Monthly Archives: June 2015

Growth Mind Set-a year on-are we opening and growing our minds?

It was nice this week to be able to welcome 2 colleagues from Marple Hall School in Stockport. Ana and Rhian have been great supporters of our blog with lots of retweets and positive comments and Ana had also very kindly arranged for our Spanish subject leader Bronagh to visit her faculty previously. On twitter they are known as @ana_castillo and @_rhia_rhia and they asked if they could come and see how we are implementing growth mind set and our new assessment/tracking system. This is a welcome collaborative friendship between 2 very different schools and has come via the increasing and valuable use of social media as a form of professional development.

A couple of weeks ago I explained the role visiting schools have in developing the reflective and self-critical professional development of our staff-many teachers still don’t like to be quizzed about their practice or have visitors actually enter their classrooms but times are changing and visits to other schools and vice-versa are welcome opportunities for our staff to sharpen, adapt and improve their own practice. We can hardly talk about GM for teachers and then not support open and honest collaboration to seek out and share the best practice. Ana and Rhian were asking about my own career and I explained that I did, after 20 or so years, do some consultancy for 2 and a half years and it was a lovely break sharing all of the good ideas I gleaned from schools and research. BUT whilst it is much easier advising folks how to do things, the challenge of returning into school to put the theory into practice was my driving force. Anyone can talk a good game but school leadership at any level has to deliver the learning and teaching goods and we are judged in the harsh environment of the real world of inspections, tables and our own community and peers. Writing blogs and sharing our ideas is a late in my career acquired pleasure! However the success of them can only be judged if they are not found wanting when visitors call and hopefully don’t find a shallowness to our practice where only a few colleagues actively support what I have said, some may pay lip-service only and that actually I’m only writing about my own views!



It goes without saying that the GM attitude has to begin at home and an email just landed before I began to write from Sarah who was sending me her feedback on Katie’s observation.

For the observed!

What would you like to develop next with either subject or general pedagogy? How can we [or others] help? How did today help your appraisal targets? Where next with this particular target?
Implementing more discussion and group work into my lessons rather than getting students to write for the majority of the lesson. ‘Letting go’ of control and trusting the students to stay on task. I am observing Sarah on Thursday with her year 9s where she will be using group discussion within her lesson. 



How to challenge students in the most effective way. Push more group activities. Ensure modelled answers are succinct.

It was great to see Katie asking for her own area of weakness as her PD focus [as all GM teachers should!] and equally pleasing to see that she is going to informally observe her subject leader in action. [Sarah has instigated and offered this] How widespread and consistently excellent is this practice though across our school? Ana and Rhian’s visit provided me with the chance to re-assess all aspects of our GM journey for the final time this year.

Ana is an avid reader of everything to do with GM and attendee of teacher sharing events such as Northern Rocks. She has devoured the recent GM discussions from Dweck and commentaries at the Wellington conference e.g. and I knew that she would want to see much more than a plethora of GM posters and a few assembly PowerPoints! Yes GM is for both teachers and students and yes any visitor should expect to see examples of GM beginning to be rooted in classroom practice. I know that both Ana and Rhian both realised that on a whole school scale, the push for any initiative has to come with some clout behind it before hearts and minds can begin to be gently persuaded and then won. In my new position, if I believe in GM and want to see it embedded at MCHS, I have to be the living embodiment of it and model it in every aspect of my role. I can’t pick and choose aspects of it that I find easiest and then stand up in assembly or inset and hold forth about it and then not adhere to the principles myself!

I came up with a couple of acronyms for the Sefton Head’s Conference last week to explain the philosophy we have been developing and will share it again with our middle leaders tonight, when I talk about my views on leadership and share the questions and activities from our AHT and DHT interviews. I want all to see see my expectations openly explained so that everyone can prepare to ready themselves for SLT should they wish to. I used an old fashioned home-made poster-it looked something like this!







Most school leaders and teachers have the occasional great idea, but the key to consistent excellence and long term sustainable development is to ensure that the idea is evidenced in every teacher, student, classroom, and action etc. for all of the time. I need to consider GREAT WHAM every time I begin to think about any new or current initiative.










I know that colleagues have already began to call me ‘the boss’ and there are times when fast decisions have to be made [snow!] but if I believe in GM then I do have to listen and seek honest criticism and allow discussions which may disagree with my views-e.g. our BSG assessment! But I do know that if we are to move forward as a school then my mind set has to be the least fixed of anyone-bring it on!

The agenda for Marple’s visit was this;

Ana [Spanish] and Rhian maths and AHT arrive at 9 .30

Meet me briefly-down to Aimee to look at her GM food tech plenary


Rhian to meet Alex and Beth in Beth’s room to chat about Alex’s GM questions and GM learning hub/Beth’s maths hints and general maths GM.

Ana to meet Jennie in her room to discuss GM in RE then to Greg to see his GM work.


Rhian to Zoe to join Jen in her observation-Zoe is working on differentiating the Maths hint for very low ability.

Ana to Phil’s room to discuss his recent science lesson obs –GM for the students and staff



Ana and Rhian to meet Andy and Anne in my office to chat about Andy’s GM questions and GM learning hub and Anne’s year 7 residential GM.

11.50-back to me

12.20-1.10 Lunch


Ana to meet Leon and discuss our BSG approach

Rhian to visit Jen’s year 9 maths to see GM in the classroom

2.10-2.20-back to me

I tried to include a variety of different subjects, NQTs to AHTs, visits to lessons, examples from throughout the year and examples from colleagues who were teaching or out on courses/area athletics. Some of the ideas are quick classroom activities, others are designed to support the drive to embed thoroughly-all matter and all count.

Students [and parents]

After the London Olympics I began to grow interested in Brailsford’s much lauded cycling marginal gains tactics which combined my interests in sport and school before moving on to Dweck and Syed and sharing early ideas with staff 2013-14 cumulating in sharing Huntington’s staff GM survey and surveying the whole of the school via form time surveys just to gauge how far marginal gains were being talked about and to test out the waters for a GM push. Was there a groundswell of opinion and support available that would make it worth my while launching a GM initiative. I was convinced that it would prove to be worthwhile the time and drive I would have to provide. After years of teaching your gut instincts usually tell you what will work and what won’t. I actually quite like SOLO taxonomy and was ready to launch with the whole staff and had some very willing converts but something wasn’t quite right at that time [probably Ofsted being just around the corner and then one of the damn inspectors criticising a SOLO lesson!] I didn’t push-this felt different. During the summer of 2014 I got the posters ready, staff briefings and form time activities were all written and ready to go.

02 03

I explained the early days in this post and mentioned all of the other schools who we were grateful to for their shared GM ideas;

Our ideas were shared at different gatherings of parents throughout autumn of 2014 with maths sharing their notion of GM.


04 05

And I asked the parents for their views of GM in our annual Review Day questionnaire;

We have changed our assessment system [no national curriculum levels anymore] and our reporting system to provide information on our new Bronze, Silver, Gold approach-have you found the information informative/clear/understandable? Has your child mentioned anything positive/negative about BSG?

We have gradually introduced the idea of the positive aspects of developing a Growth Mind Set into our lessons, assemblies and reward systems. We would like our parents to support this initiative-we think that it will make a big difference to student learning- but wonder if you understand what GM involves/would like to know more. What do you think?

Their answers were shared on our bulletin and are in this post.

Our students love stickers and stampers-even year 11-so they are always a way to engage them or at least give them the message that the in initiative is important and won’t be going away!



Postcards home based on successful learning [represented by hundreds of posters around school] have proved to be popular with both students and parents and are a great way to celebrate the learning successes of as many students as possible. Names are proposed by colleagues and appear on our weekly bulletin with specific GM or learning triumphs.




Year 8

Sarah Lyon, Ellie Blundell, Martha Jenkinson, Leonie Birch and Lizzie Gerrard have filmed scenes and edited them together with music and slides to create their own silent movie in drama recently. They have really gone above and beyond, thinking carefully about their actions and the story line as well as adding sound effects and appropriate music.

Asher Nix, Owen Campbell, Kim Machin-Grove, Farrah Evans, Tyler Shaw, Carla Rigby, Katie Hudson, Joel Silva, Jakub Ciechlecki, Luke Kelly, Max Moyle, Bianca Nascimento, Jim O’Keefe and Becky Segar have produced fantastic pieces of work while studying ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’ in English recently. They completed an extended piece of writing and a letter, which were both of a very high standard, and worked tirelessly and passionately on the independent tasks. Well done to you all; Mrs Jordan says you are such a pleasure to teach. An extra special mention goes to Bianca, who reminded her peers about the importance of using capital letters. Well done!


Year 10

Aaron Core, Bethany Greenfield, Kieran Mills, Ben Shields and Lewis Hitchcock all revised really hard to achieve success in science. Whatever their GCSE result is, they can know that they’ve tried their very best. Well done!

Year 7 students were all pushed to develop growth mind set on the residential, moving out of their comfort zones and being encouraged to do a little more than they wanted to do. There was a prize in each group for the person who was the ‘bravest’ and had pushed their limits the most. There was also a prize for the best team player. All prize winners were awarded a PGL cap.

