Passport to a C

– A more active approach in Maths

Passport to a C is a program of work developed in response to students’ requests to make maths revision lessons more active. There is no underestimating the importance of good exam preparation. Preparation is a key factor in success at GCSE. Traditionally revision lessons leading up to a maths exam contain a teacher input followed by exam questions.

Imagine a different type of lesson where students are given a set of cards and asked to sort them. Card sorts are used widely in most subject areas. However, I have seen little use of them in secondary mathematics’ classrooms. This approach is based on Malcolm Swan’s research ‘Towards more active approaches’.

Each revision lesson includes a sorting activity, some key words and a collection of images or numbers connected in a variety of different ways. Students are encouraged to discuss and search for links. In doing so, they display their current level of language and understanding of a given topic. This encourages students to apply pre-existing knowledge. It also allows teachers the chance to assess students and decide on the best way to develop the lesson. Student response to the approach is generally positive. Comments include I like to sort the cards my way. I can look for connections. I feel good when I can explain my ideas to someone else.

Having used this material with a variety of groups the level to which the students are able to sort the cards changes depending on the topic. Initially students make quite superficial connections then another student sees a different way of sorting. Thus a snowballing effect occurs as the students thinking gets HOTTER.

This resource is going to be launched to parents at the forthcoming parentinformation evenings. It is already available through the VLE. These resources used in conjunction with other revision materials such as Bitesize will provide the students at CCHS [Cramlington Community High School, CLV’s previous incarnation! –Ed.] with a very powerful revision programme and a passport to a C.

Michael Smith & Graham MacPhail


Facebook Friends

-Using social networking profiles to enthuse Year 9

During my long teaching placement of my PGCE year I was given a low ability year 9 class. I felt that the behavioural challenges presented by this group were affecting pupil progression and began to question whether personalisation of learning could promote engagement during lessons.

In order to make learning more relevant I came up with the idea of using an adapted facebook page to present information on a famous scientist (facebook template downloaded from http://www.

The students were each given a facebook template to fill in alongside in question. The students had to pick out the relevant information and put it into their own words to explain the scientist’s observations, explanations, and achievements and influences on other people.

At first the students were preoccupied with filling in the description of the scientist and thinking up names for the scientist’s friends! However, they did settle down quickly and seemed to really enjoy the activity. Upon reviewing their learning the students were clearly able to show that they had met the learning outcomes for the lesson.

Relating the learning to something personal thus seemed to make the information more accessible and memorable, as well as promoting the students’ engagement in their learning.

The facebook template could be adapted to include different subheadings, depending on what you want the students to get out of the activity, and could obviously be used in lots of different subjects.

The activity could be extended by getting the students to research the information needed to fill in the template for themselves. Alternatively, or as an extension, the students could create a facebook group promoting the work of the person in question.

Rebecca Price


Maths for Breakfast Anyone? (Issue 7, Conference June 2010))

– Flexible intervention inspires year 11

The maths intervention program is specifically aimed at year 11 pupils who were not achieving that important, life changing, grade C. The intervention program allows students to get one-to-one tutoring, something which many parents do not have the luxury to afford, often costing £20 a pop.

A few ideas were tried out to find out how intervention would be the most effective. Originally starting with the idea of one-to-one sessions, we soon realised that three-to-one sessions were the way forward with more willingness to come from the students if they were not on their own. It also meant that there could be more contact time with the maths coach as with one-to-one sessions the time slots soon filled up and they would only be seen once a week, but the group sessions allowed them to have two or three sessions a week.

Having small groups gave the students more confidence to ask questions or say that they did not understand things as there was not the pressure of a whole class watching them, and allowing them to learn things at their own pace.

This new found confidence was often reflected in the classroom setting, with them attempting questions in class that they maybe previously avoided.

The small group setting also meant they could not shy away when they were asked questions, so always had to be thinking.

