In order to avoid ‘surface level comments’ in source discussions in Humanities, the department have focused on discussing and upgrading student comments. For each comment the teacher chooses for discussion, students are asked about the answer and how to develop it. That way, students understand what makes a good source analysis.


Students are taught about an historical event and then the following lesson, they have to reorder a series of sentences in order to explain the event. They then have to categorise the reorganised events into ‘why’ and ‘how’ the occurred.


Sarah Nightingale, influenced by the Literacy toolkit, came up with some amusing ways for students to remember how to spell important topic vocabulary. These could really work for the more visual learners!



Slow Teaching by Jamie Thom

For the past eight months or so I have been researching and writing a book on teaching. Yes, I have far too much time on my hands and yes, I need to get out significantly more. Having spent the last few months apparently married to a laptop, writing into the dead of the night, I now fully intend to!

The book started as a project after reading ‘In Praise of Slow’ by Carl Honore, a fascinating read about the various benefits of slowing down our busy and frantic lives. Given the significant demands on the time of a teacher, I thought it would be interesting to apply the ‘slow’ approach to various elements of classroom life and how we manage the stress of teaching. By some miracle a publisher was interested in the concept and ‘Slow Teaching’: A guide to finding calm, organisation and impact in the classroom’ will be published in February of next year.

Working with Zoe Taylor on the Teacher Advocates group has been a great way to share some of the aspects that I have been looking at and for pinching some brilliant ideas!  A brief introduction to five things that I have found most interesting when applying a slower approach to the classroom:

Teacher talk:

There are so many occasions in which we are asked to repeat ourselves in the classroom. Slowing down how we communicate at the front of the room can be very powerful in ensuring that our students’ focus carefully on what we are saying. When trying to explain difficult concepts it is also powerful to drop the pace. By avoiding the temptation to speak quickly at the front of the room we also begin to have more reserves and energy in the long teaching days.


We ask hundreds of questions throughout our working weeks, and it is one of the aspects in which speed inevitably starts to dominate. Slowing down questioning can be very useful in improving the quality of answers we can elicit from students. Pausing to give thinking time before pouncing on the first student to give an answer means that all students are required to think and rehearse an answer.

Behaviour management

Calm consistency in the classroom fully embraces a slow and measured approach to dealing with behaviour issues. Reacting emotionally and quickly can often result in situations rapidly escalating. With more difficult students I have found the slow and clear approach to explaining why their behaviour is not what is expected will soon have them back on side and refocused.


One of the most interesting aspects of researching the book has been reading lots about memory and how to best teach for retention. A more strategic and thoughtful vision of planning may appear an obvious aspect of teaching, but often because of our busy schedules we plan quickly and with limited vision for the future. To help our students remember information, introducing low stakes testing and interleaving practice periodically in units of work can have real impact. Allowing ourselves the time to look at the year as a whole and how we can


The desire to sprint through a set of books is completely understandable; they tend to be quickly replaced with the next gigantic pile. The race marking strategy, however, does little for the learning of our students and does little to inform future planning. Slow marking might mean marking less, but it ensures that the marking is of value in terms of moving student learning forward. It involves much more reflection about the comments that will be left for students and how they might be interpreted and much more on what students will do as a result of feedback.

Writing this has made me realise that the book could have been remarkably shorter! If any of this strikes a cord or you would like to talk more about life in the teacher tortoise lane, now I no longer have a book to write I can be found doing something very slowly in Inspire Five.


The Maths Department has thought of a way to ensure that GCSE students know what good revision looks like:

In Maths, one homework task is to make a revision resource, based on a specific area that the student struggles with. Teachers can then use the resource to predict or at least, suggest, what grade the student will receive based on the quality of the resource. This way, students can see good examples of revision resources and perhaps even share them!




As with many subjects, students struggle to understand the vocabulary around exams. Therefore, Maths ensure they have rubrics around the board in every room to refer to.



The Teacher Wall by Ken Brechin

A new addition to many of our classroom displays across the school is our new ‘Teacher Wall’. This has been developed to replace the previous learning wall, whose design was aimed at supporting a ‘learning to learn’ approach which was at one time highly relevant when the government had a focus on  ‘developing 21st century skills’.

