Boarding Passes, Trading Games and Think to Link

Bit of a blog-bomb here of highlights from placement 2…


I really enjoyed the last lesson I had with a Y10 class. Wed done poetry in detail together, and so I wanted to go with an unseen approach to the last lesson, but make sure there were really in the mood first. The poem was James Fenton’s In Paris With You, and as the calendar would have it, we wound up exploring this on Valentines Day. I started the lesson by giving each pupil boarding cards from this great site: http://omatic.musicairport.comAir Ticket
I went with a class name, the truly committed could input individual names. I did put relevant flights and a time for that lunch, and led the class through a series of consideration conversations about whether they would use the ticket or not as we revealed more about the poem and its circumstances.


Trade UpWith a Y9 class we were examining a poem that uses wealth imagery to explore the value of objects, with water ultimately being revealed as the most precious. I started the lesson by giving each pupil a trading card with an object on it. The class had 5 minutes to move around the class and persuade one another to trade items until they ended up with the highest value item that they could. Back in groups, they choose the highest value from that which they had collated, and I stuck this to the board.

9C1 Module 2 Lesson 12Later in the lesson, once the meaning of the poem had been discovered, tables could choose to trade their item on the board for one form their remaining stash, so long as they could explain WHY. All the groups did, humbly and eloquently swapping gold and skull candy headphones for bottles of water, food and medical supplies. It was awesome! Another winner in the student voice survey, and could easily be adapted to teach other poems – such as valuing time in Duffy’s hour, or relationships in many others.


I’m also LOVING Triptico’s new Think and Link

I recently used the hexagons to make a random selection of characters and quotes from Skellig, and each pupil had a hexagon grid in front of them.

They generated an impressive list of key themes, of which they had to choose 2. These were written at either end of the hexagon sheet, and pupils had to use the hexagon prompts form the TRIPTICO screen to make a link bridge across the page, writing explanations for the link in the spaces around the bridge, to ensure genuine HOT.

Sounds a little complicated, it wasn’t in practice though, and the pupils loved directing me in reconstructing their theme bridges in screen. Very satisfying Triptico click/think noise too!


Differentiation in action…

We’re in school for the full week. Which gives me a chance to do some observing for 2 days before my timetable kicks back in on Wednesday. I feel able to focus my observations more meaningfully now, so it was fantastic to watch my mentor teach the same lesson twice, but aimed at two different ability classes.

Afterwards we were able to talk about the change in her style and her expectations. My scribbled notes are attached (oh yes, I now have a combi Printer/Scanner…and did I mention that my sister also bought me a laminator – which I think will give me an edge in interview no?)

Anyway… here’s a summary of my reflections on the lessons:

– Always have high expectations, regardless of the class ability level

– Make scaffolding subtle, to encourage confident autonomy (even if, in fact, you’re masterfully manoeuvering the class)

– Silent work, post-discussion, benefits articulate classes, as it focuses their efforts and captures their conversations

– Increase depth of evidence required by higher ability students, but require the same effort from everybody, all the time, me included.

Back to lesson planning then…Lesson Obs 4 Feb 13 v2

The Pod of Glory, and Inclusion, Equality & Diversion


Long blog coming up. I’m in Uni reflection mode.

I even spent some time in a big soft private pod chair in the library, with a laptop point and a purple cushion -lush! Nearly as cool as this stylish seating offering…



Well, the IED conference has just drawn to close, and I was really impressed by the quality, depth and enthusiasm of the speakers. My head is full of little parcels of info and ideas that I hope to unwrap properly at some point.

Lesley Powell’s keynote lecture on Socio-economic considerations and subsequent improvement strategies at Shotten Hall. Can I say I loved this without sounding too gushy?!

I said it. I loved this. Centred around the importance of aspiration, and the employment of innovation, creative and often unconventional intervention, future focussed investment and holistic pupil progress, I was really impressed and impacted.