Another issue that the program helped us to overcome was that students did not revise or did not do enough revision, or left revision too late, a common finding in many C/D borderline students. Therefore, the intervention program put in the extra revision time.

As time went on the program progressed with new additions to it. One of these being morning maths revision. This involved the students coming in early for morning registration and getting 30 minutes of maths everyday before school. We began by doing 5 minutes or so of teaching into a topic and then set challenges so that students had something to work towards.

For example obtaining 100% on the mymaths C’s to B’ booster packs, and rewarded those that achieved this with Haribo! We found that this encouraged many of the pupils to do some work at home. As if they had not been able to complete the challenge during morning registration, they often worked on it at home.

We also did whole days of maths. Although this was originally greeted with grunts, it proved to be very successful with almost all of the students saying they were pleased they had done it.

On these days we carried on the Haribo challenge but with slightly different rules. Everyone did a test in the morning when they came in, all aiming to get a grade C. Anyone that managed it got some haribo! Following on from their results in the morning exam pupils were givena lesson to improve their mark. In this lesson they worked independently using custom designed ICT resources focusing on all the topics they had been unable to do on the test, or had got wrong. In addition they could also utilise revision guides or, if they preferred there were a number of teachers available to speak with.

The final part of the day was the students taking the same test again but with the numbers altered to see how much progress they had made through the day.

Most pupils went up one or two grades which was a great confidence booster and also showed them that if they just did a little bit of work they could improve their grades.

Results in January showed that so far the intervention program has been a success with 70% of the cohort achieving their grade C. Many of the students commented that they may not have passed if it had not been for the extra time and help they had received in maths intervention.

The intervention program was not only about teaching the pupils how to do things, but also about giving them the confidence to have a go at everything!

Kayleigh Rainbow

Break it Down (Issue 7, Conference June 2010)

– Scientific Learning in Create:  an experimental approach to active learning

There has been a shift in musical pedagogy in recent years, away from being able to cite possible composers for a piece of orchestral music, or to know your Rock Steady from your Reggae. Instead the music curriculum is now more geared towards the elements or building blocks of music, and developing an understanding of how music is put together through holistic activities that combine performing, composing and listening.

Indeed, the new AQA GCSE has moved completely from areas of study based on styles and traditions such as ‘Music for Film’ to the more fundamental ‘Rhythm & Metre’ or ‘Structure & Form’.

This elemental knowledge of music is vital at Key Stage 3, where the national curriculum is entirely skills based. The challenge we faced in writing the embryonic Create curriculum was how to introduce these musical elements in an engaging way, and also in a way that would allow scope for the other disciplines of Create (Media and Drama) to not only check understanding but to further it. The nature of Create demands a holistic approach, as do the main strands of Key Stage 3 Music, where we aim to encourage students to see the links between listening and appraising, composing and performing. In fact if you were to visit some tribes in Africa, they would not be able to make any distinction, for example between composing and listening.

After some thought we came up with the enquiry: ‘What would music look like?’ the idea being that students would have to make music tangible through the use of images. Students would be challenged to create a video that could help hearing impaired children to understand the musical elements. Students would create a piece of music and accompanying moving images, with clear links between the images and the use of musical elements such as tempo or  pitch.

Happy with this idea, we still had the dilemma of how to present the basic knowledge of the musical elements which would underpin the enquiry. Most students in Year 7 have a firm understanding of the more innate elements such as pitch or tempo, but few could explain what timbre is.

It was then that I decided to investigate a long-held wish. For years I had been frustrated that you could easily demonstrate dynamics (volume) with the simple turn of a dial, why could this not be true for the other elements?

Through a lot of trial of error, and yet more careful calculation with our web designer Chris Allen, I set about making an online mixing desk that did  exactly that, with a slider for each of the musical elements, the effects of which could be heard in real-time.

My thinking was that if students could experiment with, and experience how the musical elements work by making the changes themselves much like a scientific experiment, this fundamental knowledge would be much more likely to stick. Not only that, the activity itself would be completely student focused, encouraging active learning and allowing the teacher to have proper learning conversations with students, many of whom they were meeting for the first time.

