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‘Character Boards for Macbeth,’ by Rachel Strachan.

After I observed Mrs Young, our Lead Practitioner in Science, I stole one of her tasks/ideas and implemented it into my Y9 lesson. Her top set students were so engaged in this task and they all seemed to really enjoy the challenge that soon became competitive, especially for the boys!

This lesson I was focusing on characters. My starter was a reteach as students are still getting confused with the effects of certain techniques that they have to identify and then explain from the extracts/poems so it was to help solidify their knowledge from the previous lesson. I also focused on writing in full sentences and giving an in depth explanation for each. Then, instead of giving my Y9s a blank storyboard with images like I usually like to do, I zoomed in on an individual character (Macbeth) and gave them the finished paragraph with blanks and a Word Bank filled with not only adjectives, but other  characters/keywords/themes/ that linked. It helped them to see the change in Macbeth. Students were stretched and challenged with character boards for Banquo and King Duncan as they are not as confident with these as they are Macbeth/Lady Macbeth.

Then in their final task, I changed it around by giving students explanations of individual characters moving from adjectives to titles and asking them to give the name, rather than explain the characters. I believe this will help all subjects with subject specific terminology. They were challenged with less familiar characters and I differentiated by giving the weaker students small riddles on each character to help lead them to the answer. This turned very competitive when I told them it will be scored out of 20 for the final mark, that three learning credits were available and I would email the English department about who had worked the hardest!

I will be stretching and challenging them in the next lesson on completing their own ‘Character Board’ but they will not be allowed to use Macbeth/Lady Macbeth.

‘Creating an Atmosphere.’
Bringing Macbeth to Life Using Music, by Rachel Strachan

Recently, we have been focusing on the context of Macbeth and comparing The Globe Theatre to The Winter Gardens. We looked at bringing Macbeth into The Grand Theatre changing the ticket prices/lighting/music/seating and brainstormed how we could still create the ambience Shakespeare had intended. Layered questions were present on the board when students arrived about the 1600s/modern day theatres to help with confidence/resilience and were also differentiated for the needs of individual students. They were asked to answer these in full sentences, encouraged into giving an in depth explanation.

As well as creating a stage through both image and descriptive sentences, we created a piece of music that we could use to accompany Banquo’s murder. We listed 10 adjectives to describe the atmosphere, ranking them 1-10 of importance i.e. depressing/mysterious/tense and listened to certain instruments that helped make this (strings/woodwind). They were to create a piece that lasted no more than 90 seconds that would help build up tension in the 21st Century for the murder of Banquo. Students that were not as confident worked in pairs and were given lists of specific instruments to include. We used Garageband, a software that is used in GCSE Music. This year 9 class sometimes find it difficult to be positive at school but really enjoy having a variety of activities in lesson; this was an engaging, fun and challenging lesson. They worked well as a team and didn’t want to leave for lunch!

Targeted Revision – Writing on Desks by Evie Holt

As part of their revision for their upcoming GCSE exam, year 11 were given targeted revision questions on their desks as a starter activity in RE. After completing their own task, they were able to move around the room, improve classmates’ responses and add extension activities, allowing for peer teaching and learning. Students enjoyed being able to write on the desks and being able to visualise their learning and they then used their desks as an additional resource when completing a “revision clock.”

Cross-Curricular Learning in RE by Evie Holt

Whilst studying Al-Qadr (Pre-destination) in Islam, Year 9 temporarily became psychologists in RE and conducted a scientific study on an unsuspecting classmate. Inspired by similar experiments, they tested the limits of their classmate’s free will by repeatedly standing up on a beep without acknowledging the behaviour or explaining it. In keeping with the results of similar studies, the classmate joined in with the standing up without understanding why he was doing it. They also looked at the results of a similar experiment based on compliance to authority and were asked to draw conclusions from the data provided. This led to a thoughtful and mature discussion on whether there is such a thing as free will and, if so, what we really mean by the term “free”.

'Bringing GCSE Literature To Life.'

On Friday 13th April, ‘Say Two’ Theatre Company came in to perform ‘An Inspector Calls’ to Year 10 and 11. It was an excellent opportunity for the pupils to see the play as JB Priestley intended, on stage in front of a live audience! Pupils were captivated by the performance and really enjoyed the show.
Afterwards, smaller groups got the chance to hot seat the characters in role and pupils asked some really thought provoking questions linked to the GCSE text. Year 10 even got to dress up and act out a scene. We will definitely be asking them back next year!

Helping Learners Hear by Rachael Hallett, Languages Teacher

In language lessons, listening skills account for a quarter of the pupils’ learning. It is vital that their skills are improved continually to help them better understand the language. In order to support pupils in my classes, I have differentiated listening tasks based on pathways. Pupils on the purple pathway have been given the task, as set in the course material. The work is then differentiated as follows:

Blue pathway: pupils are given a transcript and complete the task as a gap fill. They have access to the words needed.

Grey pathway: pupils are given a transcript and complete the task as a gap fill. Pupils cannot see the words needed for the gaps.

Yellow pathway: pupils complete the same task as the purple pathway but are asked to listen for additional vocabulary, noting it down in both the target language and in English. Once we have gone through the answers as a class, pupils on the yellow pathway then share their extra vocabulary to help extend the knowledge of others in the class.

How to bring the poem, ‘Tissue,’ by Imtiaz Dharker to life, by Gillian Colson, teacher of English.

Pupils in Year 9 are studying a very challenging poem called ‘Tissue’ which focuses on the importance of paper and also its fragility. This is used as an analogy with life experiences and the fragility of people. To explore the ideas in the poem, pupils used tissue paper to make a collage which represented their thoughts and feelings about key quotations. This really helped with their interpretation of the poem. By using such a tactile approach, the pupils really engaged with the texture of the tissue paper and reflected how this linked with the poem.

Tried and tested! Progress Snake BITE!
A great starter, development task or plenary to extend thinking by, Rachel Strachan, teacher of English.

I stole one of the PowerPoints/ideas used in GPB that is held on a Thursday morning. I changed it around to make it accessible to a lower ability Year 9 group, who I teach once a week. Their starter was to write down five words that came to mind when I said the name ‘Macbeth.’ Then, they had to tell me which they thought was the most relevant/important and which was the least, giving an explanation to the class in full sentences (‘Thinking Hard’ strategy – Professor Coe ). As well as it being a tester on memory, I allowed them to write down a skill/knowledge or emotion belonging to each individual letter.

They then had to give me a letter to which I had to write down an emotion/skill/knowledge that I thought linked to this letter to push the challenge back on them. They too had to write down words to match their own letter in the back of their books. For the final task, all students read out every word they had written in the lesson…. Try to remember them all…. and were then asked to remember them all and write them down in the back of their book in less than three minutes (with thinking time). The most was eighteen! These ranged from Technique, Evidence, Analysis, Link to Monarchy to Serpent. Great progress made with Progress Snake Bites!

Crib Sheet Marking by Vicki Danson, Lead Practitioner of ‘Open’ subjects.

Following the freedom to develop department policy regarding marking, I found a way to really focus how I mark my pupils GCSE theory books.  I am sure it is nothing new, but it was something I had not done previously.  I came across crib sheet marking on twitter and liked the fact it condensed a lot of information onto 1 sheet.  It also meant I wasn’t trying to jot down lots of notes about different things in my mark book or remember details.  This is especially useful if you don’t mark a whole set of books in one go!

I used a basic outline I found online (and then made it pretty!) and as I am going through books I make comments on the crib sheet.  It focuses on Praise; Experts; Cause for concern; Polaroid moments; Missing/Incomplete work; Misconceptions; SPAG; Presentation and DIRT activities.

Whilst I am still writing A and B comments in books, I feel this has been particularly useful for a few things.

  1. It helps me spot patterns. I can see very quickly where a pupil has a common problem, if I have a class issue with something, or I have miscommunicated something.
  2. I can fine tune D.I.R.T. By identifying misconceptions and SPAG issues for the whole class, I then create a D.I.R.T lesson and tasks that deals with these specific problems. It basically plans my D.I.R.T. lesson for me.

For example, my Year 10 GCSE pupils ALL identified phalanges as short bones (they are long bones for those who didn’t know!), and struggled to classify and distinguish between the bones in the hands and feet.  I was then able to put a series of tasks together that addressed this.

I also try and incorporate starter activities over the following lessons that remove these misconceptions and help pupils retain and recall the correct information.

