Category: progress

Bright spots // 23rd September

Mr Woodard (D&T) – Year 8 students were busy thinking about what a design specification involves, as they were due to begin a project that challenged students to build a functioning clock. Mr Woodard challenged students through a series of questions to try and assess what students already knew about design specifications. Through a class discussion students were introduced to a design specification and were given one for their project. Mr Woodard then modelled the end product by showing clocks designed and built by former students to give the class a concrete example of what excellence looked like.

Ms Ridgeway (English) – Year 7 students were being exposed to a really challenging text and being asked to describe a passage using specific vocabulary. It was really clear that Ms Ridgeway had really high expectations of students both in the content of the lesson, how students articulated they’re understanding and also of the written work in student books. Ms Ridgway also expected much of student responses when questioning the class. She made really good use of follow up questions to force students to think more deeply about each question with almost all questions immediately followed up with ‘Why?’

Mrs Williams (English) – Mrs Williams engaged students with a really difficult text and challenged students to identify vocabulary they were not familiar with. Students had to then attempt to identify the meaning of the word by looking for clues within the text. She modelled this brilliantly by explaining the thought process of how to approach this problem. Students were then given time to practice before feeding back to the class. Mrs Williams demonstrated really high expectations of students through the use of language and the level of text she was using with the students.

Mr Bunnell (History) – Year 7 students were in the middle of discussing skills required for different jobs during this PSHE lesson. Mr Bunnell made a great use of a simple routine (5,4,3,2,1) to get students quiet. By the time he arrived at ‘1’ the room was in silence – a good sign of an established routine. In questioning students about different types of skills required for different jobs the class had come up with a list of important skills. Foolowing a really clear and concise explanation about why skills like communication, confidence, e.t.c. were important, Mr Bunnell then questioned students to more depth asking them to explain what skills were needed for a particular job. Students were expected to justify their answers and were challenged to think hard through follow up questions.

Mrs Baker (Learning Support) – Year 9 Science class. Mrs Baker was supporting a number of SEND students with challenging ‘Electrons’ task set by Mr Rogers (really high expectations here!). Mrs Baker used great questioning to help students make links between key bits of knowledge before being challenged to extend their answers. She also made really good use of a mini-whiteboard to model the process and outcome to students which helped the students to attempt questions and work independently.

Ms Kirk (English) – Year 7 students were preparing for a creative writing task that was coming up in the next lesson by extending their vocabulary. Ms Kirk had provided students with a simple list of vocabulary and had challenged the students to come up with alternative words that could be used. Ms Kirk made good use of questioning to draw out answers from students and then force them to think really hard by elaborating on their answer, “Why is that word more extreme than…” The presentation of work in books was of a really high standard as highlighted by a piece of written work about a Greek myth.


Year 7 English book – Left: Written piece on a Greek myth | Right: Extended vocab list.

Mr Gandon (Astronomy) –  Year 11 students were engaging with retrieval practice by re-capping an assessment from 6 months ago to see what they could remember (a vital part of learning!). They started by using a knowledge organiser to self evaluate their current knowledge, which helped students to identify areas to improve. Questioning was really focused and forced students to think about specific bits of knowledge. Mr Gandon quickly switched between knowledge recall style questions and more in-depth questioning that encouraged students to apply the knowledge to a broader problem. Mr Gandon also made his explanations really concrete by using appropriate analogies, for example he likened the dust tail of a comet to the tail of a kite.


Knowledge organiser used to self evaluate current understanding of knowledge.

Mrs Guy (PE) – Year 7 Dance lesson and students were listening to instructions from Mrs Guy. She explained the sequence of moves that students were learning and modelled them to the students using diagrams projected onto the wall. Students were then able to engage in some deliberate practice and work towards emulating the techniques that had been modelled.

Ms Curley (Learning Support) – Ms Curley was in the middle of leading a small reading intervention group for SEND students. Having just read a chapter from a book, students were being challenged to think hard and comprehend what had happen to the characters in the chapter. Ms Curley created a competition using the ‘hang-man’ game to get students to think about key vocabulary from the text. The element of competition appeared to spur the students on!