I chose the current (ish… I am certainly not a “down with the kids” music teacher) hit by The Ting Tings, “That’s not my name” as the simple, hookbased nature of the song allowed me to use loops and samples and keep workload down in making audio clips for the resource.

In practice the activity was a resounding success. Before they got hands-on time with the musical elements mixing desk, students filled in a matrix of keywords asking them to write down what they knew about the musical elements. Students were offered a choice in level, with more complex terms on the higher level matrices.

When they got to use the mixing desk, the students were entirely engaged and were able to see the progress of their learning from the start of the lesson. Without fail all students in my class were able to add significant details about the musical elements to their matrices at the end of the lesson. In fact this lesson was delivered as a Create tutorial by all members of the Create team; drama and media specialists alike. The student centric experimental approach meant that even colleagues who were not music specialists were able to deliver the lesson from the point of view: “I don’t know the answers, but by the end of the lesson you will be able to tell me”.

During CPD sessions this year we were asked to give examples of active learning tasks as part of a market-style sharing of ideas. During this session I began thinking of ways this scientific, hands-on experimental approach could be used in other lessons.

Perhaps a short story in English, with buttons at the bottom of the screen to turn on and off devices such as similes or structuring using paragraphs? Whereby pressing the button will magically make the text come alive with similes appearing in the text accompanied by images to demonstrate. Or in Art a simple drawing could be brought to life by turning on shading or colour.

I’m now left hoping that The Ting Tings are still in vogue in September as I certainly intend to use the resource again. Though I’m not holding my breath, doubtless some new genre with a preposterous moniker like ‘Krunk n grind’ will be the latest thing. I’m also left with the knowledge that I am slowly, unavoidably becoming my father.

Martin Said

Show us your money (Issue 7, Conference June 2010)

The subject matter of this article (teaching enterprise skills to pupils) seems particularly pertinent at this point in time given the current state of the European and British economies.  Society sorely needs these entrepreneurs of the future! – Ed.

– Pitching to the Dragons develops many skills in ICT

In ICT one of the units of coursework involves students working in teams on an enterprise proposal to raise awareness fora campaign.

They have to create a successful strategy that will persuade people to offer their support and fund the campaign. Students have free choice over the campaign and they have chosen to raise awareness of knife crime, racism in sport, drugs and many other issues.

Part of the campaign involves students producing a range of promotional items that will capture the attention of the public and some of the items could be bought to raise money for the campaign.

To put this into real life perspective students were shown a video clip of the TV programme Dragons Den. They were then asked to produce their own proposal for the Dragons (classmates) and carry out a role play based on the Dragons Den but using their coursework scenario.

The aim was to allow students to see strengths and weaknesses in their proposals under ‘interrogation’. This is also a useful life skill for students who would like to start their own business in the future to give them an insight into how rigorous their proposals need to be.

After watching the video clip the class were broken up into groups of 4. One group were chosen by the teacher to be the Dragons, one team were chosen by the teacher to present their proposal to the Dragons and the rest of the groups were chosen to come up with a range of challenging questions that would be used by the Dragons during the interview.

The team presenting their idea to the dragons were sent to another room to work on their presentation while the rest of the class brainstormed relevant questions in their groups and then shared their questions as a class to come up with the best 10 questions for the dragons to use. The dragons were also involved in thinking of a range of questions that would be selected.

Students were allowed 20 minutes to prepare for the role play. After the role play all students were then asked how the role play had been successful in allowing them to see the strengths and weakness of their own team’s proposal. They were then asked to discuss one weakness they had identified as a result of the role play and to then work on improving this in their enterprise strategy.

At the end of the lesson students were required to reflect on what they had improved in their strategy that would ensure it would stand up to rigorous investigation if this were a real life scenario. Selected students were asked to share their reflections with the class. As part of coursework requirements students are also asked to write a log every lesson of what they have achieved and to identify problems and explain how they overcome them.