  1. I can identify my pupils who need further challenge and even pair pupils up to be buddied with an expert on a topic. For example, where a pupil is identified as an expert, rather than get them to complete D.I.R.T. tasks, they may work with a pupil who has struggled. This is valuable on 2 levels in that it reinforces the experts learning (we all know you have to understand something to explain it to someone else) and it means that a pupil who has struggled with a concept gets to hear it in a different way and from a peer, not a teacher.
  2. It focuses my reflection on the learning and progress of the pupils across those lessons. It has also encouraged me to go back and tweak lessons ready for the next time I am going to deliver them.

For further reading and examples of other ways it can be used  have a look at  and check out my first ever attempt at Crib Sheet Marking below.  If you would like a blank copy of a crib sheet to try, please drop me an email.

Year 7 Poetry by Rebecca Grant – Teacher of English.

Year 7 have created a fantastic poetry display based on their work on DH Lawrence’s poem “Discord in Childhood”.

The original poem was used to learn about the identification of semantic fields, in order to assist with the higher pathway reading skill of spotting patterns in language. The students also learnt how to label rhyme schemes. We noticed that Lawrence used a distinctive rhyme scheme to emphasise the theme of discordance, and tried to emulate it in our own stanzas. We created banks of sound words (Lawrence used “booming and bruising”) and rhyming words, then drafted our poems before making display copies.

Students were really proud of their work and everyone has a poem on display. They are about real or made-up memories of “discord” from their own childhoods. Come to A4 to have a look!

Music for thinking, by Gillian Colson.

I have two classes who are very reluctant to complete discussion / group work. I have found a solution to this by playing ‘music for thinking’ quietly in the background during the task. Pupils do not feel like they are the only voices in the room and do not seem as reluctant to contribute when there is already some background noise. I always choose a relaxing bit of Beethoven! Pictures are my Year 10 class acting out scenes from Romeo and Juliet – the last performance received a standing ovation!

A reflection on using definitions – Yes they are important but more importantly is that pupils really understand them. By Joanna young, Lead Practitioner of Science.

Up until recently when teaching new concepts such as diffusion and osmosis I would start a lesson with a definition. In my mind I felt that learning the vocabulary was critical and therefore would focus on this. When questioning most pupils would be able to recall the definition but this was about it they couldn’t apply it to different situations.

To a teacher and expert the definition makes sense because they understand all the sub-concepts within the definition but this will mostly likely not be the case to pupils. The words will be unfamiliar and they often can’t relate to pre-existing everyday knowledge.

In the last week I have been planning into my lessons ways of helping pupils understand new words. These are some of the techniques I have found useful in my teaching

  • Showing pictures of key words e.g. a picture of fans leaving a stadium shows net movement nicely, an image of fishing net to show the selectively permeable membrane. Using images which pupils have a good knowledge helps them to relate to the new learning.
  • Asking pupils to draw what the word means. This me a huge amount of feedback as to whether they understand the term or not. I used Pictionary to do this a mini-white boards.
  • Asking pupils to identify errors in definitions and then correct them.

This week I am going to try graphic organiser for introducing new terms at the start of the inheritance topic for Y11.

No Daydreaming, just Dream Writing! By Kim Forsyth.

When introducing a new poem to my year 9 classes, I set them an opening task to help get their creative juices flowing and start their learning journey immediately. All were given their ‘Dream Writing’ exercise books and instructed to write anything they wanted – fiction or non-fiction, poetry, prose, monologue etc. – so long as it was associated with the phrase, ‘Storm on the Island’ (which was actually the poem they were going to analyse in the lesson). It was a non-judgemental activity; I wouldn’t be collecting it in or marking it or forcing anyone to read their piece aloud. I gave examples of how they could be quite figurative and imaginative with the title and off they went!  The rules? They had 15 minutes and, after two, their pens had to constantly be moving on the paper! The results? Some proud students sharing their personal responses and some stunning, engaging ideas being developed.

The Simpsons meet Macbeth ! By Rachel Strachan, Teacher of English

Teaching Shakespeare to a lower ability set can be challenging, frustrating and repetitive! After another lesson of, ‘Miss, are we doing Macbeth for our GCSE?’ and‘I can’t remember the characters in it Miss’… I decided to take it to their level.

I wrote a poem which summarised Macbeth.  To make a difference with these students and help their memory, I turned it into a rap battle. With an instrumental piece of music in the background and myself on African drums at the back of class, we had a steady beat and I gave one or two lines to each student to perform.

This is now their homework for Thursday… To learn the entire rap! Best performer, word for word, gets a chocolate bar and double learning credits.

I’ve heard them joke about the Simpsons in class. They enjoy making Homer’s noises and tell me my hair resembles Marge by Friday! Students had a word bank of adjectives to being our task and they had to decided which adjectives belonged to Macbeth at the start of the play and which belonged to him during/the end.
Same Task for Lady Macbeth. They must be able to explain why. (succulent sentences/speaking in full sentences)

I created a PP including all of the Simpsons characters, doing a ‘run through’ of the entire play. They had to explain why the Simpson character was like the Macbeth character. They used their quotes from Macbeth (that was homework for these characters) to do verbal impressions in groups in the style of the Simpsons characters to help them remember/make it a bit more fun.

Couldn’t record them rapping today!

This certainly helped them with their focus as well as their knowledge retention!

Victorian Detectives in English!
By Mrs Lopez.

Mrs Lopez’s Y8 class played detectives as they role-played a Victorian Whitechapel Murder Mystery.  Pairs of pupils read witness statements and, in role,  were interrogated by groups of ‘detectives’ who questioned and cross questioned the witnesses to discover who killed the victim.  They used reading skills, inference and deduction, considering what lifestyles were like in the Victorian era.

Students then prepared a report as to their theories about the murderer, weapon and motives.  The murderer will confess their crimes next lesson!

All students were thoroughly engaged in the task and learned how to ask a leading and open question.  They also learned how to piece together evidence and work collaboratively upon a rather gruesome murder mystery.  Well done 8B1 on your excellent engagement.

Engaging with the text in English, by Judith Powell.

Year 10s arrived to find me dressed up as a Victorian school mistress and we then proceeded to have a Victorian Christmas party.  We played the types of games that are evidenced in ‘A Christmas Carol’ when Scrooge is being led by the Ghost of Christmas Present.  Much fun and frivolity was evident in the classroom with students interacting well and not a cross word to be heard.  No Scrooges were evident in that lesson!

Developing creativity with Year 8 by Judith Powell.

Using the stimulus of ‘About his person’ by Simon Armitage, students were asked to write a poem from homework in a similar fashion.  The poem should allow the reader to make assumptions about the person’s life and build up a picture of what that person was like.  Below are two excellent examples:

Silence by Finlay Shaddick-Walsh

A door creaked open and boots walked in.

The feet were stumbling, spilling tonic and gin.

But what he didn’t expect was rope tied to the ceiling.

Hanna was still yet swinging and swinging.

Her phone was on the floor, twitter opened up,

more hate on her phone than in the jew camps.

On her finger, the ring he had bought her 5 years ago.

In her pocket, the treasured baby scan photo.

Each limb had either a bruise or a scar,

Each handbag contained the concealer that kept her secret hidden.

Hand written apologies littered the floor,

By the stairs a card read “Samaritans 116 123”.


On the construction site by Myles Farrar


One leather wallet,

with £8.50 in change.


A picture of two children,

Whose characteristics have changed.


Distressed denim jeans,

with their colour faded away.


A note in a pocket

written to be read another day.


Dry stale soil

buried into his skin


his once golden hair

now dusty and dim.


The missing posters

once stapled to trees.


With an answer now discovered

filling hearts with displease.


A mystery that seemed to be solved,

but, was that everything?

Just call me Scrooge…
by MK Rothwell

I found a ‘nice’ way to give my KS4 students their Christmas homework… I popped it in a Christmas card.

I’ve found it to be a very useful way to distribute differentiated homework – and most pupils enjoyed receiving a personalised Christmas card… although they weren’t necessarily thrilled by the contents. Bah… humbug!

One pencil, one paper, one dice by MK Rothwell

A fun and exciting activity is the ‘one pencil, one paper, one dice’ game. This highly engaging and engrossing task is a quick and easy way to test your students’ knowledge from the lesson. It is easily differentiated; you can use the pathways, or have a gradual increase in difficulty and challenge.

It’s easy to play as well. All you need is one pencil and one dice and of course, the paper you want your students to complete.

Pupils can work in pairs, or even groups of four. The first player that rolls a 6 grabs the pencil and starts completing the task. The other player rolls the dice until he/she rolls a 3. This player has now won the pencil and can start completing their paper. First player has the dice and needs a 3 to steal the pencil back again. The winner is the player who has completed all the tasks on the paper.

In Spanish and French, we use this to encourage accurate translation skills. I’ve found it to be a great and interactive way to inspire a competitive spirit in lessons! Plus all students are engaged and keen to win! I’ve found it to be particularly successful with some of our reluctant boys!

