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.

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!


Bright spots // 16th September 2016

Ms Camwell (English) – Ms Camwell was passionately reading to the class with the expectation that students closely follow the text as they were to be quizzed after. The atmosphere was calm and focused, a good sign of clear routines and high expectations of students. Following the class reading Ms Camwell questioned the students and expected them to elaborate on their answers to think hard about the passage that had just been read. She also made use of the ‘no opt out’ strategy when questioning students and didn’t accept ‘ I don’t know’ as a response. Instead she re-phrased the question or ask students to look back through their exercise book to build an answer to the question.


Feedback from Ms Camwell on how to improve the spelling of key words.

Ms Hawke (Geography) – Year 8 students were re-capping knowledge on ‘Waves’ from a previous lesson as this had been highlighted as an area students were struggling with. Ms Hawke gave a really concise explanation which was backed up by a short video to help students understand a concept. She then used questioning to see what students had understood and probe their understanding further. During the class questioning Ms Hawke had really high expectations and expected students to elaborate on their answers. She also used the behaviour system really effectively by making it really clear to students what was acceptable behaviour before transitioning into the next part of the lesson.

Mr Thatcher (D&T) – Year 7 students were busy practicing their use of a coping saw by cutting out pieces of wood for a puzzle. Mr Thatcher was busy moving around the classroom offering support and feedback on the technique employed by each student. He was keen to ensure they used the correct technique and recognised the difference it made to their work. Following this there was a strong emphasis on literacy with students producing a written piece of work describing the process they went through to create their puzzle pieces.

Mr Parrott (PE) – New to the school this year, Mr Parrott has wasted no time in setting high expectations and establishing routines. He was teaching a year 8 class out on the school field. The students were in the middle of a timed cross-country session. Mr Parrott was keeping a close eye on the students and referring back to their times from the previous week. He gave them lots of encouragement as they came past and reminded them of the importance of pacing themselves. Great start to the year!

Mrs A Peers (Maths) – Year 8 students were learning a new concept and Mrs Peers was using questioning to establish what they already knew. She made really good use of the TLAC strategy ‘wait time’ so that students were given enough time to construct answer rather than a student call out the answer immediately which tends to limit the number of students who have an opportunity to think about an answer. Following the ‘wait time’ after the question a number students were then ready to offer an answer which the class then went onto explore. Mrs Peers also made really good use of praise and attempted to acknowledge where students had made a positive contribution by writing student names on the board. This helped to encourage students to take part.

Mr Day (Maths) – Year 9 were working through some questions on negative numbers. Mr Day had spent some time working through examples with class and de-constructing the questions to find common misconceptions. Some students communicated that they were finding it difficult and Mr Day took this opportunity to explain that being in the ‘struggle zone’ was a good thing for learning. Mr Day has really high expectations of student work / presentation and has developed a neat strategy for catching students up who miss lessons. Every lesson he photocopies the best bit of work and that is used by other students to catch up on work that is missed. It helps model to students what great presentation looks like in maths.


Mr Day’s photocopied ‘best work’ from week 1. Used by students who were away to help catch up. Also a great resource for modelling great performance in Maths to students.

Mr Slocombe (PE) – Year 8 students were practicing their table tennis skills. Mr Slocombe got the group of students together (using a 5-1 countdown – good routines!) to model a serve and explain the technique and strategy behind the serve. Students were engaged with Mr Slocombe’s explanation which expected much of the students vocabulary. He explained intrinsic feedback and the role that played in deciding what shot to play next. Students were then given time in small groups to practice. Really purposeful lesson!

Mrs Cusack (H&SC) – Year 11 students were discussing social bond between people and how this may change over time due to external and internal influences. Mrs Cusack gave a great explanation by using concrete examples that helped students to really grasp the concept. She made good use of the ‘Power of 3’ idea of explaining the same concept in three different ways using different examples. Following the explanation she then questioned the students to assess their immediate understanding, expecting lots of detail in student answers.

Mr Bernaert (MFL) – Mr Bernaert is an NQT this year but has made a really strong start. During a year 9 French lesson students were already use to several routines that he had set. Firstly during the register students knew that they also had to display their homework so that Mr Bernaert could identify who had/hadn’t submitted (which he could log on ShowMyHomework whilst doing the register. Students were also expected to write down the date, objective and begin the start activity whilst the register was being taken. A really strong start to the lesson and efficient use of time.

