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 | 03/09/2016

The first #BOTW for the new academic year goes to Harry Fletcher-Wood for his post on meeting a new class for the first time (something almost all teachers have to do every September). 

Harry makes use of a checklist to identify some key questions (and potential answers) to help teachers make a great first impression.

Read the blog post here.


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).


Blog of the week | 29th November 2015

This weeks blogs of the week look at challenge and how this can be achieved in various different ways across the curriculum. Both posts nicely summarise what is meant by challenge and ‘challenging work.’ They also provide a number of strategies to use in the classroom tomorrow.

  1. Challenge – success for all:
  2. Great lessons number 3 – Challenge: