Blog Archive

Thursday 5 December 2019

NATSA Newsletter - Term 2 by John Bowyer

Please check out the latest NATSA newsletter, written by our very own John Bowyer. With a specific focus on SEND, his bitesize research focuses on how we can best support our SEND students moving forward.

Within our classrooms:

Cognitive Load Theory 
1) Students gain a lot from studying worked examples and this reduces cognitive load. Before you ask students to complete a problem or a task for the first time, pair it with an answer to a near identical question. The aim is to gradually increase the independent student practice as the students become more proficient. 

2) Cut out all inessential information and present all essential information together. For example, if you are presenting a step by step approach to students on PowerPoint, ensure that all the steps are visible together on one PPT slide and not spread over several. 

3) Talk over pictures to describe them to students but not over text. Students will not be able to read and understand the text on a board while the teacher is talking to them. 

Dual Coding 
4) One suggested way is to use dual coding with students when revising materials. For example, when coming up with a flow chart on the lead up to the First World War, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand could be a note on the chart and a simple drawing of a stick man being crossed out. The idea is that combining words and visuals gives the brain two ways two remember something and improves retention. 

Children won’t gain a complete understanding of probability by playing dice, for example. But, if children learn in fits and starts and we leave off teaching something until children are able to understand it perfectly, we might be leaving it too late.

Maximising higher order thinking in the classroom.

In order to maximise higher order thinking students need to feel challenged, excited, motivated and fully involved in the lesson.

Zoe Elder ‘Full on Learning’ has the tagline to her book: ‘Involve me and I’ll understand’. ZoĆ« Elder starts (and ends) Full on learning with a metaphor about boat-building. It was only when humans were faced by a river and decided the best way of getting across it might be by floating, that we began having a go at constructing something to do the job. In other words, the skills involved in boat-building only came to the fore when they were needed. No problem, no skills.

She explains, taps into this ability to “learn new things as a way of overcoming problems.” It’s long been argued – from this site included – that we’re sending our students out into a rapidly-changing world and so it’s our duty to develop skills that will help them out there. Which is difficult when the only two things we can predict are “the unpredictable and the unexpected” (Full On Learning, p.4).
During last Fridays Teaching and Learning briefing, Tiff Partridge expertly demonstrated some effective strategies for how we can overcome these challenges and engage students in higher order thinking. 

1. Six Degrees of Separation: This activity is designed to give learners an opportunity to very deliberately practice creative and connective thinking. The activity can be developed and adapted in a multitude of ways - you can reduce the degrees of connection; you can place strict time limits on the activity to add a different kind of thinking pressure; you can insert your own topics/concepts/key words or you can add your own 'stop-off' points.

2. Speculation, Knowledge, Speculation:

With the speculative learning method, the idea is to try and have learners invent the future by employing and, in doing so, immediately contextualizing the variety of things they have learned to shape their speculation.
Basically, the goal is to answer the question every student has ever asked which is “why are we learning this?” 

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Let's be inquisitive!

At which point is it in a child's life when they stop asking why? Whilst my own young children are endlessly questioning the world around them (to the point where I sometimes limit them to 10 'why's' a day), I have come to the conclusion that more of my classes are becoming increasingly less inquisitive, too accepting of the knowledge they are taught and are not always challenging me to explain the why.

This has led to some frustration on my part, and triggered some investigation into how to engage them into asking why. As a result, I present to you my top six strategies for how to make students more inquisitive in your lessons:

1. Who would have THUNK? Driving Questions are at the forefront of the Mangotsfield Way, stimulating the students interest and challenging them to think deeper to be able to answer a higher order question. However, THUNKs can be used alongside to challenge the creativity of our students - what does a rainbow taste like, if a tree falls does it make a sound etc? The key idea to this activity is to encourage discussion, with that idea that no one answer or person is correct.

2. Inference Diagrams. Give students am image, quotation, diagram, graph or table in the middle of a sheet of paper. Use a number of concentric squares around the stimulus working their way out towards the edge. Ask questions such as:
a) What does the source tell me?
b) What can I infer?
c) What does the source not tell me?
d) What questions do I need to ask in order to investigate the source further?

