Bright spots // Friday 26th May 2017

Ms Harry (Drama) – Year 7 students were developing freeze frames for a specific genre of film. Ms Harry spent some time questioning students on their understanding of freeze frames and what great performance would look like in this area. What was interesting here was that after Ms Harry had asked a series of questions about what makes a great freeze frame she followed this up with what not to do and a series of questions on this theme. This was a great opportunity to check for common misconceptions and address these with the class. Students then went onto some focused practice in groups where they were developing a freeze frame of their choice. Whilst students were practicing Ms Harry circulated the groups providing further feedback and challenge that prompted students to think harder about what they were doing and why.

Ms Campbell (English) – Year 9 students were having a second attempt at a question following a recent assessment. Ms Campbell spent some time explaining to the class in precise detail what they needed to do and what her expectations of them were. Students were then giving time to practice whilst Ms Campbell then began giving 1-to-1 feedback to students. In student books it was great to see good use of memory platforms to get students retrieving information from memory (a great way to build long term memory). Feedback from students on this was really positive as it helped them to remember. Ms Campbell has also been trialling whole class feedback, making use of a crib sheet to collate common errors and misconceptions which then leads to a range of targets being generated that students can select (or sometimes this is selected for them) from.

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Retrieval practice in English – students tested on their understanding of language.

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Whole class feedback in English – reducing workload whilst providing actionable feedback.

Mrs Zagani (Year 8 Pastoral leader) – This blog aims to not only celebrate the great work by teaching staff, but also the remarkable work of all staff from across the academy. Earlier this week Mrs Zagani supported a student who was finding things particularly difficult. Mrs Zagani spent time expertly dissecting what had happened with student before clearly (and concisely) presenting the options to the student. Her balance of compassion and support mixed with high expectations enabled the student to make the right decision. If you ever get the chance to spend some time with the pastoral team (in any academy) I would recommend it! There is a lot to learn about how our pastoral leaders interact with and uphold the high standards we expect from students whilst creating a caring, supportive and safe environment.

Ms Litchfield (English) – Year 8 students were working on a descriptive writing piece. This piece of work had recently been the subject of feedback from Ms Litchfield. She is currently trialling whole class feedback using a crib sheet to track common errors and misconceptions (something the English team have adopted). Following the completion of a crib sheet, Ms Litchfield then uses this information to generate targets (see form below) and a space for students to act on this feedback. The targets are really specific so instead of re-drafting a whole essay students are given a specific bit to improve. This approach has drastically reduced the time it has taken to mark & feedback to students and the level of response from students has impressed Ms Litchfield!

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Following whole class feedback students are provided with a selection of targets to choose from and then a space to complete the target.

Mrs Ridgeway (English) – Year 9 students were looking into gender stereotypes associated with Macbeth. Mrs Ridgeway gave students a series of examples and students were asked to give their opinion (using their prior knowledge of stereotypes) and provide examples of gender stereotypes. One student gave a fantastic response where he explained the gender stereotypes related to toy shops and that boys toys tend to be blue and girls toys tend to be pink. Mrs Ridgeway used questioning to explore student answers further and challenge their thinking. Looking at some student books it was great to see more memory platforms and spelling tests (extended so that students not only recall the correct spelling but also the meaning of the work).

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Memory recall of spellings and their meanings in KS3 English.

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More knowledge recall in KS3 English. Building a secure knowledge base so that students can develop their analytical writing.

Ms Harvey (Science) – Year 7 students were investigating an experiment into heat transfer. As students were conducting a practical experiment, Ms Harvey was circulating the room ensuring students were safe but also questioning and challenging students on what they were doing and why. Following the experiment students were supported to write an evaluation that explained whether or not their hypothesis had been proved and what was the scientific evidence to support this. Looking through student books it was great to see some examples of regular low stakes quizzing, end of topic quizzes and students acting on feedback regarding SPAG. Feedback from students on the usefulness of the regular quizzing was really positive as it was helping them to remember more which was breeding confidence.

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Retrieval practice in year 7 Science.

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End of topic test in year 7 Science

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SPAG feedback in year 7 Science.

