News from the Market Place- Extension tasks in PE

In the PE department, extension tasks are in the lead- here are a few ideas picked up from the market place:

Extension folders: full of laminated GCSE exam questions from the new spec for those students finished with a GSCE task.


Chalk on a table tennis table: teachers write different learning objectives and questions on each table e.g. ‘did your ball bounce twice’ or ‘did it go up six inches’ – teaching the students the rules in a ‘tiny but huge’ way. This can also be used to present learning objectives in rooms without projectors or white boards.


And finally…using toy soldiers as targets: Giving students an aim!


MFL Grade descriptors by Susie Riddell

For the excellent Teach meet in November, I spoke about the ways MFL have adapted marking to the new grade system, particularly when marking written and spoken work.

Feedback sheets are made up of the criteria for content on one side, grammar on the other with the grades in the middle. On the feedback sheets, we highlight in green the content and grammar included, making the reasoning behind the grade awarded clear to the student and anyone that is looking at the work.

It also allows us to highlight in pink anything that could have been added, or that wasn’t accurate, so the student can focus on those aspects to upgrade their work.


We have also produced feedback sheets for peer assessment, which include specific examples of the language features needed to achieve each grade.  In this way, students simply have to locate the examples in the piece of writing/speaking and highlight them in green if found.

Kemp’s Musings – Part 2

Due to the popularity of last issue, here is a second collection of Dr. Kemp’s musings to peruse:

Image 1- We all need a reminder from Rita. If you haven’t already, watch this!


Image 2- Key messages for the students and maybe even the adults?

Image 3- Next time you are planning a lesson, remember this: If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.

Change it up, take a risk.


Image 4- Do teachers who make mistakes make better teachers?

I guess they do, but only if they put effort into correcting the mistake.


Image 5- Which one can you have a big say in? More than one hexagon? Have a think on it.  Follow @headguruteacher


Image 6- A big bag of balls.

Put answers on them, lob them at the students and then ask the students to generate appropriate questions.


Image 7- How many ways could you use  whiteboard dice? 4000?


Image 8- Students shrink their learning, another student then expands it.


Trajans column and the 5 from 3 quiz

Small group and whole class challenge

This lesson took place towards the end of year 9 as the students’ collaboration skills were becoming more refined. This task was designed to develop the skills of planning, researching, problem solving and collaboration further.

Trajan’s column, in Rome, is often referred to as the very first action picture, as it tells the story of the Roman emperor Trajan and his conquest of Dacia (Romania). It is basically a 3d spiral storyboard. I chose it as a presentation tool / product for students as it would require careful planning to construct and decorate with the story of the changes in the earth’s atmosphere. I also thought it could throw up a few potential problems for the students to solve along the way.

After an initial review of what they already know about the atmosphere, the students were put into groups of 4 or 5 and issued the challenge. They were given a little time to discuss the task, then we reconvened to discuss what they were going to do during the lesson. The students were shown some images of Trajans column in Rome to clarify what they were working towards. With this idea in hand the students set of to complete the challenge.

The students correctly attempted to divide the task up, most groups assigned each other roles along the lines of researcher, constructor, artist and sculptor for the object that had to be placed on top. This would lead to difficulties for these groups, as very little planning of the actual task took place. It is clear that some students were not even thinking about the science, especially the student who had been given the job of constructing a sugar paper tube with a pair of parallel lines spiralling it.

A lack of planning became apparent when the students could not draw on to their columns without flattening it. So problem solving task number one was revealed and most groups abandoned their roles to solve the problem together. Some students backtracked and unravelled their tubes, and figured out where the images would need to go, while others just drew the pictures onto paper and glued them on! In terms of the science being taught the students had now begun to sequence the information.

The tricky construction of the column forced the students to collaborate and share the information amongst the group. If the product was a conventional poster, these restraints would not be there; students could have divided the poster up into their own sections and not collaborated or shared the information.

The penny drops!

After these problems students began to value a more careful planning procedure and actually went back to the beginning of the task and started again, reassigning tasks. Groups researched before they sketched out what they could produce. One of the students who had previously been in charge of creating an object to summarise the information, had found this onerous to the point of frustration. This student had asked each member of their group what he should make to symbolise the history of the earth’s atmosphere Each student in turn duly scratched their chins for a moment and replied, “mmm, I don’t know yet”. They gave a truly honest answer! How could they summarise their learning, when they had not yet gained an understanding of the topic. The students therefore decided that this job was best left until the end. Although I must add that despite this rethink, I was a little disappointed by the quality of these objects. In fact some groups failed to place an object. Those that did, tended to be simplistic such as a cloud or the earth itself. This was partly due to time and partly due to the difficulty of the task itself. Next time, I would consider giving an example of a richer object; for example a ‘half earth, half watch’ image with clouds around the middle to represent the change of the atmosphere on the earth over time. I hope this would encourage the students to think more deeply about the construction of the object. It must be stressed, though, that the purpose of this activity was not one of presentation, but of collaboration, planning skills and scientific content. On completion of the task the students used the success criteria to assess and feedback to another group. This also allowed the students to review their own learning by looking for specific bits of information in the work of others.