Linda Rowe

Edmodo vs RealSmart (Issue 8, January 2011)

– English department find a happy marriage in cyberspace


Exceptionally easy, functional and flexible, Edmodo is a website which connects groups of students with you, but that is really just the start. It can be as flexible as you need them to be, just use your imagination! Laura Couch explores Edmodo.

With a format, (dare I say?) similar to Facebook, students instantly find their way around; connecting with peers. They’ll be so familiar with leaving comments on their mates status updates; it’ll hardly need a great deal of explanation.

After watching a cartoon tour ( I created a group for my year 12 English Language students to join. Teachers are then able to assign work, ask questions or send attachments to the whole group at a click of a button.

Students only need to create a user name and sign up, using a code unique to find other group members. This allows teachers to make multiple groups for any year group or class members to access. The only limits are the limits of your mind’s eye. I can see this being used by students to provide updates of enquiries for sixth form (more on that later) but also as a way of blogging their thoughts or comments on a text as we read it in class.

Teachers can use the assignment function, which allows them to upload work and be marked or graded by the teacher. These marks can remain private of shared publicly with the group.

Independent Learning in English Language has been revamped with enquiry skills at its heart. Edmodo has allowed us and the students to see their peers’ focus, progress and even add comments or ask questions. The openness was the main pull rather than simply asking students to email me updates of their progress.

The ability to view each other’s areas of focus for the enquiry will enable the students to consider and engage with a wide variety of lines of enquiry. This should allowthem to generate ideas for their coursework, a larger investigation, after Christmas.

I have set up two Mile Stones after introducing the Enquiry independent learning. There are clear deadlines and focus questions for the group to answer and add further comments. Students can add Mile Stone comments as they could comment on a friend’s status. Mile Stones can be edited by the teacher, excellent if you want to change the task, or give an extension.

Stable, straightforward to navigate and simple to join, Edmodo allows communication between groups, created by you. The reasons for using Edmodo over Real Smart is the ability for comments to be viewed by group members, not just the teacher – sparking ideas for the future from browsing their groups up dates.


Real Smart

Year 12 students in English Literature have been using a combination of Realsmart and Frog to access material for, and to create, their independent enquiry. Though Edmodo may give students the opportunity to share progress and comment on enquiries, Realsmart has given students the chance to create something more individual. Zoe Bell explains all.

Independent enquiry sessions have been set on weekly basis via the ‘Set Work’ facility on Frog. This has allowed us to upload lesson objectives and resources, whilst also monitoring – at a glance – how many students have submitted their enquiry work for that week. Students are emailed when work has been posted, and can send an instant message to their teacher about the task. Teachers are then informed when an assignment, or in this case an ILC session, has been completed.

Students were then shown how to create a blog on Realsmart, using the ‘rcast’ facility. Following initial reluctance, after some explanation the class were surprised at how simple English department find a happy marriage in cyberspace it was to create a blog. They could easily update their blog with posts, including pictures and videos, and the finished product looked professional.

There are, however, flaws. Sharing the blog is tricky, requiring teachers to approve sharing requests from each student. Although students can comment on each other’s blogs, and view these comments, it is difficult to avoid the flood of inevitable, Facebook-like ‘I love your picture’ and ‘I am so bored’ style comments. In the spirit of collaboration, it’s important for students to see what the rest of the class are doing – but avoiding this requires careful planning.

Each weekly ILC session, sent via Frog, includes resources and research topics related to their independent enquiry question: ‘How has storytelling changed over time?’ The outcome for each session is usually to update their blog, where students are encouraged to be as independent and as creative as possible. In Spring, I would hope that students would feel confident enough to choose their own outcome for the independent enquiry, and Realsmart could be used much in the same way as Edmodo: to update on progress and share ideas on one central, class blog.

Laura Couch & Zoe Bell