Mr Gandon (Science) – Year 13 Physics students were working through some practice questions. They had previously spent some time developing their vocabulary and building knowledge so that they could apply this to questions. Mr Gandon modelled well making use of his whiteboard to walk students through how to complete a particular equation. He was then able to circulate the group, draw out misconceptions and re-teach to smaller groups where needed.

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Technical vocabulary in year 13 Physics.

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Mr Gandon modelling an approach to solving an equation to come to the conclusion that a KG is in fact a KG!

Mr Leahy (Maths) – I managed to see Mr Leahy twice this week. The first time was during a year 10 (top set) Maths lesson. Mr Leahy’s direct instruction was fantastic – clear, concise and challenging. He used a mixture of explanation, live modelling of worked examples and questioning to explain a new topic and get students to make links to prior knowledge. Following instruction, students were then given time to practice (in silence so that they could concentrate). Whilst students were working Mr Leahy circulated the room providing verbal feedback and looking for misconceptions. After spotting a few students making the same mistake, he paused the class and re-taught a section explaining the misconception and modelling the correct process.

The second opportunity to see Mr Leahy came during a walking/talking mock for year 11 students. This is a fantastic way to prepare students for an upcoming exam (student feedback on these have been really positive). Mr Leahy taught from the front, giving students time to attempt questions before live modelling the meta-cognitive approach for solving each question before arriving at the correct answer. He took this opportunity to also highlight common misconceptions and address these with the group (60+ students!).

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Mr Leahy conducting a walking-talking mock for 60+ year 11 students. Purposeful practice at its best!

Mrs Taylor Evans (Art) – During the Art departments feedback review I had the opportunity to sit down with Mrs Taylor-Evans and look through lots of student work and discuss the impact of feedback on student work. The majority of feedback in art is delivered verbally as students are creating, so it was great to discuss the progress students are making and see how their work has developed over time. The quality of work produced by students is exceptionally high which is a testament to the feedback students receive in lessons.


Bright spots // Friday 19th May 2017

Mr Parrott (PE) – Year 7 students were in a Football lesson whereby they putting into practice skills developed in previous lessons, in a game situation. Feedback was frequent and Mr Parrott stopped students regularly to challenge students on their understanding. Often this led to immediately re-teaching students through modelling & explanation and then followed this up with further questioning. The immediateness of the feedback meant students were able to adapt what they were doing (as directed by Mr Parrott’s feedback) and improve instantly. The verbal feedback was built into the learning as opposed to it being bolted on at the end. The nature of PE practical lessons lends itself to constant verbal feedback during sustained deliberate practice, which leads to students making progress over time.

Mr Rutter (Science) – Year 7 students were learning about chemical reactions. Mr Rutter was in the middle of co-constructing an answer with the class making great use of questioning to scaffold responses from students. He was able to identify misconceptions and tackle them with students immediately. Feedback was frequent and built into the learning. Mr Rutter has also been trialing retrieval practice in the form of quizzes. Students responded well to frequent quizzing, explaining that they have found it useful in helping to remember key knowledge. They also explained that this helped them to feel more confident about Science.

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Year 7 retrieval practice in Science

Mrs Guy (PE) – Mrs Guy was teaching year 7 students the scissor kick technique for the high jump. Whilst students were practicing the technique (jumping over low benches to get the technique correct before attempting it on a higher bar) Mrs Guy was circulating the space providing lots of verbal feedback to students on their technique and providing very specific actionable things to change in their next attempt. Again, this was a great example of feedback being built into the learning, in the moment while students were practicing. The immediacy of the feedback allowed students to make noticeable, incremental changes to their practice which produced visible differences in their performance.

Mr Heath (PE) – Year 9 boys were running the 800 meters in small groups. Although this was predominately deliberate practice there was still lots of verbal feedback and instruction. As students were running Mr Heath gave feedback on technique that students were able to immediately action. He also involved other students who were waiting to run by asking them questions and giving them feedback on preparing to run. Each time a lap was nearing completion students would receive lots of feedback and encouragement. It was great to see students actively participating and enjoying themselves at the same time!

Mrs Heath (Art) – Year 7 students were spending time writing about a piece of artwork they had spend some time developing on the theme of surrealism (one student gave a fantastic description of surrealism when they were asked to explain the concept!). Mrs Heath had set students the task of writing about surrealism and she had provided students with a writing frame to help them structure their writing. Whilst students were working Mrs Heath was circulating the room and providing feedback on their writing / artwork. The artwork itself that students had created was exceptional and it was obvious to see that students had taken real pride in their work.

Mrs Payton (PE) – Year 9 girls had been playing tennis (I arrived just before the lesson finished) and in particular practicing the volley shot. Mrs Payton questioned the students to assess their understanding of the practice they had carried out during the lesson. The questioning involved wait time and opportunities for students to discuss in pairs to help formulate ideas before answering (great strategy!). I questioned a couple of students and they were very articulate in their answers, describing the best grip to use when making the volley shot and when the best time to use shot in a match would be.

Mrs Williams (English) – During Mrs Williams TRM she was able to discuss what has been working well in her English lessons. One strategy that has been trialed is whole class feedback mixed with the re-teaching of areas that students found difficult. The whole class feedback highlights common misconceptions, SPAG errors, identifies targets for improvement and then champions exemplar work for all students to see. In addition to reducing the amount of time it has taken Mrs Williams to provide feedback to students, it has also helped plan the next lesson in a timely manner so that she can address the common misconceptions and move student learning forward.

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Whole class feedback in English


Feedback (especially verbal) appears to be strongest when it is:

  • built into the learning process rather than tagged on at the end.
  • close to the learning – whilst students are working provide them with feedback that allows them to make incremental changes.
  • used to re-teach misunderstood knowledge and challenge misconceptions.

Bright Spots // Friday 12th May 2017

Mr Day (Maths) Year 9 students were working through equations. Mr Day had approached this with students through problem solving, with students having to think really hard about common patterns across a number of different equations. This part of the lesson also sparked lots of discussion around meta-cognition with students being asked to articulate their thought process in solving equations and identifying similarities between different equations. A real strength of teaching practice here was questioning and Mr Day’s use of spiraling up the difficulty of questioning to make students think hard.

Miss Jacobs (Science) – Miss Jacobs has been trialing a new whole class feedback strategy with students in order to provide actionable feedback in a more time efficient way. Whilst reading through student work she is using a crib sheet to collate common misconceptions and errors. From this a series of targets for improvement are created.  This is then fed back to the whole class and students are given targets appropriate to them. The sheet is photocopied and stuck into books so students are able to see what they need to do next. This has approached has also been combined with live marking in the lesson. Miss Jacobs is aiming to see 5-6 students each lesson and provide them with verbal feedback (using a highlighter to quickly highlight errors that need correcting). This has already drastically reduced workload whilst providing more frequent, actionable feedback to students.

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Mr Bates (Music) – Year 8 students were engaged in deliberate practice. They working on a short piece of recorded music where they were attempting to recreate the Wallace & Grommet theme music. Mr Bates was circulating the class providing lots of actionable verbal feedback which was enabling students to think about and improve their work. This was a mixture of direct instruction and questioning to support further development. Students were all very proud of what they had produced and very keen to get visitors to listen to their work!

Mr Thompson (Maths) – Year 7 students were studying number sequences and in particular looking at whether a sequence was linear or not. Mr Thompson used questioning to get students thinking about the process of identifying a linear sequence, looking out for any ‘red herrings’ that may throw them off the scent. This was a great way to challenge misconceptions and address them with students. Students responded well despite finding it challenging.

Mr Browne (Maths) – Year 7 students had been working on sequences of number. Although this was right at the end of the lesson, Mr Browne had been getting students to practice their understanding by applying a method to working out the next numbers in a sequence. This form of practice is really useful for students to think hard about their learning. As always Mr Browne’s class was very calm and purposeful which is a good sign of strong routines and high expectations.

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Deliberate practice in year 7 Maths.