Five from Three Quiz

This technique, discovered through PEEL, was employed next as a way for students to demonstrate their new learning and receive feedback to enhance their understanding of the topic. A full explanation of this procedure can be found on the PEEL website.

It is essentially a group quiz, where the students are provided with a few questions, in this case six, to be answered in any order. They are told that each question will be scored out of three points, so one sensible contribution will gain one point. A fully answered question will gain three points out of three. If the students include more relevant information to enhance the answer an extra point will be awarded, bringing the score to a possible four points out of three. This idea really got the students discussing what good answers should look like. At the end of the quiz all of the answers to each question were to be compared and the best answer was awarded an extra mark to make five out of three.

The students now had a competition on their hands, which worked wonderfully in motivating students to discuss their learning and gain feedback from their teacher. I must admit it was a pleasure to sit and watch students scramble across my classroom and say, “Sir, how can I improve my answer”. Now, that doesn’t happen every day!

This was one of those lessons that you are never sure the students have learned what you want them to, until you give them a different task to do using the same information. I chose to use a 5 from 3 quiz as it maintained the group work ethos and it gave an opportunity to give students feedback instantaneously. They were designed to cover the important aspects of the content. Comment only marking helped the students move beyond simple responses. I was satisfied that the constructing activity allowed the students to make their own meaning, and that the demonstrate activity was sufficiently different, so that the students did not have to regurgitate the information, but use what they had created.

Darren Mead

Whole Class Challenge!

Following on the from the success Darren had enjoyed with his Trajan’s column, I decided to up the ante with my year 11 and create challenge that would involve all 32 students. They got on reasonably well and had worked together in a variety of groupings previously. By coincidence the topics I wanted to revise was the development of the atmosphere and the changing surface of the earth since the dawn of time, or there about. I have included the challenge which has been annotated to explain the careful thinking that went in to planning this challenge, so that it was as effective as possible. On the face of it the challenge seemed insurmountable but, having had group work discussions before when we look at the number of person hours available to a group, they realised that their 80 minutes in the chemistry lesson was effectively over 40 man-hours, the challenge becomes more feasible – as long as it is managed effectively.

I offered no guidance to this group and, as expected, they all set off working on different parts of the task with no cohesion whatsoever. About 15 minutes in Jo, who had been getting increasingly agitated, yelled to everyone in the room “Right everyone get back in a circle, we’ll never get it done like this”. It was to the palpable relief of everyone in the room, myself included, that someone was willing to take control. I read through the key requirements of the challenge and went through the criteria checklist with the whole class (this had not yet been done). She them asked people to volunteer for certain jobs that they felt they would be good and formed teams to concentrate different aspects of the science. Later, in good time, she got everyone back together to reform into new groups according to the timings at which the geological events occurred. This was necessary in order for the final column to be chronologically accurate. The feeling of pride and the respect she received from the group was immense.

One important aspect of this type of large group activity is that roles emerge that do not present themselves in everyday smaller group work. Especially leadership and the responsibility for completing individual tasks that might otherwise scupper the final project.

Included below are a couple of reflections, including Jo’s. This consolidation brought closure to a hectic learning experience and is an essential part of the session.

Following this there are some examples of the five from three quiz, which shows how progression was easily made using this fun assessment strategy.

Fergus Hegarty

The Muse will be taking a break next week because of half term.  Back on  the 10th June!  -Ed.

Weaning the sixth form

– Promoting Independence in Mixed Ability Classrooms

Great ideas are often born of necessity, and though I would not recommend trialling the calamities visited on the chemistry department last year, if it were not for desperate times, the new way in which year 12 chemists worked would not have come to be. Ideas for what happened next had been seeded through many conversations with Karen, Chris and Abbie from MFL. Indeed I sat in on one of Chris Harte’s lessons with the UK’s oldest man, an Ofsted inspector, in which the students were engaged in a FLIP lesson. Here KS3 students were really taking control and deciding what they need to do to move forward. (Read more about FLIP in the next issue!!). But my story starts earlier in the year……

Last year, when the chemistry department dipped to one member of staff I found myself teaching the students for all 5 of their 7 timetabled chemistry sessions. This presented an opportunity to re-jig when topics were taught. When polled the students preferred to focus on just one topic at a time rather than follow two topics with two teachers. This meant that the pace for me and them really picked up. They simply had to become more independent, and do so very quickly. Mechanisms for quicker and more effective learning were required including feedback and support.

I created a timetable that included every staffed and independent session for their next module (Atmospheric Chemistry). The resulting grid took a little while to prepare for each group, and it took most students a lesson to organise themselves for the upcoming weeks of work, but we found we got more quality time back as a result.

In order for the students to fill in the grid they needed access to every resource they would be interacting with over the module. This included practicals, activities, texts, questions and answers. As part of the planning session they had to skim read through all these and estimate how long each task would take. Also which ones required them to be in a lab, which would be best working collaboratively, and which looked a bit too difficult to tackle individually. For the next few weeks students were working from their own big picture (which they had created) every lesson.