Luke Tilley, Craig Black, Naomi Sutton, Aodhan Blackburn, Michael Lawton, Domantas Karbauskas and Daniel Hitchcock stood out on the residential for being good team players and really supportive of others.

I’ve written in more detail about our GM stars in this post;

By January, I wanted to ask the students themselves how GM was embedding in their lessons and in their approach towards learning. I used our annual Learning Walks to quiz them more.

08 09

We can’t pretend to be a school which promotes and is embedding GM unless our staff are open to the views of our students! A full account of what was said is here;

By July, each year group will have received the annual written reports and this time, the SLT comments are firmly rooted in GM language so that both parents and students can become more familiar with, and hopefully talk about, GM in embedded action. The comments below are from our year 7 selection.

Having settled so well into secondary school it is important that you maintain your good start and begin to take even more responsibility for constantly evaluating how well your learning is progressing and what you will need to do to make further progress. Focus on any areas of weaknesses or anything you don’t clearly understand and challenge yourself to use a marginal gains approach to master difficult skills. This positive learning mind set will really help you throughout school. Aim for the stars!
Having settled well into secondary school it is important that you maintain your good start and begin to learn how to take more responsibility for constantly evaluating how well your learning is progressing and what you will need to do to make further progress. Focus on any areas of weaknesses or anything you don’t clearly understand and challenge yourself to use a marginal gains approach to master difficult skills. This positive learning mind set will really help you throughout school. Remember the key word YET!
Having settled quite well into secondary school it is important that you learn how to work consistently and effectively in all of your subjects. Read the advice that your teachers have given you carefully and challenge yourself to master any areas of weakness. Always think hard yourself about what strategies you could use when faced with a difficult aspect of learning and seek and use feedback from your peers and teachers to help you further.
I know that you will want to be much more focused on your learning in year 8 so that you are able to take home an excellent report next year. Think about the lessons that you have been successful in. What is it about your learning in these lessons that makes you such a good learner in them? I believe that you can transfer those skills into every lesson, even if you find some lessons more challenging than others. Do be ready to listen to feedback and advice from your teachers and peers so that you can use their help and your own hard work to make progress.
I can see that you have already developed an excellent attitude towards home-learning and as you move through the school, practising hard at home will really help you to strengthen your classroom learning. Keep this up!

I explained our approach here; in an earlier GM progress review.


It’s a lovely sunny day today and if my career had taken a different turn a couple of months ago, I could be lying in my garden, listening to the afternoon play on radio 4 before walking the new dog I had adopted and stopping on the way, outside the Belgian beer shop for a nice cold beer! Luxury and surely nobody could begrudge me that! The simple reason why I’m not, as I explained to staff last night, is THEM [and the students]. The huge new responsibility of the role of Headteacher is daunting, especially when I’m expected to sustain the meteoric rise of everything associated with MCHS BUT I have a magnificent team of staff to support me. I’m nowt without ‘em and for all of my mithering and cajoling, it is the staff who have adopted and delivered the Meols Cop version of GM. They got it going, they shared with each other and they modelled GM to me, each other and our students far more effectively than I can on my own. I knew that I wouldn’t have to wait long for their contributions and an early autumn post shows positive responses.

I shared more at Xmas-

10 11

Some faculties, such as maths really began to focus on GM and saw the potential it had for their students, especially the more reluctant ones and they had a blog to themselves!

The biggest test of the impact in teacher’s heads of GM came at our Whit inset when colleagues discussed the most important aspects of learning and teaching that they felt should be seen in all of our classrooms.  There was no interference from me or any other senior leaders-staff choices only-and I was pleased to see that GM appeared in their final choices. Each choice then led to a learning hub being allocated to it with a volunteer leader.

When Ana and Rhian visited, I asked a couple of the GM hub colleagues to briefly explain what they had been trialling. Alex, and the others, have been discussing GM and in particular how they can talk about effort and possibly record/self-assess effort incorporating a GM approach.


These were Alex’s questions that she was developing and had used during the previous week. She also showed her RAG marking which she uses on the student marginal gains wheels to self-assess their own intervention needs. Andrew also shared his geography set of plenary questions with completed student versions and a snap of his GM display and Aimee, her lovely food technology GM plenary dice.


13 14 15 16 17 18

Ana met Jennie our subject leader for RE who explained her changing GM themes which have gone from butterflies and surfing to next year’s diamonds! Both ladies are very creative and no doubt had an imaginative and alternative conversation, whilst Rhian talked maths! Jennie has already planned her initial approach for September and I’ll share a couple of the slides she sent me and showed to Ana.

She told me that her GM belief to share with her students is, “The idea that we should trust in what we believe gets results.  Should that result in criticism, odd looks or suspicion coated in tolerance!  Who cares? “

19 20 21

I am really grateful to Zoe and Jen for opening their classrooms to our visitor so they could see what we have shared in real action. Rhian moved from her conversation with Alex and Beth [maths NQT who shared her GM ideas] to Zoe’s formal lesson observation with her subject leader Jen. Maths colleagues have been working on their hints/tips to help their students access the ‘yet’ aspect of GM. I’ve previously shared Beth and Jen’s work in this area in the GM maths post and Zoe has been trying to differentiate the tactics for her low ability class so they can access the learning involved.

Context of lesson

This is the first lesson on the topic of Sequences. The students have briefly looked at identifying and following the rules of a sequence, and using this to find missing terms in starter activities prior to this lesson. The level of recall skills for the majority of the students in this class can be significantly low and often require generous reinforcement and reminders of prior learning.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging and have decided to focus on?

The focus for this lesson will be on encouraging challenge and growth mind set using differentiated options which allow students to set their own aims regarding how much support they require to make progress.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

Some of these students find it difficult to critique their own work and recognise improvements that could be made, even with the support of a hint. These students will be encouraged to use their hint to complete an entirely new answer which they can compare to their original afterwards.

Learning objectives/WALT

1 to be able to

Recognise and understand patterns in numbers and diagrams

2 to be able to

Apply sequences to solve problems

3 Growth mind set

Self-differentiated challenge and re-draft opportunities

4 Literacy

Use of keywords and correct terminology


I really like the maths hints after their FAIL [first attempt at learning] so that the ‘we haven’t achieved it YET’ is now possible with support. Most students can’t be asked to try harder or to ‘get tough when the going gets tough-they need tactics and support’ to help them take on and be successful in their SAIL [second attempt at learning]

Rhian enjoyed the part of the lesson she observed but the aspect she wanted to talk about most was the after lesson feedback session. She could see the powerful and meaningful conversation about actual learning and teaching that concentrating on using our lesson observations developmentally and not for grading brings.

Whilst Rhian was in maths, Ana talked to Phil who explained his recent observation when he had tried to flip his learning, with the use of his own films and had recorded the lesson using the IRIS cameras. She was interested in our lesson plans which openly ask and encourage staff to take risks and in the feedback session Ana had observed. I explained that I’m the 3rd person in the observations as much as humanly possible and my role is to coach the feedback person and to develop their mind-set to give honest professional critique. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t want to develop a few coaches amongst the staff, I want every single teacher to be involved in observations and giving feedback advice-what better professional development can you get than that! Phil was observed by Hannah, the 2nd in science who is very new to giving feedback but who has seen me do it for both lesson study and our normal [ish] observations. I couldn’t make her feedback session but was delighted to read the conversation both teachers had had. Phil has been teaching for longer than Hannah [he is a progress leader] but he has the mind-set that her views do matter and will be helpful. [How many young leaders are met with hostility, and put off leadership, when dealing with more experienced staff-not here-if you are good enough, age doesn’t come into it and all opinions matter] I could follow the conversation and see how it went and shared the paper-work with Ana and Rhian as Phil sought critical feedback and Hannah was prepared to give it, as she must.

Meols Cop Great Teaching Observer feedback comments to support development.How did each chosen strategy impact on learning? Anything you spotted for future devpt advice? Teacher view-did your teaching of each priority meet your predicted outcome and impact on student learning? Did you have to change tactics?
Flip learning


Impact:Previous homework was linked into the final activity where homework related to the questions given.  Those who had done their homework and retained the information could answer this question well.  This was evidenced by a random name generator.


Videos to support independent learning and for students to relay information to their groups was well thought out.  Most groups did send a student to watch the video, this definitely helped the groups work as a team and as guidance.


Students used their conclusion to teach others about their practical.  PJ had not said whether they were right or wrong, but they had seen model answers.  This was taken away, most students described the pattern in their results but did not explain why scientifically.


Future development:

Getting students to ask why and to explain their results.


The flipped learning aspect of this lesson worked as predicted. The students were able to tell me at the end of the lesson how concentration and temperature affected the rate of reaction without me telling them. The students could pull together the information they gained from carrying out activities in the lesson and from their homework to achieve the lesson outcomes.Students could recall their answers at the end of the lesson via a random name generator. This questioning was used to elevate any bias.


To confirm all have completed needs to be teacher checked for evidence.