Blog of the week | 17th May 2015

This weeks blog of the week is great reflection on effective questioning and what the purpose of questioning is.

The blog post outlines the reasons for questioning and includes a range of different strategies that can be employed across all subjects. It finishes with a set of questions to reflect on your own questioning…

6questioningRead the full post here.


A collection of posts for NQTs.

Dylan Wiliam

Dylan Wiliam

I wanted to write a definitive post for NQTs but was struck by how many useful posts already exist. Instead of repeating what others have already written, this post will serve to index some great advice from some remarkable people. The is predominately for new teachers but will also serve as a timely reminder to all teachers at any stage in their careers.



#TMNSL 20/03/2014 – Workshop resources: Stop doing I.T. wrong!

Stop doing I.T. wrong! by David Morgan (@lessonhacker)

Stop getting I.T. wrong by David Morgan.

Stop doing I.T. wrong by David Morgan.

Workshop summary.

Digital learning is not something to be scared of or to be worried about.

It’s just learning.

No one called it ‘Pen based learning’ when we moved away from slate tablets, but I’m sure there were a few people reluctant to change their ways, or that didn’t quite ‘get’ the point of pens. In any case, digital learning is here to stay and should be a part of every lesson in some form, if only because it saves you time!

What not to do.


We’ve all seen the classic ‘do a PowerPoint’ lesson. *Sigh*. Yes, you know what I’m talking about; it’s the end of term, you’ve got a section of work on something researched based so you say the immortal lines, “Do a PowerPoint on it”… and four weeks later these digital natives have done two slides that make the content appear one letter at a time.
If students *are* digitial natives then should a PowerPoint take four weeks?



There is life after death by PowerPoint, and it’s all about the amazing things you can do with digital learning. In this workshop we covered my top-tips for getting started:


1. Get over yourself – you will never be as much of an expert in the technology as a student can be because they’ve got unlimited time to learn it. You have to just plan around that and have strategies for finding out: Classroom Genius: find someone in the class who’s the ‘genius’ at the tech you’re using and get them to be the first port of call for non subject specific questions.


2. The connected student – they’re being pinged all the time by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why not leverage the fact they’ve trained themselves to respond quickly to notifications by doing that yourself? Using a tool like edmodo to push out work and ask questions turns simple things into pings that use the same action-reward mechanism that replying to a tweet does; and most importantly, it gets things done!


3. Print on Demand – I’ve covered this in my blog [] but essentially it boils down to getting custom printed exercise books so you can force student to improve skills you want them to focus on.


4. Blur your classroom – Use a VLE of some kind for taking in work (I wrote about this in the most recent Teach Secondary magazine) and then mark using your mobile device whenever you’ve got some down time. Stood outside Next waiting for your other half? Whip out that phone and mark one or two. Waiting in the car for the football crowds to let out? Your mobile is your friend for quick marking. This means that your work life balance gets much better because whilst you might be marking more often, you’re doing it in ‘dead’ time and suddenly you don’t need to sit down and mark in an evening anymore.


5. Record a learning dialogue – using many online tools it’s easy to record the feedback and conversations your having about work and display the progress over time to that tricky Ofsted lot. One piece of kit I’m enjoying at the moment is Kaizena [] which allows you to record audio annotation over a Google doc. This is the quickest marking ever because you can highlight a section, click record, then just speak your feedback. Wowzers.


6. Record everything – use the video camera in your phone (or something fancier if you have it) to record anything you think is useful, even yourself. This gives more flexibility in the type of lesson you can teach because if you spend five minutes recording yourself work through a particular exam problem then you can reshow that video almost indefinitely. Take a look at my youTube channel for some more examples of where you can take a lot of the repition out of your teaching. []


7. X-Factor your lessons – Why not use instant poll software like PollEverywhere [] to allow X-Factor style text voting in your lessons. AFL has never been so much fun. It means students can reply anonymously so closed questions work better, but it does have a free text response option which all updates live as a student texts in. Pure magic.


