Monthly Archives: July 2013

Independent Reading


There’s a sense that A Levels and GCSE in the future will require more sustained reading of texts in exams. With the world of ICT often leading to F pattern reading and shallow skimming:

Screen reading is the act of reading a text on a computer screen, smartphone, e-book reader, etc. It is often contrasted with the act of reading a text on paper, in particular a printed text.[1]
In a study conducted by Jakob Nielsen, a leading web usability expert who co-founded usability consulting company Nielsen Norman Group with Donald Norman, it was discovered that generally people read 25% slower on a computer screen in comparison with a printed page.[1] In eyetracking tests, Nielsen also discovered that people read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern that consists of two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.[2] A similar study, using search results from the Google search engine, determined that readers primarily looked at a triangular area of the top and left side of the screen. This corresponds to the Nielsen F-shaped pattern, and was dubbed the Google Golden Triangle.[3]
Critics have voiced concerns about screen reading, though some have taken a more positive stance. Kevin Kelly believes that we are transitioning from “book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality”.[4][5] Anne Mangen holds that because of the materiality of a printed book the reader is more engaged with a text, while the opposite is true with a digital text in which the reader is engaged in a “shallower, less focused way”.[6][7]

F Pattern Diagram

This may be the future of reading but exams will still test literacy not ‘visuality’.

OFSTED ( English: The Way Forward) say that they rarely see lengthy reading or writing in English lessons during inspections (never mind other subjects). This is probably down to assuming that five part whizzily fast lessons are what is needed.

So a few thoughts about independent reading

1. If you complain about sixth formers’ independent reading, do you develop it at KS3 and 4?
2. It is OK for students to read for 20 minutes or more sometimes!
3. Time yourself reading a text. Add 10-15% for students. How much time should you allow for them to read the whole text?
4. Don’t talk while they are reading.
5. You can check learning and show progress by asking them to annotate as they read then pull key ideas together from the whole class.
6. Writing questions as they write is good learning.
7. Reading to them is fine depending on the context but watch out for the students who only listen and push the text away on the desk. They are not reading.
8. Do students ever ‘read around’ your subject. Libraries are full of unread journals in your subject.
9. I used Wikipedia above because it’s a useful tool BUT I’ve read the articles too. Try giving students a ludicrously wrong web text. See if they can detect the problems. Discuss.
10. Simply set some longer reading as a homework with a little dialogue slip at the end. Students hand in slip with what they have learned from reading the book or article.

Finally, some of this takes longer but will result in deeper learning and better readers more able to cope with longer texts in exams.

Terence Fitch

Lesson Observation for Real @ THW


On Tuesday 11th March 2013, we hosted our very own THW Lesson Observation for Real to introduce the new Ofsted Framework. The CPD consisted of a lesson taught “live” in front of the whole staff and a debrief where the quality of the learning was discussed.

Key questions to bear in mind with the New Ofsted Framework:
• What are students learning as opposed to doing?
• Are they learning something new and acquiring knowledge?
• Can all students make links between previous and new learning?
• Can the students talk about what they are learning or simply describe what they are doing?
• Do they produce work of a consistently good standard?
• Are they working independently? Are they self-reliant?
• How well do they work collaboratively?
• Do they show initiative?
• AFL is a crucial ingredient in a perfect Ofsted lesson.
• Pay particular attention to your groups (SEN, EAL, Pupil Premium)
• An ‘outstanding lesson isn’t what the teacher does but what the learner learns.
• You need to be able to demonstrate ‘exceptional progress’ in your lesson

Top Tips for the “Outstanding” Ofsted lesson (taken from Jackie Beere’s The Perfect Ofsted Lesson):
• an exciting introduction which focuses attention and excites pupils and sets the scene
• progression from one body of knowledge to the next step building on prior learning
• clear expectations based on challenge for every pupil
• knowing every pupil as an individual
• relationships based on mutual respect
• teaching methods matched to the content and pupils
• buzz factor – which enthuse and surprise pupils and create interest
• pace – teaching styles that move the lesson along maintaining interest
• dialogue – discussion and questioning to ensure everyone is involved and understands
• great ending – which helps pupils to reflect on what was learned, celebrates achievement and identifies the next steps.
• generally, less is more!

“The lesson observation was very productive. The feedback was very good with the new way of annotating if the activity was T (teacher led), S (student led) and also the impact the activities had in the learning”.

“Very inspiring. What struck me was the fast pace of the activity as well as the challenge for the relative range of ability”.

“This was a wonderful, energetic lesson, excellently planned to meet the needs of all the students within the group, using a range of activities and techniques to promote independent reflection and move learning on apace. Of particular note were the high expectations of the teacher and the students’ confidence to make mistakes and offer high quality feedback whilst working together.”

“Extremely interesting and useful CPD experience particularly as I work in the same subject area as the lesson observed.
Great ideas about what a good lesson should contain and about how to see overtly what constitutes as “progress”
I particularly enjoyed the follow up smaller group CPD session where we discussed the findings and debated even more about how to demonstrate progress, impact, journey travelled etc”.