Bright spots // 9th December

Ms Thielen (Spanish) – Year 9 students were responding to feedback on a recent piece of work. Ms Thielen questioned students about a common misconception to ascertain the precise nature of the mistake and then used clear explanations and examples to model the correct use of language. Students were very much involved and were encouraged to offer lots of ideas with Ms Thielen correcting where needed and using other students to build upon the previous answer. Students were expected to make notes to correct their work as the teacher revisited questions on the board. The idea of revisiting work is a vital part of the learning process – giving students time to engage with retrieval practice (find out more about retrieval practice and other learning strategies here) is just as an important as introducing new content.

Mr Heath (PE) – Year 11 boys were taking part in a table tennis tournament. Despite this being a non-examined class, all students were in kit and involved in the lesson (high expectations). Mr Heath had the lesson set up so that students could practice and develop their table tennis skills through competition (a useful strategy for engaging boys). Projected onto the wall was a tournament fixture chart which tracked the different matches. Students owned this and would update after each match. Whilst students were playing Mr Heath circulated, challenging and supporting students. For some students this may be the only opportunity they get to take part in sport so Mr Heath was keen to ensure they had a great experience to promote healthy lifestyles to the students.

Ms Pickup & Ms Middleton (Accelerated reader) – Year students were reading silently in the library as part of an accelerated reader programme (1 session a week). Students are already into a routine of collecting a book and sitting at a desk quickly to ensure maximum reading time is available. Ms Pickup was able to offer praise and feedback whilst students were reading. Once students have finished reading a section they are able to to test themselves using the accelerated reader software – a great way to build memory and develop comprehension. The programme itself is supported by our librarian Ms Middleton who has put a lot of time and effort into setting it up and championing reading to students. This is just one of many initiatives that Ms Middleton has help set up to encourage students to read more widely. Another popular event are the author visits that occur regular in the BBA library. This is a fantastic opportunity for students to hear from and engage with authors of books available in the library. One of the challenges for all teachers is how do we get students to read more often in lessons? Some possible solutions here and here.

Ms Curtis (Science) – Year 10 students were working their way through some chemical equation practice. Whilst students were practicing Ms Curtis circulated the room questioning students and supporting them to develop their understanding. Questioning was targeted and the students who need the most support were visited first. Ms Curtis has really high expectations of students work which was evident in student work, with students demonstrating pride and progress. Ms Curtis has also developed student organisation (a key skill for busy exam periods) by modelling to students how to create flash cards for revision and then given time over for students to create these. She has also created a folder system for storing all past papers so that students can revisit these to develop their knowledge further.

Bright spots // 2nd December 2016

Mr Pugh (History) – Year 9 were learning about the civil rights movement in America and the effect this had on people at the time. Mr Pugh made good use of carefully selected video clips to explain to students what it would have been like to have been an ethnic minority growing up in America. In order to get students thinking he used the example of a politician who enlisted the army to surround a high school to stop 9 black students from entering in order to score political points. This shocked students and provided a great talking point. Mr Pugh then question students to test their understanding of what they had understood so far, making good use of follow up questions (‘Why?’) to make students think. It was clear to see from the books that students had received purposeful feedback on how to improve their written work and then time had been allocated to redraft, practice and improve their work.

Mrs Finlyson (Maths) – Year 13 students were learning to use the addition formulae and express sin2A, cos2A and tan2A. Mrs Finlyson modeled an example to the class and worked through it with them using feedback from students. This strategy enabled students to test their own understanding while Mrs Finlyson was able to highlight common misconceptions and explain these to the class. The environment in lesson was really calm and purposeful with students being very inquisitive and asking lots of well thought out questions, a good sign of high expectations. Following the modeled example students were then given time to practice this technique further and receive further feedback from Mrs Finlyson.


A-Level maths – example used by Mrs Finlyson to explain/model the process.

Mrs Coke (Maths) – Year 7 students were practice a new process. Students had been given a task to do following an explanation from Mrs Coke. Students were challenged but able to work through the task, keeping in the ‘struggle zone’. Whilst students were working Mrs Coke circulated the room providing further challenge and support. She used great questioning to seek out student understanding and then provide scaffold to enable students improve their understanding. Another calm and purposeful classroom which indicates students understand the routines and Mrs Coke’s high expectations.