During the plenary students peer assessed the work. I think it would have been better if I had put a box on the worksheet so they could have given a grade as to what they think that student achieved, this would have given students an idea as to whether or not they had achieved Gold there and then rather than waiting for it to be checked by the teacher and informing them during the starter of the next lesson where they will re draft their work.

Independent learning


Impact:Finding definitions was a good activity where students had to use books they wouldn’t normally use to find the answers.  The use of praises to encourage others to use a glossary was good.  However this did lead to a bit of coach trying to direct student’s attention to what you were doing with the praises.


Practical activity was supported with a video, each student in the group had a roll to complete the practical, and majority of groups took very well to this, and shared ideas.  They showed very good independence during this activity.


The independent learning helped students with their growth mind-set, finding out answers by not relying on the resources they’d normally use e.g. teacher, computers at the start, wrong book etc.


Future development:

Less coaching at the start, leave time for the students to look in the wrong place first and figure out not all books have the answer but need to be cross-referenced.


To have evidence of the students understanding.  Some students could verbally answer when questions but had little evidence in their booklet.

Students could be trusted to get their equipment and complete the practical without telling them how. 

Coached a little too much when looking for the definitions.

During the starter activity I would have like to have given students more time to find the definitions of the keywords as I felt I had to direct some of them as they were using the wrong textbooks. I should have just left them to realise they were the wrong ones. I also praised students who went straight to the glossary and upon reflection I should not have said why I had praised them and let the other students figure out why. The problem is that this would have taken the starter from 5mins to 15mins and this time was valuable for the independent practical, but should I have sacrificed that time for the starter?




Use of a timer allowed students to be aware of how fast to work and gave them a clear deadline.  They all finished on time at the end of the lesson.


Had to change some timing as packing away equipment took a little longer than expected. However all activities were covered in the lesson and it finished exactly on the bell.

For the observer

3 bits of great teaching that inspired and that you are definitely going to use tomorrow! Your favourite piece of student learning-best penny dropping moment-what and with whom! What did you learn most as a teacher from today’s observation?
1.       Praises for independent work, without telling them what they’re for.  Allowing other students to notice and try to figure out what that student was doing and thus helping their own independent work.2.       Resources to support independence, like the videos on the computer for them to refer too.  This could be done with many other resources to support learning too.

3.       Trust students to be independent and make the mistakes to learn from.

1.       Mae’s group worked very well, Mae took control and led her group to finishing before time.  The group worked as a team top reach a conclusion, but it was Mae who managed to link the energy types of heat and kinetic and how that means more successful collisions.2.       One group predicted the “wrong” thing.  They managed to disprove their hypothesis and explain why they had done that. 1.       To trust my students when working independently, especially with the younger classes.2.       Link homework into the lesson as extra marks etc.

3.       Give praises in a different way to usual to encourage student, not only through behaviour and outstanding work, but through initiative too.

For the observed!

What would you like to develop next with either subject or general pedagogy? How can we [or others] help? How did today help your appraisal targets? Where next with this particular target?
To have evidence written down for future reference that all students have made progress.  Random name generator can question students at random, but written evidence may not be recorded. This was the case with Freya. During the plenary her name came up on the random name generator and she was able to give an answer to my question “how does temperature affect the speed of a reaction” in scientific detail. However, she had not written this in her booklet. If I was to do the lesson again I need to make it more explicit to the students that they need to write something down. To look out for this evidence during the next round of observations.I would like the observer to check that students are writing something down when they are walking around the classrooms and feedback to me if they are not. This would be useful especially in a lesson such as this as the students needed help with the pouring of certain chemicals as they were too hot for them to handle.




This lesson made me realise that the Year 7 students are able to work independently, and I needed to take a risk to discover this.Next time, extend their science skills, e.g. can you devise a table for the practical.

Bringing GM into our lesson observation planning ensures that staff, if they didn’t already, are expected to plan for it-how well it is planned for and taught is open to discussion afterwards and best practice shared. I observed two teachers last week displaying their own mind-set in pushing their own practice out of any ‘comfort zone’ and also, of course, seeking to develop GM in their students. I shared my observations on the lessons with Ana and Rhian to show how far I feel we have moved.

Sarah delivered a wonderful poetry lesson in English and I loved her plan designed to challenge her own teaching.

Appraisal Lesson Observations

Teacher S Cunliffe  Subject English Set 9.1
Action points from the last observation Relevant appraisal learning and teaching objectives.  Which MCHS ‘great teaching’ criteria have you planned to model? 
n/a  Aim for +1 targetsChallenge HA students using higher order thinking skills and independent learning activities. Use models that show A* examples. Give them A* criteria.


Building student resilience – self-belief / aspirationsEngaging delivery – relevant / responsive

Risk taking – self discovery

Active learning


Promote independence


Context of lesson 40% of marks from the new GCSE Lit exam comes from poetry analysis. Students analysed unseen poems in Term 1. We are currently revisiting the skills required to access the higher grades – developing analysis in a detailed way and offering reasons why a writer has used certain stylistic features.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging and have decided to focus on?

Poetry is an area that a lot of the students lack confidence in. They understand poems but struggle at times to probe the sub-text and extend their answers by exploring the effect of stylistic features and find it difficult to offer alternative comments. They must ensure that they justify their opinions with relevant evidence.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

It is an unseen poem GCSE poem that deals with mature themes. As it is a subverted love poem it could be difficult for students to comprehend the emotions the character is feeling due to the relationship break down. It is also based on a character from Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ and contains the word ‘spinster’. Students will doubtfully know about 19th century connotations of this word and that could limit understanding of character motivation.

This was followed with just 1 GM lesson success criteria –not a whiff of must, should, could-just all go for it!

Success Criteria

Students have a +1 target grade – class aiming for A/A*. Share A* only criteria with the class. The model answer will be A* quality.

Independent task – analysing poetic techniques – self-assessed. Exploring the how Havisham is presented in the poem – peer and teacher assessed.

Discussion of the poem using higher order thinking questions. Group feedback.

Increase their confidence in approaching an unseen poem. Create a ‘can do’ atmosphere. Group discussions – model answer before an independent task. No model given to push independent thinking and learning.

Students will be encouraged to write accurately using ambitious vocabulary. They will have access to thesauruses and dictionaries to independently look up unfamiliar vocab. Developing inference skills and probing the sub-text.

Sam and I trotted out onto a very windy field to observe Tom and his year 7 cricketers. Tom was working on a key area of mind-set and feedback- peer critique as well as trying to develop a belief in themselves so they don’t give up. Cricket is a difficult game to teach!

TeacherTom Easom SubjectPE – Cricket Set7.1 all boy group
Action points from the last observation Relevant appraisal learning and teaching objectives Which MCHS ‘great teaching’ criteria have you planned to model?
N/A – Previous observation was GCSE PE theory  Development of assessment framework (BSG) allowing for continued progression.  ·          Students will be inspired and motivated to do their best and seek further improvement within lessons·          Students will be actively engaged and engrossed in their learning and will think for themselves where necessary


Context of lesson Students to develop the key skills within cricket, these skills have been ‘touched upon’ in previous lessons but the class require further development with key areas to further develop their overall skill level in preparation for competitive games.

Throughout the lesson students will be assessing themselves against set GM criteria and skill specific criteria.  Students will be working in small groups and will have the opportunity to observe their peers in an attempt to improve their own ability, or develop their ‘leadership’ skills and assist others through specific feedback.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging and have decided to focus on?

The majority of students within the class have never played cricket before, with some who play on a regular basis.  The challenge for me as a teacher is ensuring all progress and achieve gold alongside extending those students who already have a good understanding of the game.  Therefore I am aiming to use those students who have prior knowledge and experience to lead others within the class.

Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?

The idea that the students themselves are in charge of themselves, giving criteria but allowing the students to complete the tasks themselves, working together to complete challenges.

In addition to this the key skills within cricket, being bowling and batting are very difficult skills to ‘master’ and are made increasingly more difficult with the playing surface at school which is uneven, and often the ball does not ‘bounce true’.  This can affect student progress and belief as they feel they cannot achieve and in some cases give up.


Learning objectives/WALT 1 To recap skills and activities previously taught, improving their skill level through repetition.


2. To get the students thinking for themselves and how they hope to achieve Gold in each activity


2 Growth mind set

To encourage learners to take an active role in their own learning within the lesson whilst supporting each other during tasks.

4 Literacy – To monitor and record my progress identifying areas to improve in my own performance, in some cases identifying specific drills/activities to do to further improve.

Success Criteria 

Growth mind set objectives/targets for all students

·          To have a mature approach to the lesson

·          To think for themselves

·          To offer advice to others and help them if they are struggling/ take advice in an attempt to improve

·          To use and understand specific terminology where appropriate

·          Be committed and determined to succeed and not give up



What are the deep learning questions which form the heart of learning in this lesson? The lesson hopes to get the students to become independent learners


Can the students;

·          have a mature approach to the lesson

·          think for themselves

·          offer advice to others and help them if they are struggling/ take advice in an attempt to improve

·          use and understand specific terminology where appropriate

·          be committed and determined to succeed and not give up


Surface level questions that will help you to get to your deep questions and deep learning [ questions you need to raise, questions you anticipate/hope the students will raise] 

Student questions / thoughts hopefully to be brought up throughout


What skills are required to complete the task set before them – e.g. how am I going to achieve 20 points in this task


Can I help others improve?


