Monthly Archives: February 2014

Walk on the Wildside

It’s ‘Walking Season’ for the next couple of weeks at school. I guess that this has a different connotation in Belfast with nationalist/republican marches and in Manchester with Whit walks but here it means that I visit every classroom in school to chat to the students about certain aspects of their learning. I try to mix different ages and abilities and feedback to all concerned and to parents via the bulletin. This year I have been pushing for examples of how the students have used the marginal gains approach, growth mind-set and meta-cognition to assist them to acquire great learning habits. I’ve mentioned these before in blogs and it is important that the students can articulate the impact, and evidence, that different learning strategies have so they can work out for themselves the best way for them to learn. This is a great lesson for life-long learning and mums and dads might like to think about how they would answer some of the questions against their own learning attributes when they were at school and NOW!




In old money, you can see that I’m talking about not giving up when the going gets tough, thinking positively, listening and using advice given, taking responsibility for your own learning and being astute enough to recall something you have learned that may help in a different context. Fancy new words-same meanings and same learning gains! I’ll tell you what the students had to say in a couple of weeks.

Getting students to attend revision sessions after school or at lunch-time isn’t always easy! I do like our maths teachers idea to attract the girls along-ok I know we are a mixed school but hey ho-let’s go to ‘Ladies who lunch!’ Schools often spend a lot of time trying to engage disaffected boys so why not think about our young ladies too.

Ladies who lunch poster

Some aspects of our learning and teaching are very new-Tim Roberts our subject leader for ICT has shared these ideas this week.

Mr Roberts – Edmodo, building a PC and video conferencing

Students use Edmodo in ICT to peer review each other’s work. Here a student’s piece of work is posted to a class wall. Like Facebook students will then post their comments on the work.



After the work has been reviewed by the group a poll can be set up to survey the entire group as to their views on the work.


After the work has been peer reviewed by the group I will send out badges to the individuals in the class commenting on their work and how to improve.


These badges are stored in each student’s individual profile. As it is stored in a Facebook like profile the students really engage with the feedback.


It is also stored in such a way that I as a teacher can access the entire group progress.


Apps can be downloaded and installed onto each class. Each App has different functions and resources for each group. 


Edmodo tracks what work you are doing and will suggest Apps and links for you to use for each group. It also has surveys that suggest how each student likes to learn Audio, Visual, Listening etc.  and will suggest Apps and links based upon how each group and students like to learn.



Below is a photo of students building a PC in ICT lessons. Students have access to PC’s, graphic cards, sound cards power units etc. They practice taking apart a PC and putting them back together.  This is a great opportunity for students to get real hands on feel to how a PC works.


Here you can see Tim and his students having a Video Conference session with a school in America. This is an excellent opportunity for our students to have cultural and educational exchanges with other students in other schools.




Claudio Vinaccia sent some great visuals of his Code Club, possibly working out the vital secret and formula to his beloved Preston North End gaining promotion this year!  Really enjoyable and productive learning in our ICT classrooms. Claudio told me that;

I got the students to understand the three main keywords associated with programming by having a bit of a role play with volunteers to take the role of each of the keywords: Variable, algorithm and condition. The students seem to get more involved in this type of teaching.

I had some pseudocode posted on my whiteboard so as they could relate this to the real programming code.


Pseudocode is the written version of real code it’s what a programmer writes to explain what they are going to do in their program.

I explained this by giving the students the definition of Pseudo – pretending to be something it is not.

In groups the students then had to relate the written version to a real code version they had been given. The students got it pretty quickly but I did assign a spy to each group that could go and ask questions to others groups who had finished this worked well for the groups who didn’t have students into coding.



To prove the code worked the students used a role play to take the parts of the 3 variables, the user and the condition.




To wrap it up I just had a task sheet with a bit of code and questions relating to the three keywords. There were also some spelling and grammar mistakes that they had to correct.



Our PE department have shared a whole host of their current ideas and thinking representing all of their teachers. Many of these can be used in other subjects after a quick tweak.

GCSE PE Motivational

GCSE PE Literacy

Marginal Gains Pie Chart

Motivational Videos

Nutrition Exam Questions

PP Marginal Gains

Self Assessment

Traffic Lights

Vaulting Peer Assessment

Vaulting Routine Resource

The introduction of examination PE has changed the face of PE teaching as many parents may remember it. I taught a few lessons of PE years ago as well as running the soccer and cricket teams and I wouldn’t have a clue about some of the nutritional and physical knowledge that is required now. For other schools having a look at our resources-feel free to borrow and it would be lovely for you to share resources and ideas back with us!

It’s a family affair

I was late reading the TES this week, having decided that it would look a tad SLT geeky to be reading it on the plane to Berlin with our G.C.S.E. historians and waited until I returned to scour for useful articles to provide food for our ‘Learning Thoughts.’ Misty Adonious’s article, “Leaving because they care too much” raised some important issues for senior leaders to consider in her native Australia and in the UK where she reckoned that up to 30% of NQTs may leave our profession in the first 3 years and many more had considered leaving teaching. Some, of course, will leave because they decide that it isn’t for them for whatever reason but her concern was that people who decide on teaching as a career tend to be the high achieving, idealistic young people that we want as teachers-what are we doing to them? One teacher made a plea; “Don’t let me forget the teacher I wanted to be.” Do we ignore their innovations, creativity and stymie their ideas, pushing them into the ready-made slots in our ‘system’?

Our Berlin team was an interesting mix of 2 old ‘pros’ with 65 years teaching experience and 4 younger colleagues and middle leaders with our subject leader for maths [in her 4th year], subject leader for PE [4th year], progress manager [3rd year] and the tour ‘boss’ and history subject leader [4th year]. I did a quick sum and realised that of our 20 ish subject leaders, 2nds in faculty and progress managers only 4 didn’t begin Meols Cop as an NQT. The progress manager who didn’t, did her ITT with us and the new English leader’s [after Easter] mum taught with us! It’ a family affair!

I’m not suggesting that the only way to keep talented NQTs is to promote them and pay them more! BUT seeing their potential straightaway and trusting them, even after a year, to be given leadership responsibilities may tell you something about the personalised CPD and philosophy of a school. Our NQTs will be expected to take their turn in chairing our FOCALS and are asked to lead our hubs if they have an innovation to share. We talk about developing our students from year 7 onwards with year 11 in mind and will no doubt use the demise of NC levels to create a ‘mastery’ approach of skills and knowledge to culminate in exam success-how many schools actually have a similar plan in mind for their teacher development, mapping out a teaching journey with relevant support and signposts of success along the way? If it takes 8 years or 10,000 hours to develop reasonably as a teacher; are we thinking in such long term ways when we appoint teachers and plan their future CPD?

The real change brought about by inspections especially for colleagues in schools in categories almost demands an instant development of a teacher-there is no time to develop skills when HMI visits loom and unannounced graded observations put all staff under intense scrutiny and pressure. NQTs and developing teachers [the most vulnerable perhaps] face an uncertain future and the demand for formulaic un-imaginative teaching to get the school out of trouble. Institutionalised teaching by numbers may bring short term gains, but what does it do to the careers of our creative and visionary youngsters? I know that I open myself up to criticism here-“your school had a nice Ofsted-you would react the same if it had gone badly” The truth is that it isn’t just schools who are under HMI pressure that treat staff development like this [and many with 3s and 4s try alternative routes too and are led by incredible leaders]-it’s just wrong wherever it occurs! Look at last week’s Secret Teacher-going from a 1 to a 4 in six weeks-no wonder newcomers leave if this is the way some of them are treated.

All teachers need to have a vision of their own future, know they are part of future plans, be told that they have a future and role to play and be given the opportunity to develop ‘their way’ as much as is humanly possible. I was talking yesterday to a friend working in a school where their newcomers are under weekly scrutiny and must fear for their jobs-it isn’t easy but she tells them to try to see the situation as an opportunity to use all the advice and support given [far more than usual and perhaps we should all ensure that this kind of support is available regardless of a dodgy Ofsted for our NQTs] in a short period, as a learning experience that will make a real difference to their potential as a new teacher. With good leadership and a shared vision for the future, the darkest times can turn into something inherently positive and better.

We would always hope that for any externally advertised post, one of our teachers [or support staff] would be able to compete for it-anyone coming for interview from outside would have to be pretty damn good to beat our staff-but if they are-we want them! It isn’t easy with financial constraints to always provide the CPD that all need albeit within the collaborative internal developmental approach that we have tried to create. Colleagues have to be ‘up for CPD’ and drive their own development-there is no need or room for ruthless fast-tracked ambition but the personal goal must always be to be the best teacher that we can-how you get there and what skills you need to develop are for you to choose with consultation and support from line managers and SLT. Senior leaders MUST create the time and space for this reflective practice-is there anything more important?

I have usually found that CPD is sometimes similar to the attainment/attitude dip that researchers use to find between students in year 6 and 7 [didn’t it then jump to a drop between year 7 and 8?] in that NQTs have a host of induction activities then not much in terms of distinctive ‘developing’ teacher CPD in their 2nd year and beyond. We have tried different activities for 2nd year teachers [some have been promoted go leadership by then!] and you can see in our proposed CPD evaluative structure that we have tried to add a distinctive approach that may be more relevant to different lengths of experience and post. This is explained briefly in a previous blog [middle section]

We do want creative and intelligent teachers; we do want to give them opportunities to lead learning and teaching, to use theory and research appropriately to develop their own teaching to support the ‘kind of teaching that they want to do’, to lead school trips and develop areas of teaching that best fits their personal skills and interests and to lead our schools in the future. I have to admit that on a couple of occasions, older colleagues have approached me to politely remind me that whilst they appreciate the need to praise and encourage young staff; don’t forget our older staff needs, expertise and contribution too! How right they are! It would be pointless having two disparate groups of young and experienced teachers who didn’t mix or support each other. My young Berlin colleagues welcomed both Anne and myself on the trip that they had planned and organised-we felt loved!!

Hargreaves and Fullan talked about the different stages of teaching and in an earlier piece, Hargreaves resonated with my view that as leaders we should, “bring together the culture of youth and experience harnessing the energy new teachers bring without marginalising the perspectives and wisdom of teachers whose knowledge and experiences have developed roots in the past” I tell our NQTs that the more experienced staff will want to suck the ideas out of their brains-they want to know what is current and value youthful energy and passion [they wish they still had some!] but in turn, NQTs need to feel that they can turn to, and should value the experience and teaching wisdom others may have. We are a team, we are Meols Cop United in our desire to provide the very best learning for our students and for each other. Professional Practice in action is for all staff and relies on all to buy into the ethos and surely if schools can achieve this, the drain for potentially great teachers to leave our profession will be blocked for good.

Chucklevision Episode 3

Our third episode of visual sharing stars our humanities colleagues, just before half of them head for Berlin to spend their hols with our students and to look after their favourite deputy head!

Emma Douglas and Joanne McDevitt, our Irish geography double act, have sent me an eclectic mix of vibrant resources to share with our own staff and visitors to our blog. Jo tells me that, “first are some images of exploding volcanoes that the year 8 lower sets did on natural disasters accompanied with an information sheet to complete answers and observations on.

There is a KS4 consequence wheel which we use on a regular basis with all the GCSE classes to get them to extend their writing. Each time they write about an effect we want them to think of the knock on effect or consequence of this and as a result they can explain their points, further making use of data. Each time this activity is completed we will follow up with a GCSE question.

Finally I have provided some examples of word mats we are beginning to use for key topics, they are a work in progress, however we are developing interactive word mats for the VLE- students look at the topic key words, click on them and this takes them to the definition and example (mostly for KS3). They will then use the information they have practiced to answer multiple choice questions and tests which are marked automatically on the VLE to track progress after tests or before resist.”


Creating exploding volcanoes to identify the variations in shape, height etc and then to explode to observe the way in which lava is likely to flow down the sides.


Climate Change

Interactive Rivers

Interactive Tectonics


Earth Hazards


Anne Pickup has provided some lovely RE dialogue to show a student thoughtfully answering Miss’s feedback-definitely deserves one of our ‘Thoughtful Dialogue’ stickers!


Jenny Doherty has provided some of the methods that she uses to engage the students and push them to succeed in RE. I’ve chosen some of the images to provide an example of what you can find in her ppt [attached for staff]







Our historians, Helen Rose and Martin Davis have sent these snaps of their current ideas

“We have included our judgement graphs, scales, characters (students are given a character to empathise with while studying the Black Death in year 7 and WWII home front in year 9), jigsaws with 7.7 to help them identify key images on Elizabeth’s clothing.”




Questions asked and answered during DIRT


Plus a little verification and peer critique shared in ‘to me …to you-if you missed our Xmas edition.

A great peer assessor would be expected to write an example of a ‘balanced judgement’ to model what was needed. Below you can see the student responding to questions set by Miss to clarify points not explained clearly on the previous page.




Miss then asked for a more specific piece of self-critique instead of ‘explaining more’


Chucklevision Episode 2

Chucklevision Episode 2

I’ve co-observed a couple of wonderful lessons this week with very different abilities of student. Carmel Manwaring and I visited Hannah Sharrock with her year 11 chemists. This was a very able group who needed to be really stretched and challenged [I know all groups do!] and as part of the lesson, Miss used this differentiated learning mat which allowed the students to begin at a suitable levelled question for their target grade, before their answers were self-assessed according to green, yellow and blue mark-schemes. This can be easily adapted for use in other lessons. Hannah had supplied us with the current grades of the students so we were able to check that the students weren’t taking the easy options. Interestingly some students went straight to their target questions whilst a couple of less confident ones preferred to make sure they could get the easier ones right first before building up to the more difficult questions.



The second round of our NTEN lesson study has begun and Hannah Jordan and I returned to Jen Filson’s year 11 mathematicians. They revisited the topic of Pythagoras that we had watched before Xmas to see if learning really was embedded and they could recall the key messages.