Prior to teacher training, I worked for Creativity Culture and Education, who ran, and evaluated, the Creative Partnerships programme – so I’m already sold on the use of the arts and creative practitioners to drive the aspirations and subsequent achievements (not to mention economic gain – PWC gave our pupils a huge ROI of 16 points – way above national average). I’ve also spent the last 10 years working with inner-city youth to inspire improvement in their life circumstance and skills, so I was really, hmmmm, fired up I suppose, to see this in action alongside proven pupil progress in a school that won;t pay lip service to deprivation, looking instead to foster an environment of belief, that provides a framework to dream of achievement.

With half the school nearly on FSM, and gritty Ever6 stats indicated the longevity of the issue, it almost reduces the risk of focussing on, and possibly isolating pupils in less privileged scenarios, and potentially exacerbating their feeling of social exclusion.

Lesley also talked about behavioral concerns, emotional baggage and talked about always allowing pupils an exit route – which is some excellent advice I’ve been given before in the context of parenting. Moreover, her slides, from an OFSTED view, on progression and excellence were practical and useful.

I am going to ask if I can visit, and certainly, I’ve been prompted to think about the role of teacher-practioner -pioneer and how my skill set matches different school profiles and pupils. What kind of pupil, and progress is my teaching most aligned toward?


I developed an awareness of the increasing significance of IED on the Ofsted agenda, and the range of susceptible children, from a variety of Protected Characteristics that I might have considered in the classroom.

Those which were most greatly unpacked were probably sexual orientation and disability from a Learning barriers perspective – with the former being most provoking in terms of my preparedness to challenge cultural prevalent yet nevertheless offensive language that cultivates homophobic bullying.

I also enjoyed thinking about EAL provision – the seminar and lecture included some simple, ‘problematic’ pupil engaging strategies that are actually transferable, and highlighted the intelligence that exists in a home language, and should be assumed in the second language, even through tests aren’t able to indicate this clearly, so stretch and challenge is crucial. Interestingly a lot of EAL students are also G&T, and with some additional provision and planning (Google translate, translated keywords, buddying, visual stimulus), can progress well alongside their language development, and actually, with the increase in vernacular tolerance, are less diverse in language ability from their monolingual peers than I might assume. Plus, they often have something to offer – use their context to educate the class about the wider world, for instance.

I’ve been most exposed to, and will continue to be most exposed to pupils identified by the Disability Characteristic.

I’m spending my short placement at a school with a higher FSM%, so will use the opportunity to seek out aspirational strategies through professional dialogue where possible, since I don’t have any observation time at this school. The Head of T&L at my SD school suggested I spend some time at a school in a school with significantly more soci-eco issues to take into account, and Ill set this up once I’ve returned.

My main focus then, will be working with the SEN team, requesting additional training and exploring resources for literacy improvement strategies – particularly spelling and grammar – in my lower ability classes, whilst negotiating the challenge of pupil perceived stigmatization – hopefully a whole class approach to this with differentiated outcomes will alleviate this, or differentiated homework so that SEN scaffolded techniques are undertaken in individual settings. I also found Gina’s advice on working with LSA very valuable, as was her challenge to be aware of the prevailing existence of girls with unidentified learning needs, due to their early socialising skills – certainly this has brought to mind 1 Y9 pupil that I’m going to request is assessed.

Great conference, with speakers who were truly knowledgeable with excellent and inspiring models of practice- so much to take away and reflect on, and I hope I have the opportunity to go to similarly focused conferences in the future.

The Big Write

Seven years of water have swept under the academic bridge, and it’s been some time
since I’ve squirrelled myself into a corner, complete with a family-size box of crunchy nut cornflakes and the crazed look of a damsel in deadline distress.

Thankfully, the boy, some babies and a good few years of business experience has taught me that getting ahead is the new going under, and my assignments have been completed with less drama.