8. Plan for epic fails – so what’s going to happen if the computers don’t work? Make sure you’ve got a second strategy, an offline ‘go-to’ just incase because the very worst thing you can do in a lesson is wait for the IT guys to come along to fix things, you’ll lose your class’ attention almost instantly if they have any downtime, have something to do that requires dead-tree-tech so you can jump to it in an emergency. This doesn’t have to be well planned, just planned.


9. If you use new tech, use it more than once – because let’s face it. You’re probably not a Computing teacher, so if you do us a favour and teach a bit of software use then why not get a good return on your investment? Use the same tech three of four times, at least, which means that students stop asking you how to use it, and ask you what to use it *for*.


10. Sometimes you can do too much – I once had a year 13 student ask me, exasperated, if they could “just do things on paper today sir?”; so please don’t imaging that I expect every lesson to be an all singing, all dancing digital learning machine. No. What I’d like to see is more teachers using tech day-to-day and not worrying about it.

At some point we’ll forget we ever called it digital learning and find the very idea that we differentiated between eLearning and Learning as a bizzare artifact of a bygone era. When even the most old fashioned teacher in the class thinks nothing of slapping on a pair of video-recording glasses and rocking out an epic lesson.

If you’re interested in finding out more then head to my blog [] or read my book, which coincidentally has the same title as my workshop [] .


Buy David’s book – Stop doing I.T. wrong!

@LessonHacker on Twitter.


#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus

#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus


Image by @gapingvoid

Image by @gapingvoid

I am no expert! I am not basing these ideas of MINE on research/theories (that I have read) but on the data of students that I have taught and the outcomesthey have achieved. (I guess, I have just figured these things out…) If you disagree, please do comment with how I can better my practice for the students I am responsible for.

Exam season:

Time to wrap up our delivery of content, vital information, key facts, formulae, dates, people and so on. It is now time to focus (again/more) on ensuring students know everything and anything they will need in order to secure an excellent grade in the exam.

A-C grades are not the only grade our students need to achieve to be successful. Ensure your students know what their personal targets are?

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By definition revision is about updating, revamping, reworking, redrafting, rewriting and so on… It is important to note revision is not LEARNING from scratch. Therefore, the following information and ideas I will be presenting will work best, when some sort of learning has already taken place!

I believe revision is a very personal process. I do not believe generally that one hat fits all. There are many factors to consider in order ensure revision is effective; (This is not a definitive list!).

  • Time/Time/Rest
  • Environment/Organisation
  • Motivation

Time- 1:

Picking the right time of day to revise is vital. Knowing when one feels most active and alert is crucial in ensuring the brain functions the best. I liken myself to an OWL or a vampire? I love staying up late to study/write/prepare. I would much rather a lay in then getting up early to revise.

`Ensure your students know what time of day they are most active?’ Let them build on this, if they get up later, they would get to bed later, so in theory they will have the same amount of time in a day.

Time- 2:

Knowing how much time to spend on revision is also vital! We must be realistic, students do have OTHER things to do. We need to accept that. Therefore, creating a reasonable, valid, achievable timetable is essential. This might sound easy to us; i.e telling students to write a timetable, however, I have always found it time well spent getting students to do this in class with a template provided.

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I always ask my students to write down their essential ‘other‘ tasks in a day, then their non-essentials. Next to these, I ask them to place a count of how long they spend on these. I ask them to then tally up the amount of time they spend on these in total. This is usually enough of an eye opener for students!


The brain is like a muscle, we can not expect our students to revise all day and night. When we workout, our muscles need a rest. However, I do not feel we should be prescriptive with the amount of time we tell our students to revise for and when to take a rest. I personally feel we all have different thresholds and it should be down to the student to decide.

The message however is clear, take regular breaks to refresh and rest your mind.

Do not get ‘junked‘ up with sweets/sugar/caffeine. Eating properly is important, but eating what you like/enjoy is also vital. Otherwise, in my opinion revision gets linked to horrible tastes?! It does get boring, it does get mundane, eyes do get fuzzy, so being able to intersperse these feelings with a little bit of chocolate cake isn’t too bad!? 🙂

@ActionJackson shared this rule with my students…

work, work, work play rest.