Have a look in the CPDL file to see how this could work for your subject!

The Sticky Man
An innovative way to engage the pupils with Poundland Pedagogy.
By, Bea Tingey, Senior Lead Practitioner: Teaching and Learning.

This is a teaching and learning activity I have used many times and it is great fun – the students love it! You do need to purchase a packet of ‘sticky men,’ from Poundland at a cost of just £1!
The idea is to throw – one of your sticky men (safely) at the top white board or a wall/window in your classroom. As the sticky man – which is usually given a name by your excited pupils – begins to tumble down to the floor, the pupil you have chosen to answer a given question, has to come up with the answer before the sticky man hits the floor!

As you can imagine, this does bring about quite a bit of excitement, but the pupils really do become very competitive. I would definitely recommend it for those pupils you sometimes find hard to engage, especially with questioning. Why not pop along to your nearest Poundland store and bag yourself a packet?

Happy Hooking,

by Bea Tingey, Senior Lead Practitioner: Teaching and Learning.

In order to take the onus from the teacher to the student and to help reduce workload, try embedding this slide into your Powerpoint every few slides – have the students underlined their work? Set it out correctly?

If not, they have a minute to correct it there and then. If this is embedded in the lesson, the overall time spent marking for presentation and SPaG will decrease. Over time, the routine for the students will become so frequent that they will automatically do it themselves.

A simple yet effective method!

Help your students to take pride in their work: an idea shared by Bea Tingey, Senior Lead Practitioner: Teaching and Learning

In order to take the onus from the teacher to the student and to help reduce workload, try embedding this slide into your Powerpoint every few slides – have the students underlined their work? Set it out correctly?

If not, they have a minute to correct it there and then. If this is embedded in the lesson, the overall time spent marking for presentation and SPaG will decrease. Over time, the routine for the students will become so frequent that they will automatically do it themselves.

A simple yet effective method!

Elves on Trial: Encouraging Seasonal Debate in the Classroom, by Rebecca Grant, Teacher of English.

Year 7 have been getting into the Christmas spirit whilst developing their transactional writing and speaking and listening skills.

We started by writing down everything we knew about rights people had at work, considering elements like the minimum wage, holiday rights and parental leave. We watched a video about the Sports Direct scandal a few years back, considering which rights had been breached.

Then, the students found a mysterious letter from the North Pole signed “Anne Elf” and addressed to the St George’s Legal Advisory Team. It complained about the zero-hours contracts enforced by Father Christmas and the seasonal, unreliable nature of the work. Our young lawyers then spent time preparing prosecution and defence cases for an employment tribunal. Students developed resilience and independence by working in teams and building up the confidence to speak in front of the class. Their persuasive speeches, which tugged at the heartstrings with emotive language and provoked thought with rhetorical questions, were delivered to a judge… we await a final verdict!

Achievement for All in English, by Rachel Strachan, Teacher of English.

Today I have been focusing on stretch and challenge, especially with those on a higher pathway. I put ownership onto the students and after a lesson of questions by me, focusing on interpretations and identifying quotes in Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade they were able to ask me questions. This is set 5 Y9 which I’m impressed by. Here is an example of a question by a lower ability student with me answering it, followed by a discussion after. It just goes to show how much the pupils manage to retain when given the opportunity to quiz the teacher. It is a method I would really recommend.

'Peer gallery' by Miss E Shahsvar
Lead practitioner of English

As we all know when used correctly peer assessment can be a very powerful tool to promote progress.

Hence, I wanted to allow my students more freedom and the flexibility to see a wide range of work; just as we do when marking.

As a class we created a success criteria and wrote on the board possible (A) and (B) comments. A post-it note was then place in books, next to the written piece and dived into two sections for the A and B comments to be documented.

Students then moved around the room, ensuring they read at least five other student’s work. Students responded well to the task and really engaged with giving feedback and didn’t want any ‘unseen’ pieces of work around the room.

Allowing students this freedom to see a range of ability within their class and have effective feedback from their peers, I believe enabled them to move their learning forward during ‘DIRT’ as it was student lead assessment criteria.

NB: Teacher could also direct students to certain books for stretch and challenge.

St George’s Science Sets up Local Hub. By Helen Tasker, Head of Science.

St George’s science department, noticing an absence of local networks for science teachers, set about organising a local hub for collaboration, to share best practice between local schools.

On Tuesday 12th December representatives from many local schools, gathered at St George’s for the inaugural meeting. On the agenda: common mistakes in exams and what we can do to address these; exam board feedback and news; sharing of resources; grading the new GCSE. Positive feedback was received from all attendees: all teachers committed to improving the progress and attainment of our pupils.

Our ‘take away’ collaboration was to work on resourcing exam questions and resources we can use for the required practicals in all sciences. This is all linked to the science learning partnership through stem.

Representatives attended from:

St Bede’s, Lytham
St Mary’s
Fleetwood High School

The next meeting will be after February half term. Please contact Helen Tasker for further details.

Energy Stations by Helen Tasker, Head of Science.

Year 7 have been learning about the different energy stores.

We each spent 3 minutes in groups at each energy station discussing what we knew and adding to the mind maps. There were prompt questions to extend their thinking. After moving around the 5 stations we had created our own Energy Store Knowledge Sheet! These were stuck up at various points around the classroom. Pupils were then given a challenge – to state or describe how each energy store could be increased or decreased, but this had to completed independently. As a resilience tool, the pupils could go and find the appropriate Energy Store Knowledge Sheet to help them if they needed help.

The pupils knew where they could go for help, and the information came from them!

It was a good way to get pupils engaged and talking about the learning in the lesson, to push their thinking and current understanding. It was then very useful to have a place they could go for help when working independently on a task, where they had to ‘do something’ and apply their knowledge, to transfer the knowledge into learning.

I would like to do this again, but with potentially more challenging independent tasks. This would lend itself well to a variety of lessons from any part of the curriculum.

The ‘Hook’ in Science, by Joanna Young. Lead Practitioner.

We have all experienced students who dawdle into lessons, take a long time to get ready for learning and then only to find they don’t have their stationery! These are the students that do not engage in the classroom at all, they go through the motions and are indifferent, while they do not progress much they do not negatively affect the learning of others. Often, these are the disengaged learners who are the most difficult to reach.

Reflecting on my own pedagogy, the most useful trick that I use is the Hook. This should be an engaging, short, sharp way of introducing what is interesting in the lesson. I hope this will improve attitude to learning and help students find a reason for paying attention.

For me, every lesson must have a Hook, when you share something with the students that just catches their imagination and they want to know more. I have this week started a lot of my lessons with a quick practical to engage then once I have their attention we can look at the concepts behind the practical.

Using 3-D Models by Joanna Young, Lead practitioner of Science.

I have been using modelling with Y11. At the start of the lesson pupils created initial models (helped me assess prior knowledge) and then created a final model at the end. Pupils had to defend their additions/revisions to the models using evidence from the lesson. This was to help deepen their content knowledge.

Pupils had to justify their choice of sweet for each part of the neuron and explain why it was a good representation. Interestingly, none of the models looked the same.

Pupils had to then use their explanatory model to make predictions about what would happen if the structure of the neuron changed.

Things to keep in mind when using models

  • Don’t give the answers away! Let students struggle.
  • Respond to students’ questions with questions (e.g., What did you observe? What do you think it means? Why do you think that? Where have you seen something similar?)
  • Give them time. Allow them to share ideas with each other and edit their models.
  • Use “zoom-in’s”  and ask students to use “microscope eyes” to illustrate and explain things that are invisible to  the naked eye
  • Have students label with arrows and/or make a key/legend.
  • Have students describe what’s going on in their pictorial models through writing (in full sentences).

Resilience Lesson, by S. Moreea. Teacher of English.

9B1 working independently  in their groups on the theme of ‘Loneliness’. All the resources needed to complete the set tasks are available on their desks and in the room around them.

Weather writing, by S. Moreea. Teacher of English.

Year 9s have been given free rein to write imaginatively about the picture presented to them!

This is to allow students to experiment with different forms of writing: narrative, description, monologue, poetry or anything else that they may think is relevant and befitting to this image.

“I don’t know!” by Shanks Choudhury, Assistant Lead Teacher of Maths.

If there was a phrase that I hear that annoys me more than this – when I KNOW they do, then I can’t think of it right now! To counter this this term I have started to do starters that build. What do I mean? Well let me show you:

We start with this:

Initially they look and stare! Depending on their ability some will begin to see that they CAN (with a bit of a hint) work out the dimension of the triangles from the lengths given. SOME will remember the formula for the area of a triangle and then we have an answer!