How can I get better, score more points etc?




I heard some great peer critique, especially when the more able cricketers were supporting their less able classmates. I walked behind the lads on the way in and listened to their conversation about their learning. “Did you achieve Gold today?” “No I got silver because I …” “What did you get?” “Gold because….” And then the conversation went into asking about which club the lad played for and the interest engendered in the lesson continued into break.

This was quite a new idea to Tom and he was extremely positive about the potential that trying out different GM perspectives in PE brings. His plenary sheets summarised the learning that had taken place.

23 24

Josie wasn’t able to meet our visitors due to being on a course but she sent some art GM to share

Growth Mind-set in Art

In Art, I have started a focus on drawing skills and have been using growth mind-set as a way of developing resilience in the students to help them improve observational drawing skills.

I have been trialling a version of lesson diaries which are stapled into the back of the sketchbook and opened to cover the page/work the students are working on.

The speech bubbles are then filled in at the beginning of the lesson as a prompt to remind students what they struggled with last lesson and that they managed to overcome that challenge. I have found that this has helped students to remind them that they can succeed, if even they struggle at first. It is also useful to help me see which students can recall the intricacies of observational drawing and the skills and control required.

26 25 28 27


Greg was also out of school and he sent us his history examples. He has used every aspect of GM to challenge his learners-there are so many of his slides, I’ll just include the links and a couple of snaps!


Growth Mind Set 4     Growth Mind Set 3     Growth Mind Set 2    Growth Mind Set 1

29 30

Anne our progress leader for year 7 came to tell us, with the aid of her assembly presentation [far too big for the blog!] about how she used a mind-set approach on the recent year 7 residential and how she has been developing ‘The Meols Cop Way’ with her year group. When faced with the daunting challenges of climbing walls and abseiling etc. she reminded the students that our way is to take on challenges and barriers-little by little if need be! An extra 6 inches up and over the top is achievable-think positively and go for it! Anne was telling us that the year 7 enjoy shouting ‘yet’ out in assembly when any barriers are mentioned and they are already using both classroom and extra-curricular activities to shape their approach towards learning anything new or difficult.


31 32 33 34 35

Both Ana and Rhian split their afternoon sessions between watching Jen and her year 9 maths class and meeting Leon to discuss ‘life after levels’ A great data and intervention system supports a ‘can do’ attitude amongst both staff and students Rhian found our data systems and the way we use them to support our +1 challenge fascinating and I was able to share our latest whole staff BSG assessment discussions. Colleagues have been working on a GM approach to thinking about what the attributes of a great Meols Cop student of any ability should look like [as well as their subject specific skills and knowledge] and how we can include that in any assessment system. English had just sent their initial thoughts so I shared that!



This is just another example of how we are trying to embed GM into every aspect of school. I did share examples from NQTs of their book monitoring/professional portfolio to show how we expect a high level of self-reflection leading to a continuous desire to become an even better professional. I will add a section on GM to our feedback self-evaluation monitoring sheets for autumn to encourage the use of GM language in teacher feedback and student dialogue.

I’ve talked enough about feedback and CPD previously so will complete this huge sharing of ideas, exactly where I should do-in our classrooms!


Jen has been a tireless champion of tying out different GM approaches, usually including at some point the maths hints idea. I shared with Ana and Rhian one of Jen’s student surveys to show how she is prepared to think and act on their critique!

An interesting tactic I have seen Jen use before, is to ask the students to give an initial reflection on how hard they believe a number of sums to be.



The rest of the lesson, of course, is dedicated to developing strategies to support a ‘can do’ mind set including ‘Beat the Teacher and ‘Speed-Dating’ and the use of ‘hints’


39 40

Venn Diagrams and Probability Growth Mindset


Complete the Venn diagram to show the number of black cards (clubs or spades) and picture cards (jack, queen, king) in a normal pack of 52 cards.

Using the Venn diagram calculate the following:

1)     What is the probability that a card picked at random from a pack will be black or a picture card?

2)    What is the probability that a card picked at random will be a black or a picture card?

3)    What is the probability that a card picked at random will not be a picture card?

4)    What is the probability that a card picked at random will not be a black picture card?


First Attempt
Second Attempt

Venn Diagrams and Probability Growth Mindset



First Attempt
Second Attempt
The support from each other and the teacher hopefully concludes with the students being able and prepared to successfully conquer the problems they previously thought too difficult. 


43 44

We are on our way and after a full school year, I can see concrete examples of where both teacher and student growth mind-set have made a positive impact on learning and development. As with all initiatives there are huge areas to develop and tap into. The potential of mind-set if used properly is always open to discussion and we will continue to tread carefully sharing and evaluating constantly. Today is year 6 induction day and another group of year 7 students will soon join us along with our new teachers and the process of embedding GM will begin again for some and continue to develop for others. The circle of school life!

I may have time just for a final literacy and numeracy blog-we shall see-however, if you have read our blogs and found them useful and agree that more schools should join in and share ideas-great! I wouldn’t be much of a leader if I left an idea like this that can’t be sustained after I have moved on and I do want to step aside and let others share the new ideas that I’m sure will develop next year. I imagine that I may be quite busy with other issues that face community LA schools like ourselves-no promises though!

A more valuable use of home-work? Quizzing and stickability.

As a teacher who has discussed more key historical ‘turning points’ with classes over the years than I can bear to remember, I have been excited by the ‘turning point’ in my own school and I’m sure many other schools this school year, with the growth in interest in using academic research/sharing ideas from other schools to inform our own practice. When we have been able to create time and opportunities for our staff to read teacher friendly research and trial their adapted versions, I believe that our learning and teaching has had the chance to develop further. If you throw in the leadership and collaborative sharing that this time allows in to the grand mix of personal development for all colleagues-we are on to a winner!

Of course we have to be very careful of jumping on any initiative bandwagon and I’m wary of the increasingly loud voice of some educationalists who perhaps see their way as the only way-that isn’t supposed to be what this is all about! Nor am I pretending that 2014-15 has been in any way a halcyon year for teaching. As a school leader, it has been one of the most bitterly disappointing and divisive years in my memory, and whilst I only have a huge sense of optimism for the learning and teaching future developments here based on the growing confidence and skills of our staff and students-some other national issues, I find bullying and morally bankrupt. This isn’t the forum for that, although I know that it will take a large part of my time and strength next year to fight our cause and beliefs, my focus will always be on helping all in our community to improve their learning. Recent blogs have explained how external visits have really helped us to focus and reflect on our own practice and I liked Steve Munby’s piece in Schools Weekly, where he talked about ‘invitational leadership’ and the chances to work together to create an ‘ambitious self-improving system’ I hope that by sharing our ideas and opening our classrooms to visitors, we are playing our small part in building a brighter future. Let’s hope the ‘point’ can ‘turn’ in the direction that the majority in our profession know that it should do.

Rant over and back to what matters most! We discussed the Sutton/Durham Univ report ion November with subject leaders, with some lively debate on some of the chosen great learning and teaching factors.

  • spacing-out study or practice on a given topic, with gaps in between for forgetting
  • making students take tests or generate answers, even before they have been taught the material  

Previous blogs have explained our early attempts at interleaving and the science faculty lesson study, focused on initial testing, offering a variety of revision methods, and then re-testing. This was small scale classroom research with no control groups-the emphasis was on collaborative planning and trialling some different approaches to see the impact on individual learning and whole class.

The slides from the initial meeting are below to show the content of part of the discussion. I borrowed slide ideas from Rachael Edgar and the Swindon Academy and when we came to our Whit inset day, some colleagues suggested that ‘stickability’ –remembering knowledge/demonstrating previously learned skills at different intervals was certainly a desirable facet of great learning. A bigger argument came with the report’s views on independent learning-the scientists in particular were stung by the negative comments re independent learning but once we had reasoned that independent learning without early scaffolding/teaching the skills how to study on your own, was a waste of learning time, colleagues asked for one of our learning hubs to look at independent learning in terms of improving student revision and memory retention and home-learning.


h2h2great teaching

I shared some interesting blogs with the group e.g. Velcro Learners from Ruth Powley;

and have used Tom Sherrington’s blogs on the value of homework with my NPQSL group and now with the hub.

Tom is perhaps keener on home-learning than I am but the hub isn’t about my views and colleagues were keen to try some different approaches to home-learning in the summer term which focused on developing student memory skills by quizzing and testing and a little more besides. It’s very early days and I will feedback later to see what has happened at the end of the trial. Geography haven’t got going yet but the others in the hub produced a booklet which they issued to upper sets in year 7. There are mixed reviews but all are keen to keep going and all realise that if it is to work in September on a bigger scale, we will have to have a launch with students and parents so that everyone is clear on what is needed. From my perspective, I’m absolutely delighted that the hub has launched a small scale trial based on their own professional instinct, research ideas they have found time to read and the learning needs of their students. Home-learning done well can be a tremendous learning tool with plenty of nice effect size scores. You can see my questions and the responses from the different subjects and then a copy of the home-learning tasks. A quick progress check!