Here’s what I’ve been writing…

TTT1 – all about deep thinking: pedagogical theories and practice – it took me ages to get my groove on and lock that learned writing style down. Now a converted constructivist and a sold-out social-scenario linker, I was so relieved to get positive feedback, and a celebrated a distinction with… a trip to the library to get the books out for the next essay. Yay.
T1: I really had a chance to examine my expectations of pupils, their learning styles, experiences and manner of constructing knowledge. I’m really looking for ways now to build ‘chunking’ in my lessons, and ensure that each stage of my plans is a build on the previous.
T3: The essay also gave me a chance to deepen my understanding of the impact of subject knowledge, and how to express this to a class. I think I err on the romantic side of reasoning, and certainly was very captured by the challenge to bring wider, global significance to the texts that I teach. As a result, my remaining lessons on the Private Peaceful theme has links to modern warfare, with an age appropriate consideration of child soldiers, and Remembrance Sunday. I also examined the relationships between militant Fathers and their Sons in both Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and contemporary photography captured of Iraqi warfare.

PLC1 – a group project with 2 other students at my school, focused on ‘What Makes Outstanding Homework?’ Felt a lot more at home with this one –it was basically a project to run with a presentation, and my background is in recruitment projects and graphic design/events. I enjoyed learning about Active Research, and although it was too intense to re-conduct a solo project in the near future, it did demonstrate the benefits of working in collaboration with colleagues in CPD groups in the future, and hopefully one day I’ll complete an in depth study for a Masters.


T2/T5: Can you believe that none of the teaching standards mentions homework? I found this so interest

ing, especially because the study really taught me homework is often an under-utilized tool in managing effective differentiation, and the importance of setting it in a considered fashion, so that each piece of work developed subject specific knowledge AND skills (such as writing to persuade), and also generic transferable skills (such an analysing). It’s another half hour of progress that can be made! Yes! I actually can’t wait to try some our ‘tool kit’ suggestions out. Here’s some of the slides we used…

Slide02 Slide04 Slide06 Slide08 Slide10 Slide12

I’ve also literally just submitted TTT2 (tick) so I’ll write a bit more about this later once I’ve had feedback.

Skellig (7A)

How come I didn’t know about this? Doesn’t it look gorgeous? Going to have to try and get hold of a copy pronto pronto… I’m hoping to use as a supplementary Skellig resource that would engage the girls in the class a bit more, inspire some AF1 writing that imaginatively uses the correct voice, and maybe even (oh please please please) inspire some extra curricular reading…. I might even give the book away as a prize toward the end of term.

Indiana: glass half full

Half term! And what a way to walk into it – literally – as Friday consisted of the school sponsored 8 mile walk in the morning, followed by my first observed lesson with 7O in the afternoon. There was an amazing department lunch in between, but I was kind of focussed on getting my board made up and resources ready etc. I’m going to be using my Uni blog to really scrutinise my observations, but happy to say here that a lot of things went really well, and there are a lot of things I can improve too!

T4: Planning, Objectives and Resources
One of the key things I realised is that one of my strengths is also a challenge… having worked with graphics and copy, I really enjoy the creativity of putting together resources to support learning – but this can take quite a while too. With this lesson I wanted to scaffold it appropriately with options to tailor how much support I gave within the lesson, and most importantly for this class, maintain momentum. So I let them try some higher level thinking without much input, but when it became clear that they were struggling too much, I pulled the class back together and modelled a solution, which helped.  I also chose a sort of SOLO (Biggs and Collis) inspired worksheet, so that the class stayed focussed enough to progress, process well and produce a quality outcome.

T1: Setting High Expectations 
I was keen to set high expectations of the class. I did identify a prohibitor to learning and explained to the class that we needed to work on it, so that transitions in between activities became quicker and smoother so we could learn better. I used marble in, marble out approach to indicate their behavioural success, which did improve.

Prior to this, the week has felt a bit intense – had a lot of different and chunky chapters to get through. At school, I was really trying to get to grips with the content and SOWs for the classes I’m inheriting so that I could discuss lesson plans for my return after half term. 2 of the classes I have are shared with other teachers, and one of these is a 3 way split, so some some serious planning time was snatched at in between books, breaks etc. I also had to gather the first tranche of data for my research project. Had a heavy week with church things too, so was out at meetings and meant a fair bit of midnight/morning oil got burnt. And so did my voice by the end of the week. NOT WISE. Turns out sleep is for teachers, and singers – not sure how band will go tomorrow!!

