Brookfield Community School (BCS) Sharing Practice

Category Archives: L&T Blog

Effectively using data

With so much data available to teachers in schools, are we actually using it as effectively as we could?  Are we being reactive or proactive with data?  Are we simply ‘doing’ data or using it to improve the teaching and learning in classrooms?  In this INSET, teachers were showcased how to use data effectively in classrooms, how to collate data to improve your teaching, how to review data, how to use key materials like transitions matrices and how to share all of this with students.

Jack Wainwright – Question Level Analysis

5 steps to starting and using QLA.1. You need to have an assessment for the class that they will sit at the end of a unit or topic. Assessment should aim to cover as much content and as many skills as possible. An old exam paper or exam style questions would be perfect.
2. Identify the content of each question and any skill that is used. Place these as the headings in your spread sheet.
3. Input student names and additional details (target grade, prior attainment, FSM, PP, SEN etc.)
4. Mark assessment and input scores for each question onto the spread sheet. Use conditional formatting to help colour code the scores (Green for 75% etc.)
5. Analyse the data of your group and compare with that of parallel groups and above and below. Identify areas of weakness that can be addressed during a reteach period and in everyday teaching

Pete Jordan – Successful Pupil Progress Review Meetings (PPRMs)

Top 6 things to make a successful PPRM:

1. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation:
2. Have data analysed in advance.
3. Come with some discussion points in mind.
4. Come with ideas for reteach/what to do next in mind.
5. Keep focused! Don’t get bogged down with trivial points.
6. Agree concrete, time scaled action points



Stuart Parkes – Keeping class data simple

Developing a Growth Mindset Culture – Afternoon INSET

The work of Carol Dweck focusing on the mindset of students in the classroom is an extremely important area of research.  Helping students make the change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset was the topic of discussion of our first afternoon INSET this year.  With contributions from John Fenlon, Jennifer Phillips, David Fawcett and our Head Girl Emily Tout, a number of ideas and strategies were shared to help create a Growth Mindset culture.

Emily Tout – Why Growth Mindset is important for students

In this session, Head girl Emily Tout explained why students should be aware of Growth Mindset and explained ways in which teachers could integrate it into classrooms.


Jennifer Phillips –  Growth Mindset and a ‘can do’ culture

In this session, Jennifer Phillips explained how she applies effective classroom strategies to promote independence and Growth Mindset in her classroom.  Here are some of the highlights:

Prove to the kids that they can do it; use specific examples whether in the past, verbally or retakes. Don’t just tell them, it is meaningless.

Praise process rather than outcome; they feel like they have achieved and it is the process that gets you there anyway.

Ensure that language is reinforcing the belief that they are in control, rather than being fixed; even when praising, avoid “you are great at that” change to praise specific effort and resilience to model for class and move away from “effort” being a tactful way of saying not good enough.

Always give an opportunity to improve and grow-DIRTY time and retaking assessments. they know clearly what they need to do and can see the effect.

Questions are just as important as answers, it is not always about getting it “right”.

Encourage a personal best and avoid comparing to others as this can dishearten and seem unachievable or lead to coasting

David Fawcett – Don’t just ‘do’ Growth Mindset

In this session, teacher David Fawcett explains why we shouldn’t just say we ‘do’ Growth Mindset.  It’s not about simply having an assembly or displaying a poster on your wall.  It is the constant things we do day in day out to promote a Growth Mindset that is important.  Here are some of the points raised:

Avoid seeing ‘Growth Mindset’ as the silver bullet of education.  Please don’t say you ‘do’ Growth Mindset otherwise it becomes an add on, fad or buzz word.  Instead build it as part of your everyday classroom culture.

Set challenge high so that learning is meaningful.  Avoid making tasks easier or assigning ‘all/must/some’ objectives as this limits challenge for all.

Model what excellent work looks like so students can aspire to achieve higher standards

Use self-reported grades with students so they begin to set themselves targets and evaluate their progress.

Encourage resilience/responsibility within learning through strategies such as 4B’s and stuck walls.  When a student says they ‘Can’t do this…..’, follow up with ‘yet!’.

Use DIRT time and critique so students can see how re-drafting, amendments and acting upon feedback improve work

Use a visualiser or images of students work so the class can collaboratively improve it.  Demonstrate how to make work better.

John Fenlon – Assessment and growth mindset

In this session, John Fenlon explains how to use assessments as a way to develop growth mindset, and make a shift away from the usual fixed mindset nature of them.  His tips for making this move are:
Change the experience of assessments ‘TOP 4 TIPS’:
Make them
More commonplace.
Low stakes
No grades
Students track scores.
Only progress matters – have they improved on last time?
Praise effort – not attainment.
Prove to students they are making progress:
Use the same questions over and over.
Reward progress with merits and shouting from the rooftops.
Distributed learning – use the same quiz 1 week, 1 month etc later

Embedding L@B into lessons

By Jennifer Phillips

I love praising process, not just outcome. I love the reflection. I love using L@B habits in lessons. I love that all pupils can achieve them and obviously that they are ‘Marvel’ themed. They are specific praise and really get the kids talking about learning. It gives a clear specific language which enables me to praise behaviours that lead to progress. I think it has changed how many of the pupils view themselves as learners as they are not only being judged on progress and outcomes. I think it has made them more resilient as the focus is not always on what band they achieved, it’s about how well they are learning (Which is what will lead to progress anyway). I think that they have helped with behaviour for learning as I can remind/question pupils about “being a responsible learner” which is positive and specific, rather than tell them off for being naughty or disruptive.
I think my favourite is “Determined learner”. I have used this especially for those pupils who always have a go, but generally get it wrong. It is heart-breaking to say that they have got it wrong, this has given me a way of praising their effort and enthusiasm so that they don’t lose it. I find these pupils can become embarrassed, ridiculed and in turn disaffected. Being a “lead learner” has meant that they have had specific meaningful praise. This has meant they haven’t been discouraged. Because of the modelling the class become more resilient as the pupil’s behaviour has been rewarded. It has created a lovely culture of being brave enough to ask questions and ‘have a go’.
However with so many things to do, and being a forgetful person they can get forgotten, so I ask pupils to lead giving them out, which has also been useful reflection for the whole class. So that pupils are involved I will ask them to tell me which L@B merit the person in question deserves, which has meant that they are using them, but is also lovely peer praise. They are on every table so that this is easy (however they could have their organisers open on that page).

Merit Slips

Merit slips
Carl made me A4 copies of the L@B poster and laminated them so that they are durable. I have cut up the posters so that I can give out; the pupils seem to see this as more of a tangible reward than just saying that they have a merit. Also when they hand them in at the end I can say well done again as they leave.

Lead learner Lanyards
On the second merit they can have a lead learner lanyard. There are just the merit slips, but I hole punched it to put a lanyard through. These can be used in all units for all years, so was well worth making. (Even though Carl did most of it!)

Clip boards
I have put the responsible poster on the clipboards as a reminder of expectations and after independent work they can judge how responsible their group was.

Desk Box
Resource pouches and dictionaries
I have pouches of resources with the resourceful logo on them to highlight the skill and give them a clear understanding of what it means to be resourceful. I also have dictionaries on every table and encourage them to use them rather than ask me for spellings. This also helps with DIRTY time, they are being reflective and responsible.

Stretching towards A*s – Afternoon INSET 4

Are we effectively stretching students to get A*/A’s?  Do we just focus on the more able?  Are we getting differentiation the wrong way round which makes tasks easier rather than making them think harder?  The afternoon INSET session on Wednesday 25th March focused on how we could apply simple yet effective strategies into our lessons.  It looked at how we can push all students to get A*/A’s, or at least help them aspire to get the highest grade possible.