Obviously, I will go through the steps that need to be taken to solve it efficiently.

A few days later, I present them with this problem:

As you can see, it is similar to the previous problem so they have a start.


A few days later:

As you can see the problem is getting more difficult BUT they know a little bit more so they have a start. Not only is their confidence raised BUT they begin to see that they CAN do it! At last they do know!!

War Letters by Rachel Strachen

Year 9 have started studying War poetry ready for their GCSE. On a P5 lesson with 9B5, we went out to the yard and collected leaves, soil and twigs to use for our War letters. We had previously done two hours that day on The Unknown Soldier and were writing letters as if we were to place them by it on 11/11.
Each student had completed two drafts and a DIRT lesson to make sure their SPAG was correct. Then, they had written their letter onto A4 paper, used old teabags to dab on the paper and make it look authentic and added the finishing touches with the nature collected from outside. A very productive, enjoyable and engaging lesson for them.

Adventure by Rachel Strachen

After recent Teaching and Learning training on a Thursday, a resilience technique I took away was to, ‘Always Show Progress.’ After identifying the descriptive language on the Captain in the Adventure extract, I encouraged 7B5 to draw the captain and show the process of it, rather than constantly rubbing it out and trying again to make it ‘perfect’. It allows them to understand that we all make mistakes and that you may not succeed on the first attempt at something but to try again.

The A-Team! D and T Innovation
By Mr Sweeney

Year 10 D&T pupils have been constructing a smartphone storage box. In doing so they have learned a great deal about the physical properties of timber and have developed a range of useful practical skills along the way.

When a D&T pupil displays prowess in a practical skill they can join the ranks of the A-Team! The A-Team are easily identified by their much coveted Hi-Vis vests and other pupils can approach them and seek guidance at any time. The A-Team has been a great way to celebrate and highlight the successes of a vast range of D&T pupils and has actively encouraged upward competition in practical lessons.

It’s fantastic to see Teaching and Learning being delivered by not only staff, but by our pupils also.

Working Collaboratively by Jacqueline Lopez

Y11 enjoyed working collaboratively, revising for their PPEs.  They each had a different essay question and structured an essay, finding quotes and notes.  They presented  to the class after writing their answers up on the desks, carouselling around all of the tables.

Developing literacy skills in History – Brian Divall

Year 7 pupils have been developing their literacy skills by producing structured answers to GCSE style questions.  The pupils are striving to gain self-confidence and independence as historians by being able to construct PEE paragraphs.

Firstly, we analysed a visual ‘source’ (an image of plague victims in the fourteenth-century). What surprised the pupils was the depth of detail they could identify by annotating the source carefully and how annotations could be used to build an answer using the PEE paragraph structure.

Secondly, we co-constructed an answer.

The pupils were then presented with a written source on a topic they are familiar with. Again, we co-constructed the annotation exercise but this time they wrote their own answers.

I chose to do this through group work. Each group was carefully selected to include at least one higher, one lower and one middle ability pupil. I also considered how personalities would blend. I avoided the familiar allocation of jobs to each student within the group because I was concerned it would limit the contribution of each student. My philosophy was that they should work out how to work as a team. Groups were encouraged to make me aware of anyone who chose to cause distractions. This occurred in one class. I withdrew the student from the group and asked him to work alone. After a few minutes he was reintegrated into the group successfully.

Each group produced an answer as a team through discussion and mediation. Groups then read out their answers and were marked by the teacher with verbal feedback. Next time students will mark another group’s answer work in discussion and give their own feedback.

Hinge Questioning by Georgia Holt

T&L focus: effective questioning.

In RE, we ask students to grapple with difficult concepts that can easily be only partially or superficially understood. Partial understanding can be difficult to identify verbally and often needs addressing as soon as possible in the learning process in order for students to reach the depth necessary to achieve.

I’ve found hinge questioning really useful and effective in addressing this partial understanding as quickly as possible. Hinge questions are multiple-choice questions which offer students wholly and partially correct answers: the only correct answer is the one where the concept is fully understood or applied.

A non-specific example would be:

Why do you need to add egg to a cake mix?

  1. To improve the flavour
  2. To moisten the mixture
  3. To help the cake to rise
  4. To make the sponge thicker

I have been using Kahoot quizzes as a method of hinge questioning with years 8, 9 and 11 and have found them a really effective way to go about it. Pupils (especially boys!) respond well to the competitive aspect as well as the unexpected challenge. Additionally, Kahoot provides a breakdown of data during and after the quiz which helps you to address common mistakes with the class as you go. This also helps to inform your future planning in the short term, and works really well as part of the re-teach philosophy.  They’re also really useful for revision!

Too Gruel for School

10E4 have been using their taste buds to get to grips with some key concepts in their GCSE English Literature texts. We read that Scrooge ate “a little saucepan of gruel” at the beginning of the novella and this stimulated a discussion about why Scrooge is always portrayed as thin and bony. Speculating that he is too parsimonious to spend money on rich, tasty food, we decided to try our own gruel. This thin porridge is salted to make it extra disgusting. Nearly everyone tried a little bit (with a piece of chocolate to wash it down) with some brave souls managing a whole bowl. We noticed that in both the book and in film adaptations more altruistic characters, such as the charity collectors and Mr Fezziwig, are depicted as fatter; we wondered if Scrooge will change his palate as the book progresses… perhaps we will need a “prize turkey” in a couple of weeks!

The Very Big Question in Year 10 Chemistry.

We have been learning all about quantitative chemistry and had been having great success with many of the concepts covered in class.

When asked to link these all together, the pupils struggled, feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of doing ‘everything’ all in one go.

At the end of the lesson I asked each pupil ‘what was the one thing you struggled with the most?’. They put these on the fronts of their books, and as I collected the books in I was able to read through them. From this I had a great insight into pinpointing what I needed to focus my next lesson on. I thought about all the ‘struggles’ and came up with a plan. I started the following lesson with a large arrow with ‘The Big Question’ inside. The ‘linking it all together’ that was the next step we were struggling with. The pupils placed their names into where they felt they were in the arrow at the start. I had scaffolded the learning, beginning with modelling, moving on the group work where they were to discuss the modelling and work together to complete one example. Then using the same format they were to try 3 more in pairs, still having that chance to talk about it. This was then summarised with independent questions to check progress. The pupils were then shown ‘The Big Question’ arrow and were to move themselves to where they felt they were.

They all felt more confident and moved up the arrow. I knew they were competent with each stage, but lacked confidence with tying all the steps together. By addressing the ‘one thing they struggled with the most’ we were able to make progress.

SHINE is Saturday School to build confidence and enhance skills of our year 7 pupils. This is our 2nd year of the project and it is in full flow. Miss Fallon describes the latest news.

This week, our SHINE Saturday School pupil’s developed their literacy skills through an exploration of nature. Firstly, they developed their vocabulary looking specifically at ambitious words for different colours. They created magnificent collages, labelling their colours to show off their skills. Then they took their picture frames outside into Leanne’s garden and used their senses to develop a creative piece of writing. Pupils were excited to show off their progress by writing their descriptions all over the tables. Morgan said ‘This week Shine was really fun. We got to write our ideas on our tables and in my final description I used similes. I’m really enjoying my writing and being able to come to SHINE!’

SHINE continues through the year.

Resilience and the Power of Words in Science by Joanna Young.

In support of our #removingbarriers focus, the Science department has started to include a quote with each class once a week. This week the quote was ‘If you are not willing to learn; No one can help you. If you are determined to learn, No one can stop you.’

I started the week with Year 8 telling them how impressed I was with their effort and how they have demonstrated the second part of the quote. With Year 11 we discussed the importance of the quote. With both year groups using the quote, this gave pupils a short time to reflect on the type of learner they are and want to be.

Next week’s quote is ‘ You do not learn anything by doing everything right.’

We are hoping using different quotes in our lessons will help pupils to help develop a growth mindset, motivate and build the resilience of our pupils.

Year 10 - Resilience and Challenge in English by Simone Ingham

Pupils had to work in groups and were given specific resources to help them find answers to a set of questions. Each group had a different resource and set of questions. They then had to return to their original tables and re-teach what they’d learnt to the rest of their table.

Exit challenge – they then had to complete an exit challenge with differentiated questions-the third and final being the most challenging and asking them to provide a more critical or perceptive answer.

Question Matrix and Funky Fun in Science! By Faye Salisbury

Question matrix – I’ve been using the matrix quite a lot to help ensure that I’m using an appropriate level of challenge in my own questioning. For this activity however I shared it with the students and gave them some complex concepts that we had learnt about in class. I asked the students to use the grid to help them write questions where these concepts were the answers. They found it quite useful and I was impressed by the questions they produced.

