Monthly Archives: January 2014

TOTW – Monday 27th January



This week’s questioning technique comes from @TeacherToolkit




a. Give the context of your PPPB approach to the class. It is important they know what is happening before it becomes common-place…
b. Insist on hands down before the question is delivered.
c. Provide a question or a series of questions, ensuring that you ask the students to remain reflective.
d. Pose the question to the class; not an individual.
e. Then Pause…
a. This is the difficult part. To stop talking…
b. Ask the class to hold the thought… think… and think again…
c. If students are captivated and engaged, try holding the silence for a little while longer (take a calculate risk) and…
d. Still push the boundaries. Keep the reflection for as long as possible….before you,
e. Pounce!
a. Insist that the answer to the question comes from student A and possibly student B, directly and as fast as possible!
b. Of course plan in your mind who you are going to ask, before speaking to the class.
c. Name student A to respond and don’t move from the student…
d. Possibly don’t speak and nip any comments, grunts or noises in the bud! Its magic when you can hear, see and feel a captivated learning audience. We’ve all seen it.
e. Wait for an answer… pause… decipher the support needed, especially if no response is evidently on its way. (Of course, at this stage, you can instigate various strategies for peers to support the questionable student A).
f. If student A does manage to answer, the fun part starts here…
a. Ask another student B their opinion of student A’s answer (immediately) after the Pounce response.
b. This can be developed by asking student B and C their opinions to student A’s response, irrespective if the answer is correct or not.
c. This ensures the teacher is engaging a significant number of students with the question at hand, whilst using this strategy. It also ensures the entire class can be called upon at any given time by just returning to Pose or Pounce.

Engagement vs Passivity – CPD


The excellent training session delivered by Mike Hughes earlier this school year raised some important questions and provided some interesting food for thought. How refreshing to hear that learning should be the core of what we do, not ticking boxes (although unfortunately they still need to be ticked somehow!). In order to achieve this, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to add “bits of polish”, make “tiny changes” and “tweak” what we do so that the following questions can be answered:
– “How much learning has taken place?”
– “What can they do when they leave the room that they could not do at the start?”
– “If I had not done this would the learning have been impaired?”

Are our students OCCUPIED or ENGAGED?
(ie: “Read page 7” or “Read page 7. What’s the most interesting sentence?”)

Which is key to effective & meaningful learning?


Learning can only take place with dialogue. Yet, if the task isn’t well-designed, the quality of the dialogue is poor.

This again highlights the importance of questioning in the classroom.

Examples of “good” questions taken from Mike’s website:

“• Why?
• Why not?
• Because…?
• Can you add to that?
• What do you think of that answer?
• Can you give me a reason / example?
• Which was the hardest?

• Did you have to do… differently as a result?
• How did you get to that answer?
• What was the thinking behind…?
• How would Einstein/Shakespeare/Pythagoras answer that?
• If that’s the answer, what’s the question?
• What haven’t I asked yet?”

2 examples of task which lead to better dialogue:

–          Diamond 9 with a key question designed to get the pupils talking (“Who’s the key character in Romeo and Juliet”?)

–          The heart of the matter (arrange information from really important / relevant to not so important – if 2 things are connected link them up to show deeper understanding)

heart of the matter


What is the difference between UNDERSTANDING & KNOWING?

(ie: can pupils remember the teacher’s words or can they explain what they have learnt in their own words?)

In order to show that they know, pupils need to do something with the information given.

“Magenta” Principles: Pupils demonstrate their understanding

  1. Reduce (“Underline the 6 key words”, “What’s the most interesting sentence?”)
  2. Change (“What animal would Juliet be in a Walt Disney film?” – change into a poem, mime)
  3. Replace (“Can you answer the question without using the word…?”)
  4. Add (“Can you think of a word that isn’t there but could?”)
  5. Arrange
  6. Connect                      Diamond 9 & Heart of the Matter
  7. Assemble
  8. Sequence

We talked about lots more than that but I hope I have managed to capture the main themes of Mike’s session!

For further reading, check Mike’s website and twitter

Mike Hughes books

Following on from the CPD – some of us have tried to adapt some of Mike’s principles. See below for some inspiration!