Richard Charlesworth – A* to A (Focus the mind)

The following activities were all designed to develop consciously deeper thinking about a subject before writing about them with any authority.

Using functional English enables students to share conceptual understanding as a class. As a learning community they develop the terminology to understand and explain key terms in a way that they are all happy with. This is fundamental to deeper thinking and can impact upon reading and writing skills equally

Odd one out is a way of forcing students to evaluate and explain their thought process using contextual knowledge. Using a taxonomy approach enables students to engage where they feel capable with the task. However, the true A* student should be able to use their own contextual knowledge to recognise one or more possible odd one outs. The game can be played just as easily with dates or key terms. The ultimate goal is to generate discussions in class which encourage deeper thinking and the skills of evaluation.

Using hexagons or other shaped tiles to make connections is another way to achieve the goal of deeper thinking. The more associations that can be made then the more likely that an A/A* answer can be produced. The activity works best if the hexagons are cut up to allow movement. This way multiple associations can be established quickly and in a kinaesthetic way  the student can evaluate the strength or importance of those connections. This contributes to higher quality evaluation between factors or key concepts.

The final activity I presented once again concentrated upon the written skills of the student. By using sentence starters then it is possible to extend an already good piece of writing into an outstanding one. The example demonstrates this very well and there are suggestions about other options for starter sentences suitable for a number of subjects. As with all of the activities I have mentioned the best way to judge them is to give them a go with one of your classes. They are all engaging for the students and the results you get will pretty soon speak for themselves.


Raising academic standards (5 strategies) – David Fawcett

Subject Specific Sentence Starters – Use three word sentence starters with students when they are completing essays or long answer questions.  The use of well designed starters mean that students may be prompted, stretched or forced to think about possible themes to include in their writing.  The use of academic words in the starters also help students to continue writing in an academic manner.  Easy to think of but make sure they are rigorous!

The art of the sentence – Borrowed from Mark Millar and Doug Lemov, ask students to summarise or write a statement about a complex topic in one single sentence.  The process means that students have to think about how to communicate the complex idea in a clear and concise way.  They will also need to use technical language to minimise the word count and keep the sentences succinct.  Initially use a scaffold and then progress to get students comparing or evaluating topics when they become more confident in the strategy.

Model, model, model! – Show what great work looks like.  Show them past students examples.  Show them an answer that you came up with.  Take a photo of student work as it happens and project it on the screen.  As a class dissect and then develop the answer to make it better.  Show them the thought process and procedure.  Show them how to write to a high standard and the steps it takes to get there.

Literacy upgrade – When peer assessing or critiquing work, get students to apply a ‘literacy upgrade’ where they need to pick out words and improve the academic standard of them.  For instance, students make read the words “to work out” and upgrade it to “to calculate”.  Easy to do at any time in the lesson to improve students academic vocabulary.

Format Matters – Again borrowed from Doug Lemov.  Set high standards for the verbal answers that students give.  We are very critical in what they write, so make it clear that spoken answers need to be of the same high standard.  Help scaffold the process and set the expectation that what they say is as important as what they write.


Strategies to attain the highest grades – Helen Strutton

The top grades should be a natural consequence of an excellent education.

A range of strategies to ensure pupils are exam ready, independent and enthused. These ideas need to be embedded into lessons and schemes of work.


Writing to A* – Veronica Hein

I covered five top tips to sharpen students’ formal essay writing skills.  They were:
1 – 3rd Person
2 – Key vocabulary/phrasing
3 – Introductory and connecting sentences
4 – Nominalisation
5 – Proof reading for waffle and repetition
The presentation included examples of students’ work demonstrating weaknesses and then samples of how they are improved when the above are put in place.

Planning for memory & revision – Afternoon INSET 2

With the heightened focus on terminal tests and the exam season fast approaching, how do we help students best prepare for them?  Are there ways to manage the frenzy of the revision build up?  Can we make changes to the way we teach lessons so that we don’t need as much revision intervention?  Can we help students manage their revision more effectively so it becomes an independent process?  The afternoon INSET on Wednesday 26th November began to share some insight and generate discussion about how can we as teachers help plan for memory and improve revision with students.

[divider ]John Fenlon[/divider]

John Fenlon – Teaching students to write effective revision notes

Writing effective revision notes:
Revising is not the same as reading from a text book.
In order to make revision more effective you need to reduce the number of words you are reading and trying to remember.
Included are a number of strategies to help you do this when writing your own revision notes.
Once you have read something, you need to practice remembering it, not just re-read the same pages over and over again.

“Our students mistake reading for revision”

“Write less and make revision more effective”

“Number your revision notes in topics so you can say “What are the 8 things about Red Cloud’s War?”

“Use mnemonic’s as a starting point for retrieving revision information”

“Spend time in lessons teaching students how to create revision notes effectively”

“Get students to reflect on revision.  What works and what doesn’t?”

[divider ]Fran Bennett[/divider]

Fran Bennett – Planning memory into our curriculum

Slide 2 – Using the research of Bjork we have been looking into how to help information stick in students memory better.  In particular focusing on 3 main areas of testing, spacing and interleaving.  It is not the case if we don’t use it we lose it, it is just harder to find.

Slide 3 – Bjork talks about storage strength (how well learned something is) and retrieval strength (how accessible something is).  The better storage strength is the better retrieval strength is.  We are working on how we can develop storage strength.

Slides 4, 5 & 6 – we have looked into the fact that study followed by testing, testing and more testing has a greater benefit to information staying in the memory.  We have been doing multiple choice pre-tests at the start of every unit.  Multiple choice allow students to have a go at working out the answer even if they don’t know it and therefore start to make links before they study it further. We have also been doing fun, low stress tests at the start, middle or end of lessons.

Slides 7, 8 & 9 – examples of the types of fun, low key regular testing we have been using in the lesson to test the information learnt in the lesson or from previous topics.

Slide 10 – to help information stick in the memory we needed repeated practice planned out throughout the year.  The brain stores information much better the 2nd, 3rd, 4th time and therefore retrieval strength as well. Therefore you need to plan and space out re-visiting and testing the information.  Ideally increasing the length so the information is almost forgotten before you test it again.

Slides 11 & 12 – example of how we have planned out our schemes of work for Yr 10/11 including how we have planned out our testing.  For example we cover unit 1 then unit 2 etc and keep repeating spread out over a unit.

Slide 13 – Another way of testing information and reinforcing what has been previsouly covered is by interleaving topics especially user for higher order tasks.  Some examples of how we have created tasks interleaving two or more topic areas.  For example the first unit we taught was all about how factors such as age, gender etc can affect an individual’s ability in sport.  A couple of units later we talked about fitness so the task involved students taking the information they learnt about age, gender and using it to consider how this may affect an opponent’s fitness.

“Avoid the mad panic of revision season by building memory into our curriculum”

“Use pre tests at the start of every unit to begin the memory process”

“Study – Test – Test -Test is better for long term memory”

“Low risk, frequent, varying and fun – testing in lessons”

“Can we space out when we revisit/retrieve topics throughout the year”

[divider ]Mark Barrett[/divider]

Mark Barrett – Planning for memory and revision

I presented a session on memory strategies that are utilised in MFL teaching and discussed ways in which they could be translated to other curriculum areas. I also explained how students best retain information over time and how to make their learning more “memorable”. We looked at some memory statistics and thought about how that could impact on student concentration.

“Ebbinghaus curve shows that 80% of what is taught is lost in the first 24 hours”

“Chunking is a great way for splitting up complex topics”

“How do we use ‘remembering lyrics’ to our advantage in revision?”