3- 1- 1.

See the video here for more info!

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Students must be able to work in an adequate environment. Sometimes, some students homes can not provide this. Research for your students their local library opening times, the facilities they have there. What bus stop is nearest? Find out other places students can study?

Can you lend your students and exam desk to work on that can folded away. It is important to de-clutter and focus.

Motivation to be successful this isn’t for a revision post… See my last post regarding this!

How does it all work:

In order for information to remain in our long-term memory, we must understand it, we must link it to already acquired knowledge and then attach meaning to it. Ultimately, we want to then apply it to examination questions.

(…Think SOLO?)

Therefore all revision sessions/games/lessons should take on board those concepts.

  • understanding– do the students know exactly what this concept/idea/topic means? Can they explain it to others?
  • Linking to knowledge- can the students link the information to other ideas, areas, concepts?
  • meaning– do the students know the reasoning behind the learning?
  • applying– will the students be able to applying their knowledge and meaning to the exam?

Do your revision sessions allow for those processes to take place? (Naturally you would hope so, as the above is also applicable to ‘normal’ lessons!)

Often, I worry that revision games become exactly that. A game. The focus on understanding, or linking is lost through the ‘fun’ nature of the game and the objective of winning becomes more important than the learning that should be taking place.

Here are some revision station games/ideas I use. Click HERE.

I have listed under each activity what the focus is. I have also come to realise some students do not like doing a variety of tasks as they know what works well for them. Only believe this feeling/confidence from the students if they have proven this. Meaning, have they achieved good grades previously? Therefore does their style of revision work? Ask them to talk through it with you; how did they revise, what did they do, how did they ensure they achieved a good grade? If they answer well, then allow them to the independent to choose their method of revision. This will motivate them too.

Spice of life:

Revision to me is also ensuring that students know about a variety of ways they can revise. I often go on and on and on about the importance of taking information and linking it to your knowledge, transforming the information to help understand it and applying it to examination questions.

Reading and highlighting notes is the pre-cursor to revision, those are the tasks that are carried out in lessons or completed at home. All students revision notes should already be annotated/highlighted BEFORE revision begins? Those elements are learning. Therefore, hand out revision guides well in advance, give your personally created booklet of advice before the holidays, before the course may have even finished.

A great way of ensuring students do not become too complacent, thinking they understand information because they have simply over familiarised themselves with it by reading it constantly, is to apply the magenta principles to text/information.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 11.09.55

Students should aim to do one of the above to the information they must learn/understand. This will help link to knowledge, show meaning and apply to examination questions…


I have compiled a list of over 40 different ways to revise here. (Some are for revision sessions/methods for teachers, some are revision methods/ideas for students.) Share these with your colleagues? Students? Parents? Use the hashtag#EXAMS14 to search out great posts by other teachers.

Show students there is a multitude of ways to revise, but make sure they are sticking to the core principles.

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Some top tips: (In no particular order!)

  • Download and share this literacy/command word wheel. This helps break down for students exactly what each question is asking the student to do. Understanding the subtle differences is paramount.

 Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 11.14.04

  • Revision should be on ongoing process checking for understanding throughout the course, (marking and feedback,) Know your students understand the meaning and are able to apply concepts in exams. I have always shown exam past papers and mark schemes to students from thevery first week of my lessons. I have ensured students are familiar with the layout, the way the questions appear, the style of the questions. I have ensured students read examiner reports, know where to download past papers. Check out my GCSE RE blog-  where I have shared this info.
  • Content Dependent Learning- try this really useful idea by Sir Tim Brighouse. Click here. Includes a 2 minute video presentation explaining this concept.
  • Create podcasts/videos/information throughout the course. Click hereand here for some ideas.
  • Remind students how long they have until their exam. Remind students how many lessons they have, how many school days they have, how many hours this totals up to. I do this often. At the start of a lesson, I may just simply put a countdown timer up on the board as they enter…

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  • Running revision sessions is excellent; however ask the students BEFORE hand what they want to revise, add a Padlet to an email? To your class blog? Ask students to fill in a piece of paper…however you do it, ask students to tell you what they need most help UNDERSTANDING, knowing the MEANING of and how to APPLY.