3. Goldfish Bowl Debate. A small group of students are selected to discuss ideas/summarise their learning in the middle of the classroom. Remaining students positioned around the edge of the room then observe and provide challenge at certain points. Roles can be reversed and students can take it in turns.

4. Fascinators. Place an image/diagram/graph on the board in order to initiate a discussion. Students given post it notes - what do you notice? What questions do you have? What do you need to know more of in order to understand the image/diagram/graph?

5. Q&A Turned Upside Down. Provide students with a set of answers (such as key vocab or knowledge checkers) and they have to write a question to match each answer. Extra challenge can be provided by asking students to write as many questions as possible for that answer.

6. Remove the obvious resource. When students are completing a task, remove the resource that students would normally rely on so that they must consider what else they could use. This might be especially useful if you would like students to use their notes rather than automatically refer to a textbook. 

Challenging Passivity and Engaging Students

Kagan Cooperative Learning Strategies embed structured group work alongside long term learning to make classrooms more effective spaces. These structures are instructional and designed to promote collaboration and communication in the classroom, boost students confidence and retain classroom interaction. They centre around the use of PIEs Principles:

1. Positive interdependence is the most well-established principle in the study of cooperation.  When positive interdependence is in place, individuals are almost certain to cooperate.  In the absence of positive interdependence, they may or may not cooperate.

2. In the cooperative classroom, there is an “I” in team, and that “I” stands for Individual Accountability. In the cooperative classroom, students work together as a team to create and to learn, but ultimately every individual student is responsible for his or her own performance.

3. Equal Participation:  In the cooperative classroom, students participate about equally.  Participation is an integral part of the learning process.  Students learn by interacting with the content and with fellow students.  For equitable educational outcomes, we need participation to be relatively equal.

4. Simultaneous Interaction Active engagement increases student learning.  If students are off task, they are less likely to learn.  If students are only occasionally engaged, they learn less than when they are regularly engaged.  Simultaneous interaction is the most powerful tool we have for increasing active engagement.

Following Hetty's excellent INSET session, we might find it useful to remind ourselves of examples of Kagan Structures that can be applied to multiple classroom scenarios but most importantly as strategies that can be used to challenge the more passive learners we might face. There are multiple strategies but the first five are outlined below.

1. Timed Pair Share - superb for debate and discussion themed learning and ensuring all students are accountable for sharing their views.

2. Timed RoundRobin - encourages the depth of discussion that is not always possible in paired work, in a structured manner.

3. All Write RoundRobin - great for decoding subject specific vocabulary, exam questions or key themes/concepts in a supportive mixed ability environment.

4. Rally Coach - vital when embedding collaboration or supporting peer assessment into lessons.
5. Stand-N-Share - perfect for that 'hinge' point when you want all students to demonstrate their understanding whilst ensuring collaboration.

For further information regarding Kagan visit or speak to RSC if you wish to borrow the books!

Welcome Back!! Lets challenge passivity and engage our students.

Despite a mini hiatus, Mango Moments is back to brighten up your Teaching and Learning lives. We start with a bumper edition of ideas, with thanks to the research completed by the Love of Learning group as well as CPD and INSET sessions. Remember, we must challenge the students passivity and explain the deeper why if we wish to engage them in their learning journeys.

Please take some time to read through the new posts, including this NATSA bitesize research newsletter written by our very own John Bowyer in which he discusses the 'Are there things you can teach without words'? A great discussion centering around the use of synonyms in lessons.

Friday 19 July 2019

Steps to Ditching Differentiation

Our final look at T&L ideas for the year focuses on how we can change the differentiation narrative towards a less prescriptive teaching style that does not involve planning individual activities for each ability. It focuses on the drive to 'teach to the top and then scaffold'.

We need a profession-wide acknowledgement that differentiation does not mean doing different things. via @TeacherToolkit

1. Don't bolt on challenge - build it in.

Make sure learning time is devoted to students securing their subject knowledge as opposed to stretch tasks that are seen as an add on.

2. Plan for the top and scaffold in.

Make the main activity sufficiently challenging - ask one student in one way and another student in a different way how to model their response.

3. Stop thinking differentiation = different routes through the lesson.

Teachers should expect all students to do the same thing whilst accepting that some will do it better than others.