“Journey method is good as it piggy backs onto existing memories”

[divider ]Amy Hunter & Fiona Sandford[/divider]

Amy Hunter & Fiona Sandford – Revision and terminal assessments

A copy of the full presentation can be found here: Revision and Terminal Assessments.

“Communication at home through the revision period is a great help”

“Present an overview of your curriculum on your school VLE so everyone knows what is going on”

“Flip learning? Can key materials be online (VLE) so students have a base level of background knowledge when they come to your lesson”

“Practice, practice, practice”

“Journey method – Teach students the technique so they see how it works. Use random words at first and then build in subject specific terminology”

“What is the fundamental piece of information in each topic to trigger memory?”

“Could co-ordinate topics as you go throughout the course. Add notes as you go throughout the year”

“Help students to organise their work so it is revision ready”


Marking, reflection and feedback should be worthwhile

Owain Hoskins – History Teacher and Learning Innovator

Since my time as a teacher, the one thing that I’ve seen change the most is marking. Gone are the days where marking would just include comments such as ‘well done’ or ‘good work’ and in most cases pupils would probably not even read them. Over the last couple of years I’ve incorporated and planned into my lessons, reflection time for students. Here, pupils are challenged to go back to their work and rewrite a section to improve it in a specific way or to correct errors. It was something that I picked up from Barney Ware in Geography who used the acronym DITRY Time. (Directed Independent Reflection Time for you) This was also commented in a popular blog by David Didau, Educational Consultant and author of books such as ‘The Secret of Literacy’, who said, ‘The big difference is DIRT. The idea that I should dedicate part or all of a lesson to Directed Improvement & Reflection Time in which pupils act on my feedback has been a revelation’.


As a result, in History we have been using our own version called the Purple Pen of Progress. This is a time saving technique that is based on focused marking which has an impact on student progress. I use a specific purple pen to jot questions for students to respond to.

Purple Pen

One example of where this can be seen is with my Year 8’s. After looking at a portrait of Henry VIII in class and instead of making general comments when I took their books in, I wrote questions like; ‘Can you use any more evidence from source 2 to justify your opinion?’ or ‘Is the painting a representation of Henry or an accurate portrayal?’ I allowed the class 10-15 minutes to respond to these questions the next lesson. This method actively involves pupils who respond in the following lesson on the skills they had been learning. Here, it had been source analysis and the context, message and purpose of the painting. They were taking more responsibility for their own learning and it gave the marking more meaning.

Marking Examples

I had about 5 or 6 target questions in mind before I began marking their books and I then applied them accordingly. If I’m going to commit time to marking then I want it to be purposeful and I believe this really helped in saving time. I have also used it with my Year 7 classes.

Year 7 Marking

As David Didau mentions, ‘Marking is also differentiation. There can be no better way to respond to the needs of an individual than to read what they have written and give them specific tasks to challenge them to be better than they currently are’

For my key stage 4 classes, I extend the process and expect the older students to do more. I ask more questions (Purple Pen of Progress) and use a marking key to enable them to see how I have annotated their work.

Marking Annotations

Students have to work out what they have done well and why. They also have to set an individual target. (Two stars and a wish) Ultimately, the annotations show pupils how well they are doing, the Purple Pen of Progress asks them questions to move their learning forward and finally a new target is set by them.

KS$ Marking Examples


Finally, as Richard Charlesworth has mentioned in ‘Bright Spots’ on the BCS Sharing Practice webpage, ‘we have developed in History ‘drop cards’ for use with the L@B initiative for Key Stage 3. The idea of how to use them is that while walking around the room you drop the card next to a student you feel has demonstrated that skill. The cards have the 4 bullet points of the skill which match the classroom poster. Therefore you can say to the student that you will return to them later in the lesson and if they can explain why you have ‘dropped the card’ there then they will have earned themselves a merit. We have embellished this further by stamping a smiley face in their books where they can also write down why they got the merit. This records oral feedback nicely and is also a time saving activity that is documented in their class books. Year 7s and 8s are still young enough to enjoy this type of activity.’

L@B Marking


My belief is that marking, reflection and feedback should be worthwhile, both for the teacher and the pupil. I believe the type of feedback outlined above enables effective planning by the teacher. For one minute spent marking a class book, a student could spend ten minutes responding in some way. Therefore, marking becomes planning and we see a shift towards the increasingly proactive participation of the pupil.

Maximising marking – Afternoon INSET 1

With an ever increasing workload and marking becoming high on teachers agendas, is there a way to provide effective marking which is also time efficient?  In our first afternoon INSET, Brookfield teachers discussed that very question.

[divider ]Polly Williams[/divider]

Time management and organisation of purposeful marking – Polly Williams

Organisation and time management of marking

1. Managing/prioritising workload – assessment/class notes.  This would include fitting it into your time – use of a monitoring sheet; and fitting with PPAs etc.
2. Speed: eg taking books in open; only commenting on THAT piece of work; linking comments to an LO.
3. Ensuring marking is purposeful: general feedback at start of following lesson (linked to the LO), followed by ‘purple pen’ time – which could include ‘own starting point’ intervention ‘Act’ tasks.
4. Tick n flick monitoring of books and half term/every now and then comments.

[divider ]Jenny Swan[/divider]

Consistency : Marking as part of a holistic approach – Jenny Swan

A consistent holistic approach, informed by band descriptors. I use band descriptors to inform lesson objectives, tasks, verbal feedback as well as marking and peer marking.

I use green pen to show the skill that they are demonstrating and red pen to show the skill that they need to work on, this means that I write very little, but they have a very clear understanding of how to make progress.

I also use the red pen to ask “HOT questions” to challenge them further or draw a skill out of them. I find asking questions is easer for them to respond to than an instruction.

[divider ]Owain Hoskins[/divider]

Maximising marking – Owain Hoskins

Owain has blogged about his approach to marking which can be found here.

Effective Learning Displays

Phil Webb, Learning Leader – Beliefs, Values and Life.

A touch of Hollywood glitz and glamour hit Brookfield Community School for a second consecutive year. Red carpet, trophies but minus the teary acceptance speeches as the BADAs 2014 were awarded.

The BADAs are Brookfield’s Annual Display Awards – the idea spawned from preparations for the school Open Day/Evening in 2013, typically members of SLT would wander round a week or so beforehand fault-finding and ordering improvements ahead of flinging the school gates wide for visitors. Prior to teaching I had worked in marketing and graphic design and have carried a penchant for display ever since, and while making sure the house is in order is important, I wanted to redress the balance and celebrate the good practice going on around the school and share it.

SLT were fully behind the initiative and even provided some funds for certificates, trophies and calorific prizes, thus the BADAs were launched.  Having jointly inspected and decided on the top three for each section, a star studded ceremony was held in our regular staff briefing.

As we were going round, we took pictures of the winners and some of the examples of best practice – this led into a “teaching and learning briefing” [see video] on effective display for learning with follow up INSET sessions for NQT and PGCE students, and unsurprisingly a display for display, which sits proudly above the photocopiers for casual staff perusal.

We revised the categories for this year:

  • Best overall room
  • Best overall department
  • Best house/year display
  • Best student work display
  • Best interactive display – one that invites participation/asks questions of the audience
  • Best literacy display – (school action plan focus for 2013/14)
  • Best newcomer
  • Most improved


So with all of this work around the school learning environment, what makes up an effective display?

“Functional or forget it” – What is the purpose of what you’re displaying? If you’re not using it or it has no use – it’s probably a waste of time. Keep it fresh – Aim to change a display board every half term. If you can try and keep your displays changing, it does get noticed by students, and is more likely to make them look at the things around them.