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  • Involve students in the revision process as much as possible. Get them to create the revision guides for the year below, ask them to run the sessions. See here for a student based lesson. Get the students to create google drive revision questionnaires on a topic each. Get the students to then complete each others quizzes. Click here for an example.
  • Ask students to tweet (run a subject twitter account for themselves. The teacher doesn’t need to get involved.) Get students to create a Facebook group? Teacher could set up an Edmodo page. Students should email (maybe more like FaceTime/Skype/snapchat/bbm) each other to remind each other to revise.
  • Practice…practice…practice… in the real conditions in the real environment. Give students past papers, photocopied and stapled as they would in the real exam. Get students to write in the examination booklets. Get them used to it. Familiar with the obstacle.
  • Collective approach to revision; Ask subject leaders to coordinate their approaches. Check teachers are giving the same/similar message? Check what the revision catch up schedules are of other subjects. Ensure they do not clash. Here at my school we have a designated day for Eng, Maths, Science. To help alleviate the problem of students having to chose which subject they will miss.
  • Link examination grades with outcomes. Why would it benefit the student to do well in your exam. Why is it important? What is the end goal?
  • Use Youtube/Websites/APPs- videos (We have a revision channel on our school Youtube channel) and online quizzes (Such as or can be an essential ‘extra’ to revision. Don’t forget the core websites- such as SamLearning BBC Bitesize and so on.

I do not have all the answers… I imagine this post will be constantly edited/updated when I remember more ideas!

Post submitted by:



Amjad Ali

Assistant Principal




Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Revision’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

‘Quick wins’ #15 – Getting students to articulate their learning.

Getting students to articulate their learning by Steve Gill.

Getting students to articulate their learning by Steve Gill.

Why? I guess I was never really convinced by the idea of getting students to articulate their learning; I thought it was one of those tokenistic additions to lessons, something that would please the observer rather than having an impact on students’ learning. So, when students were clearly making progress through their written work, I was little concerned if they couldn’t express precisely what they were learning, verbatim, like they had regurgitated every word of the specification. I was also very cautious of time that this took; I feared it would slow down the pace of the lesson, that I would lose the students before I had a chance to engage them.  I was wrong…

Possible solution. I now think that getting students to precisely articulate their learning is integral to their engagement and to their progress. So, what changed? Persistence and developing habits. Just like Einstein said,

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Although I had always shared the lesson outcomes with students, their interaction with them was something that I tried to build on, every lesson; before, I had just assumed that reading the objectives to students was enough. However, David Didau’s book, The Perfect English Lesson, was something which helped me to question this process. He talks about getting students to interact with the lesson objective in creative ways – getting them to guess missing words; to write the lesson objective as a facebook status and then allowing students to comment on this. Therefore, I took inspiration from this.

Firstly, I started with the language in the outcomes of the objective. I stripped the specification down, picking out the key words. For a reading lesson in English this usually translates to getting students to explain, explore, analyse language or ideas. Through questioning, I then got students to define – precisely – what these words meant. To help with this I added pictures beneath my outcomes and I asked students to match up the correct pictures to the outcomes. This led to an increased sense of clarity. For example, students were able to link the picture of an explorer surveying a landscape to the need to look everywhere in a text; to find more than one quotation to support a point; to look at more than one interpretation when looking at a quotation. Discussion evolved further to looking at sentence starters which would help students to demonstrate that they were explaining or exploring an idea.


Example learning objectives (editable).