Taught ‘lessons’ on the most tricky concepts and teacher demonstrations were pre-timetabled on the sheets, as were topic-specific seminar sessions, the rest of the sessions available for the students to fill in as they thought appropriate.

Roughly five hours of home study was included per week as well. In the two examples included here you can see how different approaches and needs led to very different organisation each perfectly valid.

The seminar sessions involved groups of between 3 and 6 students of similar ability engaged in an entirely targeted conversation. The A/B students could consolidate quickly what they had done and be stretched and challenged appropriately, whilst those who really struggle could be given some support and encouragement.

Obviously there are still students who, like stubborn hens, refuse to produce, but now I can pick up these miscreants more easily by simply asking them to show me their planner, point to the date and the work they said they will have done by then, and get them to show me their journal for the module in which they should record everything. Cue some eyes cast to the ground and pledges of gifts of learning the following morning.

A core issue with this approach is that in most sessions the class is engaged in many activities, which means the teacher has to be completely on top of all aspects of the module at all times. A question that needs consideration for September is ‘how will this approach work when we revert to two teachers per group?’

I feel this approach really does develop students as independent learners, who are in direct control of their learning. I look forward to running a short workshop in the near future for a more in depth discussion of this model of teaching, and to see how it might be developed within the sixth form context or even further down the school.

New ideas for independent learning

With the next cohort of year 12s I intend to provide ever more opportunities for developing independent learners, responding to students’ feedback.

I intend to give them the answers to all the questions on the course. The large majority have found that they make quicker progress and can self-assess themselves better as they work if they have the answers. I was initially sceptical about this but will put in some provisos so that I can be sure they are making the progress they appear to be.

I will require evidence that work has been attempted in the following ways.

I will not be collecting vast scripts of uniform work, which is woeful to mark and largely unhelpful – the answers to all our published resources are all over the internet anyway.

I will require the full working of three levelled questions that the department has devised themselves, and are inherently google-proof. When appropriate, full and annotated working to one standard question must be submitted. And a paragraph to explain how they found the work in terms of what is easy / difficult etc.

Fergus Hegarty

Simple tasks with Big Impact (Issue 7, Conference June 2010)

–  Lesson starters that make a real difference

The activities I would like to highlight here all take place within the first 10 minutes of a lesson. Two of them have long been hard-wired into my practice and I somewhat take them for granted. The one I want to highlight is something that I picked up in Geoff Petty’s inspiring Evidence- Based Teaching, Nelson Thornes, 2006. It’s not something new, in fact it is standard practice on any TEEP (Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme) course I run, but it has not made it into my classroom on a regular basis until this year. The beauty of Petty’s book is that it gives activities a pedagogical purpose and backs up their effectiveness with evidence from either Hattie or Marzano.

The first strategy is very simple, the simplest of the three by some way. All that is required is a visual representation of the learning that is about to happen. My interpretation of this can be seen in the examples. Anecdotally the impact of this is profound. On a TEEP staff development course one teacher complained that (since she had been late and missed the overview of the day) she could not see the overview as it had been obscured by another display and that she felt disorientated, as she did not know what was going on.

Back in my classroom I have noticed my students increasingly asking me “are we now onto X?” I regularly see their eyes glancing up and down the visual big picture. I feel it is well used, no less by me when I use it to clarify lesson plans in the morning, so that I have a very clear purpose and direction with the chosen tasks, and in planning for managing transitions during the lesson. The effect size of this strategy is 1.27. Needless to say this is a positive result. For more information on effect sizes consult John Hattie’s “Visible learning”. In fact I would say every teacher should read these inspiring books.

The other two strategies are on the surface just as simple but in reality some of the most important tasks a teacher must do. Firstly is setting goals – learning intentions or learning objectives.

Setting challenging goals that provide feedback has a huge impact on achievement. Research shows that teachers tend to write these as tasks descriptors rather than what will be learned. When done well the effect size for this is 0.51. Again a worthwhile pursuit at the beginning of a lesson.

Finally issue a task at the start of a lesson to recall prior learning. Petty recommends using questions here but any cognitive task will help, for example rank in order the most important facts from last lesson, as opposed to a word search of keywords. It is the connection and the search for meaning that is important not the simple recall. The effect size for this is 0.91.

When I read Petty the word “Wow!” stumbled from my lips; as he points out the doing all three has a total effect size of 2.66. All in the first five minutes! Petty does note though ‘… effect sizes are not crudely additive like this, but it does show how important the first five minutes are…’ Since reading this at least 90% of my (non enquiry) lessons begin in this way.

I believe it is the combination of these techniques that help students throughout the lesson; where have they been, where are they going to and how are they going to get there. It’s the foundation of comment only marking on a whole class basis. If I now ask my students what they are learning about then most of them will look to the graphical representation of the lesson first and then look at the outcomes displayed. Their very presence is giving students a pedagogical (albeit content based) purpose to each activity. With this approach tasks are not just sprung upon them, they know from the start and in the context of their learning. It’s all there for them in Technicolor!

Darren Mead