Exchange – Perhaps if you’re not very good at displays? See if you can exchange your time and skills with someone who is! Barter!  If you feel competent, “Bring and buy” share good practice and lighten your load in the process. As a department could you or your Learning Leaders be doing something to facilitate this?

“Keep it tidy!” – Don’t let your good work get disheveled – keep tabs on the aging process to keep things smart. Remember that the learning environment you create can set the tone for the lesson – it is an opportunity to show your passion, creativity and purposefulness.

Materials  – Wrapping paper can be a cheap option to bring displays to life.  There are lots of ways to make interesting backgrounds.

Background Display

Maximising locations – Places where students congregate or wait to enter a classroom could be used to your advantage.  How is the space leading up to your room being used?  Could the corridor space be used better?

Leveling guide – As part of your AfL strategy, displaying leveling guides will help students understand what level they are currently at, and what they will have to do to reach a higher level. Make it accessible – it needs to be in a language that students can digest .

Tailor it – Don’t just use whole school initiatives, develop them – with your PEED posters, could you model some answers from your subject? Mix up displays with both content and skill development.

Building curiosity – If you can create something that makes students ask questions about it you are on to a winner.

Display 2

Don’t do the hard work if you don’t have to – there are some very good pre-made resources available from educational companies which are reusable and lasting.

Have a personal space – so that a little bit of you comes across in the classroom and humanises you slightly from the teaching robot. It may also cheer you up on a bad day.

Clarity is key – make it obvious what a display item is about, and that it is readable from where students may be sat or can move to.

Make the delivery engaging – Use of colour, size and font of text, pictures and placing are all things that need to be considered. Usually the more it stands out the better.

Display 8

Be really nice to Carl (reprographics) – he may be vital in your printing requests. Be reasonable in your timeframes and expectations. ALSO be nice to Site Team.

Subject specific – Can reinforce key skills in subject area, useful for concepts that will be used across year groups and serve as permanent visual reminders.

Outer space – Out of classroom spaces still contribute to your learning environment and the approach students take to it – why not use it to celebrate achievement, ‘why do the subject?’, skills learnt or an “in the news” section amongst many other possible items.

Student work – Displaying student work may act as a reward for those students who have done well at a particular task, fostering a sense of achievement and potentially an encouragement to others to increase their efforts. Also, it is useful as a point of reference to those about to attempt a similar task. Displayed work must be marked (If you are using Home Learning, you could use the generic HL mark sheet). SPAG must be corrected on the student work. Finally, it should be rounded off with a title, year group/focus and some questions to engage the viewer.

Student Work

And finally – Sometimes the simplest displays are the most effective – plan them out rather than just a ‘wallpapering’ approach.

Brookfield: First Teachmeet – 10th July 2014


The 10th July 2014 saw Brookfield host its very first internal ‘Teachmeet’.  It was a well attended event held in the CLC.  The afternoon saw a number of excellent presentations from across school with staff talking about topics ranging from the use of memory in planning, all the way to effective use of differentiation.  Below are the presentations as well as accompanying overviews:

[divider ]Teachmeet[/divider]

Hannah Bushnell – Effective Feedback

Work smart: Being an English teacher, we have to work smart with our marking and find ways of feeding back to students effectively and quickly.

  1. Use a marking grid, where you can tick the assessment focuses that the student meets – it saves lots of time!
  2. Type up your feedback. It is often quicker and it’s easier (particularly for weaker students) to read and digest.
  3. Another quick way of feeding back is using the feedback stamp. Tell the students what they need to do to improve their work, and ask students to summarise what you have just said in a sentence/ short phrase. You can buy the stamps on Amazon for £5-10.
  4. I often find that when I am marking a class-set of assessments I am repeating myself (e.g. ‘you need to make sure you proof-read your work’ etc). Use a marking code and flash this up on the projector at the beginning of the feedback lesson. Get the students to copy this up – it ensures they read it properly and take in the information.
  5. If you are conducting a lesson where students are busy doing project work, and there is minimal teacher input, make the most of your time by marking students’ books with them in the lesson. This is invaluable as it builds student-teacher relationships and it enables students to ask questions and discuss their work.

Personalise feedback

  1. Use a symbol-code and get the students to annotate their work.
  2. At the end of the lesson, ask the students to self-reflect on a post-it note and to write down whether or not they have any questions for you or any parts of the lesson they need you to clarify. You can build a written dialogue in their books this way.

Peer feedback/ self-assessment

  1. Re. image on the left-hand side: this looks long-winded but it’s actually quite easy. I hope I am explaining this clearly enough! This way of feeding back can be adapted to other subject areas where students have to perform a practical demo in front of the class eg Languages, Science or PE. My Year 9s were working in groups of three to perform a short role play based on of Mice and Men. I had 24 students in the class. Each student had a sheet of A4, which they tore up into 7-8 pieces. I allocated each student in the audience either a ‘1’, ‘2’ or a ‘3’. Then, for the three students performing, one actor was allocated ‘1’, another ‘2’ and the third ‘3’. Students peer assessing knew which student they were focusing on and would write the name and two stars and a wish on the slip. They did this for each performance. At the end of the lesson, they had to hand out their slips. The result: every student had 7-8 small slips of peer feedback which they could stick on a double page in their books.
  2. Achievement and review – students self-evaluate at the end of each half term what they feel proud of.
  3. Home learning – students should be encouraged to write their class targets at the top of every piece of home learning and self-evaluate whether or not they feel they have met this target.

Marking for progress

  1. Grouped student feedback in class. It’s all very well us telling the students what they need to work on but they need time to work on this and support each other in the process.
  2. Starter activities are based on group student feedback.
  3. Praise students when they have achieved their target by rewarding merits.

Progress over time

Students need to know how they are doing; this keeps them motivated. You could provide sheets where they could record their grades, marks, targets achieved, league tables and so on (but be careful how you use the league tables!)


[divider ]Teachmeet[/divider]

Rich Charlesworth – Acronyms never let you down


Why use acronyms in the classroom?

  • The point of using acronyms is as a memory aid.
  • The power of the method is that it enables students of all abilities to remember contextual knowledge that could be utilised, knowledge that under normal circumstances they might not recall
  • Each example included here is a slightly different ‘hook’ to demonstrate that there is ‘more than one way to skin an acronym’ and remember those facts
  • This is increasingly important with the demands of the new GCSE curriculum

[divider ]Teachmeet[/divider]

Fran Bennett – Making it stick

Dave and I have been working on how we can make the things we teach student in the theory aspect of the GCSE PE course to stick.  We are normal teachers who try and teach in different personalised ways, but often find that over a period of time our students have forgotten the information we were confident they had learnt.  We have looked into the work on memory by Robert Bjork who talks about both retrieval strength (how accessible an item of information is at that given moment) and storage strength (a general measure of how well learned that item is) being vital in ensuring what we have taught can be remembered and used by students.

Bjork talks about desirable difficulties to help retrieval and storage strength improve.  One of these desirable difficulties is testing.  Bjork found that with lots of low stake testing, information sticks for longer.  Ideally students should study then test, test, test, learning from their mistakes as they progress.  Multiple choice questions can be particularly beneficial for this, as even if they do not know the answer they can have an attempt at working it out.

Another area we have focused on is the spacing of topics and how often we re-visit them.  Spacing effect requires you to re-visit a topic just as students have nearly forgotten the information, so causing them to retrieve the information and build their retrieval strength.  The spacing should keep increasing over time.  Interleaving of topic areas to build links and get students to think of the bigger picture has also been considered and another way to allow us to space out and re-visit information from previous topics.

