Blog Archive

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.