Bright spots // Sept 9th 2016

The purpose of this post is to acknowledge some of the great practice that occurs every week in and around Bristol Brunel Academy.

Mr Rogers (Science) – 1st lesson with a new year 9 group. Mr Rogers had his group sat in silence whilst he explained the rules, expectations and routines of the classroom. He explained ‘homework day’ which is the same every week to help students remember and how he uses ShowMyHomework to monitor and track homework. Mr Rogers also spent some time modelling (using books form the class) what excellent presentation looks like to students, setting the bar high from the outset.

Mr Jones (Science) – Mr Jones was in the middle of explaining the concept of lightening to his year 11 class. To make the explanation more concrete he describe a walking competition he entered in South Wales which involved map reading and camping over a few days. During one night a lightening storm struck and his group watched lightening striking the ground not far from them. Mr Jones went on to talk more about the scientific relevance of his story. The students were hanging on his every word. A great use of relevant personal experience to help students understand a concept and make an explanation more concrete.

Ms Jacobs (Science) – Students were engrossed in a discussion about the role of platelets and how they help blood to clot. Ms Jacobs used an example of a minor personal injury she encountered to help students understand the concept and make the explanation more concrete. What was really good about this lesson was Ms Jacobs use of retrieval practice to force students to think about remember parts of the Science curriculum from last year. She also made her expectations of behaviour really clear by setting acceptable levels of student communication between activities. Great start to the year!

Mr Browne (Maths) – Upon entering the classroom Mr Browne was modelling the key misconceptions for a maths question with a year 7 class. A clear routine was already place for students responding to the teachers questions which made for a really calm and focused classroom. Mr Browne spent some time de-constructing a question with the class to identify the key errors that students make for this topic. It wasn’t until the year 7 class had completed the question (and got it correct) that Mr Browne revealed they were actually working on a GCSE  question. Another great example of high expectations.

Mr Swaffin-Smith (Maths) – Year 7 students were being introduced to probability and Mr Swaffin-Smith started with some key words relating to the topic. There was a focus here on literacy and presentation of work. Students were challenged to extend their vocabulary and think of other words that could be used. While students were writing Mr Swaffin-Smith took the opportunity to give students feedback on the presentation of work in their books and question students further to probe their understanding.


Blog of the week | 14th February 2016

Blog of the week goes to an excellent post from David Didau who provides a useful summary of a recent research report into learning called: ‘Learning about learning: What every teacher needs to know.’

The research picks out 6 things teachers can do to make a difference:

  1. Pairing graphics with words. Young or old, all of us receive information through two primary pathways — auditory (for the spoken word) and visual (for the written word and graphic or pictorial representation). Student learning increases when teachers convey new material through both.

  2. Linking abstract concepts with concrete representations. Teachers should present tangible examples that illuminate overarching ideas and also explain how the examples and big ideas connect.

  3. Posing probing questions. Asking students “why,” “how,” “what if,” and “how do you know” requires them to clarify and link their knowledge of key ideas.

  4. Repeatedly alternating problems with their solutions provided and problems that students must solve. Explanations accompanying solved problems help students comprehend underlying principles, taking them beyond the mechanics of problem solving.

  5. Distributing practice. Students should practice material several times after learning it, with each practice or review separated by weeks and even months. This is sometimes called the ‘spacing effect’

  6. Assessing to boost retention. Beyond the value of formative assessment (to help a teacher decide what to teach) and summative assessment (to determine what students have learned), assessments that require students to recall material help information ‘stick’. This is usually referred to as the ‘testing effect‘.

Read David’s full post here:

Read the full report here:


Blog of the week | 31st January 2016

This weeks #BOTW comes from Matt Davies a secondary MFL teacher who describes how he is setting the bar high for all students and supporting them through scaffolding. Here’s a snippet from Matts post…

But challenge is difficult. I am the first to admit that I get things wrong, gauging work either too hard or easy at times. But I would like to think I am flexible and can adjust in these circumstances. The key thing though is that the bar is high always regardless of the students starting point. As Andy Tharby and Shaun Allison discuss in ‘Making every lesson count’, to not set the bar high is to disadvantage students who might be deemed less able (for example) and it is therefore about how we scaffold tasks and make them more accessible.

Read the full post here:


Blog of the week | 24th January 2016

#BOTW this week goes to William Enemy’s post called: Knowledge organisers- more clarity than learning objectives and great for building retention.

In the post William talks about how he has used knowledge organisers in Maths and his post details the practical application of them (which can be applied across curriculum areas).