn the names of characters in a reading scheme or Shakespeare play; to learn and consolidate new vocabulary. Obviously this works only with words that can be easily depicted – nouns (eg science equipment), adjectives (emotional states/facial expressions) etc. It is also useful for MFL/EAL.
  • Number-word match: 2 = two; fifty thousand and eighty one = 50, 081 (more difficult numbers for able pupils).
  • MFL/EAL vocabulary: can also be used to match first language word to MFL equivalent: Hello = bonjour.
  • Number bonds.
  • Upper/lower case letter matching.
  • Mathematics signs; addition/add up/find the sum of/+.

This type of activity lends itself to games – ‘matching pairs’; snap; concentration; enjoyable ways of consolidating learning whilst also developing valuable personal and social skills.

Pictures, sentences or short lengths of text to be placed in correct (acceptable) order.
This type of activity can range from the very simple to the more exacting. You can start by sequencing a simple set of pictures showing a short process (e.g making a cake; planting a seed). Start with three pictures/instructions, advancing to five, then seven etc.

This activity helps with the development of sequential memory and logical thinking and can be used to record an activity or investigation carried out (pupils either insert the pictures into their books in the correct sequence, and/or use the pictures as prompts for talking/creative writing). More capable learners can sequence text; this activity requires them to accurately read the instructions, providing useful reading practice before thinking about the correct order. It makes a good paired activity and ensures that pupils read to the end of instructions.
Sequencing activities are also good for:

  • revision
  • learning about the past, present, future; putting together timelines
  • establishing routines
  • prediction – ‘what comes next’?

Text marking
This can be achieved with photocopy sheets, by using clear laminate over pages of books or as a class activity using a visualisor . Use it as a way of:

  • identifying main points in the text (in preparation for making notes/reporting back)
  • focusing on a particular theme (eg highlight all the words and phrases that tell us something about the climate of the country)
  • considering the use of adverbs or adjectives
  • identifying capital letters and where/how they are used
  • separating direct/reported speech
  • identifying ‘wow’ words.

Being able to differentiate appropriately is the key to helping children with AEN make good progress, and ensuring that they enjoy and succeed in every task I hope you have found this first section useful. If you have any issues feel free to pop up to the 4th floor.

+  Carol A. Tomlinson, Cindy A. Strickland,2007 – Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum
Linda Evans, 2009 – Putting differentiation into practice

How to Train Your Dragon- and ease your marking load!

If you haven’t ever seen the Dreamworks production of How to Train Your Dragon, I will briefly enlighten you. In the fictional Viking world  a young dragon slayer accidentally captures a dragon, finds it not to be his deadly enemy and trains it to fly for him.

So to cut my analogy short, dragons are friends. In teaching we are faced with many challenges and dragons to slay but the one we all dread ( especially team English) is marking! It dominates Sunday afternoons and evenings that could otherwise be misspent with friends and family.

We are forever examined ourselves on it, through quality assurance and if that isn’t enough are beautiful red comments are either ignored by the students or criticised. So regardless of what stage in your training or what experience you have as a teacher marking is and always has been a dragon.

Marking is well written about and this in itself becomes confusing, we talk about effective marking ( can there really be any other?)  focused diagnostic marking, distance marking and marking whilst the student is there, we have marking policies and marking quality assurances ( spot checks to mark the markers!) and it all gets a bit confusing and silly.

No one, not even a cynic like myself can deny that marking is the single most effective tool we can use in Assessment For Learning AFL.

We know from the research published that students look at grades and do not read comments so putting both wastes teachers time so with this knowledge safely tucked under our belts it is now time  to train our dragons – how can we do it? Easy.  My solution involves training your class- easier said than done with some classes as when asked to peer assess most initially make banal comments like “it’s lovely”, there comments stay safe for they fear upsetting their friend. Think about your classroom seating plan on this one, you know your classes so you can decide who can honestly work well together and who would clash. Every teacher is different but for an honest approach when you really need to know if your bum does look big in said outfit a friend can give honest critique without too much offence but sometimes it’s easier to take from a stranger.

First it is essential they know and understand the marking criteria. This will probably be the most useful lesson you spend with a class, especially at GCSE. Once they are familiar they can then use the criteria to comment, now here is the clever part! They mark the work for you! Yes give a student a green pen and they all become frustrated teachers desperate to put their comments on someone else’s work. So dragon trained? Well not really because unless you then look at what they have written and mark the marker it looses validity. Meet TAM,  triple assessment marking, simply put students work, they peer assess and make detailed comments, you then check accuracy and comment on the comments. It’s kind of like a learning dialogue or marking pen pals. I’m not saying you should do every set of books or piles of essays this way but it offers a solution that ensures two things, students become familiar with the marking criteria, something they need to do to improve and it decreases your workload significantly.  So going back to the film, when you start to train your dragon, expect a few set backs until it’s up and running then enjoy the journey and the occasional Sunday afternoon!


Avril Moulds

The Importance of AfL

“Learning has to be done by them, it cannot be done for them” (Jones and Wiliam, 2008, 5)

The importance of AfL is seemingly summed up in the above quote. If teachers could do the learning for pupils, pupils would be simply passive vessels, like motor vehicles, ready to be filled with whatever information fuel is deemed necessary by the ʻteachingʼ petrol station. However, pupils are not passive vessels, and they shouldnʼt be treated as vehicles, but as the drivers of their teaching and learning journey. AfL is one of the most powerful tools in allowing learners to take control of their learning, thus is of upmost importance as a teaching and learning tool.

AfL is a teaching and learning strategy which enables teachers and learners to seek and interpret evidence of “where learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there” (QCDA). To regurgitate my metaphor from above, AfL enables teachers and learners to see where they are on their learning journey, to work out where their final destination is and to produce a route guidance on how to get from A to B. The importance of AfL has been furthermore highlighted by government policy in the 2004 secondary strategy (DfES) as an essential technique in personalising learning as part of the Every Child Matters agenda. Therefore in terms of my modern languages classroom, AfL should allow me and my pupils to ascertain what they already know, what language skills they are going to learn and how they are going to learn these new language skills, thus is imperative to ensure each of my pupils progress to reach their full potential.

As a trainee teacher, the above theory of AfL is another ball to balance in the quest of achieving a ʻgoodʼ lesson. I therefore decided to break it down and focus on trialling specific AfL initiatives in my classroom. One technique suggested to myself by the Leading Learning Group was an AfL placemat. The placemat consisted of a piece of laminated paper detailing the task, some key vocabulary and the success criteria pleasingly presented with some images to make it pretty! The placemat lent itself to a year 9 writing assessment about food and drink that I was intending to hold in the near future. The task was to write an email response detailing specific dietary preferences to an imaginary French friend. As this task was for a FCSE assessment the success criteria I simply copied the levelling criteria from AQA in ʻpupilʼ friendly speak. I then wrote a key vocabulary glossary to enable all pupils to meet the success criteria. I also created an assessment checklist to be used for both peer and self-assessment. The checklist matched the success criteria of the placemat for pupils to tick so they could see what was missing to get to the highest level possible and hopefully the placemat served to show them how to get there.

The result of using the AfL placemat was quite astonishing. Pupils with projected levels of 4a were achieving level 6 in their written assessment drafts, which one might say is ʻoutstandingʼ progress. Also, the placemat meant that the lesson was very student-led with lots of independent work instead of teacher-led which is another area in which I need to work on in my quest to be a ʻgoodʼ teacher. I will definitely be using AfL placemats in future lessons with all classes as a tool to help my pupils progress in languages as well as developing further use of other AfL techniques.


DfES (2004) Assessment for Learning: Whole-school and Subject-specific Training Materials (London: DfES)

Jones, J. and Wiliam, D. (2008) Modern Foreign Languages Inside the Black Box Assessment for learning in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom (London: GL Assessment)

QDCA (2011) http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110809091832/http:// www.teachingandlearningresources.org.uk/whole-school/afl (accessed 22/02/12)



Assessment For Learning – Effective Use of Learning Outcomes

“You got to be careful if you donʼt know where youʼre going, because you might not get there” Yogi Berra

When thinking about assessment for learning and assessment of learning it is easy to get consumed with strategies for how we will assess learning and demonstrate progress, certainly within a lesson that we forget what we are assessment them for. It is important to look back at what our pupils are learning for and what we want them to demonstrate over a period of time in order to make sure any AFL strategy is informative and effective.

What do you want or would you expect cohorts of pupils to be able to achieve by the end of a period of time?

•End of a lesson
•End of a Scheme of Work
•End of a Key Stage
•End of Education

Outcomes Journey


By the end of key stage or KS4 course we would expect pupils to show a range of skills progressively in order the meet or exceed their target level or grade. Effectively establishing and setting out long term outcomes enables teachers and pupils to set realistic targets and plan for how they can be achieved. This means developing schemes of work and lessons within these that meet these outcomes, checking that pupils are developing the skills and knowledge that allow them to meet these throughout (AFL) and adapting and addressing our teaching and target setting as a result of these.