They could remember bits and then the reinforcement of skills and knowledge began. They were usual year 11 students-dozy in the morning-so Jen used a tactic I have neither used nor seen before-and it was a cracker-worked a treat! She made the class stand up and come to the front [small class] and asked them to work as a team to solve the Pythagoras problem. Suddenly they woke up and rapid fire questions were met with fast answers and the lesson and learning snapped into gear.


Miss placed the group into planned supportive pairs and their task was to find the misconceptions on a modelled answer and FISH it. The class were reminded of FISH and came up with some very specific comments to support their peer critique.


They then answered their own questions before FISHing their own and their partner’s learning. Self and peer assessment or critique is a difficult and very personal skill-we all tackle it in a different way-some are more confident, some are more critical, especially of self and so on. It was of real interest to me to see how Jen anticipated this aspect of their learning might go-this is the strength of lesson study and helps the teacher and the observers to focus on learning and not grades!!

Pupil A –A will answer the Pythagoras part to the question but then want hints for the functional aspect and working with money – my guess 3/6 marks achieved.

Feedback – A will self-assess harshly and want to give a mark rather than explain points that they did well.

Peer- assess – A will be able to find one positive about the work and then be able to give a score out of 6. They may find it difficult to follow someone else’s calculations.

Pupil B – B will be able to successfully answer the question on functional Pythagoras. They will follow the money section but possibly make a mistake and ‘subtract the two square numbers’ – My guess 4/6.

Feedback – I think B will point out that they knows Pythagoras’s theorem and understand the functional aspect. I think B will self-assess at full marks. Peers assess – B will award their partner full marks and should be able to point out positives in their work. B will usually respond with ‘yes all correct’ I’m hoping that they may have developed this this lesson and detail the positives of their partner’s work.

Pupil C –C will be able to work out Pythagoras’s theorem and will provide more detail in the answer. They will need support for confidence from TA/teacher but will write every step down that is needed. My guess 6/6.

Feedback –They will be self-critical and not want to point out the positives in their calculations and not award themselves the accurate marks.

Peer assess – B will give detailed feedback and be able to spot the positives in the working out. They will give an accurate scoring of the marks and leave constructive feedback.

It would be difficult to differentiate in terms of planning like this for every student in every class for all of the time. We would employ a range of tactics BUT this level of planning and thought offers a new dimension in helping our teachers consider their teaching skills and tactics and the impact these have on individual and class learning.  The NTEN lesson study observations and planning replace the usual observed appraisal lessons [although they are not dissimilar] and we have a queue of teachers wanting to join in. Next year I envisage having one of both types of lesson observation plus one of our informal ones. The last NTEN highlights are explained here.

Great ideas from our English and maths faculties

Janette Ashton-After Year 9 exams we complete a review sheet and;

Highlight questions that full marks were achieved (Green/Blue)

Highlight questions that some marks were achieved (Yellow

Highlight questions were no marks were achieved (Pink)

Student identifies topics which need to be improved on the reverse and then go away and look at mymaths to consolidate those topics.

Reverse also includes how they think they can improve their grade for the exam and target grade.



Clair Benson and Sheila Livingstone have been using self and peer assessment grids that you can see below.


Alex Vine has been using some EXIT CARDS

The students have to make up a question and write their working out and answer on the back before they leave the lesson.

Next lesson I give the cards out and pupils have to answer each other’s, thus it creating starters for next couple of lessons.



Sheila told me that;

This example is from my year 11 set 7who tried peer assessment using 4 questions on different topics grade C.

They tried them on their own and then decided what their strengths and weaknesses were. 

They then chose a question they were weak at and tried again.

They peer assessed each other’s work swapping with someone who had a strength in their topic.

(Purple pen – peer assessment)


Jen Filson shared; Our new STAR marking with Peers assessment where students have written in Purple (new policy) to set each other a question to answer.




Zoe Evans shared 3 current tricks of her trade;

1)      STAR marking sticker we are trying to use for self/peer assessment.

2)      Example of ‘Stick on Maths’ activities – good for self-differentiation. I ask pupils to choose a few questions afterwards to exemplify which they found easy/medium/difficult to do including any working out they knew.

3)      Revision folders filled with mini exit ticket questions. Use at form time (Y11) to ensure some revision is being carried out daily.




Our English colleagues have some great ideas to share too! From Karen Radcliffe- her literacy re-cycling machine!






And from Hannah Jordan; the Globe and the road to exam success-the students move themselves along it!







From Lisa Cain-I have attached some examples of marking and the homework that you have seen before. There is also a cartoon strip I have been using with 10-8 to enable them to access Macbeth. Lisa has some great SPAG marking she will share shortly-to be discussed on Tuesday for faculty lit reps.








Finally, from Katie Fleetwood, her year 10 students creating a storyboard of Macbeth on wallpaper in prep for their controlled assessment. This is their story;