With this is mind we revisited our delivery of the Year 10 content and re-worked the units to include spaced out testing and interleaving of information within a topic and from previous topics.  The power point shows the starting part of our overview for you to see how we have set this up.  It also includes examples of fun, low stakes testing and interleaving of topics we have done.

[divider ]Teachmeet[/divider]

 Jack Wainwright – Ideas, evidence and arguments

Last year I participated in an action research project run by Southampton University which aimed to use discussion and argument to lead activities in Science. What I found was an extremely effective way of giving all students the opportunities to discover for themselves a new perspective of explaining and justifying their own theories and understanding as to why something has happened or is happening.

This way of providing clear resources which help layout evidence and the possible weaknesses and limitations in it are very good at establishing stronger conclusions and writing well rounded critiques. This is very useful in Science but would also be of benefit in History, Geography, English and Art but could easily be arranged to work in many subject areas.

Students benefit from working in groups and having the resources needed to learn from discussion and uncovering their own feelings and rationales towards a conclusion which encourages motivation and engagement in lesson.

[divider ]Teachmeet[/divider]

Differentiation – Why we’ve got it wrong!

The presentation looked at why we might be getting differentiation wrong and provided some simpler and more responsive ways to incorporate it in lessons.  For a more detailed write up with a number of strategies click here.

[divider ]Teachmeet[/divider]

 Sarah Wallace – The Value of Learning from our Mistakes


Capturing complex feedback

The current Yr11 all performed exceptionally well for their Group Performance unit (20%) in the recent GCSE Dance moderation.  When asked by a colleague how I did it I answered “hard work”, but l felt compelled to explain later that I know we all work hard however there were strategies that I used along the way to get the most from all of my Yr11s. They found it ‘interesting to see how much self-evaluation and peer feedback [I was] using to get them to reflect and improve.’ They also liked the idea of ‘having more conversation time so that students [were] able to ask questions and deepen their understanding.’

So, this is where I will start; feedback.  Used to writing long handed feedback detailing corrections for the Set Dance (20% of examination) I set about devising a quick and instant way to give useful feedback.

The process was extremely simple: students performed their solo set dance which I filmed on a flip camera, I played back the film to each of them on my laptop whilst giving oral feedback, they filmed my laptop during the playback (with my commentary), and then used the film on their phones for ‘Dirt4y Dancing!’

Dance Fenner

Students still received a numbered mark sheet but without my written comments.  The impact was instant; students took notice and were ultimately interested in the improvements to be made rather than their current grade, and they had a personal record close to hand…and as we all know students love their phones so win win all round!  There were many benefits: depth and quality of feedback given was far more detailed and thorough, and as a result facilitated an increased level of engagement through personalised, independent learning.  I could also stop the video of their performance and explain specifically what was working well and what needed to be improved (not always practical in real time).

Great feedback, but what do they do with it?  Leading on from here students used their videos with commentary to note key points themselves, they then used post it notes to prioritise and inform the planning of their rehearsal time.  Whilst they worked on their own specific areas for improvement it gave me the opportunity to work with targeted groups on specific foci, the groups were fluid and constantly changing within the lesson which resulted in good progress by all.

So, the feedback strategy was a success; detail of feedback improved, time was saved not writing comments, overall quality of the set dance increased.  However the most notable impact was the knock on effect of improving technique and skills in other areas of study.  So, coming full circle this feedback strategy is one of the fundamental reasons why all students were able to access high marks for their Performance in a Group.

Hands up, this is not completely my idea.  I adapted a method that I read on a blog by a college lecturer who was using a dictaphone to give essay feedback, and realised the potential for my practical subject. Students have really enjoyed this way of giving feedback and more importantly are really acting on it, not filing away a piece of paper in a folder to collect dust until exams loom.  It will definitely feature as part of my teaching and feedback process for KS4 whenever possible.

Emma-Louise Fenner – Drama and Dance

‘The drawing out of what’s inside’

As a trainee teacher, I was once given the feedback that questioning was a strength of mine. I believed that just because I asked a lot of questions, this constituted as “GOOD QUESTIONING”

Five years later, during another feedback session after to an observation, I came to the realisation that the vast quantity of questions I was asking was simply a “guess what’s in my head?” game and, undeniably a drip feed of the answers I wanted from the learners in front of me. The impact of such a strategy was minimal at best as learners were rarely given the opportunity to engage in higher level thinking.

In the year to follow, questioning became a main focus of the planning and delivery of my lessons. I have found that questioning is an extremely powerful tool within the classroom, not only does it give ownership of learning to the students, but an environment that is enriched with good questioning allows students to access a higher level of thinking and draw conclusions upon additional questions asked. After all, it is probably the most common way we communicate with our students.

So what did I do?

Through the course of the year I have explored ways I can quickly and easily modify what I do in the classroom to make a bigger impact upon progress.  Here are 5 techniques that I found most helpful:

1.)  Having a Key question:

The key question is related to the overall learning goal of the lesson and is a fantastic way of generating thinking early on. I have found that this can be given when students are lining up outside the classroom, or alternatively have the key question ready on a slide as they enter so that discussions related to the lesson are taking place as they unpack their bags.

For example:


Lo: To investigate ways of retrieving the ball quickly.

Key question: “What are the main roles of a fielder in Rounder’s?”


This then allows me to start the thinking of the lesson immediately.  It provides a larger context of what it is they are working towards.  It also allows me to revisit it throughout to see if students are actually learning.


2.)   Planning your questions before the lesson:

It is important to tailor questioning to the ability of your students to ensure everyone’s needs are catered for and all pupils are stretched and challenged. Open and closed ended questions are an excellent way to do this, but it is vital that you know and understand your students and related it to them.

For example:

L/A: “Is it important to retrieve the ball quickly or slowly?”

H/A: “What are the advantages behind retrieving the ball quickly?”


3.)  Hinge questioning:

This occurs during the point in your lesson when you want to move onto a new concept/idea/development, it can clarify thinking and address misconceptions quickly and easily. The Hinge question is posed, and learners respond by putting their hand up to what they believe is the correct answer.  For example, if they think c is correct they raise three fingers in the air for me to scan and check.    




4) Kagan’s 4s:  Put students in mixed ability groups of 4s, Each student is numbered 1-4. When a Higher order question is posed, the group of 4 discusses the answer. The teacher then chooses a number between 1-4 and that member of the group puts forward the answer that has been discussed. This allows LA students the ability to discuss and answer HA questions and hopefully achieve some success when answering.


5.) Exit tickets: These are handed out 5 minutes before the end of the lesson.  The teacher poses a question, related to the objective of the lesson and students put their answer on the ticket along with their name. Teachers can use this information to gauge the level of understanding for each student at the end point of the lesson, and use this information when planning and giving feedback to students.

Exit Ticket

I have found, that just a few tweaks and changes to the way I question has had a fantastic impact upon class involvement, levels of engagement as well as my ability to check the accuracy of thinking.  Structure of answers has improved greatly.  Students are no longer providing short quick answers but instead expanding on their thoughts.  Having a variety of methods that involve all helps provide a wider variety of viewpoints for the class to learn from.  It also leads to the fact that good questions therefore lead to more questions and the chance for me to teach and unpick topics further.

Marianne Fox – PE, Drama, Dance and Health & Social Care

The only dumb question is the one not asked.

The only dumb question is the one not asked.

— Michael Travis

Like most secondary school teachers, I find myself asking lots of questions of my pupils in a single day. Questions based on factual information, ‘When was the Magna Carta signed?’ or open ended questions in Year 11 to deepen understanding, ‘Who was more important in the history of medicine, Hippocrates or Galen?’ In both cases, pupils are happy to receive the question and respond to it. This led me to reflect and consider – to what extent do I allow students to pose their own questions without my input? As a result, I sought to trial and approach ideas that would generate lots of learning from students recording their own questions in History.

