What is The Muse?

The Muse is a regular publication from the staff at Cramlington Learning Village. It is one of the many ways we share great practice within and beyond the school, and we hope readers of this site will take some ideas, try them out, reflect and share just as we have dome in these pages. Hard copy editions of The Muse are published roughly quarterly.


The Questioning Cramlington 10 by the Teacher Advocates

The first Teacher Advocates session focused on how what good questioning looks like in the classroom. We worked to put together a ‘Top 10’ of questioning strategies that we felt have a strong impact in the classroom.

Hinge Questions

Purpose: To pause a lesson at an important point to ask students to answer a key question. Usually multiple choice so that you can check students know the answer.

Strategies: Explain to students that this will be testing their understanding of the lesson. Give them a short period of time to answer and explain their rationale behind the answer. Only move on when the class understand the correct answer.

Cold Call Questioning

Purpose: To generate a classroom culture in which any student can be asked a question at any point.

Strategies: Make sure it is predictable, positive and a part of classroom culture. Give students time to think about their answer. Explain that you will not be taking hands to answer the particular question to give students advance warning. Use this to differentiate your questions and check the understanding of all students.

Model good listening skills

Purpose: To build motivation and engagement, to show we value student answers.

Strategies: Give time for students to finish answers; using eye contact with students to recognise their efforts; encourage other students to mirror these listening skills. Use the SLANT acronym to focus them on this aspect. Repeating back to students they key points of their answer as a summary to check we have interpreted it correctly.

Repetition of Key Questions

Purpose: To make sure that students have grasped key concepts and ideas in lessons.

Strategies:  Differentiating by repeating questions to a range of students throughout the lesson; having repeated questions displayed so that students continually come back to them. Starting a lesson with key questions then returning to this at the close of a lesson.

Student led questioning

Purpose: To encourage students to generate questions in lessons.

Strategies: Structure opportunities that allow students to ask each other questions in lessons. Give time in lessons for students to write/prepare questions about the lesson. Have student led questioning monitors to generate questions in the lessons.

Link questions to the Learning Objective

Purpose: To ensure clarity of student understanding about the purpose of the lesson. Strategies: Use questions to return to the learning objective throughout the lesson. Write some key questions related to the learning objectives in advance to ensure that this will be explored in the lesson. Ask students to come up with questions related to the lesson objectives.

Check your mirrors

Purpose: To ensure that all students are contributing, have been asked a question and engaged with in lessons.

Strategies: Check blind spots as the lesson progresses. Are certain students dominating? Who has not yet contributed? Using seating plan to tick off who has contributed can help to focus this. Cold call strategies can support with this aspect.

Low stakes testing questions

Purpose: To ensure information has been retained at the start of a new lesson.

Strategies: Start a lesson with ten ‘do it now’ questions that students must answer instantly as they start the lesson. Interleave previous content to check that students can remember information from previous lessons. Can also be used to finish a lesson, five questions students must get right before leaving. Good to build in a competitive element.

Bounce Questions

Purpose: To ensure quality of listening and engagement, to build further on the quality of answers.

Strategies: Ask a student to expand on an answer; ask a student what was effective about an answer; ask a student what the key point in the answer was; ask a student what words could be changed or improved in the answer.

Speak it Right

Purpose: to ensure students are answering in full sentences and correct English.

Strategies: Encourage students to say it as they would write it, use this as a whole-class philosophy. Ask students how they could rephrase their own or other answers. Have a ‘speaker of the week’ reward. Have a list of banned words that students must avoid. Have a ‘filler detective’ with younger groups,who are  responsible for pointing out when fillers are used.

Further Reading

Alex Quigley

Doug Lemov

Harry Fletcher Wood 

TThe Classroom Talk Cramlington 10 by the Teacher Advocates

In the second Teacher Advocates session of the year, we discussed the importance of nurturing high quality student talk in our lessons and the impact this can have. We began by considering why this is something we need to develop:

“The kind of talk that happens in a classroom largely determines the kind of learning that takes place and developing an armoury of tools to facilitate that talk should be at the top of every teacher’s list, whether that be learning how to scaffold learning with effective explanations and worked examples or setting up the kids of fruitful conversations that lead to genuine learning.”  Hendrix and Macpherson, ‘What does this look like in the classroom?’ (2017)

We then worked to put together the following ‘Top Ten’ techniques for improving talk in the classroom.

  1. Think right, talk right, write right.

Encouraging students to see talk as a reflection of thinking and to prepare them effectively for work in books.

  1. Praising language in student answers

Providing students clear positive feedback when using language well in the classroom. Using this reinforce high expectations and aim to encourage students to mirror these language habits.

  1. Modelling Appropriate Language

Using teacher dialogue and explanations to reiterate styles of speaking and use key words related to the lesson. Encouraging students to feedback on the ways in which we use talk in the lessons.

4.Classroom talk guidelines

Providing clear and structured guidelines on how talk should take place in the lesson. Keeping those visible during any independent tasks involving dialogue.