Year 7 students using ‘deliberate practice’ during a maths lesson.

Bright spots // 11th November 2016

Mr Bates (Music) – Year 8 students were busy practicing a scene from a common nursery rhyme. Students were challenged to think about their placing on the stage using technical language and in small groups were developing a scene. After a period of practice (during which Mr Bates gave students feedback and further challenge) students were then asked to perform their scene. This is something students often find difficult or are reluctant to do but Mr Bates had built a safe environment in which students could perform. Strict rules were enforced so that the audience respected the performers.  Mr Bates questioned the audience following the performance to elicit feedback to the performers based on the success criteria discussed earlier in the lesson. The questions often probed deeper and challenged students to elaborate on their answers giving reasons.

Mrs Horrill (Business) – Year 10 students were working on a piece of coursework as a result of a series of lessons leading up to some extended writing. Students were able to work independently and made good use of the course textbook. Students worked in silence which in this particular situation appeared to enable students to work to depth. If they needed help they were able to consult the textbook first before asking the teacher. Whilst this was going on Mrs Horrill was giving 1-to-1 verbal feedback to each student to ensure they understood how to improve. The set up for this lesson showed clear planning that focused on students practicing the skills and knowledge they had built up over a series of lessons.

Mr Ferguson (Technology) – Mr Ferguson began this lesson with some retrieval practice in the shape of an exam question. Students were given time to complete the question before going through possible answers. Mr Ferguson questioned students to depth asking them to offer answers and give reasons for their answers. He also modeled the thinking behind the approach and asked students to explain how they approached the question and came to an answer. Mr Ferguson had really high expectations of student responses and encouraged them to always a give a reason for their answer. In the lesson students had also been making use of a knowledge organiser to start assessing what they knew and what they needed to revise.

Ms Campbell (History) – Year 8 students were acting on feedback from their most recent assessment –  an extended piece of writing. Before students got started Ms Campbell spent some time recapping the PEE (Point Evidence Explain) method for tackling long answer questions. She did this really well by modelling a paragraph on the board and then asking students to pick out the different parts of the PEE method. Ms Campbell used questioning to challenge students to think about how this might help them with their own work. With a clear understanding of what was expected of students they were then given time to act on the feedback Ms Campbell had given them. She had used ‘code marking’ to reduce marking time and students were being trained in how to do this. Students then worked in silence to improve their work whilst Ms Campbell circulated the room to give more verbal feedback.

Ms Harry (Drama) – Year 9 students were being introduced to a new topic about ‘Developing empathy.’ Ms Harry started by questioning students of the word ’empathy.’ She then followed this up by giving students the example of young homeless people to discuss: “What are the common assumptions we make?” This led to a rich discussion partly due to the choice of example planned for this discussion – something all of the students were already aware of. The talk in small groups was really purposeful and when Ms Harry got the class back together to feedback some wonderful responses were shared. Student oracy was really strong in this lesson which was down to Ms Harry’s high expectations of student language.

Mrs Dixon (Maths) – Year 9 students were revisiting a topic from a previous topic and were given time to practice their skill in substituting numbers. This was great retrieval practice. Student voice suggested that students could remember the topic but were a bit ‘rusty’ when it came to application of the skill. Retrieval practice is absolutely vital for learning so it’s really encouraging so see this happening in many lessons across the academy. Whilst students were practicing Mrs Dixon was able to move around the room offering 1-to-1 feedback and further challenge. The task had been designed so that it gradually got harder as students moved from left to right.


Retrieval practice from Mrs Dixon in Maths.

Mrs Atkinson (Computing) – Year 8 students were engaging with some DIRT time following a recent written assessment. They had been given feedback on their assessment and were now practicing skills based on knowledge gaps identified through the assessment. The class was quietly working and being supported through additional resources and feedback from Mrs Atkinson. In order to dissolve some common misconceptions Mrs Atkinson spent time modelling the process of converting binary numbers on the board so that students could revisit the process. This then enabled a number of students to work independently through the practice materials.


Modeling from Mrs Atkinson in year 8 Computing.