PLC and T7 – Classroom Management
Learning highlights included a drama focussed lesson that really saw some teamwork emerging in a tougher class, and a chance for me to put my classroom management skills into play … I was asked to supervise a segment with 14 Y9 self-aware but pretty silly pupils who had to throw a foam ball around a circle in the hallway in between classrooms.Quietly. The 2 on report were definitely testing me but I did OK mixing the hard line up with some humour, and definitely feel my relationship with the class is developing without me having to compromise on control. Finding this is easier with younger classes, although do have to assert myself in different ways depending on the class, and finding Y10 another kettle of fish – but that’s team taught so I’m able to mirror, model and hopefully compliment the main teacher, whose got a great style – strong but with some banter!

At Uni, we had peer reviews of TLC1 (Thinking Through Teaching essay) and PLC1 (Professional Learning in Context – a group research project). I also had my first tutorial which involved quite a bit of preparation, but was a really great, positive and productive session. I felt focussed toward the rest of the term. We also sent reps to the first student council – I think the main area for concern has been not having an actual English Tutor on the course. It’s hard to say what the impact of this has been without having experienced it any other way. I suppose I did expect a bit more subject specific teaching at Uni about the English curriculum, English pedagogy and practice, exams, options etc. There’s been some great Drama stuff, and perhaps the Friday sessions for the PGCE students are more orientated toward this. It’s no biggie really, just puts the onus on us to be super proactive about filling in any knowledge gaps,and thats just good practice to get into.

Oops. This is a lot longer than intended. Again, Turns out I really do like reflecting!! Happy half-hols all.

Indiana: bread, butter and brûlée

So much to say! Here goes…

If I could summarise the week in three words they would be…


Let’s break it down…

I have a place for EVERYTHING. Which is at right angles to everything ELSE. However teaching is stretching even my abilities to be in the right place, time with the right kit and right kids.

I’ve decided that the best way to stay organise, in spite of having to teach from a variety of classrooms, is a box on wheels that’ll be my base, basically. I’m going to copy another teachers ideas to have pre-assembled kit bags per table grouping with prit stick, gels pens etc so that pupils can quickly get to work on activities and exercises.

I’m also trying very hard to stay on top of the Uni workload to free up time to be with the kids, but also in recognition of the extra work that planning full lessons will have, and wanting to be able to focus on this. So TTT is done and dusted (subject to peer review) and my group has made a cracking start on PLC1, with a view to analysing the first phase  of our collated data over the half term.

Doing TTT has made me question the gap between pedagogy in theory and in practice -there isn’t really time to consider how true to Enlightenment principles the lesson plan held. I suppose it’s all buried deep in each teachers motivations and approach to how they envisage their pupils progressing. It’s the methods that are more obvious, and not necessarily coherently group-able into a particular stream of practice either. It seems the most successful pedagogy is ‘Best-Fit’ – to the time of day, the class, the subject -whatever method is needed in the moment; active learning, De Bono’s hats, questioning techniques, Kagan’s consensus placemats, peer coaching or maybe some minister’s cat quizzing… the list is impressive and interchangeable.

My focus this week has been Classroom Management and the teaching persona, following some great training on this at both Uni and in school. I’ve been particularly observing teacher led routines in the classroom as well as techniques and expectations. As a result I’m developing my own set of expectations, which I’ll introduce as I take on classes more fully. I’ve had the opportunity to teach in or manage elements of classes this week, and have done so without any great crisis of confidence, and successfully corrected behaviour so I hope I’m not just getting a novelty response!

In response to my training, I’ve also made a real effort to get to know pupils, standing at the door to greet and say goodbye, asking questions, having conversations, showing interest, staying professional. This has been brilliant actually -it’s helped me learn names and faces much more quickly, and helped me really start caring about pupil progress.