  1. Script It

Have a script for correcting students’ language. Sharing this script with students so it becomes a routine part of lessons. Examples:

“Just because I challenge you doesn’t mean you are wrong, it just means I want you to explain more”

“Your idea’s strong now. I want you to upgrade it with more precise language or more professional language.”

  1. Talk like a…

Deconstructing what talk should look like in individual subjects with students. Using this to encourage them to adapt a subject specific register and use key words related to subjects throughout lessons.

  1. Collaborative approach to moderating language

Good to use with younger year groups in particular. Having students in role to offer feedback in lessons:

  • Word choice detective: noting down all the excellent words used in the lesson.
  • Filler formality detective: identifying over use of fillers in lessons and any moment that slip into informality.
  1. Say it again with confidence

Encourage students to project and develop confidence in the quality of their answers. Asking students to repeat with more clarity and confidence.

9.Opportunities to adapt to different speaking registers

Consider ways in lessons to provide more opportunities for students to communicate in different ways, eg. formal presentations or role play of different characters.

  1. Set up paired/group dialogue

Circulating and reinforcing positive expectations about their talk. Visible sentence starters, key words to scaffold talk. Giving clear timings to ensure productive use of time.

‘Remember and Remember and Remember’: How I’m boosting recall and retention of ‘Macbeth’ by Zoe Taylor

In the past few weeks, I’ve been working with my Year 11 class on recall and retention of key quotations from ‘Macbeth’- keeping in mind Hattie’s ‘Visible Learning for Literacy’ and Hattie/Donaghue’s Learning Strategies. Essentially, I wanted to do the following with my class:

  • Increase student retention of key quotations
  • Increase student knowledge and understanding of the whole text
  • Boost confidence with low stakes ‘easy win’ testing, especially where my more challenging students are concerned
  • And finally- get the balance right between surface and deep learning by establishing a ‘rhythm’ to the lessons. Or, as ‘Visible Learning’ puts it:

If you turn too quickly to the next set o’ facts, without giving students sufficient time and tools to go deeper, they will quickly learn that surface learning is what you value, and in turn, surface learning is all you will get.’ ( Hattie, Frey, Fisher ‘Visible Learning for Literacy’ (2016))

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The Process

Firstly, each student received a little yellow ‘test’ book. They loved these, and came over all nostalgic for primary school spelling tests.The notebook is where they record answers to a series of tests that (hopefully) fall into a rhythm over the course of a week. To get students used to the process of using their test book, I started simple by gauging prior knowledge of ‘Macbeth’- students wrote down anything they knew about the play in their main workbook. I wrote down any misconceptions (e.g. King Duncan kills Macbeth…) with a view to crossing off any ‘mistakes’ when our knowledge of the play had improved. We then read a text on the historical context of ‘Macbeth’, looking at details like the Gunpowder Plot. During this stage, students were encouraged to highlight key information/underline important facts- for this I looked to a blog from @PeterMDeWitt which helpfully outlines the best strategies to use for surface/deep learning. Next, students had to shut their books. This terrified them- I think they had a sense that their knowledge was going to be put to the test.

  1. They had to summarise what they had just read in their workbook. Most of them hadn’t been prepared for this, so we had to repeat this stage. This wasn’t a problem as it led to some useful discussion about how quickly we can forget information we read.
  2. They then looked back at the original text, using a red pen to add any information they may have missed.

Then, as we read, we continued the process of closing the text, summarising, then checking our knowledge and discussing what we missed.

At the start of each lesson, students would be retested on their knowledge of the scenes covered in the previous lesson. But each test would be gradually more open ended. E.g.

Test 1

  1. ‘Fair is foul and ____/_____/_____’
  2. The Great chain _______/_______
  3. Thane of _________

Test 2

  1. ‘Fair is _____ and _____/_____/_____
  2. The Great _____/______/_______
  3. Th___ of ________

Test 3

  1. This quotation from Act 1 scene 1 symbolises the inversion of the natural order
  2. An Elizabethan concept of social hierarchy
  3. Macbeth receives this title

Once students had consistently started scoring 9/10 or full marks, we moved on to the next scene and started testing on that. Amongst this, I was conscious that if I only focused on surface level knowledge, I would end up with a group of students who could recall information from the play but wouldn’t be able to analyse the text in any depth or make connections.

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So to build on the low stakes testing at the start of each lesson, we:

  • Summarise constantly. Students use information from each test as part of 5 minute written summaries throughout the lesson.
  • Make connections. Students write about a new scene, but are required to make links back to information recalled in their test books.
  • Use blank extracts and close copies of the text when we write

In addition, I’ve set high expectations for homework. Students have pre reading before each lesson (not much- this may be only 1-2 paragraphs) and take their books home to revise following each lesson, ready for a test.