Castles – compare contrast (THW) Hippocrates card sort activity Mike Hughes Year 7 Mike Hughes Year 10 Mike Hughes Year 12 THW Castle pictures

Assessment for Learning – CPD


As a school we have done a lot of work on AfL over the last few years to make sure that it becomes part and parcel of what we do in the classroom. With the increasing emphasis put on progress by Ofsted but also more importantly because pupils’ learning is at the core of what we do, it seems crucial for teachers to master the art of AfL so that pupils’ achievements and learning are transformed.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a course on Assessment for Learning at Warwick University led by Denise Smith from Torquay Academy ( The training was excellent, it covered all aspects of AfL in depth and it was reassuring to hear that we have been going in the right direction!

Here are some thoughts and ideas from the session:

1/ Establishing systems:

– It is important that the target grade is treated as a minimum, in other words let students aspire for higher.

– To prevent students comparing their grade to others’ consider using colour coding, so everybody who has achieved their target will be coloured green to celebrate success (whether it is at a level 2 or at a level 4).

– Deal with incorrect answers and consider the following:
“You’re definitely on the right lines. Now let’s build on the perfect answer between us.”
“That’s a very good point. So, what about….?” (redirect the conversation on the right lines)
“I can see what you mean there. What would happen if…?”

– To prevent people from taking over the discussion and to make sure that you don’t leave people out, use a random name picker.

Sorting Hat (The Hat is a simple but handy little utility that offers a fun and easy way to automatically determine a random order from a list of any amount of names. You can even use it to pick individual names for raffle and sweepstakes winners or pick any amount of names at a time to divide a large group into random smaller groups, complete with cool animation and sound effects).

2/ Questioning:

– Use question stems to avoid closed questions:
“What might…?”
“Can you compare this to…?”
“What could happen if…?”
“How would you…?”
“What are the possible results of this?”

3/ Quick whole class assessment to build an overall understanding of where pupils are at:

– mini whiteboards
– thumbs up / thumbs down
– traffic lighting
– establish prior knowledge and repeat at the end of lesson to measure progress
– ABCD cards to show for multiple choice answers

4/ Feedback:

– Train students on the use of positive language for peer-assessment:
“It would be good to…” (rather than “you didn’t…”)
“Have you tried…?” / “Next time think about…” (instead of “you should have…”)

– Triple impact marking: mark work – pupils redraft acting on feedback – remark checking improvements have been made

5/ Pupil evaluation of lesson:

Plenary wheel

Key Stage 5 T&L Strategies – CPD


This CPD session was a follow-up to the WCSF training we had at the end of last year and looked at taking some tips further to positively impact on the T&L of low ability learners at KS5.

The following strategies were shared:

– Comment-only marking: minimum input – maximum impact!

The amount of marking at KS5 is often very heavy yet so important in helping students understand how to improve. In particular, marking essays  and writing detailed feedback can take forever! Here’s one simple way to remedy this whilst ensuring that students get the guidance they need to further improve.

1.Students list features of good/weak essays
2.Turn comments into ‘codes’
3.Use ‘codes’ to mark
4.Students re-write one passage in class
comment only markingcomment only marking 2comment only marking 3
Here’s another example developed by the MFL department after the session 2 stars and a wish AS writing Marking Grid
– Making connections:
This activity is based on the principle that if students have to do something with information (ie, reduce, connect, assemble, sequence it), then their understanding deepens.
6 of separation
Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” was invented as a play on the concept: the goal is to link any actor to Kevin Bacon through no more than six connections, where two actors are connected if they have appeared in a movie or commercial together.
– Retention, Analysis & Evaluation:
For some of our weaker students, remembering subject specific content itself can be a challenge. Try the following to boost their subject knowledge:
* ask students to keep a glossary of key terms
* encourage students to underline key terms in their work
* encourage students to “do something” with the information they take in (highlight something surprising… / highlight something interesting… / highlight something you agree with… / highlight something you disagree with… / highlight something you do not understand…)
* use post-it notes as a recap
* use quizzes or games to revise subject knowledge (see templates below)
To help with the skills of analysis and evaluation, give them examples, vocabulary and writing frames.
– Peer-assessment:
The following prompts can be really nice not only to give peer-assessment a bit of a makeover from the traditional 2 stars and a wish but also to refine and improve pupils’ learning.
* Write down four key words that your partner has used. Suggest one word that they could have used but didn’t.
* Write down the best sentence/quote from their work and explain why you chose it (ie what is good about it?).
* Write down one sentence/quote that doesn’t make sense to you (ie it lacks clarity or isn’t fully explained).
* Add one sentence which improves the essay.