To keep our workload manageable and get the best out of every pupil these are the steps we need to take:
  • We need to stop bolting-on ‘stretch tasks’. Instead, we need to build in the challenge.
  • We need to say no to outcomes: ALL/MOST/SOME, VAK, etc. Instead, we need to just give everyone the same success criteria and, if required, scaffold from the top down.
  • We need to stop thinking DIFFERENTiation = different activities, worksheets, etc.
  • We need to ditch our guilt.

Highlights of the year - by you!

Thank you to all who have supported the inaugural year of our T&L blog and I hope you have all taken something away from the fantastic ideas and strategies that have kindly been shared. To conclude this year, I requested your thoughts on what has been either the highlight of your year T&L wise or a specific moment from your classrooms where the learning just 'clicked' or the students were enthusiastically engaged! Here are some of your thoughts - thank you to all who have shared.

"I was 'wowed' by the power of using oracy as a teaching strategy earlier in the year, when a student who rarely writes anything down was able to articulate the most thoughtful and energising speech in front of the class. It reminded me that although some students find expressing their ideas on paper really difficult, the thoughts are still there in their head and we need to find a way of allowing them to express them! Hearing this student give his speech so confidently is one I'll remember".

Tiff Partridge

"I think that the strategies that have become part of my everyday teaching this year are linked to ideas from Cognitive Load Theory and Vocabulary Teaching. 

I've pretty much cleared the front wall of my classroom so that there are no posters, just the whiteboard and nothing to distract students from it. I've cut out all the fancy fonts and pictures from any power points that I use and, when I give the children a slide with writing on it, I give them time to read it in silence before I say anything about it. I've also learnt more about the power of the worked example and I might often design a slide so that a worked example is on the left hand side (e.g. a text to analyse and annotate) and, on the right hand side, there is an example for the children to do independently. This means that they can access the worked example as their do their own work.

I think that, in the past, I have focused too much on the minutiae of what the exam board is looking for in a good answer, and giving the students a framework to match that. I have moved to teaching the children a range of vocabulary which will enable them to express their views or make a point in a formal way. So, now I will tell students to use three of these words in their answers rather than insist from the start on a certain paragraph structure. 

An example of a students' work from this morning is from a Year 10 student. We had learnt the words: amused, disgusted, indignant and questioning. Students had been given several goes at using these words before they wrote an analysis of two articles. One of them I had annotated myself as a worked example and the other had been annotated by the students independently. 
In contrast, Emma Brockes starts as amused saying 'one leaned over and snatched the dummy from the other ones' mouth.' This is all sweet innocent and harmless. However Emma soon changes her mind when she found out about parents who have 'pepper sprayed and locked [their children] in cupboards for forgetting their lines'. This makes her feel disgusted and indignant for the kids as well as that the parents do it because its 'making their parents sizeable incomes' which makes Emma question if its safe to put a harmless innocent video of her kids up.
She needs to develop greater control over sentence structure and to analyse language in depth but I am really pleased by the way in which she has confidently expressed the views of an unseen text and embedded quotations without any framework or sentence starters. She is also beginning to use more 'attitude' vocabulary of her own since learning certain works in class.

I'm always looking out for ideas or research which will help me to develop my teaching but I think an emphasis on worked examples and vocabulary teaching will stay firmly within my day to day practice"

John Bowyer

My highlight of this year has to be the school show "We Don't Need No Education". Students demonstrating creativity, independence and resilience by the bucket load!

Helen Wooltorton

Always show enthusiasm in every thing that you teach as it motivates and engages the pupils immediately. Yes it can be tiring but it can make a world of a difference to your classroom environment, something I am very passionate about.

Laura Markwell

"The highlight of the year has been when the driving question has permeated everything in the lesson and has 'done what it says on the tin', i.e driven learning and thinking. Students have had their curiosity wetted and it has really moved learning on".

David Spence

And my personal favourite:
"The installation of the new laser cutter in DT"

Joe Williams.

Thursday 4 July 2019

Communication and Interaction Difficulties - Mike Marsh explains!

Speech and language needs do not always involve students struggling to say words or phrases correctly. The majority of our students have difficulties with their expressive language - their ability to use language to communicate effectively, to find the rights words to convey meaning, or receptive language- their ability to understand spoken language. 

Although I will go through more detail the key phrase is ‘Say less, show, slow, stress.’ 