Think tac toe – This is a strategy that allows students to choose how they will show what they are learning, by giving them a variety of activities to choose from.  Students are given a 3 x 3 grid, just like tic-tac-toe with the exception that each spot is filled with an activity. Think-tac-toes can address multiple learning styles and also because students pick the ones that they are able to complete successfully it can help with differentiation, while still providing challenge.

Homework Literacy task – this was an activity that I found online and I think it was really helpful with some of my students that struggle sometimes with literacy. The sheet has lots of information based on the lesson we had just completed and their task was to identify and correct the SpAG. They were also asked to identify several keywords and write the correct spellings.

‘Mother Any Distance.’ Bringing Poetry to Life! By Judith Jackowski

Year 10 were flying kites in their English lessons today! This really helped them to visualise the way in which Simon Armitage’s poem, ‘Mother Any Distance,’ has a message about the family bond between a mother and her son. The students were flying a kite to bring to life the imagery from the poem. As well as this, We were also measuring using a tape measure to show how the mother clings onto her son as he gains increasing independence.

Fortunately, the rain temporarily stopped as we ran around the yard!

Making a poem come alive! By Gillian Coulson.

In English Literature, Year 9 are studying ‘My Last Duchess’, a dramatic monologue about a painting of a Duchess. The Duke killed the Duchess because he could not control her, but he still liked to show off her painting…

We read the poem and identified any lines which described her appearance and then produced our own versions of the picture, labelled with quotations. We produced a dramatic reading of the poem, using our pictures. Hopefully this will help pupils to remember what happens in the poem and key quotations when it comes to exam time.

Game of Groups by Elizabeth Quirk, Teacher of Science

As my year 10 class entered the classroom today, each were given a card. Some cards were coloured blue, this was the ‘group name’. There were 3 facts for each group, so pupils need to arrange themselves as quickly as they could into their groups.

Once in their groups I asked pupils to read as just the facts and get the other groups to guess the name of that group.

This was used so I could assess what pupils remembered from a topic they studied last year, and also a way to jog their memories!

It worked really well, all pupils were engaged and involved and actually became very competitive.

'Learning Graffiti' in Biology by Helen Tasker

We have been learning about cells; labelling the organelles in eukaryotic cells and comparing these to prokaryotic cells.

Some of year 9 are really engaging with our cells topic and are keen to learn, but can struggle with the specialist key terms.

We mixed up the learning, and after explaining and questioning the pupils were given chalk pens. They had to remember the structure of a prokaryotic cell and draw and label one on the window. They were keen to partake in ‘learning graffiti’ and produced some wonderful work. 

I then had information about the two types of cell, each fact on a different post it. They were keen to jump up and stick it on the right window pane. They had chance to peer assess as we went along. My other classes were keen to find out what we’d been up to on our biology lesson!

Gideons’ Bible Presentation to Year 7

As the first half-term of the new academic year draws to a close, students and staff at St. George’s School were delighted to welcome representatives from the Gideon Society. 

In what has been an annual event for the school for over 40yrs, copies of the New Testament were presented to every year 7 pupil.  Addressing the students, Mr. Terry Smith talked about the generous and loving ‘Creator’ God Christians believe can be encountered through its pages. 

The presentation came during an act of worship at the end of Year 7’s Spirituality Day which had taken ‘Courage to be and to act’ as its theme.  During Spirituality Day students had enjoyed lessons reflecting on the theme and thinking about people from the fields of religion, science, sport and elsewhere, who, by following their convictions, stood out from the crowd. 

Rev. Helen Houston, the School Chaplain, speaking after the event added: “I still have my copy of the New Testament presented to me by the Gideons when I was a teenager.  I wouldn’t have described myself as a Christian back then, and yet I found the book they gave me a really helpful source of comfort and advice to dip into.  I’ll be encouraging our students to take the time to discover this for themselves.”

Mr. Smith was accompanied by long-serving Gideons Mrs Sylvia Holgarth, and Mr John and Mrs Christine Cookson, who helped distribute the books

Chris Ibbotson

 Acting Deputy Headteacher

Book review for: ‘Pimp Your Lesson! Prepare, Innovate, Motivate and Perfect,’ by Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkham.

Pimp your Lesson is a great read which offers a vast range of exciting strategies that will help any teacher. I would mostly recommend this book to anyone early in their teaching career or anyone looking for ideas to make learning an engaging process. There is a lot of practical advice mostly focused on observations but should be applied to all lessons. Lots of the strategies were to develop essential skills and attitudes to help pupils perform better in school.

One of the strategies I have tried is called ‘Secret admirer’. I assigned each member of the class to someone else in secret. All I did was give everyone a post it note with someone’s name on. At the end of the lesson to admirer had to write a positive comment about their contribution to the lesson and a target for improvement. I then collected these in to distribute at the start of next lesson. This AFL had a real emotional impact and all of the comments written were positive and focused on the learning. Will be using again! Plus lots of the other exciting strategies to ensure variety of tasks in my lessons.

By Joanna Young.

Celebrating Our Reading Success! By Emma Shahsvsar

This term 8en2 battled it out to be the ‘Independent Reading Champion’ of the class and reach their target.

It was exciting to see so many students really engaging with a variety of the fantastic books we have in the learning hub, and Mrs Hagan was overwhelmed with the dedication form some of our young readers.

Most students received a certificate for their progress and we had three overall winners.

Shannon Mullin- overall winner

Michaela Gellatly and Holly Hinds -runners up

Shannon said, ‘I really enjoy reading as it brings my imagination to life. I’m so pleased to win the prize and be recognised for my reading’

The competition will start again after half term…watch this space!

Rearranging the ‘Norm,’ by Lead Practitioner of English, E Shahsvar

T&L focus: to improve student’s engagement by ‘rearranging’ the norm!

Lesson 1

My classroom was dramatically turned into Priestley’s setting of the infamous ‘dining room’ in order to bring the play to life!

Students teamed up to make small groups and re-enacted a scene that we had previously studied. The rearrangement of the classroom brought automatic engagement and the props inspired creativity and imagination among the groups.

Learning was enhanced as students were using challenging stage directions, and showing understanding of language choices as they brought their character to life.

Students were then asked to write a short diary entry as if they were the actor, to explain how they had felt the part should be played in order to embed the learning.

Lesson 2

Students were given a variety of laminated key words deriving from the context of the play. The key words were stuck to the centre of the tables and in groups of 4 they moved round the room adding any ideas, references from the text or synonyms they could think of, each group member had to write one thing at each station and the exciting factor was they were allowed to write on the desks- which caused a ripple of shock!

The activity provoked lots of discussion amongst the groups and the students enjoyed reading what each of the groups had come up. Plus, they really had to think to come up with new insights as they were unable to use the same ideas as a previous group.

Additionally, students were then asked to make notes in their own exercise books as revision for their assessment. The essays the students produced were of a much higher quality than their interim assessments and highlighted that inspiring young minds thrived when encouraged ‘to think outside of the norm.’  As for the teacher – should they take the plunge –  it actually works!

Battleships and The Periodic Table in Science. By Elizabth Quirk

During my re-teach lesson today my year 8’s played periodic table battleship as a starter task. They were each given a blank periodic table to mark on their battle ships and then took it in turns reading the co-ordinates and names of the elements to sink each other’s ships. This task familiarises pupils with the names and locations of elements on the periodic table. As well as this it was really fun!  They all loved it.

Connect Four in Science

In Y9 Biology, with Mrs Tasker, pupils have been reviewing their learning using a cells Connect 4 game. The questions were based on Bloom’s taxonomy, and to get 4 in a row pupils had to answer questions with a range of difficulty levels. One pupil acted as adjudicator, they had the answers and had to decide if the answers given were good enough. The pupils were adding detail to all answers in order to win.

It was a great way to review learning of critical concepts in biology, and offered a fun alternative to written or teacher-led questioning. The pupils were all engaged and on the way out, were overheard saying what a good time they had. They were all learning and assessing and developing the details needed when answering questions. They asked to do this again!

Fibs and Truths – just a great resource, by Louise Hastewell.

This is a fabulous free resource that I have used many times which always creates a buzz in the classroom. The spreadsheet puzzle leads pupils through a series of interactive screens in which they need to find missing numbers in a series of Fibonacci-style sequences, hence the play on words for the name ‘Fibs and truths’. The initial sequences are numerical and pupils are challenged to find terms in differing positions in the sequence, explaining their reasoning and promoting greater understanding.

As the puzzle progresses, the teacher has the opportunity to differentiate the numbers within the sequence and there are also extension sequences to enrich learning. The pupils are encouraged to use proofs and to explain their thinking verbally, numerically and using algebra. Also, the algebraic demands of the task become greater, giving pupils more opportunity to access many mathematical objectives. Although it is primarily a sequences resource, I have used it to introduce the concept of solving Simultaneous Equations with great success.

Literacy in Science by Jessica Walmsley.

Today with Year 7I tried to develop some independence in the students and develop their speaking skills. I asked them to do a presentation in a small group and they all stood at the front, they also had to ask the audience questions to check understanding. I gave them a presentation plan for them to fill in so it was structured. They used text books and their own work to make the presentation. They were a bit shy about public speaking at first but they were all amazing when they got up! Very successful and all of the audience got involved too.

Periodic Table Baseball by Elizabeth Quirk.

My year 8’s are coming to the end of their topic and so for a quick revision task today they played Periodic Table Baseball.

They were split into groups and each group could select different tasks to get 100 points.

I made this into a competition and the first group to get 100 points won a prize.

Pupils were all really engaged and, from looking at their answers, I was able to identify the class strengths and weaknesses to address in my reteach lesson.

Talk Like A Scientist!

To encourage pupils to use scientific words in lessons, the department is displaying signs that read “In this lab we talk like scientists”.

There are a great number of specialist and complicated key terms we expect pupils to learn and use in their answers. Rather than use synonyms which are easier for our pupils to understand, we feel it is important to use these specialist terms in every lesson to promote literacy in science. This will be of great help when pupils need to read and understand exam questions, and formulate their own answers.

Student Becomes The Teacher - Football Focus, by Paul McGuinness

In order to utilise some challenge in a Year 7 PE lesson I decided to turn things on their head and make a number of pupils the teacher to develop a key skill amongst students.

The Task

5 pupils were identified and received a guidance sheet which explained their task; ‘To teach a group of pupils how to perform a correct throw in’.  It detailed the teaching points and they had a few minutes as a group to decide how they would go about their challenge.

After a warm up on a muddy field, my ‘mini teachers’ took their groups off and set about the task in hand.  They used a combination of instructions, demonstrations, and feedback to develop the skills of their pupils.  I had considered the groups that pupils worked with, and gave my most able the least able pupils to work with.

The Impact

Despite some students being nervous about leading others (and one initially claiming he couldn’t), every pupil completed their challenge.  They reflected about their apprehension, but the feel good factor of their group achieving what they had set out to do.  It also gave them the opportunity to reflect on success criteria of the skill and what pupils needed to do to improve.  One pupil talked about how he had set a distance challenge because his group were quite able.  More importantly they could relate it to their own performance.

Next Time

There is a great opportunity to develop this further and link to previous lessons, by getting pupils to focus on the next move after the throw in.

Terrific Tarsia : a Spanish Sensation! By Jane Ashcroft

Year 9 have been given a challenge to rearrange a set of phrases to practise vocabulary ahead of their forthcoming assessments.

The first group to successfully form the correct shape, wins a prize!

The activity gives pupils the opportunity to practice vocab in a fun and engaging way. They have to think about everything they have learnt in recent lessons and bring relevant words and phrases to the forefront of their minds.

All pupils are engaged in groups and the pressure of answering in front of the rest of the class in removed. This means pupils can practice at their own pace whilst the teacher circulates to assess their knowledge.

You can include a few red herrings to add extra challenge – put some phrases along the edges of the shape which aren’t linked to the topic in question!

Elevating Vocabulary in English, by Rachel Strachan.

A lower ability year 9 group have been working on analysing quotes in English, as well as trying to explain how adjectives, verbs and detail of physical appearances can make you judge a character. They also had a target of using the word ‘portray’ as they usually stick to ‘shows’. I differentiated the task by giving students certain quotes judging by their pathway and their recent reading assessment. After students completed the task with spider diagrams of adjectives for the quote, they were able to use these to explain how each quote made the character sound, with explanations. In recent feedback, we know that students sometimes find it very difficult to explain and we have been encouraged to work on this. Students then had the chance to try a higher level quote and explain their first impressions of the character with a short explanation.

‘Hot-Seating’Revision Questions in MFL by Rachael Hallet

Prior to their end of unit assessment, pupils in Y9 French and Spanish were given an opportunity to put me (Mrs Hallett) in the ‘hot seat’. Each pupil was given a post-it to write down a question in order to help them better understand an aspect of the topic they have studied. Pupils were allowed 5-10 minutes to look back through the feedback from their books or vocabulary lists they have noted down throughout the unit of work.

In order to encourage pupils to think more deeply about their question, they were told there would be prizes for all pupils who came up a rare or unique question which wasn’t asked by anyone else. In one class, I had to hand out prizes for 11 out of 14 pupils who asked questions! A great result!

I collected in the post-its and read each one aloud. Pupils listened to the feedback and answers carefully and this led to discussions about both the questions posed by pupils and the wider topic area. Students helped to answer the questions as well as the teacher thus demonstrating a real air of confidence in the classroom. Pupils were supportive of each other and really benefitted from hearing useful information.

Following on from these conversations, I led a revision session based on the queries which had arisen alongside other key parts of the topic needed for the upcoming assessments.

Creating A Class Resilience Toolkit, by D MacPhee.

The computing department has been getting every class to discuss what resilience is and why it is important not just for that particular lesson, but all lessons and life beyond school. Each class has then collectively come up with their resilience toolkit that they will then use every time they are in a computing room. Each tool identified was put in order and any limitations where discussed. For example, Google can be useful but it is limited to the types of websites available allowed in school and Wikipedia can be used for fact finding but the language can be complex and difficult to understand. This toolkit will be printed as an addition to the student’s progress pathway coversheets so pupils will always have the list in front of them to refer to. The department will also create posters for the room as a quick reference for every lesson.

The ‘ask DM’ or ‘ask the teacher’ was put as a last resort and the challenge was to use at least three tools before asking for help. There was an immediate impact for both the pupils and the teacher. The pupils began having detailed conversations about specific programming problems and helping each other out while there was also peer to peer challenges about whether they have used enough tools before they asked the teacher for help. The impact from the teaching point of view was a much more independent style of learning going on and it instantly stopped any very basic questions and there were no ‘I don’t know’ questions. These were replaced by specific questions of exactly what the problem they faced was and what they had done to try to fix it themselves.

Going forward, the key to this will be to use it in every single lesson and make it second nature for the pupils to look into their toolkit and build their resilience in dealing with everyday problems.

The Vocabulary Police, by Rebecca Grant.

In Year 8, we have been recruiting for the Boring Vocabulary Division of our Classroom Police Force!

We created a class word bank for emotive anecdotes about abandoned animals, as part of our work on persuasive letters to the Council about the funding of the RSPCA. The job of our vocabulary police was to spot low-level words such as “sad” and swap them, with the help of a thesaurus, for more ambitious language such as “dejected” and “depressed”. The class then wrote some amazing emotive anecdotes of their own, including an abused turtle and a goldfish that had been subjected to drowning!

“See how far you can get” by Simon Nield.

I often find that students are lacking resilience when it comes to tackling problems that combine a number of different skills together. I find that if more than 2 or 3 steps were required for a question, students wouldn’t be able to see the route to the solution and wouldn’t even attempt it.

I will describe an approach that I have been using for a while using an example of a recent year 11 lesson.

I presented the students with the following grade 8 question:

The following skills are required to answer this question:

  • Finding the equation of a straight line given two points
  • Knowing that a radius and a tangent are perpendicular to one another
  • Solving linear equations
  • Doing calculations combining improper fractions and integers.

I know that the students are confident with each skill individually, but because they are combined together into a multi-step problem they felt unable to even begin. The question is worth 5 marks and it seems a crime that when they have all the required skills they are getting zero marks for the question.

Rather than talking them through the problem directly I would ask the students to discuss in pairs what the question is asking us to find and ask them what skills they think would be required in order to solve the problem.

Now rather than asking them to get on and answer it I first gave them 2 minutes to ‘see how far you can get, don’t worry about getting the final answer’. It is remarkable how students will pick up some method marks on a question where previously they would have got nothing when this approach is used.

I then go through a process of giving a hint at various points until all have got to the end of the question.

A note: it is important to have challenge problems available when doing this as some students take a long time to come to the solution while others have finished and they mustn’t be sitting idly waiting for the weaker members of the group.

By breaking the problem down so that students are just ‘seeing how far they can get’ at each stage I was finding that were much more willing to have a go and gain the method marks.

Boletos de salida: Billetes de sortie: Exit tickets in Spanish, by MK Rothwell.

It may not be the newest idea in the book, but it is a wonderful, quick and easy way to check our students’ understanding of a new concept.

At the end of the lesson, each student is a given an exit ticket that they must complete – teachers can guide students by posing a set of differentiated questions, or simply allow students to summarise their learning. The exit ticket must be handed to the teacher as they depart the classroom – so incomplete or unsatisfactory work is not possible!

This works really well in languages, as students can produce short paragraphs based on the vocabulary and grammar learnt in that lesson. At the end of every lesson, students have their own set of personalised (and corrected!) paragraphs that they can pull together at the end of the topic, enabling them to write a detailed piece of impressive writing in Spanish or French!

It’s also superb for teachers because we can immediately pinpoint any errors or common misconceptions – which leads perfectly to a DIRT starter to iron out those inaccuracies. And, they really don’t take long to mark!

Thumbs up from me!

Escribiendo en los escritorios by MK Rothwell

Fun revision strategy for revising Y11 vocabulary.

As we approached the end of the environment module in Y11, I wanted to make sure my students could recall all the key words for the topic.

I noted down a selection of crucial verbs and essential vocabulary in English to get their brains thinking. Their next step was to translate the words into Spanish – onto their desks!

The students were very engaged and found it more enjoyable than simply writing down the vocabulary in their classwork books.

I challenged students to include even more topic related vocabulary than I had initially given to them  and then students swapped desks and had to translate their partner’s Spanish words back in to English.

Pupils were very keen to participate and get involved and loved the challenge of trying to translate their partners work.

‘Leading Learners,’ In English: how pupils learn to learn by Simone Ingham.

This is a great way to focus students on improving their vocabulary to suit tone and purpose. This also supports our current teaching and learning focus of challenge and engagement as part of our #removingbarriers campaign.

My year 8 class recently completed a formal letter of complaint. Working in teams under a ‘Learning Leader’ they had to work together using picture stimulus only in order to create a formal letter of complaint.

Before completing the letter in groups, we looked at vocabulary focusing on the description of our ‘terrible experience in a restaurant’ and words to demonstrate how we felt. They then worked in groups using a thesauraus to ‘spice’ up the words they’d come up with – by looking up effective synonyms.

The letters were shared at the end and the classes fed back to one another using a criteria that the pupils had created themselves. The group with best letter won credits!

The Power of the Written Word, by Judith Jackowski

My Year 8 English class have been working in the theme of homelessness linked to the novel ‘Stone Cold’ by Robert Swindells. They practised writing formal letters detailing how they felt the government should tackle this problem in our society. Amber was so inspired by this issue, she sent a copy of her letter to the Prime Minister. She was thrilled to receive a response with a 10, Downing Street pencil. The rest of the class were suitably impressed with concrete evidence of how their actions can have an impact. They will soon be working on another issue they feel strongly about and may send more letters to effect change.

Sweet Science!

Jo Brown reveals how she has managed to engage her students in science. Pupils were asked to show how they thought the particles were arranged in a solid, liquid and gas (to assess their prior knowledge) using the skittles. As a class they looked at ‘what a good one looks like’ from those groups who had modelled it correctly. The pupils then went back to their groups and made improvements to their models.

The Question Matrix by Helen Tasker.

The Science Dept. here at St George’s has begun to embed ‘The Question Matrix,’ into their Teaching and Learning. The Head of Department, Helen Tasker, has included ‘The Question Matrix,’ in the department lesson PowerPoint template to serve as a continual reminder to each teacher. They can use it to formulate their own questions when questioning pupils and generating discussion, or use it with the pupils, for the pupils to formulate their own questions to try on each other.

Here is an example of how this was used with year 7 pupils on the topic of elements, compounds and mixtures.

Revise it with wallpaper! By Rachael Fallon

Every Friday is a literature lesson for my year 11 class. The original plan was to practise different extract questions each Friday ready for their November exam. However, the class were really struggling to recall details from the book A Christmas Carol as they studied it almost a year ago. Both myself and the pupils were finding the Friday revision a challenge.

The solution? A revision plan using wallpaper!

The class were split into two large teams (we established some healthy competition between the two teams.) Within each team, we had 4 sub-groups each responsible for a particular stave in A Christmas Carol.  I gave them all a list of events that happened in the stave. As a sub-group, they then had to then create a timeline for their stave including key events, key quotes, development of character, development of theme, linguistic devices and links to historical context.

The impact? Within two lessons they had produced two very detailed overviews of A Christmas Carol to support them when they completed their extract practise. The next Friday revision lesson, pupils were given a past exam paper. The wallpaper was rolled out and groups used the extract and the details from the wallpaper to plan a detailed response. They were then given 30 minutes to complete an answer and the results were significantly better than their previous attempt. Overall, revision became fun. They felt much more competent on their own knowledge of A Christmas Carol and thus were much more resilient when it came to answering the exam style questions.

Terminology Bingo by Rachael Fallon.

In order to revise key terminology, the class played terminology bingo. I set out from the start my expectations. They had ten minutes to understand all of the key terms. After ten minutes, I would then ask random people what each term meant. If everyone got the answer right, we would have sweets on Friday.

To start will, pupils had to highlight the terms they did not know or felt less confident with. Then they worked with their partner to teach each other gaps in their knowledge. Once they’d learnt from their partner, they then coupled up with another pair. In the last minute, one person from each side of the room swapped sides, teaching the other side any gaps. Within the ten minutes I stayed completely silent. Those pupils who, by default, wanted to ask me got absolutely no response. Therefore, they were encouraged to challenge themselves, become more independent and learn from each other. After the ten minutes I quizzed the class. Everyone answered correctly and the class won their Friday treat.

Dream Writing and Drama in English by Rebecca Grant.

Year 7 are exploring the novel “Private Peaceful” through dream writing and drama.

We normally use dream writing as a starter: students will pick a task (“Write about the day in the life of a one pound coin”, maybe, or “What will you be like when you are 21?”) and write as much as they can without stopping. However, it is also a great way to reflect during the lesson, as well as improving writing stamina and handwriting.

Year 7 have been thinking about persuasive devices used in the Sergeant Major’s speech in Michael Morpurgo’s novel, set during WW1. We started the lesson by looking at wartime posters and considering the devices used which made them convincing (or not). Then, we carried out a dramatic reading of the speech with one line each, which provided a good opportunity to consider the impact of sentence lengths and types. The student with the biggest ‘deep soldier voice’ won the chance to wear the sergeant major hat for the rest of the lesson!

We then stopped for a seven minute dream write: we imagined what it would be like to be a child watching the parade of soldiers, a woman whose husband who had gone to war, or a young man who was thinking of joining up.

We finished with a (static) marching parade of our own to ‘It’s A Long Way to Tipperary,’ with one of the pupils even having a go on the piano accordion at the end!

Lord Of The Flies – face-painting: a transformation into character.

A Year 8 class at St. Georges are studying Lord of the Flies and were interested in the passage where a character begins to change after using face paints. They used the passage and their knowledge of the texts to create savage faces to really understand the transformation that the characters underwent, physically and mentally.

One student said:” We did this because we wanted to visualise the characters’ faces and to understand the situation that the characters were in. We only used the colours (of the paints) that the characters used on the island.”

Another said:” It was really fun as I am very arty and it was fun to mix skills from different lessons. It was also fun to work as a team.”

Engaging reluctant boys! By Helen Tasker.

With two of my year 11 groups over the last two weeks we have been learning about waves. Part of this includes them using two equations that they have to learn and at a higher level be able to change the subject of these equations. We had recognised from our Y10 end of year exam reviews that pupils needed more practice with converting numbers to standard units and using standard form.

In two of my groups I have a high ratio of male pupils and wanted to find a way to make them work harder!

I had a huge stack of questions printed individually on slips of paper; varying in complexity. Some straightforward use of the equations for easy wins, some with conversions to standard units, some with standard form, some rearranging the formulae. The pupils were to collect a question, take it away and answer it, bring it back to have it checked, and if correct get another. If incorrect they were sent away to have another go. If correct they received another question. At the end of the ‘speed questions’ the pupils counted the number of question papers they had in their pile, the ones with the biggest stacks received sweets as an instant reward. I was also able to differentiate for each pupil, as when I knew some pupils needed an extra challenge I could ensure their next question was more challenging. They were numbered so I could find the answer easily on my sheet to make sure we were being speedy.

This encouraged a competitive spirit that engaged more learners in the classroom. I would highly recommend it!

The Big Question

Carly Todd, teacher of English, explains how she applied questioning techniques recently discussed in the #removingbarriers INSET with her Year 7 class. This is what she said:

‘My 7e4 class are currently studying the novel ‘Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,’ and in today’s lesson were introduced to a new literary term ‘Symbolism.’

This was introduced using the activity ‘The Big Question.’
The question was : ‘How does John Boyne present the idea of symbolism to us in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas?.’ The class revisited this question several times during the course of the lesson. At the beginning of the lesson the class was apprehensive to answer the question as the term was unfamiliar to them, however, they were reassured this was a new skill and part of learning and making progress is making educated guesses and at times getting things wrong.

As the lesson progressed, more information was learnt from the book and more discussion took place, the pupils were able to add more and more detailed ideas to our class ideas sheet stuck to the board.

By the end of the lesson each pupil in the class could explain what the term symbolism meant, give an example of a symbol in the novel and explain what the symbol they had chosen represented.

Not only did this provide a great opportunity for questioning, but it definitely built up the confidence and even resilience of the pupils in this lesson’

Boarding Passes in Science by Helen Tasker

I gave the pupils a choice of 3 questions to start the lesson, and called it a ‘boarding pass’. They were levelled; easy, medium and hard.

It really encouraged engagement first of all. Every child answered a question, I got an idea of starting points and confidence, and was able to spot misconceptions or misunderstanding straight away. Pupils that may struggle verbally all contributed.

They answered on a colour coded post it and stuck it up. The most confident first, followed by the less confident, who were able to read others as they put theirs up and gain confidence as they could see others had given the same answer.

What was interesting was my set 1 class mainly went for the easy question and my set 2 for the intermediate question. It was based around the concept of stem cells. One question was to draw and label an animal cell, another to say what a stem cell was. They linked together so well and gave me a good way to get stuck in with explaining and questioning. One child asked what a stem cell looked like – what most pupils had drawn for their easy question.

At the end of the lesson I followed up with another question on a colour coded post it. This time, pupils mainly went for the intermediate question and some for higher. It gave a great insight into what they knew, misconceptions for me to address, the confidence levels, and increased participation. I feel it was a success!

Let's Get Writing!

Mrs Colson shares a fabulous idea to engage her English pupils! This is what she says:

 A great way of engaging the pupils is to write on the tables and walls…without the fear of being told off! Handy for a quick revision activity in English on key quotations, themes in novels or a character’s thoughts and feelings. JUST DON’T DO THIS AT HOME! (it all wipes off easily).

The photos show my  Year 7 pupils creating short stories based on a picture and Year 9 making mind maps on the themes from Heroes as well as revising key quotations on cut outs of the characters.

Thinking Pink!

By Rachael Fallon

In my English lessons, I’ve noticed that some of my pupils, despite knowing the answer, don’t always like to respond to questions verbally. In order to overcome this barrier, I experimented with an alternative to the conventional ‘teacher poses a question and pupil responds.’

Firstly, I planned three questions which explored the themes and concepts from the previous lesson. The first question ‘what…’ was the easier of the three questions. The second question ‘how…’ was a little more challenging and the third and most challenging question encouraged pupils to respond to a statement.


All pupils were given two post-it notes: a yellow and a pink. On the yellow post-it they could answer one of the easier questions and on the pink posit it they had to attempt a more challenging question. They then came to the front and stuck their post-it notes on the questions they answered. Instantly I could see who had attempted the most challenging tasks. I picked sample answers off the board and then questioned the pupils on why they thought one of their class mates gave that particular response. Class discussions became much more purposeful because pupils were more confident answering questions verbally having already had the opportunity to think about the questions beforehand.


Skeleton Suits in GCSE PE! By Mr Heaton

Year 10 GCSE students learnt about the skeleton, bones of the body, joints and movement using a real life skeleton (thanks to science department!) Collaborating with teachers from the science dept, the students began to learn about different types of bones. Students worked in pairs to create their own skeleton suits (to be completed and modelled) by drawing and labelling the bones and joints of the body on to their body suits, along with the range movements they allow. Fun and learning was had by all and I would thoroughly recommend this to engage students in GCSE PE theory lessons!

Elements, Compounds and Mixtures in Year 7, by Elizabeth Quirk.

My year 7’s are currently learning about elements, compounds and mixtures. In lesson they are modelling element, compounds and mixtures using sweets. This task allowed me to look at pupils models and question them and support them if needed.

Theme of Time in 'An Inspector Calls,' by Gillian Colson.

My students in Year 10 have been teaching each other about key themes in ‘An Inspector Calls’ in preparation for their GCSE English Literature exam!
In groups, pupils had to research and prepare a two minute presentation on a given theme and then present their information to the rest of the class. After this, pupils had to examine each presentation in more detail to make revision notes. There were some excellent presentations on JB Priestley’s theory of time!

The latest news from St. George’s Extra-Curricular Science.

There was a great turn out on Friday lunchtime from our keen year 7 scientists.

They came along to learn about the structure of DNA; who unravelled the mystery and how the molecule is structured. They made models using strawberry laces to make the sugar-phosphate backbone and midget gems paired up in ‘the same, but different’ to represent the base pairs. One final twist gave the Deoxyribonucleic acid its distinctive double helix shape. All in all, a fun and even tasty way of learning!

Walk The Talk

Sunny Gohil, one of our most experienced mathematicians here at St. George’s, has some excellent advice for all of us with new classes this year or for those of us beginning our teaching careers.


Students at St Georges, indeed anywhere, need consistency, consistency, consistency and consistency. NEVER DEVIATE where possible.

What has helped me teach throughout my years is this theme. That first lesson is crucial; the seating plan, you dictate this straight away. With their eyes fixed on you, tell the students your classroom rules, ethos and expectations for academic success. They also need to be told about sanctions as well, i.e. punctuality, poor work ethic and about you contacting home. NEVER BLUFF, if you say you are going to do this – DO IT! Also, have a touch of banter try to have some humour/ build relationships from the off.


During the lesson have a lesson objective written and a starter from the previous lesson’s work that they can get on with whilst register is being taken and homework can be checked. Set your homework on a specific night and ask for it in on a specific night – never let it be a bolt on to a lesson; it needs to be carefully prepared and planned. 

If they enter your room poorly make them stand up and be quiet before letting them sit down and start again. The start of your lesson is crucial !!!!!!

Always smile, show passion and enthusiasm. How can you expect a child to show enthusiasm for your subject if you don’t? This for me is KEY to your success as TEAM SG.

Show the right amount of emotional intelligence when dealing with problem situations. Think about how it might be better dealing with challenging students 1 to 1, giving them a time out, giving them some space so that the learning environment of the many is not affected. Think about organising your seating plan so they can have minimum effect on their peers.

Teach your lesson in segments / parts moving in difficulty as the lesson progresses, give praise / rewards to keep them working. Motivate your students. Just being a teacher often isn’t enough – you are their coach. Pick them up when they are feeling down and raise their aspirations and work rate during the lesson.

If these rules are followed you will build relationships with your students effectively as this is KEY to having consistently good and outstanding lessons at St Georges Academy.

Finish off the lesson quietly and on time; always let them know that you’re in control and see them off with a smile!!!

Design a Digestive System T-Shirt!

Science teacher, Liz Quirk has come up with an amazing and innovative way of getting our Year 8 students actively learning. This is what she says:

‘My year 8’s have been learning about the digestive system in science, and made ‘digestive system t-shirts,’ which went down an absolute storm. The students were enthusiastic about designing their t-shirts and the excitement in the classroom was fantastic – much more exciting than just looking in a text book!

By doing this, the students were able to think about where their digestive organs are and what the job of each organ is. It’s also a great way for active learning and keeping them all engaged.’

I wonder what sort of T-Shirt you could come up with in YOUR subject?

Model Cells in Science.

Science teacher, Miss quirk, is delighted with her Year 9 classes who have all made models of cells for homework.

By encouraging the students to be creative, her class has come up with a variety of innovative and exciting ideas. Some of the models are even made out of cake! Others actually light up.

All of the students really enjoyed this activity and were very proud of their work – as are we.

Boarding Passes in Chemistry.

Here, our Head of Science, Helen Tasker, shares a great idea.

In Y10 chemistry pupils had a ‘boarding pass’ task, as a ticket to the lesson ahead. They had a choice of 2 questions and had to write their answer on a post it and stick it to the cabinet.

The confident pupils finished first, the less confident could look at the other answers given as they added theirs to see if they thought they had got it right. Some were questioned on why they thought their answer was ok.

Also in the same lesson the pupils were calculating relative formula mass. The work was scaled, getting gradually harder. Toward the end of this activity pupils were told to pair up with another pupil and compare answers. If the answers did not match they had to compare their work, work out who was wrong and where/why they had gone wrong. There was a real buzz in the room as pupils were teaching, explaining and discussing with each other. I am sure this idea could really work in a variety of lessons!

Boarding Passes in Chemistry