Ms Jenkins (Science) – Year 8 students were investigating how mass effects the speed of an object falling. Ms Jenkins had used the example of aid agencies dropping food parcels into hard reach areas of the world. This example gave students a concrete starting point for understanding the concept they were learning about. Next, students built mini paper helicopters for an experiment that involved dropping the helicopters from a set height multiple times, adding more weight after each drop. Before carrying out the experiment students were asked to make a prediction as to what would happen as more weight was added. They then went out into the academy to test their predictions by dropping paper helicopters from the first floor to the ground floor. Students had been put into groups and assigned roles to carry out this experiment. As students conducted the experiment Ms Jenkins visited each group to question their method and challenge them further about their results and what the results meant. Students appeared to enjoy this practical but at the same time felt challenged by the science!


Year 8 Scientists making predictions and then testing them.

Bright Spots // 21st October

Mrs Lynett (Geography) – Year 8 students were spending a lesson catching up on missed work. This is a constant challenge in schools – how do we catch students up who fall behind? Mrs Lynett’s approach is to build lesson time in once a term to go back and revisit tasks that are incomplete or missing. Before the lesson Mrs Lynett prepared a checklist for each student so they knew precisely what they needed to catch up on. They were also provided with examples of ‘excellent work’ to help model expected standards of work. For students who were up to date, they were given a challenge task to deepen their understanding further.

Mrs Bush (Maths) – Year 10 students were interpreting frequency tables in an attempt to make a conclusion about data. Mrs Bush provided some good live modeling by working through an example on the board. During the modeling she also asked a series of targeted questions to challenge students to think about the process and elaborate on their initial ideas. Initial questions were often followed up with ‘why’ and ‘how’ style questions to encourage further thinking.

Ms Khahra (English) – Year 11 students were busy planning an essay. Students were working in silence which allowed them to really concentrate on the task at hand. Ms Khahra used a selection of prompts to help students plan their essays, this was available as a scaffold if needed. Students were working independently as a result of previous input form the teacher. In order to build knowledge over a sequence of lessons Ms Khahra had made use of memory platforms to force students to recall information from previous lessons to aid learning.

Ms Siddiqui (English) – Year 9 students were responding to feedback on a piece of work from a previous lesson. Ms Siddiqui had made use of the ‘code marking’ strategy (that will have decreased the time taken to give feedback to students) which places emphasis on students to engage with the targets they have been assigned to improve the work. Before students started, Ms Siddiqui lead a quick discussion about why acting on feedback was important and the students came up with some interesting points such as ‘to identify mistakes and improve work’, ‘to revisit work to help remember it.’ Explaining the ‘why’ behind these strategies tends to help students buy in which will hopefully lead to further learning.


Year 9 English student highlighting different sections of her essay before responding to feedback.

Ms Harvey (Science) – Year 10 students were carrying out a practical on the pH scale. Students were very focused on the task at hand and were asking questions of what they were doing – a good sign of clear instructions. The sequence of lessons leading up to this lesson focused on the theory of acids, alkalies and balancing chemical equations. Students were able to clear articulate this which gave the practical more purpose. Ms Harvey had set the practical for students to work in small groups (2-3) so that there was something for every student to do. The classroom was busy but purposeful with students keen to investigate further.


Ms Jukes (Technology) – Year 8 students were engaging in some deliberate practice. Their project this term is to design and create a functioning speaker. The work in their books shows that they are building both their design and technical knowledge over a series of lessons to prepare them to not only design something that looks good but also have the confidence to create a working circuit. The practice in this lesson focused on soldering and students were presented with a task to help them think about the technique. Whilst this was happening Ms Jukes circulated the classroom offering live feedback to improve technique and challenge student understanding.


Deliberate practice in Technology.

Mr Buck (Science) – Similar to Ms Harvey’s lesson year 10 students were carrying out the same practical. Again students were asking some great questions of each other which showed they were interested in the subject. Although the classroom was busy, student conversations were focused on the method of the practical and ensuring the steps were followed correctly. Mr Buck had supplied students with a framework for writing a plan for the practical which helped students to capture the most information. Feedback from the students suggested that this was useful but didn’t lower the challenge.


Year 10 Science – student plan for practical.