I’m always struck by how fast we all talk and the range of instructions we give out, ‘Sit down, coats off, write the driving question, today's date is…’ students struggling to process this information will get lost. 

So, what to do? 

· Slow down
· Repeat important phrases or instructions
· Break instruction down into chunks
· Cue the student in by giving advanced notice of a question, use their name before asking them something.
· Back up instruction of key sections with written re enforcement. (Write on the board the key instructions)
· Key words lists and knowledge organisers are vital here- they allow students to process the words at their own pace, they provide clarity for the key words used in lessons and they are an opportunity for students to pre learn key terms before a lesson.
· Think about the clarity of you language; say things you want to happen as an instruction not as a question- eg ‘Sit Down’ rather than ‘ When are you going to sit down’.
· Pause and then check for understanding- ‘Tell me what you need to do please.’ 

Further reading, the IDP document below has several simple strategies to try. 

Friday 17 May 2019

Using emojis to support student engagement.

Katie Hawkins writes:

Using emojis in the classroom is something different, modern, and it keeps your students engaged. Just take the jump!

Emoji exit tickets:
When you think about teaching with emojis, your first thought is probably “exit tickets!”. Yes, you’re right. Emojis are often used in exit tickets.  But I use them as a more organic method of finding out how the students understand in a non-threatening way. Most students hate to put their hand up if they don’t understand. This mean they can use one of three symbols to show their understanding and you can walk and check afterwards. They are asked to put the emoji next to the area, idea or key word that they don’t understand.

Beer Pong - a revision technique?!

Many thanks to Laura Markwell for this excellent guide:

With GCSE’s in full flow we may be asking ourselves what is the best way to revise with year 11 (or for that matter any year group). One effective teaching strategy that has great success is the use of ‘beer pong’ in the classroom, with the new name of ‘revision pong’. This is a perfect tool for focusing on key words or revision questions. From my own experience it builds a sense of excitement and competition in the classroom and it even has the benefit of engaging those pupils who often seem disengaged. I have had many positive experiences using the game from Year 9 to Year 11, with the pupils bursting at the idea to play it. So how do you set up such a revision game?
  1.  You will need to buy 2 or 3 beer pong sets. Having multiple sets will allow group sizes to be small, therefore increasing the number of questions that the pupils will have to answer. This will also limit the possibility of pupils going off task as they wait their turn.
  2.   In each of the cups there is either a question the pupils should answer or a key word the pupils should define.
  3. The ‘revision pong’ is laid out as the picture shows and the pupils assemble themselves into their small groups of 3 or 4.
  4. The aim of the game is to throw the ping pong ball into the opposite teams cups, with the winning team being the first team to remove all of the opponent’s cups.
  5.  If the ball lands into a cup on the opponent’s team, the opposition must either answer the question or define the key word. If they struggle the team should alert the teacher who will give them assistance. Once the team has answered the question or defined the key word, the cup is removed from the game and it is now their turn to throw the ping pong ball and the game continues until all cups are removed.
I have attached examples of keywords and questions. These are relevant to the GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition specification but could be adapted and changed for other subject areas:

What is the difference between shortcrust and puff pastry?
What is a deficiency of vitamin C?
Enzymic browning
How can you prevent cross contamination of meat products in the fridge?
What is required by law on a food label?

If you want any more insight into how to use this teaching strategy please do not hesitate to contact Laura Markwell.

Building a positive culture within our school - a focus on vulnerable students.

What do we know about our most vulnerable students?

The HoH team write: Everyday we teach students who have suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences. This could include abuse, bereavement, parents with mental health issues or domestic violence. A student’s mental health and well being is fundamental to their ability to focus and engage in learning.
We know that our SEND and Pupil Premium students are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and experience trauma during their time in secondary school. These students have suffered and some continue to suffer Toxic Stress which physically affects the make up of the brain and has a direct impact on its function. This can make a child anxious, edgy, impulsive, hyper vigilant and unfocused. These behaviours link to the reasons why a disproportionately high number of SEND and Pupil Premium students are sent to RTL.

Does this mean we should accept poor behaviour?

We absolutely need to continue to challenge behaviour that falls below our expectations, however we must also hold ourselves to account and question whether we are doing all that we can to support their individual needs. 

What strategies do we deploy after a student receives a first warning that will prevent them from receiving a second?