Developing the new wall was the summer term project of the teaching and learning team, with our aim being to base the contents on a body of evidence and best practice and to support our teaching and learning priorities: precision, quality first teaching and retention of knowledge over time.

Let’s take a tour:


Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce

Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce (also called cold-call with no opt out) is a questioning strategy recommended as part of the ‘Teach like a Champion’ body of work  which has been evidenced as having a positive impact on the progress of disadvantaged students.  This strategy is already in use in many classrooms across the school, which sees a teacher pose a good question, pause to give thinking time, ‘pounce’ the question on an appropriate student and then ‘bounce’ it around so there is that alertness amongst the students.

While some of our best questioning is often instinctive, our best teachers frequently plan the questions they are going to ask and a common thought process for each stage of the interaction often follows thus:


What question will I ask? Will it be open ended or closed? What do I want to find out from the students? Is it to consolidate surface knowledge or to deepen understanding?


The pause is a reminder to add in wait-time to the questioning process. The average wait time in the UK – that is, the time between a teacher ending their question and then them answering it themselves or restructuring the question – is 0.7 seconds. Research shows that consistent use of 3 seconds of wait-time can have a significant impact on student outcomes


One of the best things about visiting classrooms is seeing teachers in action, who really know the students in their class and who tailor their questioning and teaching to support and challenge all groups of learners. Again, many teachers have in mind which students they want to target their questions at, often ensuring a good spread of questions while ensuring our PP and SEN students come under focus as part of our ‘quality first teaching’ approach.


The bounce part can be equally as instinctive, or equally as planned. Depending on whether the teacher wants to deepen the concept, or check the understanding of a different student, effective use of ‘bounce’ can also keep the group ‘on its toes’ and the level of participation high.

The Question Grid:ken6 - Edited

The question grid was re- introduced to our teachers as part of staff training right in the middle of our section 5 visit a classic moment where the staff were all beautifully behaved and participative with HMI Evans sat there in the room, with a collective chuckle and exhalation released when he walked out of the learning plaza.

HMI Evans was really taken with our use of the question grid to support the right blend between helpful, lower order questions and the deeper, more probing higher order questions to promote really active learning. It was also remarked on day two of our inspection how inspectors saw a very good blend of higher order and lower order questioning so we thought it was appropriate to include this in our new wall.

In terms of the blend of questions asked by teachers, it is important to note John Hattie’s recent assertion that 90% of questions asked in classrooms are surface based questions, with question stems being more of the  ‘what is’, ‘where did’ ‘what can’ type, with far fewer questions being asked which can promote thinking and discussion. The Question Grid is therefore hopefully a useful tool to help teachers and students ask deeper questions and establish a better blend of higher order to lower order questioning.

CLV ‘Teach Like a Champion’ Strategies

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Of the many, many ‘Teach Like a Champion’ strategies from across that evidence- based canon, we have focussed on a key few strategies that are having the most impact with our learners. We have the cold call questioning with no opt out – where every student has to be prepared to answer, during pose, pause, pounce, bounce questioning .

Everybody writes is a good reminder that we need to give the students the opportunity to practice their writing as often as possible. Teachers are also expected to use the write, pair share, as an alternative to think, pair share, with the rationale being that’s sometimes ‘you only really know what you think about something if you have written about it’ (Lemov, Teach Like a Champion).

Check for understanding is a good reminder to teachers to not let too many minutes go by before they have checked for student understanding and progress, so that no student is being left behind and that misconceptions are not allowed to take root.

Managing the transitions in lessons tightly and smoothly is key to good classroom management and keeping the pace high and so is making sure the students see that they are constantly being monitored with good scanning techniques – with personal favourites of mine being ‘the disco move’, ‘the meerkat’ and the ‘around the column’ scan!

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Regular Review

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My set 5 students are fast learners, but very very fast forgetters. I have found the ‘forgetting curve’ graphic helpful in reminding me of the need to structure my lessons and content better to help them hold on to their learning better. The key principles I am trying to follow are making sure I go over the key concepts at timely moments and make good use of frequent, low stakes testing to help them practice dredging knowledge up from their memories.

As well as serving as a visual reminder to teachers that timely review of the main concepts is key to shallowing out the ‘forgetting curve’ – we have put this graphic on the teaching wall so we can use it with the students. Teachers will be able to use this to have conversations with the students – sharing with them why they are periodically revisiting concepts, or having a low-stakes test, and reminding them of the need to review their learning and revise regularly.