“Great to see how we can apply the new OFSTED criteria to our lessons. Very useful to see it in practice rather than being lectured to or reading from a sheet.”

Effective Groupwork Seminar with years 7 & 8


All year 7 pupils attended a workshop in the theatre during their pastoral lesson on Tuesday 7th May 2013 to explore what made group work successful. Pupils got the chance to discuss the relationship between group work and learning and to put it into practice through various activities and debates. The session gave them an awareness of the sort of behaviour they needed to adopt and the language they could use to get the most out of working in a group. This was then followed up by tutors in registration and tutorials.

Rules for Great Groupwork

T&L Seminar yr7

design a mammal task

issues to debate

As year 8 pupils attended the same seminar last year, tutors nominated 2 reps from each form to attend a refresher session. The 14 students were then given the responsibility to go back and feedback to their peers, but actually the girls suggested that delivering a tutorial themselves on effective group work would have more impact, and so they did! They came up with amazing and creative ideas such as an Apprentice-type task, quizzes, debates and much more. The girls did all the work themselves – from planning to teaching! The outcome was fabulous, they really rose to the challenge. Well-done to them all!

Effective Group Work photo

Writing effective learning objectives…continued


I came across this very interesting blog post by David Didau where he explains how he sets learning objectives as a “journey” (or what he calls the “Learning Continuum”) so that students can achieve outcomes at different levels. He writes the objective within an arrow to represent the progress and direction of the learning, which in other words means “this knowledge is going somewhere; this skill can be developed to different levels of expertise”.

I thought this made a lot of sense and was a simple and very visual way to differentiate objectives whilst allowing students to make progress without suggesting a point at which they can opt out (as opposed to the all/most/some approach which, according to him, is a “recipe for low expectations”).

learning continuum1learning continuum2

To take this even further, what about putting the objectives with empty boxes on laminated sheets so that the students can plan their own differentiated criteria? Or the boxes filled in but the objective blank?

If you are struggling for ideas on how to introduce learning objectives in a meaningful way, what about trying one of these? They will undoubtedly get students talking and thinking not only about what they are learning but also why they are learning it… (ideas taken from David Didau’s excellent The Learning Spy blog).

1. Expand a sentence

Start the objective and ask students to add “because” and come up with reasons (For example “Proofreading and redrafting will improve your writing because…”) or to add so that in order to communicate the relevance of learning.

2. Connected Words

Give tables/pupils different key words to focus on (from the learning objective) and ask them to come up with as many connected words as possible in 1 minute.

3. Missing Keyword

Leave a blank in your learning objective for pupils to fill in. (For example “to be able to use success criteria to _ _ _ _ _ _ _ your work”.)

4. Odd One Out

The odd one out techniques suggests showing the class 4 statements or objectives and then getting them to work out what the actual objective is. (In this case which of the following statements they thought would make the most impact on the quality of their work.)

– You should make your work as neat as possible

– You should count the exact number of words you have written

– You should read through your work and check you have met all the success criteria

– You should use the time to do a bit more writing

5. Order the learning

The basic premise of this one is to take out the words of the objective and arrange them in order of importance.

learning objectiveslearning objectives2

If you want to read more on the subject, check the following posts:

High Leverage Literacy Tools – CPD


Many thanks to Matt for an excellent CPD session yesterday afternoon.

Here are my top 5 ideas from yesterday’s CPD to include literacy in your lessons and enhance students’ learning:

1. Use classrooms to display key words for your subject. You could create an adjective wall which would help to increase students’ vocabulary and encourage them to use subject-specific terms.

For example in science your adjective wall might contain “reactive, experimental, chemical, molecular, quantitative etc”, in English it could list adjectives to describe characters of a novel or a play.

2. Thesaurus Challenge: students write a paragraph about something they have learnt recently using specific words or phrases in order to improve the quality of their writing

For example in history, students must answer the question “what were the causes of WW1?” and use…

–          gave rise to

–          animosity

–          strained

–          spark

–          enveloped

3. Have I got news for you?


Fun activity to recall prior knowledge and to think about word functions.

answers: Texas, white, sharps

4. Building on root words: how many words can you make adding the following prefixes and suffixes to the root words?

root words

Extension – can you create your own?

Alternative – Give a definition for students to work out.

a)      The fact that Hitler wasn’t a nice man.

b)      Most of the people who apply to go on the X Factor.

c)       The truth wasn’t put across correctly in the case.

d)      Some people like to dress up at the weekend and pretend they’re at the Battle of Bosworth.

answers: understatement, misguided, distorted, re-enactment.

5. Four Corners: as it says! 4 words on the board, one in each corner. Students make a sentence with it.

For example in maths,

4 Corners

See how you could adapt these in your own subject area. They don’t take a long time to plan but definitely have high impact in the classroom.

Thanks Matt for the wealth of ideas.

High Leverage Literacy Tools KS5_Literacy