What was the purpose for you of trying this out? What aspects of learning were you trying to improve and why did you think of this method?

We wanted students to be more independent in their approach to learning and hopefully this would be embedded up the school and help students to organise their time for revision and develop skills that they could apply to revision. We chose YouTube clips as many students see this as fun and not as homework as we are not expecting them to write. We have asked them to watch clips and listen to each one three times so they are hopefully absorbing the information. Some groups have tagged on a quiz to the end of clips.

What was the biggest risk you anticipated?

Students will just pretend to have watched the clips and in effect will not have completed homework.

Impact so far for staff and students-has it worked, have they done more HWK, lost booklets, misunderstood-any basic positives/negatives after a short time?

I can’t comment on other subjects but the year 7 have enjoyed watching the clips and don’t see it as homework as we are not asking them to write. I’ve heard some of them singing the homophone songs in class so the rules seem to be sinking in.

Is it worth launching on a bigger scale, is it worth having comparison groups, what would you do differently?

I haven’t yet had chance to discuss with colleagues the impact in their subject areas. However as a department, English homework next year will consist of a weekly independent learning clip / PP to watch and listen to and one other task. We are currently adding them to the VLE. We are also introducing a half termly SPaG assessment at the end of each half term that will test the skills covered over the homework’s that half term.


MFL have been trying to push grammar this year and I have been asking the Year 7 students to learn the personal pronouns and two important verbs (to be and to have) in French. I have given them sheets to learn from and tested them regularly, however as it is not a formal homework many of the class haven’t taken it earnestly and haven’t scored well. I thought by making a mini booklet with learning and follow up activities, a formal homework, the students may take it more seriously. Also I felt, having a short “task” to complete every week and then a consolidation activity would provide some consistency.

The risk I anticipated was that having a French homework every week is not something the students are used to therefore some of the students would still not take it seriously and either lose the booklet or not complete it regularly.

Impact has been difficult to monitor so far because last week when I should have been checking their first homework and stressing the importance of completing each weekly activity  I had an observation so was unable to do it. When I tried to check this week a significant number of students hadn’t brought the booklet with them so there was no point going through the activity with them. Instead, I reiterated the importance of completing and bringing in the booklet and emphasised the importance of taking responsibility of their own learning. Hopefully next lesson will be more fruitful.

I do think it is worth launching because if done properly it will help students get into the habit of completing regular, short but meaningful tasks which can only improve their understanding of the subject and lead to greater achievement. Learning to be self-reliant and work independently are such important skills in life and acquiring them at a young age, I believe, can only be a positive thing.

To do this properly I think the ethos of taking responsibility for yourself via home learning should be embedded across the school by informing Year 7 parents and students of our expectations right from the start, then fostering and promoting this idea as they work their way through to year 11, so it becomes the norm. If it is too premature to initiate this on a whole school basis perhaps certain subjects/teaching groups could trial it properly for 6 months/a year then evaluate.


What was the purpose for you of trying this out?

I wanted to give short home works that were achievable and would make a big difference to the progress of the pupils in the assessments now in y7 as well as in the GCSE they will do in y11. I want them to get into the habit of working this way.

What aspects of learning were you trying to improve and why did you think of this method? 

We are trying to develop recall of scientific facts. The techniques we are asking pupils to try are ones investigated or developed from our y10 lesson study 2014/2015.

What was the biggest risk you anticipated?

That pupils would not bother doing it.

Impact so far for staff and students-has it worked, have they done more HWK, lost booklets, misunderstood-any basic positives/negatives after a short time?

We won’t know until we test them in the final week. I suspect quite a few won’t have done much as we are using it as part of a bigger independent learning trial and we only gave the concept a ‘soft launch’ to test the pitfalls before perhaps a bigger commitment in September.

Is it worth launching on a bigger scale, is it worth having comparison groups, what would you do differently?

I believe we have to help our pupils take over responsibility for their own learning and this will only develop over a period of time through expectations and good habits. I am sure that we will not have got the format right straight away! If it was that simple it would have been achieved years ago. It will need months or even a few years of relentless high expectations coupled with tracking, support and frequent follow ups. Culture change is never easy!


With my 7 set 4 in maths I identified four areas that they had struggled with this year.  I then created a short homework which focussed on each of these areas separately for four weeks; (perimeter and area of compound shapes, Addition and Subtraction of fractions and Transformations).

All upper year 7 were blind tested on these four areas before they started.

Then after four weeks we will test them again to see if they have improved.

I photocopied these homework’s for 7 set 4 which I had not done before and I did get a better response because of this.

The risk would be that we focus on these topics and they don’t improve with them after the four weeks or later on cannot recall them.


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Maths French Maths English
Science Geography Science

Please read the instructions carefully and spend 20 minutes on each task per week

Over the next 4 weeks you will be given homework to complete in the subjects above.

On the fifth week you will be given a short assessment in class based on your homework.





Maths Homework  – All worksheets are on the VLE

You will be tested on these topics in week 1 of summer term 2 and then again in week 5.

Week 1 – complete worksheet – Perimeter of compound shapes

Week 2 – complete worksheet – Area of compound shapes

Week 3 – complete worksheet – Addition & Subtraction of fractions

Week 4 – complete worksheet – Transformations

You will hand your homework in to your class teacher on your last maths lesson of each week, (Thursday or Friday).

Science Homework  –

Instructions:  Use your preferred revision style to master the 12 statements (there are two sets of 12 statements). You should alternate these over the four week trial. Some suggested techniques are below – have a go at all three if you like.

  • Copying out the statement repeatedly (up to 5 times)
  • Chanting the statements into your phone/voice recorder then playing it back and chant along (up to 5 times)
  • Watching the YouTube support video called ‘Y7 science homework support week 1’ and ‘Y7 science homework support week 2’ and verbally completing the quiz at the end.
  • Create some flash cards to play with.

The YouTube channel is found if you search ‘Carmel Manwaring’ on, then search the channel for the appropriate homework. You could get someone to test you on the statements to make sure you are making the correct progress.

Year 7 Science Homework Revision 1

Use your preferred revision style to master the following statements

  1. Chlorophyll is a green chemical found in chloroplasts.
  2. Photosynthesis produces food in the form of glucose.
  3. Leaves are adapted for photosynthesis because they have a large surface are and contain chlorophyll.
  4. The tiny holes on the underside of the leaves are called stomata.
  5. Stomata let gases flow in and out of leaves.
  6. Guard cells open and close stomata.
  7. Plants get minerals from the soil.
  8. Plants absorb minerals through their roots.
  9. Plants absorb water through their roots.
  10. Factors that affect the rate of photosynthesis are temperature, amount of CO2 and the intensity of sunlight.
  11. The photosynthesis word equation is : Water + Carbon dioxide → Glucose + Oxygen
  12. The photosynthesis symbol equation is : 6H20 + 6CO2 → C6H12O6 + 6O2

Year 7 Science Homework Revision 2

Use your preferred revision style to master the following statements.

  1. Stamens are the male part of the flower.
  2. Stamens are made up of the anther and the filament.
  3. The anther contains pollen grains.
  4. Pollen grains are plant male sex cells.
  5. Carpels are the female part of the flower.
  6. Carpels are made up of stigma, style and ovary.
  7. The Ovary contain ovules.
  8. The ovules are plant female sex cells.
  9. Pollination is where the pollen grains get from stamen (on the male part) to stigma (on the female part).
  10. There are two types of pollination: wind pollination and insect pollination.
  11. After pollination, fertilisation happens and seeds are formed.
  12. There are four methods of seed dispersal: ‘Wind dispersal’, ‘Animal dispersal’, ‘Explosions’ and ‘Drop & Roll’

English Homework

Watch the following YouTube clips 3 times.  All clips are also on the VLE under English, Year 7 homework week 1 – 4.

Instructions:  Use your preferred revision style to master the skills. Try to:

  • Chanting the rules into your phone/voice recorder then playing it back and chant along (up to 5 times)
  • Create some flash cards containing the rules. – apostrophes– semicolons  -There, there, their -To too two – plural spelling s or es?

Geography Homework

Your homework for the next 4 weeks is revise a little bit of geography every week. Revision is a very important skill and it will come in very useful as you move up the school. Use the instructions below to complete your homework:

Week 1

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes
  • Go to the revise section and read through the information
  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

Week 2

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes
  • Go onto the activity section and work through the activity video
  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

Week 3

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes
  • Go to the revise section and read through the information
  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

Week 4

  • Go on to BBC Bitesize – KS3 – geography – coastal landscapes
  • Go onto the activity section and work through the activity video
  • Go to the test section and test yourself.
  • Record your score here ______________
  • Test yourself again.
  • Record your new score here _____________

What do others think? Is this a better use of home-learning? Would this approach work in your subject? Is this a learning priority in your area? The feedback of the impact and results may convince you! Be patient and I’ll have them for you.