There are many techniques that can encourage questioning – Mantle of the Expert, De Bono’s six hats, Philosophy for Children, etc. They are all good methods but I decided to utilise the 5W questions or what is known as the Kipling Method, named after the author Rudyard Kipling who wrote the poem:


I have six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
I call them What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who


My first approach to this was with my Year 7 class. At the beginning of the lesson, I provided one single piece of stimulus material that all the class could see easily. I found the bigger and more colourful the better. (See Hastings starter). This was a new topic and students were asked to generate questions about the picture. In pairs, I had the students pose a maximum of three questions they wanted to ask about the source. To help students form their questions, I gave each pair the Kipling chart. The grid challenged pupils to think of more developed questions than perhaps they would have otherwise. For instance, instead of ‘What is happening in the picture?’ which is a basic question, students came out with ‘Who could have the better position at the start of the battle?’ or ‘Why mightthe Normans seem better prepared?’ The pupils wrote their questions on post it notes. The questions were collected and written on the board so questions could be grouped together. As a class, they categorised them and decided which were the most important questions to ask and we discussed how the same questions can be posed in different ways.


Questioning Poster

QFT grid: John Sayers – David Didau


I also used Kipling’s resource when my students were accessing various primary sources which had been placed around the room. They were low text resources – for example, pictures, posters, photographs of the Holocaust and students were working in pairs examining them. For each resource, they used the grid to define one question raised by the resource and as a pair, agreed that the question was the most significant.

As a class, the set of questions showed depth: How might the Germans treat those who had some Jewish blood but were not classified as Jews? How could the Nazis define those who were Jewish? When did the Holocaust begin and why were the Jews singled out for extermination? Instead of answering the questions myself, I gave students research time to work in small groups and generate the answers themselves. The exercise was extended into a good piece of research into this new topic.

The Kipling questions work because they are short and direct. They are also largely general, and ‘What’ or ‘Why’ can be applied to many different situations, making it a flexible resource. Pupils are generally curious when it comes to new information and I found that many like to ask their own questions. When they are still in the early stages of year 7, pupils are very keen to join in lessons. Often their questions are spontaneous – spoken without any deliberation. The Kipling method gives the opportunity for students to deepen their understanding and to think about the questions they could ask to help them progress.


Blank Question Grid

QFT grid: David Didau


I have since used the Kipling’s method with KS4 classes and have seen the same impact in increasing students’ interest in a topic. The activities demonstrated pupils are more open to information that answers questions they themselves have asked.Students who ask why or how are posing higher order questions.I found that GCSE students appreciate the Kipling’s question grid as something to fall back on. The chart outlines this method so that students can refer to it if they choose to do so. It provides them with an increasing depth of question and framework to follow, helping to structure the process of thinking.

By creating a question friendly environment, modeling your expectations for questions, teaching students how to ask questions and encouraging the behavior, students will experience interest in, and curiosity about the topics you are teaching.

Owain Hoskins – History

Supporting Boys in the Classroom and Closing the Gender Gap

I have been involved in working with underachieving boys for the last four years, setting up different groups in Year 11 and Year 8 and aiming to support their progress through quite a comprehensive intervention programme.

One of the essential aspects of this has been working with parents to provide ideas for how they can best support at home with their child’s learning, providing information about how boys best learn and the strategies teachers implement in school to help with this. I hold various parents evenings throughout the year to update the parents on their child’s progress within the programme and also about the various initiatives that are taking place. One of the most successful evenings was when colleagues from the English and Maths Departments presented information about the content and skill being covered and how parents could support at home.

Working with parents is crucial, but obviously delivery in the classroom for our underachievers is essential. There are various strategies that can be used from writing frames to chunking to recall and reteach. However, I believe that the most crucial aspects of dealing with underachievement is high expectations for engagement in learning, particularly for those crucial question and answer sessions when you are testing knowledge, assessing where students are or even teaching new content and skills.

Underachieving boys will ‘switch off’ at any opportunity and it is essential that they are kept on their toes at all times. It’s this that I have been focusing on in particular, observing how other colleagues work in this area and also drawing on key techniques from the book ‘Teach Like a Champion’ by Doug Lemov.

There are two or three fundamental areas that you might think are obvious but they can make all the difference.  In the book ‘Teach Like a Champion’ these are referred to as ‘Cold Call’ and ‘No Opt Out’

‘Cold Call’ is simply insisting on no hands up and ensuring that students in the class do not know who is going to be called on next. Clearly you can get answers such as ‘don’t know’ or ‘can’t be bothered’ and this is where ‘No Opt Out’ comes in.

‘No Opt Out’ is about ensuring there is no escape from an answer and absolutely everyone is expected to contribute. There are options from Doug Lemov if you get the ‘don’t know’ response and these are:

  • Provide ‘wait time’
  • Provide a cue or scaffold the question
  • Ask another student to provide a cue
  • Ask another student to provide an answer and then ask the student who has said ‘don’t know’ to repeat.

The final point provides the expectation that, although quite low level, the student has to answer. When worked over time the ‘no opt out’ will build a culture of students knowing they are to answer. Students just repeating can be pushed on to answer on their own. By not accepting ‘don’t know’ you will be on the way to this. Later on you can also insist on better technical language and also better constructed sentences.

Here is an example of how I have used it in class.

Question to student A (after some teaching about chords)

Teacher – ‘Student A, what are the notes in the chord of F’? – Cold Call

Student A – ‘I don’t know’

Teacher – ‘Student B how did we discuss working this out?’ – Another Cold Call plus asking for a cue to help.

Student B – ‘You look for the starting note F and then think miss a note, play a note, miss a note, play a note.’

Teacher – ‘Good.’ Now student A, thinking about what student B has said, what are the notes in the chord of F?’

Student A – ‘’I’m still not sure’.

Teacher – ‘Ok, let’s ask student C. What are the notes in the chord F. Further Cold Call.

Student C – ‘F, A and C.’

Teacher – Ok student A, what are the notes in the chord of F.’ – No Opt Out

Student A – ‘F, A and C’.


I tried to support student A with his/her answer by asking student B to scaffold a way of working it out. Student A could still not answer. I could have then scaffolded myself further and asked again. In this example I asked another student for the answer. Then to reinforce the expectation that everyone has to answer I simply asked student A to repeat the answer. Using this method would mean a high expectation to answer and confidence to try to answer. When used regularly students who start off repeating an answer do actually later start answering other questions for themselves and hence are drawn further into the learning. Obviously the use of wait time is also important and for some questions important thinking time/pair/share is needed first before questioning starts.


Pete Pease and I will be sharing other methods in our Focus Group next year called ‘Teach Like a Champion’. Well worth signing up for.


Shaun Riches – Director of Learning

Stretching the top end

Over the last 12 months I have been attending the HIAS A*/A course. This course involves around 10 Science teachers from across Hampshire meeting every couple of months to share ideas, discuss strategies to move pupils on and to set targets/areas to work on in between sessions. This has dovetailed nicely with my second Blue Sky objective for the year which is linked to using the OFSTED framework – what strategies can I employ to ensure that ‘all students make outstanding progress’.

It does initially appear that the first objective is a very simple one – what can we do to ensure that more of the pupils who are predicted to achieve A*/A in Science subjects actually do so? As a consequence of participating in the HIAS course and thanks to internal Science department CPD I have developed a number of strategies in my teaching over the last year which I believe can help pupil to do better in the exams and make them more likely to gain the top grades.