As a HOH team we considered this question and agreed that as frustrating as a poorly behaved student can be, we need to be able to have more opportunities to take a step back and question what is driving that behaviour as well as reflect on our own actions in responding to it.
For example, an anxious child can present in many different ways.  The most obvious way is to avoid the situation that is making them anxious (flight).  The other less obvious signs of anxiety are dissociation or work-refusal (freeze) and conflict (fight).  If we know that a particular student will respond with conflict when we introduce a new seating plan how do we avoid this? As a HOH team we were all able to share examples of when we had responded in a way that escalated negative behaviour rather than improved it. 
Following this discussion we decided that we would value more opportunities to discuss with all staff the different factors which contribute to creating positive learning environments for our most vulnerable students. As a result, we have collapsed our HOH briefing session twice a term so that we can hold whole staff sessions on this topic.  We also hope to use this blog to signpost further reading and guidance.

What is a good book to read on this topic?

In When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour, Paul Dix upends the debate on behaviour management in schools and offers effective tips and strategies that serve to end the search for change in children and turn the focus back on the adults.

Drawing on anecdotal case studies, scripted interventions and approaches which have been tried and tested in a range of contexts, from the most challenging urban comprehensives to the most privileged international schools, behaviour training expert and Pivotal Education director Paul Dix advocates an inclusive approach that is practical, transformative and rippling with respect for staff and learners. An approach in which behavioural expectations and boundaries are exemplified by people, not by a thousand rules that nobody can recall.
Each chapter is themed and concludes with three helpful checklists – Testing, Watch out for and Nuggets – designed to help you form your own behaviour blueprint. Throughout the book there is indispensable advice about how to involve all staff in developing a whole school ethos built on kindness, empathy and understanding.

If you would like a copy of this book please make Clio Corpe or HOH aware and we will order you one. 

What was covered in the first HoH briefing?

We discussed the Theory of Language & Interaction section from the Paul Dix book. Below is an example of a suggested strategy.
'When you come to see me today get as close to 3.30 as you can so we can resolve this quickly and both get home in good time'. As opposed to, 'Meet me at my room at the end of school'.
The trust in the student that this statement implies, combined with the clarity of the expectation, often results in immediate action without protest. It is almost a closed request which leaves no 'hook' to hold onto and argue with.
You are assuming and encouraging a positive response; making it awkward for the student to respond negatively.

Thinking Point - Think of a student who you need to approach in a different way. Set a target for the end of term to use different language/interaction with them. In our HoH briefing on the last week of term we will come back together as a team and share and reflect on the strategies that we have tried out. We look forward to hearing from you!

Supporting Students with Autism

Mike Marsh writes:

As the cliche goes if you have met one autistic student, you have met one autistic student.  Autism, has such a range from those who cannot use language at all to those who present TV programmes or are paid public speakers.

There are some things that we can do in the classroom to support all of our students with autism.

Probably the best piece of advice is to speak to the student.  We know autism is a range of impairments that affect social communication, social interaction and behaviours.  Many autistic people also have sensory difficulties around, smell, taste, noise or textures.  The expert is the person themselves.  Where do they find it best to sit in your room?  What cues or prompts do they need from you?  It is useful to know if they have any specific interests which you could tap into during lessons. Whilst there will be some information in their student profile your classroom environment is unique and may present unique challenges- even if it is something as straightforward as feeling comfortable with the person they sit next to.

Some ‘basics:
1.  Have a routine for your classroom and give warning if this routine will change- a clear set seating plan, a driving question, whole class questioning. However you structure your lessons keeping to a routine will reduce anxiety which in turn increases students ability to learn.
2.  Have a To do list or lesson structure either on the board for all or in front of the student.
·   3.  Keep instructions simple give information in chunks.  For some students back this up with written or visual prompts.
·   4.  Regularly check for understanding.
    Further Reading:
A short introduction:

More detailed information , Units 11-20 are the most useful from a classroom perspective.

Information on why girls are under diagnosed and how to support girls in the classroom.

Dean Beadle excerpt from a talk about being Autistic.

Sunday 12 May 2019

Academic Routines - Doug Lemov

Doug Lemov, who we all know for the excellent 'teach like a champion', recently tweeted:

By clicking on the link above, you will be able to watch an exemplary insight into how strong procedures and routines allow for students to thrive, feel respected and build confidence in their own learning. 