Finally, I raided my son’s toy box for one of these:

Screenshot 2017-12-03 at 15.45.42

We’re also learning quotations by chanting them together. Every time they hear the bell, they have to stop whatever they’re doing and the whole class recites quotations from Macbeth. A different student takes charge of the bells each lesson and we gradually build up the number of quotations used in each chant. A new quotation is added in each lesson- we’re currently up to seven.

Impact so far

Compared with similar classes I’ve had (this is a middle ability group), this group have been able to demonstrate a far more varied knowledge of the text. Rather than written responses focusing on picking apart the little bit of the text they can recall, they’re moving through different points, linking to new evidence. Also, they’re far more confident. When a challenging student with a history of poor confidence with Shakespeare gets 10/10 on a recall test in the first ten minutes, it’s a springboard into producing something later in the lesson that demonstrates ‘deeper’ learning.


Using ICT in our classrooms by Year 10 students Elena Walker, James Buckton-Graham, Ayesha Begum and Ellie Beckford

Using ICT in our Classrooms

Our Digital leaders presented to all staff as part of our teaching and learning conference.  This article is a follow up to this which outlines four key ways we can use technology.

Chromebooks – Why We Should Use Them

Chromebooks are very useful because they are convenient to use; their small size and light weight make them easy to carry around with you and therefore you can carry them around with you all day at school allowing for every lesson to have access to technology. Every lesson having access to this technology is great as it means you can begin to phase out more traditional methods of teaching such as workbooks and sheets. Not only is this beneficial towards the environment but is also easier to use and harder to lose or damage your work.

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In addition to this, Chromebooks are useful because you can share your work with other people, meaning several people can collaborate on the same piece of work. Sharing and working together on a certain piece of work means it can get finished quicker, to a higher standard. Also teachers can mark and comment on your work. This is beneficial because it is quicker and more efficient meaning teachers spend less time marking and students get their work back quicker.


Screenshot 2017-12-03 at 15.52.51

Kahoot is an online quiz platform where teachers can make their own quizzes for lessons or use quizzes and content created by other teachers. Kahoot quizzes are great for reviews and students are extremely enthusiastic. There is a top 5 leaderboard that encourages students to try their best and aim for the top spot. Students can work alone or in pairs and have fun in their lessons with Kahoot! At the end of every question there is a graph to show how many people picked which answer so you can get a better idea of what people know and what they struggle with. Kahoot is great for any subject and it’s so easy to use in a school environment. It is important that teachers use Kahoot because it can encourage competitiveness and can show what students know and they can review their work. Kahoot is great for either reviews or connects and is the perfect way to engage students into the lessons.

Blog, Vox , Poll

The class blog is a useful tool because it has a variety of different tools that you can use in your lessons to enhance your students’ learning.

For example one such tool is the poll, which students can use to vote on different options. This can be useful for connects, so that you can get a vague idea of what the students already know on the topic anonymously so they don’t feel embarrassed. You could also use the poll as your review to check what your students have learnt about the topic and if you may have to do any follow-up work later. Another useful tool is vox, which is basically the online equivalent to putting your hand up in class. Some students can be intimidated by speaking up in front of the whole class however, so the poll can be much easier for them to share their ideas at any point in the lesson. All of these tools can be found at the banner at the top of the class blog.

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The class blog itself is also a good tool, as you can display everything that your students have learnt in your lesson so far. The best use of the blog is for posting all of your lesson plans on it so that students can go back to it if they have missed the lesson or if they want a recap of a certain topic for revision or just to consolidate their learning. This is really simple, easy and quick to do and it means that your students can always come back to certain topics or they can view the lessons on their screens for easier access.

Google Classroom

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Google Classroom is a platform that allows teachers to create classes and invite students to join. Teachers are also able to invite parents to observe lessons and their child’s progress. Lesson plans and resources can be uploaded onto Google Classroom to allow easy access to revision, which provides clarity for future instances. Students can prepare for learning prior to the lesson, as videos can also be attached to posts.
As Google Classroom can be accessed on a range of different devices such as smartphones, chromebooks and tablets, students can connect their learning from all aspects of life; smartphones are particularly good for Google Classroom and students will receive notifications right away and will respond immediately as most will already be on their smartphones-so, why not learn instead of scrolling through Twitter? It’s also easily accessible through the Frog home screen and no additional login is required as your account should automatically be logged into Google Drive.  Templates can be made available to students in Google Classroom and a copy of them is automatically made for Screenshot 2017-12-03 at 15.53.23students in the class and shared with the teacher.  Google Classroom does all of the organising automatically.

It is generally more efficient to upload homework notices and such on Google Classroom, rather than using the Frog Home Learning button although a note should still be made on the home learning area. Students can mark off whether they have completed a task or not; if they are unsure of what has been assigned, public comments can be uploaded directly onto the post or the student could  contact the teacher privately, without having to go through the hassle of searching through emails and so on.

Overall, Google Classroom can be very versatile and efficient in multiple subjects throughout school, when used to its full potential.