Balancing Surface and Deep

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This image is adapted from the work of Professor John Hattie, the notable academic who produced the seminal work ‘Visible Learning’ in 2008, which was a meta-analysis of over 10,000 studies into what works in education. His effect size driven analysis has informed educational practice worldwide at government, school and classroom level. That piece of work was 12 years in the making. He has spent the last 7 years on his new body of work which turns his attentions to learning, and what specifically helps students learn.

Hattie describes learning as “The process of developing sufficient surface knowledge to then move to deeper understanding” (then transfer) and as he did in visible learning, teaching and learning activities have been evaluated by its effect size, with a negative score meaning that the strategy does damage to learning, a score of 0 meaning it has no difference at all and then a positive effect size meaning it has value to learning.

So we now have access to a new rich body of evidence that informs us of strategies that work well when:

  • Acquiring surface knowledge
  • Consolidating Surface knowledge
  • Acquiring Deep Learning
  • Consolidating Deep learning

Hattie strongly suggests  it’s about using the evidence to do the right thing at the right time with students, all the while being mindful of that balance between surface knowledge – which a lot of our curricula demands from students – and that deeper knowledge that the students will hold on to better over time.

When Feedback gets Creative by Zoe Dyer


This academic year we started the BTEC in Performing Arts Level 1 / 2 Award and were faced with a range of issues.  Since changing to GCSE, over 5 years ago, a lot had changed – from the marking and grading, to the unit specifics, terminology use and the weighting of units.  Lucy and I felt like we were back to square one…Many see the BTEC as a ‘soft’ option, but anyone who has had to deliver one will know, this is far from the case.

Many hurdles were tackled by visiting a partnership centre.  For us that is Burnside in Wallsend where the Drama teacher, besides someone who went to University with me and hosted me for my PGCE training, has been delivering the BTEDC for over 10years and is a Lead Verifier with Edexcel.  A day visit, much resource sharing and taking pictured of work left me feeling less overwhelmed and instead Lucy and I looked at how we could personalise our BTEC provision here at CLV whilst meeting Edexcel requirements and CLV Marking Policy.

Within BTEC students work is an ongoing development – progressing from lower level standards through to their best ability.  This goes for both practical and written components. Our students complete a ‘log’ or Drama ‘diary’ that documents their development from the start of the course through to the end of each unit.  For our Unit 3: Acting Skills this notebook proved challenging for many.  From a literacy perspective we were facing many issues; how to analyse skills, use of specific terminology, being evaluative and critical and the largest challenge of all: death by description!

Resources were the key to this; creating a bank of useful resources that were accessible to our students but also saved us from writing the same feedback each time.  Sentence starters, model work and ultimately our feedback sheets:

Screenshot 2017-05-10 at 19.50.33

The standard of work started to noticeably develop.  Students, who had previously been writing ‘log’ entries at only a side of A5 in their notebooks, were developing, expanding and improving their work.  The path to success was evident on their feedback sheets and all levels of students responded well to their ‘path’ or their ‘journey’ to success in Drama.  Screenshot 2017-05-10 at 19.57.12

Fortunately we can add and develop work in creative ways.  Places where work needed expanding were seen through detailed postit notes that provided analytical justification and development and prompted by the feedback sheets.  SEND/PP students liked the structure and were able to sit, read and think about their feedback before responding; rather than automatically calling for my support.  Using images as a recall and recap device also helped.  The weaker students in the room were able to remind themselves in a visual way that stopped any ‘I can’t remember’ proclamations.

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Consequently we wanted to know we were on the right track and sought out the Lead BTEC guy at Edexcel.  The specialist offered support and guidance early on which enabled us to tailor our feedback to be more specific; requirements for more analysis and supporting examples.  Sending him photos of our logs and receiving his feedback lead to lessons focused on ‘upgrading’ and ‘sticking it to the exam board’ with their awesomeness! This in turn aided the work development with those who genuinely want to develop, exhibiting this in their written work.

Screenshot 2017-05-10 at 20.00.20

Our logs were initially a scary thing for us.  In Drama we have become very adept at controlled assessments, marked for the exam boards, trained in coursework examination and shared good practice with the Drama social network.  However this was a whole new area for us.