Thank you to @davidspence0104 for the great link to this video.

Questioning - What is 'cold calling'?

Cold calling is a technique that combines the desire to build students confidence, assess their learning, ensure accountability and improve the conversations that happen within our classrooms. It builds on the random responses of students, ensures all voices are heard and students learn that everyone speaks (at some point or other throughout a term or year). This also means it hinges on consistent classroom routines where an ethos of respect is cultivated (

There are four ways cold-calling can be embedded:

1. Move then cold call - Students move within the classroom to show their opinion. After everyone is picked, they talk in their small groups about their choices and then you can 'cold call' one student from each group to feedback.
2. Confer + cold call - Listen in to students as they are discussing and build their responses in groups. When you are happy with their understanding, ask if they will share with the class.
3. Quick write + cold call - Giving students 2-3 minutes to process their ideas with a 'quick write' means you can be more confidence to pick the less confident students to feedback.
4. Turn and talk + cold call with options - "I want you to talk to your partner/the people at your table for two minutes about..... afterwards I will ask three people to report back".

Laura Barnett generously give us her top tips on this effective strategy:
Within my classroom, I routinely plan a re-cap starter, which normally leads on to the driving question and key words. Subsequently, I then use cold call questioning for 5-10 minutes after they have discussed the starter question.

Top tips include:
1) Do not let a student say less than you (don't paraphrase what you wish they had said).
2) Make them speak in full sentences.
3) Ask more than 1 question before moving on using Blooms/Solo:
What is guilt
Give me an example from your own life...
Give me an example from the play.....
What else does this example show you (more ideas than the first one)
Where else do you see this/compare this to another time/person - expand to wider context
4) Finally, link back to the driving question....

If a student appears stuck then I rephrase/go to another person but always revisit that first person.

For further reading, please check out the links below:

A spotlight on marking and feedback - the English Department

As the hit book 'Mark, Plan, Teach' highlights, there are three things that teachers must do well - mark work, plan lessons and teach students well. That can be learned from the title alone, so what specifically can we do to support teachers within these three areas, especially to ensure impact for students and manage workload for ourselves? Well, lets start with the first - mark work (

The English Department, with thanks to James R specifically, have provided an excellent insight into their departmental policy and evidence of it in practice which was seen during the recent DDI's.

James writes:

The new marking policy is a department concept which we all use. The theory comes from the idea that previously assessed work wasn’t treated as a “special” piece of work that the students were proud of. Books were looking scrappy and often used and discarded within a short period of time. We wanted a system where assessment could be tracked and monitored and where progress could be clearly seen and traced. By having an assessment book where students could produce a “best piece” on a fortnightly basis meant a sense of pride was achieved. Assessments generally alternate between Reading and Writing pieces throughout the term. Note books or class books are used at other times and are not marked.

The marking policy is now consistent within the department and also from Year group to Year group. 

During feedback lessons each student is given a laminate of the colour coded marking policy so they can use the sentence starters to build on and develop their responses. I would say marking is now far more meaningful and immediate (as evidenced by John Hattie in his meta-analysis) and also takes far less time! Through this process students are now more engaged with which AO's they are trying to hit in each piece of work. Subsequently they are able to track their A0 strengths and weaknesses and address these in the following piece.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Key Terminology and the Frayer Model

Exposing Mangotsfield students to a greater depth and complexity of vocabulary is one of our key priorities moving forward. Recalling the INSET session delivered by Rachael Hobson:

1.They must help to drive the learning in the lesson.
2.We must insist on students using them aloud and in full sentences.
3.We must print them off with definitions for SEND, PP and EAL.

Caroline Bates writes: As we know from our increased focus on key terminology it is not enough to just introduce new terms to students but that we also need to give students the opportunities to explore these terms and practice using them in different contexts. At a recent Religious Studies conference I attended Joanne Harris (@JoanneH_RE for those of you on Twitter) spoke about a number of different methods she uses to introduce new vocabulary to her students in ways that mean they can revisit the terminology and use it more consistently in their written work. 

One particular example I found useful was an adapted version of the Frayer model. This is a graphic organiser that has been around for several decades and helps students to unpack new terms. 