It might seem silly to share the trial at this stage, rather than waiting until the conclusion of the first attempt at teaching [FATE]  of it, but, as with lesson study, I’m keen for colleagues to reflect at every stage of the learning process so that others can see how others have adapted and why they have changed tactics. Then you can get your SKATES on for the second attempt at teaching! A huge thank you to our volunteers for sharing their ideas. Ideas from the other hubs will be shared in the autumn term.

Magic Summer Literacy and Numeracy Moments part 2

Faculties and teaching assistants have continued to share strategies they have been using to support literacy and numeracy across the curriculum. Our scientists provided these current tactics for me to share.


Holly – Literacy in Science

I use the dot method – dot over the spelling, they have to find the correct spelling, then write it out 3 times.

I also put a star over a sentence that has a grammatical error, for them to copy out again.

Trialled (and now regularly) use ‘the story of…’ or comic strips with year 7 to explain processes. They really liked this idea as they can be creative and/or draw. And now they’re used to including the keywords correctly and underline them without being asked to (I give them 0, even if it’s brilliant but has no keywords in – after the initial ‘that’s not fair!’ they quickly got used to adding in as many keywords as they could)

Trialled with year 8’s ‘making a dictionary’ – Bronze, write the definition of the word, Silver, put the word into a sentence, Gold, write synonyms for the word. They found it very tricky, but with practice they should get used to this idea. Should help raise attainment by not only reinforcing definitions, but also making them think a bit more about the meaning and any links to other keywords in science – deeper thinking should lead to deeper understanding.

Form time – silent reading twice a week, reading from the board for collective worship, daily Q&A discussions about theme of the week or news articles.

Main barriers – science contains MANY keywords, involving a lot of memory which the pupils struggle with.


Phil– My literacy moment of the term was with Yr7.1. For a starter in the lesson I gave students the keywords for the lesson and told them to find the definition of them. They all started heading for the computers until I informed them the only thing they could not use was the computer. It was like I had stolen the oxygen from the room and they all just stood there not knowing what to do. Until one girl shouted out that I had books in my cupboards. They ran over and started looking through each book at random but soon they realised to look in the glossary to find the words.

I am hoping to carry this on as I ideally want the class to use this without asking whenever they come to a word they do not know the meaning of literacy in Science.


Hannah – Numeracy can be common in science with focus on equations, graph and table skills.  Often students struggle with using a scientific calculator, especially with standard form. Giving them an example of how to enter the numbers correctly works well.


Then once all the students can enter the data correctly, completing a game such as “Fastest First”, this often highlights to students to double check their answer, as often we will hear, “but I put that in the calculator and that’s the answer it gave me, there must be something wrong with it.”  This is usually due to an error inputting the data.

Literacy- many in the science department have been trailing dot marking themselves and with peer assessment.  A dot (or a mark of some sort) is place above an incorrectly spelt word. During extended writing or 6MQ practice marks are always awarded for quality of written communication.  During peer and self-assessment students will make sure the work reads correctly in a logical and concise manner to be able to award full marks. A planning frame is often given to help students with these questions (fish bone):


The main issue I have found with literacy in science is the general vocabulary in some exams which students don’t know, for example, in a year 9.4 test there was a GCSE past question asking for the student to get another 2 methods of harnessing the suns energy.  A student asked what harnessing means, however I do wonder how many other students would not have asked.  This problem crops up for us in exams.  However there is no set vocabulary for the exam except the command words.


Complete language use in science:

04 05 06 07 08 09 10



Literacy issues in science-Wendy


Can you spot what made this GCSE question so very difficult for our Foundation students?

The answer may be obvious if you are under 30 – what is an anorak? To many young people an anorak is a train spotter/ boring/ intellectual type person. This unknown word put them off and a number of candidates therefore left out the question completely.

This highlights some of our issues in science, when use of higher level language disadvantages our learners, not due to a lack of science understanding, but an inability to comprehend the meaning of the question.

Clearly it is my job as a science teacher to make sure that they know “function” means “job” and “emit” means “to give out”, as these are scientific terms, but often the phraseology used by examiners can be a real barrier even when explained.

In a Year 9 set 3 class, the following question proved very problematic. The students correctly interpreted the trend as being as the x axis increases, the y axis increases, however, they were stymied by the use of the word “severity” and even when I explained that it meant “more severe”, there was little understanding and I had to resort to using “getting worse” to get the idea across.



Also we get the same word used in different contexts, one scientific, and the other more descriptive.



Here, “remote” is used to describe a location and as an object. Remote part of the country is complex vocabulary for many students, whereas they are obviously familiar with a remote control. Other examples the department has come across; “How do you harness the Sun’s energy?”

“What is the nature of alpha radiation?” What characteristics……….”

Several years ago the trend was to write objectives and information in “pupil speak” – are we now reaping the consequences of this strategy as examination board question setters appear to be using vocabulary beyond our common parlance?

The issue is: where does subject specific start and what can we expect is likely to be heard and used in their everyday life? For the sake of science and no doubt other subjects, please do not dumb down your vocabulary, nay elevate the students to a much higher level by using and explaining more complex expressions.

To leave you with something to ponder, evolution of language over time is also a consideration. Whilst teaching about the blast furnace and the reduction of iron oxide by carbon, I was blithely wittering about using coke as the material supplying the carbon.

An unnamed student in year 10-1 quite seriously put up his hand and asked “Would it work with Pepsi?” At that point I realised that few of the class would ever have seen a coal/coke fire and all their experience of coke revolved around soft drinks. A change in the meaning of a word over a period of time – it makes me feel really old. Needless to say, this point is has now been disseminated around the department and is emphasised so this misconception can be addressed!

So where does it leave me now? I have reflected on this and am trying to make a point throughout my teaching and interactions with students both as a science teacher and learning tutor, that it is my job to educate expansive literacy at every opportunity and I am looking throughout the coming months and years to look for openings to encourage students to write with more ambition and fluidity as the English language is a beautiful thing.

This approach has caused much discussion within the department and another colleague has quite legitimately spoken from a completely different perspective, where it is felt that we should modernise ( not dumb down) our language, including exam statements, and that the beauty of science should be accessible to all people irrespective of literacy standards. A question of debate!

Performing Arts


We put an emphasis on higher level keywords in both music and drama, linking the GCSE spec to KS3 lessons. We use keyword cards and have word of the week in every music lesson. These are subject specific.

We manipulate schemes to create opportunities for other literacy strategies with extended writing with stories and scripts that persuade/inform/entertain/are formal. We have worked on developing marking strategies in line with the rest of the school (in photos you can see students peer mark in red using codes such as ‘sp’ for spelling ‘//’ for paragraphs. In this task they have highlighted Chinese references in yellow, metaphors in blue and similes in orange, then given feedback which has been responded to. When a colour is clearly missing, the feedback was fairly clear to see!) This was most informative to me as I was really impressed by how good the students were at it, even in lower sets. It is clearly routine to them and they gave excellent feedback.

It’s easier to use numeracy in music rather than drama because really, when doing music theory it is in fact all maths! Teaching note lengths and values are actually enhanced by numeracy questions as you can see in some photos. In addition to this most activities are timed.

In drama everything is done verbally and mostly done through emphasising keywords. I was really pleased when this was picked up on in the assistant head interviews where literacy concepts such as ‘stereotypes’ were actually used to enhance acting and skills selected by students. Even feedback is done verbally by students in drama which enhances speaking and listening skills. This really enhances students’ confidence in their own knowledge. A range of strategies such as ‘numbered heads’ are used to ensure all students speak and verbalise viewpoints.

15 16 17 18  19 20





At the beginning of every lesson students listen to Song of the Week and are each given a key musical word. They are randomly number and one from each group must define the keyword and then describe how this was used in the chosen songs. This allows students to analyse key areas of the music using the correct terminology and also means GCSE key words are taught from the offset in KS3. The words rotate each week.

Current year 8 students have been studying the Orchestra and pushing literacy further, the students are required to use Italian terms to describe the music e.g. forte = loud allegro = fast. They have been completing listening tests each week with new words added in each lesson. By the end of the term students should have a vast knowledge of Italian terms used in music.

All students peer assess each term. When this involved lyric writing, students use highlighters and different coloured pens to pick out key literacy features such as rhyme, metaphors and similes. Key terms to do with the topic and subject comment are highlighted in another colour. They also correct punctuation and grammar in Red with the student feeding back to their peer in blue. This is verified by the teacher in green and with a stamp.

Literacy in KS4 revolves around key musical terminology. In addition to written tasks students complete revision games that focus on this such as ‘splatagories’ – where students must use a key word to win again their partner e.g. harmony (chromatic/diatonic) key words go fish – students have to match 3 cards from each AOS and to play the hand must be able to define all of the words they have on their cards correctly.


Numeracy revolves around time signatures and the counting of beats/rhythms. Students have to find the pulse in the music and decide if it is counted in 4 (4/4) or 3 (3/4) Rhythm games help to focus on this such as passing a ball on a certain beat number, silent counting in time and clapping on a defined number as well as movements in counts of 8.