As a starting point in Design and Technology we looked at KS3 outcomes and what we wanted pupils to achieve by the end of this Key Stage. We produced an overview of this for display in all pupil folders and it is used as part of the assessment cycle to assess pupils work and to track and display progress against the long term outcomes for the Key Stage.



At KS3 Design and Technology pupils are set individual targets based on previous attainment and available data for the key stage and interim targets. By assessing pupils throughout the key stage it enables teachers and pupils to track progress and set targets. This enables pupils and teachers to assess progress over time and for pupils and teachers to make personal develop targets that are individual.

How Can I Improve


In the shorter term, lesson by lesson, the long term outcomes are used to write lesson objectives and to produce level ladders or success criteria for assessed work to ensure that assessment strategies are focused and effective. The department have produced AFL placemats and target setting sheets, as well as question prompts and queues all using the long term outcomes to underpin these.

There are so many ways of incorporating AFL strategies into lessons and schemes of work but we need to make sure we are targeting our use of these strategies to ensure that pupils are working towards long term goals that will allow them to succeed.

Jill Maund



The Learning Journey- Start With the End in Mind

How does a student make progress? We often forget that learning is a journey to put it simply a student need to know where they are going in order to get make progress. This is what Steve Covey means when he says; ‘start with the end in mind’. To use the analogy of a road trip, if you were planning a holiday on the beach in France but didn’t plan your route, you may have had a good or interesting holiday but you may not have managed to get to the beach. Students may enjoy a lesson you have taught but they might not have made progress. Students like to know the route, they don’t ask us what we are doing today when we are walking down the corridor simply to annoy us but because they are genuinely interested. Some, although possibly a small minority like to read up on the subject prior to the lesson. Most like to know that there is both purpose and meaning to what they are learning.

This means we need to be taking every opportunity to let our students know, where they are going, how they are going there and where they might go next. To do this we can establish a learning journey because for our students learning should be a journey of both discovery and of making progress.

I like to use post it notes and establish prior knowledge. There is nothing more irritating to a teacher to be told ‘we did this in primary…’ as they are about to start a new topic. Or for that matter for a student to cover old ground. So establishing what they already know influences on what we want them to learn and how far we can challenge our students.
The rest however is not arbitrary we don’t fill our Schemes of work with modules because they are fun or we we have taught it in the past, we look at our ‘end’ our Key Stage 3 Curriculum map and our KS4 exam criteria. That is how we ensure progress is made. This sounds simple when planning lessons but many teachers choose to teach lessons they have used in the past because historically students have liked it.
Establishing a success criteria guides students so they have clear expectations. They know not only the route but know the destination. It is important for students to see the finished product, the final essay or an A* response to an examination.

Many years ago I told a year 9 class they would be writing an essay on Shakespeare for homework. One girl brought her homework in with the title Shakespeare SA. I had failed to show them not only what an essay looked like but how to spell the word and had simply presumed this class had the skills needed to do it. I was wrong. Learning by mistakes is a powerful tool for teachers like students we need to remember it’s ok to try something and get it wrong, or try something new and not be brilliant at it the first time. As teachers we also need to ensure students are equipped with the necessary skills in order to achieve it.

When we as adults encounter new experiences or new initiatives we ask questions, how will this improve my teaching? Will my pay go up? Students are the same, inquisitive beasts by nature this needs to be nurtured and encouraged if we are encourage challenge and independence in the classroom (also in the new Ofsted Framework). Having something as simple as a question board in your room encourages this, we can then link the questions to our lessons. Some questions may not seem relevant to the topic but simply nurture an interest, so finding out where Shakespeare lived is not in the National Curriculum but it encourages the possibility for research. In science looking at atoms students may ask how we make an atomic bomb! This might not be an aspiration for terrorism but a curiosity to establish how something as simple as an atom can be used for destructive purposes. Students are forever being questioned, we differentiate them, ask open and closed ones, we use lolly sticks to ensure all are on task and ready to learn but often we forget to nurture questions from students.

Learning is not passive, we all need to participate not only to make progress but so we all enjoy the journey. So before you plan your next lesson try starting with the end in mind and get the maps ready for learning and enjoy the journey as well as the final destination.
Avril Moulds