Outcome. This strategy has worked successfully. Students are now clearly able to say what they are learning in a lesson and they can also precisely say what level they are working at, as well as being able to articulate how to move to the next level. This has motivated students: their next learning milestones have shrunk, becoming tangible, and within their reach. Also, with a new emphasis on lesson grades being linked to ‘progress over time’, students’ ability to articulate what they have learnt and how they have progressed is more paramount than ever. In a recent observation it was great to see students explaining to the observer what they had learnt and how they could progress further. However, I don’t think this has solely been achieved by getting students to interact with the lesson objectives and outcomes alone; the language used in the objectives has permeated all aspects of learning. I have used it repeatedly through questioning and book marking, too. In this respect, it has also sped up the latter as, in some cases, I am able to write ‘explain your point’ or ‘analyse these words.’ In short, having high expectations around students being able to articulate their learning has led to significant improvements in my classroom. So, if you are worried about this absorbing too much lesson time, fear not: just persist. And slowly, students will possess a clear understanding of what they need to learn, and know exactly how to get there.

Post submitted by:

Steve Gill




Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Getting students to articulate their learning’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

#TMNSL 20/03/2014 – Workshop resources: Differentiation

Differentiation by Chris Moyse (@ChrisMoyse)

Differentiation by Chris Moyse

Differentiation by Chris Moyse

Workshop Summary.

Our students differ from each other in so many ways:

·         Prior knowledge and expertise

·         Ability

·         Language development

·         Motivation

·         Interest

·         Family background and values

·         How they learn best

·         Where and when they learn best

·         Speed at which they learn

·         Levels of concentration

·         Confidence and self esteem

·         Physique

There are several ways by which we can make the learning more accessible for all our learners…

·         Task

·         Resource

·         Outcome

·         Questions

·         Time

·         Steps to take in an activity

·         Support – peer/adult/virtual

·         Grouping

·         Pupil choice

·         Curriculum

·         Assessment & feedback

The top two sound too much like hard work for busy teachers so in this workshop we briefly looked at the possibilities of differentiating by choice.

Before though we considered the fact that John Hattie suggests that…

A teachers’ job is not to make work easy. It is to make it difficult.

He goes on to say that…

If you are not challenged, you do not make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes, feedback is useless.

Lev Vygotsky suggests that our students should operate within their ‘Zones of Proximal Development’. This involves facing challenges just beyond their current capabilities: a level of challenge that students can meet with help. Learning should feel tough, tricky, challenging, puzzling but not impossible.

To provide a challenging level of learning we need to know our students. Ensure that you have simple, understandable and usable pupil data available and use this data when planning and structuring teaching and learning in your classroom. Data together with any other relevant information about your students is best collated on an annotated seating plan or student profile. Have this annotated seating plan to hand and in the forefront of your mind as you prepare fabulous lessons. Remember to also have their recently marked books with you too as marking should always inform your lesson planning.

Start with the end in mind: plan for learning. Establish a clear objective and tangible outcomes avoiding the devil of low expectation – Must Should Could. Quite simply the wrong language to be using with teenagers!

Same task, different level of challenge. When you differentiate, you plan for the most able in terms of outcomes and then look at how to overcome the barriers for other groups in your class to enable them to access these outcomes – you then adapt resources, support and grouping to differentiate.

Research from Professor Robert Ornstein indicates that when learners feel as if they have some control and choice over the type of task that they are about to do, they feel positive and motivated.

So try to differentiate through choice eg Let the students choose their level of challenge or use workshops or drop in sessions: a series of inputs or demonstrations that students come to if, and only if, they need them

Differentiation top tips:

Differentiation bookmarks by Chris Moyse.

Differentiation bookmarks by Chris Moyse.

·         Know your class and demonstrate this through annotated seating plans and student profiles. Use this ever-developing knowledge base to enable you to adapt your approach for who is in front of you.

·         Challenge them. Have high expectations. Present learning without limits.

·         Encourage your students to make and learn from mistakes. Then feedback can come into play.

·         Opportunities for students to express their understanding and articulate their thoughts should be designed into any lesson. The more you hear and see the more you find out and the better you plan, respond and adapt to what happens during the lesson. Great teachers are great listeners too.

·         Mark their books and provide your students with more work. Provide them with an opportunity to make your suggested improvements: the only time you will ever have 30 different lesson plans.


FREE RESOURCE: Differentiation bookmark.

@ChrisMoyse on Twitter.

Chris Moyse – Ginnis Training


#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus

#NeverStopLearning by @DavidJesus