Form Time

The form time ideas website is excellent for a variety of numeracy and literacy tasks. As students are in GCSE we have been watching revision videos that highlight key areas of each book’


At KS3 I have been reflecting on the needs of individuals and differentiating the focus of class discussions and activities. For example; 7.1 are a very keen and creative class and have been working towards more higher level learning- I have been pushing them to consider style, target audience and genre and how they are all linked through both discussions and the success of their performances- The impact of this is that they can talk in a much more sophisticated manner about their work and consider the ‘bigger picture’.

8.6 I have noticed are lacking in their ability to analyse characters and what their acting skills tell us about their emotions or their personality so this has taken a much bigger focus in our lessons.

Yr10 have been struggling with getting detail into their work and describing exactly what they are doing. We are working towards improving this by re-watching our work. I have provided them with body language cheat sheets that I have found online to help with this as attached!

In terms of numeracy students must consider the sequencing of their work each lesson- yr10 have been using beats of 8 in their practical work as they are using music with physical theatre.

Boby Language Cheat Sheets


Katrina found the body language sheet on Pinterest and finds it useful.


A quick idea to support colleagues in other faculties from Jen.

“Something I’ve always wanted to share with staff and thought I’d take this opportunity, is a method of how to calculate and fraction into a percentage.

I’ve just stuck with CALC for the moment as I think this is the one that people across the school use first… I want to develop conversations with staff ‘if you’re scoring a 5 marks questions make sure you just double to help turn into a percentage’.”



Couple of ideas Alex found on the internet.


I used this as a noughts and crosses but erased some boxes.

Students have to write a new question in the blank boxes and then they swap and their partner answer the questions.

Then they take it in turns to answer one, if they get it correct they claim that box.

Whoever gets 3 (or 4) in a row wins


I used this as a card sort. They students cut them out and have to take the information to process to decide whether to make or buy the cake.

Solving Equations Thoughts and Cross

Proportion Mystery

Jen about Beth!

Thought this was a nice twist from Beth which really got some of the more ‘reluctant’ learners thinking.

Beth tried this with her 9(2) with some interesting results!

Might be worth trying every now and again, good twist to the 5 a day.

22 23 24

5 a day is used mainly in maths and science to begin the lessons with a re-cap of long and short term memory-Beth here is asking the students to come up with their own questions rather than using the usual teacher ones. I like this!



Like to use this as a starter activity sometimes, to build in the literacy of a topic before we get started.





Has been making some ‘follow me’ cards to encourage both literacy and numeracy.




Magic Summer TA Literacy and Numeracy Moments.

Our summer rota of sharing ideas has been based on literacy and numeracy and both teaching staff and TAs have been sharing their ideas with the rest of the staff. The learning needs of our students means that we have quite a large number of teaching assistants for the size of our school and they play a crucial role in supporting both the social and academic needs of the students who they support. They did use to be called learning support assistants and I’m not sure why they prefer TA’s [if they actually do!] but the reality is that if you summed up all of the roles they played for individual children, there would be far too many initials to describe their role with any accuracy! I’m not a great one for being precious with the names of things and am only concerned with actions and deeds that benefit our learners-my colleagues who aren’t teachers are all action packed super-heroes to me!

Who better to talk about the impact on learning that penny dropping literacy and numeracy moments have than our TAs! In many cases they stay with the same students for the majority of the day [sometimes 5 years!] and they understand how improved literacy/numeracy can help to break down learning barriers. We have 2 special bases in school-1 for students with Asperger’s syndrome and 1 for students with dyslexia-and have built up a wealth of experience in supporting the varying but specific learning needs of an above national average number of students. These are the first ones on my rota!



Before a student begins to write, I always remind them about capital letters, full stops etc. I encourage the students that I work with to check back over their work, checking for capital letters, full stops, commas, etc., and double check their spellings. If necessary I will suggest that I read it back to them, but only if they request me to.


I tend to always take down notes and write my own examples, so if a student doesn’t understand the task that they have been given to do, I will try to explain what I have written down. If there are more than a couple unsure, then I will catch the teacher’s attention to explain again.


I work 1:1 with a student in a year 10 maths lesson and have known (since year 7) that this student needs repetition until he can retain the formula needed to work things out.  The maths homework, usually 25 similar questions each week, was a real problem at first and his results were around 9 or 10 out of 25.

When marking homework in class I found the best way to help him was correct any mistakes on the homework sheet.  By showing all the stages of working out and writing simple notes of what stages to take to get the correct answer.  I tried to do this over and over each week and asked him to refer to the sheet to help with the homework for the following week.

This student now regularly achieves marks in the high teens/early twenties. Maths used to be the subject he found most difficult, but achieving good results has given him much more confidence.

Sarah [Asperger’s base]

During social times in the base the students may choose to do independent reading and some of the students will visit the library. We also have ‘Social and communication’ board games and card games out on display so that students can pick these up and play. This can lead to discussion and encourage them to share interests with each other and with staff.

One example of this is student A who would for a while routinely pick up the General Knowledge quiz and fire questions at me almost every lunchtime. This encouraged his literacy and his speaking and listening and really boosted his confidence being quizmaster. This started as a 1:1 but he has now begun to speak up more in small groups in the base and will even challenge some of the other students during debates, giving his own opinions and he will now sometimes greet me with ‘Good morning Miss’ which is great to hear.


Literacy – using a revision board game to assist learning.

B was struggling to grasp the plot and characters of An Inspector Calls, I had tried various strategies to help such as little character cards and work sheets.

I decided to use a board game of An Inspector Calls to aid his learning and help him to focus on the characters.  B understood the board game as the group asked questions and discussed the characters together, which gave HIM a greater understanding of the characters, which gave Nathan extra confidence with the understanding of An Inspector Calls.

When we were reading Heroes, he found it hard to differentiate between what was happening ‘now’ and what a flashback was. He was getting very frustrated, as we went through the book so I made sure that every time we began on a new chapter, B was aware of what had happened and what was happening.  I constantly prompted him to reinforce the timeline of the book.  This did help B to have a greater understanding of the book.


The only thing at the moment I can think of is An Inspector Calls board game that was from one of the emails you sent. I put together the game for year 10 and 11 revision with quotes, themes, characters and content cards. On the other side of the board was a past exam question with hints and tips on how to answer it with the language devices. The students, I have been told, enjoy them very much and they are learning at the same time.  As we are doing different texts in each teaching sets I have since devised Blood Brothers and A Christmas Carol!! During the summer I will be busy devising a Trivial Pursuit poetry game for the students to try and remember the 15 poems, quotes and poetic devices used for their exam. A game for each Year 10 set.

Sara [maths intervention]

In the groups I work with I always ensure the students take turn reading the question, then highlight what they feel is important and relevant and then in their own words describe what is being asked of them to solve.

The work sheet handed to them in the session will concentrate on one particular topic. This provides me with the opportunity to observe if they are managing it.  After a period of approx. 5 weeks they are given a summary sheet comprising of several topics, already covered, and their answers are rated red, amber, and green.  This helps us to monitor their understanding and ensure that progress is being made, if their target is not met it can then be addressed by the teacher in the lesson.



I work on a one-to-one session with B and I tend to go over work that we have done in English, so most of my notes and sheets originally come from Miss and some that I collect in lesson. The work we would cover is the work we had previously done in lesson, e.g.: work for their GCSE Literature Exam… Of Mice & Men, A Christmas Carol, Blood Brothers and Poetry. I would break it down for him and he would make notes on the characters as we discussed them. I printed off some poems so that we could discuss comparing them like he would have to in the exam but using the same criteria we used in lesson. B needed reassurance that they did understand all points of the Literacy that they would be expected to complete, we used Miss’s scheme of work and tried various questions that could be asked in the exam. My object of my one-to-ones is to reinforce his knowledge of the subject and therefore give him more confidence in himself.


This term the students I support are studying Macbeth with the text in Shakespearian language. They have found the language very difficult to understand so therefore had trouble making sense of the play. To help them understand the language used, I made Macbeth word mats, in alphabetical order, the Shakespearian words in red and the equivalent modern day definition next to it in black. After laminating them they are put on the desks as the class read through the text so they can check for themselves the words they don’t know.  It has been interesting to see some of the class being amused by the ‘old’ words and what they meant and they have told me that the mats have helped them to understand the play.

I have also made differentiated work sheets covering the plot, themes, characters and quotes which the students I support, especially those with dyslexia, have found helpful. Some have a word bank at the top, some are to match the point to the correct definition and others are a true or false format. The differentiation means they don’t have to start with a blank sheet of paper in front of them, the correct spellings are given and the writing is reduced to a minimum so they can access the task. One of my colleagues is also using them in her one-to-ones with a student and she has found them of benefit to him to help his understanding.

I have attached (hopefully), a copy of the word mat and some examples of the work sheets.

Macbeth character 2

Macbeth themes reality app.