However, having started working on this with my own top set Year 11 class, I realised quite quickly that it is not quite as simple as this. In my opinion I think that my overarching aim/objective for pupils in my care should be about more than ‘getting them the grades’. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t think aiming for excellence is not important, however I think it goes beyond straightforward ‘Direct Instruction’ type strategies in the classroom. Having considered my teaching over the last year I have come to the conclusion that I need a three-pronged attack:

  1. Strategies in the classroom to ensure pupils are exam ready.
  2. Encouraging pupils to become independent learners – this will not only help them to gain the top grades it is also a very important skill that will help them gain good qualifications at 6th form college and beyond.
  3. Self-motivated students. Pupils have to want the top grades and need to be in the habit of doing sufficient work in school and out to enable this to happen.

I have not mentioned anywhere that I need to ensure that pupils are enthused about the subject matter! However, that is clearly necessary for pupils to become self-motivated and is always part of my thought process when planning a lesson. It should also be borne in mind that it is still the case that we need more young people to continue with Science subjects – the number of students continuing with chemistry and physics are still lower in number than some other subjects. It is also part of my job to encourage pupils to continue with their science learning. A purely exam preparation diet is unlikely to enthuse, amaze and inspire.


  1. Strategies in the classroom to ensure pupils are exam ready.

There is a lot of recall of knowledge in the Science exam papers, together with a need to be able to apply key ideas/knowledge to perhaps unfamiliar situations. Therefore pupils need to have excellent recall and excellent exam technique. In order to apply their knowledge they need to have a thorough grounding in the basics. A*/A grades will only come to those who can properly explain the various scientific ideas and processes in the syllabus.

–          Direct instruction – what do the pupils really need to know and understand? What is the precise learning? Lessons need to be planned around this precise learning with opportunities to apply new knowledge and check understanding.

–          Feedback needs to be rapid and relevant – a recent Science initiative is marking on the go with two different coloured pens. One colour means pupils have got it right and the other means an amendment or further development is needed. Pupils respond straightaway and they know what they have got right and how to amend any misconceptions.

–          Following on from this when a unit of work is assessed via a test the marking needs to be done immediately and passed straight back to pupils. Areas that need to be improved upon can then be tackled straight away in class. It might be that the whole class didn’t understand a particular topic so perhaps I need to reteach in a different way, or it might be that pupils need to be self-reflective.

–          Ideas to improve exam technique include highlighting the command words in a test before allowing pupils to take the test, asking pupils to write down how they will answer an exam question rather than letting them do it and demonstrating good exam technique by answering exam questions that I haven’t seen before in front of them. I have also sat papers with my class and compared scores and where I may have made the (very occasional….) error. I can then discuss with them my thought process and what I should have done to avoid this.

–          Providing pupils with a variety of different models for key ideas (i.e. diffraction of light or diagrams of how the heart functions) to expose them to variety and help avoid the panic they may feel when a diagram on the exam isn’t quite like the one they’ve been using in their revision guide. It can also help develop deeper thinking and explanations.


  1. Encouraging pupils to become independent learners.

At the A*/A course I have met a teacher who sets all of his homework as weekly recall. Students are given a list of recall questions which they need to revise at home and then a week later there will be a quiz so the teacher can check the learning. His rationale is that he would rather be using lesson time to ensure that pupils understand the concepts and can explain what is happening rather than on recall of facts. I can see how this could work but does, of course, rely on all pupils preparing. This is more likely with your A*/A targeted pupils. This could also foster good learning habits and hence a modicum of independence.

I have also, along with the rest of the science department, been encouraging independence over the past year by setting ‘prep’ home learning where pupils are given page numbers from their revision guide or BBC Bitesize references  to prepare for learning in class the following week. I had partial success with this. Some pupils were very conscientious to the extent that I worried they were spending too many hours on it, to those who claimed to have been on bitesize but had to evidence to back this up. I did find that some pupils found it difficult to prepare ahead of classroom learning as they didn’t understand what they were making notes about and this left them a little bewildered.

Following a term of this I switched to weekly exam question homeworks. This was more successful in terms of pupils handing it in and did help me to see where misconceptions might lie or problems with their exam technique.


  1. Self-motivation:

Clearly being a good independent learner and being self-motivated go hand in hand… however, I needed to ask myself what have I been doing to encourage the engagement of my pupils, to make them aspire to the top grades? Clearly I can be positive about their capabilities and have high expectations. I can make sure the work is consistently of an A*/A standard.

I also need to enthuse so that pupils are interested – this means ensuring that there is plenty of practical opportunity so they can see things for themselves. I need to encourage with respect to Science as a whole so there needs to be opportunities for extra-curricular activities. This was difficult with Year 11 as we can’t take them out of school during the day but I did arrange for a number of them to go to a Physics lecture on nuclear fusion at Southampton University. Pupils need to know where their subjects fit into the wider world of work/career/further learning as this in itself could lead to better engagement and a wish to excel. This needs to start with Year 7 and there are lots of excellent opportunities for younger pupils across the school.

To encourage self-motivation and enable independence pupils need the right tools. They need to know where their learning is going over the next year – what topics are they covering? What resources are available?

My year 11s (and 10s) were provided with termly information of what topics would be covered in each week with links the pages of their revision guides and BBC bitesize. Initially this linked to their ‘prep’ homeworks but as time went on was used as a reference guide.


To summarise I have developed my teaching as follows:

–          Precise learning in the classroom together with rapid feedback and response. At the end of each unit there is time to reflect and reteach.

–          Encouraging independence and self-motivation by planning interesting lessons and linking home learning to class learning.

Have I been successful so far? In terms of students learning the mock exam results would suggest so but I need to wait for the real ones. I know that my Year 11s were, on the whole, very motivated and self-sufficient when it came to their revision. They listened and acted upon feedback very well. Whether this reflects strategies I have employed over the last 12 months or their experience with other teachers and the school as a whole or even their home backgrounds is difficult to measure. It is probably a mixture of all of it. I certainly think these strategies have helped my teaching as it enables longer term planning and means I know my pupils very well and am able to intervene swiftly as I know where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Areas to improve? I haven’t completely got a handle on the best way to use home learning. I think that the idea of regular recall homeworks could work well perhaps as an alternative to the ‘prep’ homework. However I think the timetable of learning across the year should stay and I will further embed the feedback strategies I have employed and direct instruction methods.


Helen Strutton – Science

Creating a culture of critique

Austins Butterfly

One of the biggest thing that makes feedback ineffective is the fact that many students simply do not read it or act upon it.  In brings the question as a teacher of how worthwhile feedback is if nothing is done with it.  There are many methods out there to address this such as DIRT time and closing the gap lessons.  However, out of all of the methods, by far the most effective in my experience is Critique.  Critique goes beyond an end of lesson activity and with simple protocols, makes the giving and receiving of feedback the culture of the classroom.  It pushes you to deliver a dedicated lesson which involves only the process of critiquing work, rather than “Right, swap books with your partner and give them two stars and a wish.  You have 5 minutes to do this”.  It requires the teacher to model the method of critique using actual student drafts or exemplars, and can be done in a number of ways including an ‘In depth class critique’ or ‘Gallery critique’.  The end result of doing this process over time is students critique each others work naturally and seek feedback independently of teacher instruction.  Here is where the culture is developed.

