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.

Bright spots // October 14th 2016

Mrs Roscoe (Psychology) – Year 10 students had been learning about the psychology of lying and the telling signs that humans display when they are lying. Mrs Roscoe had prepared a knowledge organiser that students needed to complete. This provided structure for students to engage with the content. Mrs Roscoe then skillfully tested the students application of this knowledge by selecting a student to read out a statement that was either the truth or a lie. The audience then had to decide between ‘truth or lie’ but back up their answer with a psychological reason. Students were being challenged to think hard and apply the new knowledge.


A knowledge organiser being used by students during a year 10 GCSE Psychology lesson.

Ms Wilton (Photography) – Year 10 students were busy practicing their camera skills by taking pictures using lots of different angles. There were similarities here to skill acquisition in PE – students had been shown different techniques and were now given time and space to practice them. Ms Wilton had produce a concise task sheet to help structure the students practice and provide further challenge. Upon speaking to the students it was really clear that they knew precisely what they were doing but also how this would help them improve their technique.


Clear, concise instructions to help guide deliberate practice. Also some good modelling of the different skills.

Ms Litchfield (English) – Year 11 students are currently studying Romeo & Juliet. Ms Litchfield questioned students and drew upon their prior knowledge to tease out key points of the story so far. Students were being challenged around the language used by Shakespeare to describe characters and their actions. Following this class discussion students were then given time to investigate this for themselves by deconstructing a section of text, with a particular focus on identifying how language had been used.

Mr DeRoemer (Maths) – Mr DeRoemer was spending time explaining the process for solving quadratic equations. Students listened well and made notes on the process (one student had highlighted the process so that he could refer back to easily). Mr DeRoemer modelled an example and then gave students time to practice. Whilst students were practicing he then went around the class and provided further support / challenge. Mr DeRoemer then brought the students back together and went through the answers on the board. He used his expert subject knowledge to deconstruct the examples and ask targeted questions which challenged students to think hard about the process.


A year 11 student making a note of the process , expertly modeled by Mr DeRoemer.

Mr Leahy (Maths) – Year 11 were in the middle of some targeted calculator practice – an important skill for their upcoming exams. Students had been given some input on the features and how to use their calculators, before embarking on some deliberate practice. The classroom was calm and purposeful with students working through different calculator problems. As this was happening Mr Leahy made his way around the class providing additional support and challenge. Expectations were high and Mr Leahy had clearly trained the class to follow specific routines to maximise learning.


Year 11 students engaging with deliberate practice in Maths.

Mrs Shaw (Maths) – Year 10 students were practicing ‘opposite angles’. Mrs Shaw spent some time explaining the process and breaking down (step by step) how to solve the problem. Clear appropriate examples / analogies were used to help student understand the angles. Students were then given time to practise making use of questions from a textbook. Students were working purposefully in a calm environment where the teacher constantly offered 1-to-1 support and challenge. Students remained focused during the practice which is a good sign of high expectations, appropriate challenge and clear routines.


Mrs Shaw modeling angles to year 10 students.

Bright spots // 7th October 2016

Mrs Taylor-Evans (Art) – Year 7 students were reflecting on a piece of work from the previous lesson where they had been studying the work of Henri Matisse and identifying what made his artwork great. Students were then challenged to create their own collage using the Matisse’s ideas and themes. The quality of the work and the level of challenge here were high. During this lesson students were evaluating their work using prompts from the board –  a great opportunity for students to reflect on what went well and what can be improved.

Mr Rutter (Science) – Year 8 Science lesson – Students were investigating different food groups. Mr Rutter had made good use of checklists to organise the key knowledge students needed to know. Students were able to refer to checklist and continually self evaluate what they knew and what they didn’t. Mr Rutter gave really clear, concise instructions which were accompanied by very clear timings which created some urgency. He also made really good use of the Academy behaviour system to set expectations around the level of noise that was acceptable for the duration of the task. This helped create a cal, purposeful atmosphere in the room.


Knowledge checklist in a year 8 Science lesson.

Mr Bunker (English) – Year 7 students were acting on feedback to improve their creative writing. Mr Bunker had spent some time highlighting mistakes and students were adding notes to their work about how to improve before starting a re-draft. Mr Bunker made good use of a ‘Benchmark of Brilliance’ resource which clearly identify for students what a excellent piece of creative writing should include. As students were working Mr Bunker used lots of positive prompts to acknowledge where students were focused and working hard. It was clear to see from the depth and quality of work being produced that these students were being held to the highest standards.