Here’s some shots from a recent segment I did in a lesson on extracting meaning from words. I opened with a personal story that seemed to be engaging, then tempted the class with some chocolate market research which translated into processing the concept for the Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, and got some evidence of engagement and understanding. The class teacher helped me adapt the segment in anticipation of behavioural concerns,  and I added some scaffolding for one of the tasks to facilitate lower abilities (T4: Work collaboratively to adapt school resources where appropriate). Here’s some shots from the power point and whiteboard…

I continue to enjoy the relational element of working in a vibrant department with inspiring teachers and am becoming more confident in engaging in teacher dialogue where possible too.

Gems of advice this week include (all seem to be T2/ pupil-progress related)

  • Remembering that at this stage (Y8), the text is a vehicle for learning skills so concentrate on developing these to encourage pupil progression, rather than getting too strung up on the particulars of the plot.
  • Reflection on feedback is really important – build this into your routine so that pupils learn to automatically respond to your feedback.
  • Don’t plough through a SOW if homework indicates a lack of understanding – stop and consolidate this before progressing
  • Create space for emotional reflection too – how did this grade make you feel? Link to growth mindset and encourage First Attempt In Learning
  • Tailor tailor tailor. Plan lessons with anticipation of abilities. Know and SHOW how you’re doing this, but never dumb down and go for stretch and challenge.

I also met up with a group of prospective teachers taking place in an observation day with my Professional Mentor, and gave them a quick low down on the School Direct programme and answered a few questions. It was a good chance to reflect actually…
School Direct Pros..
– Feel professional, like a recognised teacher and part of a staff team by being in school right from the start
– By returning to Home school after Feb half Term, you are already more focussed on facilitating pupil development than getting too strung up on your own practice, since you’ll be picking up your original classes again (T2)
– Being in Uni led training less encourages you to take a pro-active role in your own training, since you are responsible for asking your mentor for self-identified training needs.


I’ve been given my final timetable, which I should add that I really do like -both the classes and the balance, which is weighted toward week B teaching, but this gives me plenty of time to be a week ahead of myself – and I took time this week assemble all the class lists and seating plans and check my pupils through the SEN database. One of my classes in particular has about a quarter of children highlighted as needing additional attention or having action plans requiring progression reports. We had SEN training this week, and I downloaded some info on how to tailor learning toward struggling learners, but I also have asecond observation with our specialist SEN English teacher today, and will ask her for help and advice too. I know this will take time initially, but become more natural as I spend more time with the same learners.

Loosely connected to this theme is my very interesting observations with Drama and Physics – both excellent examples of active and engaging learning. I requested the Physics observation because the teacher is practicing Kagan’s Collaborative Learning – which I’m interested in, and enjoyed seeing successfully at work within a different assessment framework.  The drama teacher and I discussed the separation of Shakespeare from Drama back into the English classroom, and I’ve asked to go back and watch her teaching Macbeth to lower Y10 set later in the year. I also spied one of my tougher classes really engaging with the drama lesson in the next studio, so asked my mentor if I could go and observe them in action too. I want them to know, that I know, they CAN do active learning, and that I expect the same from them in my more Voula-esque lessons.

And so to my last point….

Differing advice. On the one hand we’re encouraged to try new things this year, to experiment with pedagogy, establish lessons in our own style with fresh ideas. Part of me is conscious that potential employers at our placement schools may be looking for evidence of initiative and innovation in my practice. On the other hand, teachers remind us that this is the year to get the basics under out belt, Nothing fancy, just solid, straight forward teaching that facilitates learning, and to wait until our NQT year to try new ideas. Bread and butter teaching, hold the creme brûlée. Obviously we’re still getting our feet under the table, but I’m still wondering how the rest of the year will go. I guess they’re both puddings and pretty tasty either way…


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A little bit about me

I'm training as a teacher on the School Direct route. It's new this year and puts me in the classroom more than a traditional PGCE. I'm also training for a marathon and really enjoy running. But not so much in winter. I've been blessed with a gorgeous hub and 2 awesome kids who are 3 and 1 and being total dudes about me going back to work full-time. And that is pretty much that.