Macbeth word mat

Who Said



Learning barrier – weak basic literacy and memory skills due to dyslexia

I use of a variety of multisensory activities and resources (some bought, others ‘tailor made’) to build on and support basic literacy skills which are often lacking in students with dyslexia, and which teachers are not able to focus on in English lessons due to time and curriculum restraints. Dyslexic students require constant repetition and practice using these skills in order for them to become embedded.

  • basic punctuation
  • nouns / adjectives/ verbs / adverbs
  • verb tense
  • high frequency / key words spellings


  • phonics / spelling board games
  • card sorts
  • hangman – subject keywords to support and
  • memory games
  • proof reading exercises


Learning barrier – weak number bonds / times tables

Strategies that work:

  • time for calculations
  • multiplication square
  • finger methods
  • working out on paper
  • use of ‘Chinese method’
  • use number line when working with negative numbers

David’s recall of his times tables is poor, however he does know his 2’s, 3’s, 5’s and 10 times tables, so when he comes to a particular sum that he does not immediately remember I encourage him to find one that he does know and work out the new answer from that.

Eg : The question is 6×7

  • David does not know 6×7
  • he does, however, know 5×7
  • he can add another 7 to 35 (using his fingers) to get to 42



  • Supporting my year 7 group, I always remind them about capital letters, full stops etc. in all lessons. I have also encouraged students to pop along to Miss’s handwriting class, which some have done, and I have noticed a difference in their handwriting.
  • I always make sure the students know what is expected from them in the tasks set, and repeat or explain the task if need be. I also assist with spellings as and when necessary, but encourage them to use a dictionary.Numeracy
  • One of the student’s parents said to me that they couldn’t help their child with some of the Maths homework as they didn’t understand what was meant by ‘mode’, ‘median’ etc. in regards to ‘averages’.
  • I have the ‘Usborne Junior Illustrated Maths Dictionary’ at home, so I copied the relevant pages on averages to help them to understand, as this is explained in clear English, giving examples. It is a lower set Maths group and plain English is beneficial for their learning.
  • I gave the student the copy, explaining the different sections so that they could understand, and asked them to show their parent the resource so that they would be able to help the student if they got stuck. Hopefully, this in turn will help the student to further their understanding of averages, and also help them to be able to complete their homework, and may also help both parent and student in the long run.
  • Since then, in their Maths homework, the student has managed to get all the average questions right, and I asked if the resource was helpful and if it helped them to understand, and they said that it had.


I have found that some of the students I support have responded quite well when working with me in small groups to talk about how they will do the writing activity. They discuss SPaG and how to set the work out. I think talking about it beforehand gives them more confidence to try to do the work independently.

I have worked closely with A in PSD. At the start of the year they were very quiet and unsure of themselves but by sitting near them to encourage and reassure them I feel, has helped them become much more confident and they often participate in class now.


My Magic Moment – Literacy

I am working with year 11 and they have just been preparing for their exams and mainly revising in lessons.  At this stage in their school life it is hard for me to make a big impact on their learning and development as they are only covering what they have already learnt.  The main achievement I can pick out is that pupil A really struggles with the English reading exam and severe dyslexia is the pupil’s barrier.  In preparation, pupil A has done extra reading during morning registration with me to practice his reading and we have managed to find a technique that works really well.  Pupil A picks out single words and then uses them as quotes linking them directly to what the question is asking.  This is helping with the time constraints in the exam as pupil A finds reading the text torturous and very time consuming.


One of many pupils I support in my class is a girl who is always very reluctant to doing as she has been asked and write her answers down. She loves to doodle throughout the lesson and keeps her head down. Most of the time, to encourage her to complete her work, I write an exercise down expecting her to write an answer. She rarely makes an effort and it makes my job really hard as she is not the only pupil I support.

Anyway, this particular maths lesson the teacher asked pupils to complete a work sheet. The girl was reluctant….and kept on doodling on the white board ignoring what I said to her, ‘here is a choice: you either collaborate with me or I will take the white board away. I suggest you write a sum down, and then write an answer down. While I am writing a next sum down you draw a smiley face on a board for your effort.’ I counted one, two, three and she made a right choice and moved the board away which meant I have won a tiny start battle! We carried on working like that. This strategy of giving her a choice really worked as she completed not just Challenging and More Challenging columns but a half of Superstar material too. She was amazed at her achievement as there was a visual proof of her brilliant work in front of her. The white board had a couple of really nicely shaped and coloured smiley faces in, but most importantly her book and her self-esteem was full too.


The pupil’s in my year 8 set are very lively and keen to learn.  In science they are very enthusiastic and try their best with each topic.

Some of the pupil’s take a little longer to grasp new information when starting a new topic but with mine and the teacher’s support they begin to understand. I support the students by breaking down the information for them to access successfully and make sure that they understand before moving on.

They are confident when drawing graphs. They are willing to have a good go. I support them by explaining why it’s important to draw on the lines and evenly space out numbers.

As there are pupils with Dyslexia in this set I find it’s important to support with spelling, but I don’t make it a big issue, as I feel if a pupil is confident with the topic and working well independently, it is important for them to maintain that confidence and independence.

There is one pupil in particular who finds it very difficult to think of his own ideas and will quickly copy someone else’s answer instead of thinking of his own. This is down to his learning need and having lack of confidence accessing his own knowledge of the topic. I support this pupil by asking him gentle questions and helping him to think about what he is being asked. We do arrive at the correct answer with some discussion.

There is also a pupil in my set who has hearing difficulties. She wears hearing aid and uses a radio aid that is worn by the teacher. This connects to receivers that are attached to her hearing aids. I make sure that the teacher has the radio aid for the lesson. I will frequently check that the pupil can hear the teacher and other pupils when the lesson includes some discussion. If any information has been missed I will repeat it to her. It is important for her to access all of the key words in lessons and topics.

They are very good at drawing and love discussion, this aids their learning immensely. They embrace topics that may initially seem to be tricky. They are comfortable with each other as a class and are very supportive of each other.


I work with a student who is very competent in Maths but is often let down by his times table knowledge.

Although he picks up new topics easily and understands the strategies his work is hampered by his lack of basic knowledge and slow recall of Times Tables.

He enjoys puzzles very much so I have been giving him codes to crack that reveal the answer to jokes. He has enjoyed working them out even though the jokes are terrible!

We have been timing him to see how quickly he can find the answers and his time has been steadily improving. This has also shown improvement in his class work as his recall of Times Tables had become noticeably quicker




My input on helping students develop numeracy skills are. I myself requested an exercise book from Miss Filson. As I am sitting my GCSE maths, I find it encourages the students when learning a new topic on the curriculum. This enables both student and myself to learn and build up a technique of how to solve the problem.

I record everything down in my book from the lesson. And talk it through with many of the students, who are struggling, with the learning objective; by having a record of the work in my book, this enables me to revert back to any of the topics that have been covered.

The objective of the lesson, was to learn about solving equations. My input on this lesson; was one of the students needed a partner, I assisted by pairing up with a student. Each pair had a white board and were asked to solve the question; that had been placed on the board. The equations started off easy, but became harder and challenging. The student and I worked out different steps of the equation step by step, breaking it down, we both knew that both sides of the equation had to balance like scales. The student had forgotten how to expand the brackets; this is where I informed the student, by stating that everything inside the bracket had to be multiplied by the number outside the bracket. The student then made me aware of how the inner core of the equation had BIDMAS, so therefore the symbols changed to the opposite (+ = -) & (x = /) and vice versa. After several attempts both the student and I had achieved to master the subject; by interacting and talking through the problem solving question.

Example :                                         2 x – 4 = – 18

(+4)                 (+4)

2 x = – 14

(/2)     x = -7    (/2)        (balance each side)

All students and I had to close our eyes; and raise our hands to see whether:

  • Who could do the equation?
  • Who could do half of the equation?
  • Who was still struggling with equation?

All the students choose which question they had been asked and answered truthfully.

When Miss Filson saw that the students felt confident with the topic, we then all engaged in a mind growth setting activity: called speed dating, here each student was either labelled to be A or B. the person labelled A stayed stationary; whereas B had to rotate around the room, changing a new partner each time. Each student and I were given a printed sheet with equations on to solve. By doing this I found that each person had their own strategies of breaking down the equation, and we learnt from each other by interacting and talking about of how to solve the equations.

All the students by the end of the activity were asked once e again to close their eyes and raise their hand to the questions asked previously. On this occasion all the students raised their hands to say that they have mastered solving equations.

Both students and I found this lesson to be fun. It showed that by going that little bit more by encouraging and assisting each other through this task; that all of the students and I achieved their goal on how to solve equations


I popped into the end of a maths’s lesson to see Jen and both Hayley and Jen were excited to tell me about what had been happening in the lesson! I’m delighted to see Hayley is going to take her own maths G.C.S.E. and Alison Roberts told me she is taking her French G.C.S.E. Helen and Christine have asked to go on signing courses and we have been discussing as SLT, how we can build more time in for vital TA CPD next year. We recognise their value and support and want to equip them with the changing skills their crucial role requires. It is important that they, like the teaching staff, have the opportunities and forum to collaborate and share ideas with each other and to trial and new ideas without fear of failure.