So why do I love the idea of critique?  Well, based on the various sources of research, evidence, blog posts, discussions of Twitter and so on, feedback is a big deal.  In my eyes, quality written/verbal feedback ranks higher than the giving of grades and levels although it is often the other way around with students.  Effective feedback that specifically highlights exactly what is good about a piece of work (so can be repeated and become habitual) and what exactly needs to be improved (to drive this piece of work towards excellence) is such an important component of the learning process (much more so than knowing a grade or level).  But so often in my own practice, there have been times when the feedback I have written is never followed up.  There are also still those fixed mindset students who are grade focused (as excellently explained here by@joe__kirby) .  This is where the process of critique is different.

As a number of teachers are increasingly engaging students to peer or self assess pieces of work, we need to first teach them how to do this.  The research from G. Nuthall talks roughly about how 80% of feedback students receive is from their peers.  But 80% of this student-student feedback is wrong  ties into this.  The rules, protocols, modelling, dedicated time and culture surrounding critique is therefore a great method for avoiding this low return rate.  So what is it that makes critique different?  Well, if you haven’t already, I would highly recommend that you buy and read Ron Berger’s ‘An Ethic of Excellence’.  In this book, Berger exemplifies the process and breaks down the structure for forming effective critique sessions.  He is driven towards getting students to value their work and create pieces of excellence.  The mantra of ‘If it’s not perfect it isn’t finished’ echoes some of his values.  There are a number of additional factors (such as publicly displaying work, having an authentic element to the work and so on that add to this) but the core foundation of critique is key to producing excellent work and ensures that feedback is given and acted upon.  And as I said before, make critique part of your classroom culture rather than an activity or task.

So how do you do this?  There are a number of methods but the core principles stay the same.  I would recommend reading Berger’s book or read this guide from the Innovation Unit.  The following tips are how I adapted and implemented the critique process during my PBL project.

Before you even start the critique process, it’s important to establish the following steps:

1 – Examples of excellence: Introduce a piece of exemplary work similar to what students will need to complete (an example of excellence).  Critique it with the class.  Draw out what it is that makes this piece such a high standard including key terminology.  Create a success criteria for the piece of work which students use to complete it.  You will use this in your first critique session.

2 – Drafts: Call the work students create ‘drafts’.  This may seem irrelevant but it actually gets students into the mindset that the work they are completing will be critiqued and it will be redrafted.  By calling it a draft it explains that work is not finished and that improvements can always be made until you do get to a finished product (providing your success criteria is strong enough).

1 – Give critique time!  Usually a whole lesson should be set aside for a critique session.  Time is needed to model the process, allow for detailed analysis, the giving of feedback and acting upon it.  Don’t rush it!  What about the time element though?  If I have only 6 weeks to cover the content of a unit/module/scheme, I don’t have time to review work.  Well actually, critique improves the quality of the work and reinforces the content if you ask students to focus on this.  By actively seeking out errors in content, it develops the level of their understanding.  Once again, set aside time!  It really will benefit the process.
2 – Establish the rules:  Berger uses three very simple rules when using critique.  These rules ensure that the quality of the feedback is improved.  They are:
Be kind:  All comments should focus entirely on the work.  No personal comments at all. No sarcasm or put downs.  The comments can be challenging but the creator of the work should feel that the feedback is work orientated and happy to receive it.  Hard on content, soft on people.
Be specific: Refined and precise dialogue with detailed explanations on positives and steps to improve.  Comments should explain exactly what needs to be worked on (like a set of instructions) which the writer can simply take away and use.
Be helpful: If the comments don’t benefit the work, the learning, the learners or the class, don’t share it.  Everything you provide feedback on is there to help make the work better.

3 – Model the process: Using a piece of work or exemplar, model the process of critique to your students.  Show them exactly the how to critique work.  This is normally done by the teacher and in the form of an ‘In depth critique’ to the whole class.  Share terminology that you are using.  Refer to the success criteria from when you first set the work.  Demonstrate exactly how you are focusing on key details.  Scaffold what good feedback/feedforward comments actually are.  Get students involved in this and see if you can refine the comments further.

4 – Banned words:  Promote the use of specific terminology that you drew out of the initial exemplar piece of work.  Promote the use of these words and the success criteria whilst critiquing the work.  We are trying to develop students vocabulary and make the feedback they give specific and helpful.  Also encourage any topic specific terminology.  For instance, if you are creating a piece of music, use actual words that the industry and composers use.  Create a list of banned words.  Get rid of ‘It’s good’ and ‘I like it’.  They are not specific and definitely not helpful.

5 – Allow students to critique:  Using what you have just modelled, allow students to critique each others work.  Use the success criteria to structure what it is students focus on.  Focus on one element at a time.  This may be asking students to look at the opening paragraph in an article they have written and see if it answers the Kipling’s questions (who, where, what, when, how, why – basic guidance from local journalists that all articles should start with).  You may simply ask students to critique the spelling, punctuation and grammar.  Maybe ask them to focus on the shape of the wings (as shown in Berger’s video above).  The important thing is to make the elements you want critiqued to be clear.  Ask students to critique too much and the specific nature of their feedback/feedforward gets confused.  Critique sessions can also take on two forms:

Formal in depth critique:  This is similar to the process that you have just modelled.  Students look at each other work and focus on an element at a time.  They identify good points that match the success criteria, and pick out specific parts that need improving (or if tweaked, could make the work better).  A copy of the critique sheet I use (which is differentiated) can be found here.

In depth critique – from my Year 11 GCSE lesson

Gallery critique:  This is where work is displayed in a gallery style (on a wall, laid out on tables, on presentation boards).  Ask students to individually walk around and look at one or two pieces of work.  Ask them to focus on one specific element.  Students write feedback on a post it note or feedback slip and place it below the work.  Snowball this and ask them to discuss their comments with a peer.  Move on and repeat the process on another piece of work, either with the same or different focus.

Gallery Critique: Picture courtesy of Jamie Portman.

6 – Critique the critique:  Particularly in the early days of introducing critique, get students to review the comments that have been given to them.  Are they refined enough?  Are they specific enough?  Do they pinpoint exactly what needs improving?  If anything is unclear, model how to develop it with the class.  Use examples of good and bad critique comments with the class.  This is taking peer assessment to the next level so knowing how to give effective critique comments needs support.

For the more able students in your class, get them to use questions in the feedback they give to the recipient.  Comments such as ‘Could you eliminate the number of redundant words in your final paragraph to conclude your argument….’ make those individuals who are able to, really think about amending their work.

6 – Redraft:  This is the vital element!  Dedicate actual time, in that session, for students to begin redrafting their work.  They need the guidance, the support, the ability to question those who gave them the feedback, the teachers careful eye…..all to help structure the redraft process.  Don’t simply let this be done for homework.  It can be but initiate the redrafting section in your class.  Students need to get into the mindset that work needs reworking if it is to become something of beauty.  As Berger states, you wouldn’t put on a school production without practising it over and over again, making improvements after improvements, until it was perfect.  Unfortunately some students will not initially see the benefit of redrafting.  To combat this, get students to keep every copy of their drafts.  Get them to number them and point out the improvements and developments they have made as the go through their multiple drafts.  This is where keeping portfolio’s for students makes sense.

7 – Culture:  It takes time but creating a culture with your students is so important.  We need to make students value feedback.  We need to get students to want to seek it out.  We need to make students want to make the work they are producing better and better.  We need to help them develop their content knowledge and actually look at the feedback given to them.  We need to help them actively read the feedback they are given and make the improvements identified.  We need them to see the benefit of this effort and hard work improves work vastly (providing the feedback is good).  It does take time, and there will be some reluctant students, but creating beautiful work and developing content knowledge is important.  And it is from structured feedback, not necessarily grades, that ensures this happens.  Incorporate this regularly into your practice and maybe the quality of feedback in your classroom will increase.


David Fawcett – PE