This page has a video of some American teachers and students using the model to good effect in the classroom. The version of the model (see image) that Joanne shared with us has been altered to include a space for students to draw an image to remind them of the term. This allows for the possibility of dual coding where we process verbal and visual information in different ways and so can retrieve this information using both channels. 

Joanne keeps piles of these sheets in her classroom so that students can use them as part of their own self study as well as for use in lessons. For other versions of the Frayer model which may be more appropriate in different subjects, Alex Quigely (Author of Closing the vocabulary gap) has shared some suggestions here

This type of organiser can be used at a variety of different points in a lesson or throughout a topic. It is another technique to add to the repertoire that we have been building throughout recent CPD sessions.

Friday 22 March 2019

The Teaching Schools Bitesized Research - John Bowyer

The latest version of the Teaching School's bite sized research is available on the link below. John Bowyer presents the first outcomes of research including hot topic of 'Why do students give up so easily?'. There are clear research findings and discussions over how this looks in our classrooms.

Please use the link below to access the research paper:

Decoding Exam Questions - Two contrasting approaches

With less than two months to go until the GCSE exams are upon us, many Year 11 students are
requesting support and guidance with the most common of issues - what do exam questions really mean? Although we have spent many years preparing them, and we all have approaches that work best for our subject areas, I felt it valuable to shine a spotlight on two approaches used in Humanities that students have responded positively to.

Iceberg Questions in History:

The Iceberg Diagrams teaching strategy helps students gain awareness of the numerous underlying causes that give rise to an event. It’s often difficult for students to see these causes because they rest “beneath the surface.” The visual image of an iceberg helps students remember the importance of looking deeper than the surface in order to better understand events in the past or present. This strategy can be used as a way for students to organise their notes as they learn about a period in history, as a way to review material, or as an assessment tool.

How does it work?

1. Select an Event

Select an event that students are exploring in class. It can be an event from literature, history, or recent news. Students should already be familiar with this event.

2. Introduce the Iceberg Visual
Ask students to list what they know about icebergs, or you can show them a picture of an iceberg. The main idea you want to establish is that what one sees above the water is only the tip of the iceberg; the larger foundation rests below the surface. 

3. The Tip of the Iceberg
Ask students to list everything they know about the facts of a selected event in the “tip” area of the iceberg. Questions they should answer include: What happened? What choices were made in this situation? By whom? Who was affected? When did it happen? Where did it happen?

4. Beneath the Surface 
Ask students to think about what caused this event. In the bottom part of the iceberg (under the water), they should write answers to the question, “What factors influenced the particular choices made by the individuals and groups involved in this event?” These factors might include events from the past (i.e., an election, an economic depression, a natural disaster, a war, an invention) or aspects of human behavior or nature such as fear, obedience to authority, conformity, or opportunism. This step is often best done in groups so that students can brainstorm ideas together.

CUBE Questions in Geography:

Over the years we have all moved towards sessions that look entirely at exam technique. It has a big impact: students feel more equipped to 'think like an examiner'. What was the answer, decode the exam questions using a strategy called CUBE.

In order to teach students good exam technique, it is vitally important that we, as teachers, fully understand the requirements of the exam paper. So surely so should the students? That is what CUBE aims to achieve.

How does it work?
Students need to be made aware of what the acronym itself stands for, it should become part of their routine and mantra when faced with an extended exam question:

C - Circle the command word(s) and define how these impact on the style of writing required in the answer.

U - Underline the knowledge/content required and demonstrate not only what the knowledge is but how it applies to this exact question.

B - Box the evidence/examples needed so that the answer has proof that supports earlier points made, within Geography this is often a case study of a place that has been explored.

E - Explain the question in your own words (i.e. a conclusion that reiterates the key points).


Within the examples above, students can either annotate an exam question using distinct colours to demonstrate and create a plan for how to respond to the different layers/elements required. Alternatively, students can be given a template during which a teacher led discussions supports how to CUBE and this is then used alongside the student as they attempt to answer the question.

For further reading or ideas, follow these links below:
1. Teacher Toolkit - Developing Exam Techniques for the 1-9 GCSE's - I particularly like the BUG technique here.
2. Teacherhead - FACE IT, a formula for learning - discussing how to advise students of exam revision and preparation.