Things that we found hugely beneficial were open conversations with students, knowing what they needed and whether the sheets worked.  Now it’s second nature; written lessons involve focused and driven individuals that know where they are going and how they need to achieve it. Support sessions on a weekly basis offer those who want to push themselves, the space and support from us to do that along with extra verbal feedback.

We still have a long way to go and our first centre visit will really provide the best feedback but being more creative with the way we present this feedback has definitely been a learning journey.  I’d love to see how anybody else collates their feedback so please drop me a line!

Displays their way by Lyndsay Jubb

When we were told that we were to be getting our own classrooms this year, I was so excited to get stuck into creating some displays and making my classroom the best environment for my students. I was most excited to have classroom routines that I could keep up and not gradually forget about (mostly due to being consistently late to my next lesson after the casual sprint from the JLV to the SLV). So, like the keen bean that I am, I came in for a few days in the summer holidays to set some things up. I started my first display board, which I know you will have all read about in the Maths department Mojo Moments published earlier this year. I was focussed on changing the mind set of students so that I could finally hear the back of flippant comments like “eh, how can she just do everything and I can’t?” and “I give up. Too hard” and create a more positive learning environment for everybody involved. I thought this may be something that had an effect at the start of the year and would fade out, but the students have really surprised me. I still have students hear a negative comment from one of their peers and they turn around and patronisingly quote a phrase from the wall which they should use instead. I realise that the students are mostly saying this in jest, but it has had a really positive impact on students’ mind set. I rarely hear any of the phrases which I was so sick of hearing last year anymore and students always have somewhere to get an upgrade question to extend or challenge their thinking. Time well spent.

change the mindset display.jpg

Change your mindset display

I also, I suppose quite controversially, spent some time in September creating little laminated CLV shields with the names of each student from my Y11 class lovingly typed out on top and laminated for good measure to start my Y11 shrine (my students actually still call this wall their shrine…). I popped the shields up in the different columns indicating where their most recent assessment placed them in relation to their target grade. I’ll admit, it wasn’t a pretty sight at first, but what has surprised me most is the motivation that has come from having a paper shield with their name on stuck on the wall underneath a sign which says ‘more than two grades from target’. It has had a really positive effect on my higher attaining students, but my PP students responded really well to this too. I have students who attend Maths club every week religiously because they are “going to move that bloody shield eventually”. After every assessment, I allow 5 minutes of carnage to erupt in my classroom as the students run to the back wall to proudly move their shields – Kira Shieber even videoed the occasion and sent it to other Y11 students! The students are proud of their shield now (have a look at how far the classes have come in the photos!) From a teacher’s point of view, this also allows me to be constantly aware of how students are performing and a quick glance to the back wall reminds me who my key focus students are.

september shield display

September, 2016

december shield display

December, 2016

April shield display

April, 2017

This all sounds very well and good, but then we had the CPD training delivered by Trish and Elaine. I thought I was quite good at updating the displays so that they were constantly relevant to the topics and lessons that I was teaching and the students that I was aiming to impact, but, where is the students’ input here? Did I have their work on my walls? No, it was all my bright ideas. I went away that evening and thought about how I could incorporate their work into my displays without having a display that I needed to constantly update (e.g. work of the week). My idea, was to create a wall of revision ideas. I would start off the wall, with the generic revision materials that we as Maths teachers find ourselves constantly bleating on about in the week leading up to assessments, but then I would ask students for their ideas too. The result is in the picture below! I stuck up my pieces but then students would tell me how they made use of the revision cards, or the revision tab on Frog so I added in some top tips. A few students have contributed their own revision materials which I have scanned or photographed and put on the wall too with a little caption from the student themselves. I have included a pouch of blank revision timetables for students to take too, to help them organise their revision across all subjects, which have gone down a storm.

 Revision IdeasTrig Display

Revision ideas 

How do you measure the impact this has? My Y11 students have performed better than they ever have in the latest assessment. I attributed this to us having finished the course and revision season kicking in, but students have commented on how they used ‘Emily’s strategy’ with the revision cards, or ‘Kira’s notes pages’ which they find really helpful.

So there you have it, a display with no fuss, which is easy to install and update, with a positive impact on student’s work and achievements.

– Lyndsay Jubb

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!