Mr Thompson (Maths) – Year 7 students were working through some probability questions. Mr Thompson took some time to explain the process of solving these problems through some great questioning. He focused his questioning around the meta-cognitive skills required to solve the problems. Students were challenged to explain the process of solving the problem rather than just giving an answer. Students were challenged further by being asked to think of alternative or quicker, more efficient ways to solve the same problem. Mr Thompson then modeled the students verbal answers on the board allowing everyone to see the different steps involved in arriving at the correct answer.

Mrs Heath (Art) – Year 7 students were in the middle of submitting homework through a practiced routine. On homework day Mrs Heath spends the first part of the lesson, whilst she is taking the register asking students to show their homework so that she can quickly assess the quality and the whether the homework has been completed or not. This particular homework task really challenged students to practice their line drawing techniques which fed into the lesson. The quality of work submitted was high and routine for collecting homework really helped students as they knew they were unable to opt out. High expectations!


Year 7 Line Drawing techniques homework task.

Mr Smerdon (Science) – The focus of this year 8 Science lesson was ‘Energy.’ Mr Smerdon used the example of mountaineers scaling Everest to hook students in before asking them to reflect on how much energy would be needed to get to the top. Using concrete examples that students can relate to is a great way of getting students interested. This provided the challenge for the lesson. Mr Smerdon’s explanation was clear and he used questioning well to get students to elaborate on their initial ideas before extending their knowledge base further with more explanation.

Bright spots // 30th September

Ms Bracey (English) – Year 7 students were investigating how great stories create suspense and tension through the medium of film. Ms Bracey used questioning to really probe students’ understanding and ideas, utilising the ‘no opt out’ strategy to ensure students thought hard about their answer. Initial questions were always followed up with ‘Why?’ or ‘How?’ to deepen the the response. Ms Bracey also involved many students in her questioning and often asked other students to elaborate on another students answer to make sure they were listening.

Ms Williams (MFL) – Year 9 students were learning about the stem and root of different French verbs. Ms Williams modelled these from the front and then followed up with some great questioning that not only prompted students to identify but challenged them to explain the reason why. This is a really strong habit for probing student understanding and deepening their knowledge. Ms Williams also spent some time modelling the common misconceptions to help students avoid common mistakes. Feedback in books showed students had been forced to correct errors close to their learning through live feedback (highlighting mistakes there and then in the moment and asking students to correct) which is also a great strategy for reducing marking workload.


An example of live marking – close to the learning and enables students to correct their mistakes.

Mr Wignall (Computing) – Year 9 students were learning about the different pieces of hardware needed to create a computer network. Mr Wignall has spent time modelling high expectations of presentation of work which was seen in the current student work. The lesson was a part of a sequence of lessons which focused on the key knowledge (as outlined in the knowledge organiser) and students were busy applying this knowledge by answering questions. Mr Wignall intervened with students that were struggling to understand key bits of knowledge by questioning them to depth and modelling theory on the whiteboard whilst other students worked independently. The classroom was calm and purposeful, a sign of high expectations.

Ms Harris (D&T) – Year 11 students were independently working through their Textile portfolios during this lesson. The atmosphere in the room was calm but focused. Students knew what they were doing and motivated to work hard –  a sign of established routines. Ms Harris was busy questioning students in small groups and 1-to-1 to deepen their understanding. Students were encouraged to elaborate on their answers and think hard about what they were doing and why. The caliber of student work was really high. It was clear to see that students were enjoying the subject, working hard and producing excellent work.


Year 11 student portfolio for GCSE Textiles.


Ms Burrell (MFL) – Year 7 students were recapping vocabulary (items from a pencil case) from the previous lesson that they had started learning. Ms Burrell questioned the students to depth asking them to remember content from a previous lesson. Students were allowed to look back through their books if needed in order to construct an answer and they were given ‘wait time’ in order to do this. It was clear to see that this was part of carefully sequenced series of lessons as the challenge in today’s lesson was to extend students vocabulary to include different colours so that they could begin describing different items form the pencil case.

Ms Pickup (English) – Year 9 students were revisiting a piece of transformative writing and making corrections to improve their work. Students were given a clear framework to do this by Ms Pickup which involved checking for spelling errors and the comparing their writing to success criteria to see what else could be improved. Questioning of students in the lesson was really strong. Ms Pickup used the ‘no opt out’ strategy to make students think hard about their answer and allowed students to look at their books and other resources to help answer questions. Clear routines for feedback were evident in the amount and quality of writing students were producing.


Year 9 English – transformative writing.

Mrs Miles (MFL) – Year 7 students were revisiting some key Spanish vocabulary from a previous lesson. Mrs Miles used quick fire questions to assess their knowledge which kept students on their toes as they didn’t know who would be asked next. Students were able to use their books to help construct an answer if needed and Mrs Miles scaffolded her questions carefully to differentiate for different students. This was a great example of retrieval practice – making students think and remember knowledge form a previous lesson.