Learning Journey

David Didau raves about them, and I enjoyed a very aspirational version delivered by my HOD in School 1 some time ago in conjunction with a SOLO lesson. (Yes. Solo. Like.) Although I only have 2 lessons left with most of my classes before this placement finishes, I’ve decided to try a Learning Journey rather than Lesson Objectives with a lower ability Y10 class that I’m still expecting a lot from.

Here’s the journey (I should make you guess for a starter no? No? OK… using our homework plans to apply to a task, developing our own class success criteria based on prior learning, then writing this up into a wonderful piece of work and finishing with a post it plenary to assess progress and determine direction.)

learning journey

I’ll add a comment on how it goes down…


a little idea

I was wondering about incorporating the production of ‘toolkits’ for extended plenaries at the end of modules, summarising learning in a sort of wiki ‘how to’ style. These could be copied onto cards and slid into pockets, stuck onto exercise book pages, and easily retrieved and referred to in future tasks, swapped, improved, used for games…

These are too cute, I wonder…Image

Pimp my planner!

After reading Jackie Beere on the perfect Ofsted lesson, I made my Lovely Lesson wheel, printed off some of my favourite planning prompts from David Didau, borrowed a Teach Toolkit 5 minute planning prompt I found online and hey presto! Stimulus and focus for some purposeful, prompter, planning. I hope!


KLA Objectives

At a recent R&D CPD group, we were encouraged to differentiate not just for ability but also for learning style. This week I determined to meet the challenge to devise a task that incorporated each learning style.


I wanted it to be meaningful, so came up with a CONNECTED KEY WORDS, based on a twitter/Learning Spy ideas on introducing objectives in fresh ways. The idea is that pupils are given a key objective word, have a minute to write as many connected words as they can, which the class discusses and determines their own objective.

I was working with a year 7 middle top set, so simplified the process by creating a class KPT (key Point Tool) from their ideas, and asking each person to transfer these to a Pyramid of Progress, which we returned to in the plenary to chart growth, I’ll be honest, I think this was too complicated, and would work better with a class that could really interrogate the task together.

7U Module 2 Lesson 14

Still, the KLA element was popular. I made laminated key word frames and attached them to physical keys, and placed these on Consensus Placemats. After scribbling down their thoughts, the groups enjoyed passing the keys around to symbolise the speaker,  as they discussed their connected words. It seemed to provide focus, stimulus and some ‘stickability’ about the hub of the learning we were about to attempt. And now I have the wipe clean resource, I’ll be trying it again. Practice makes perfect. Or better, at the very least!

Consultation Day

How great is this? A day where parents (and children, optional) can come and talk to the relevant pastoral tutor about a recent report, concerns, results, motivations, attitudes – the works!

Of course, it’s unfortunately a missed opportunity for some, but I was inspired and enlightened by the meetings that did take place between the Y11 tutor I’m shadowing, and the parents she spoke with.

It was aspirational stuff – the tutor was positive, motivational, measured, caring and insightful. I was left with the impression that each individual child matters, and their particular path is catered for as far as possible.

Interesting moments included a grandmother who wanted to weigh in with her very different educational expectations, the pride of both tutor and parent in a pupil who’d busted a gut to get her maths GCSE result, and the unpacking of the problem of a previously studious pupil who’d ‘gone off the boil.’ Turns out their elder, academic sibling, with whom they;d shared a room, was studying abroad for 6 months. The hypothesis emerged that this sibling had ensured sensible sleeping hours, assisted with homework, and been generally aspirational – and that the lack of this had led to the student becoming later and lazier. The mother determined to step into the gap, the tutor to pursue extra study support options, and suddenly it seemed as if this situation could be turned around in time for the GCSEs.

It reminded me of an SMT member comment in school 1 – be mindful that each child undertakes a journey just to get to school – the degrees of difficulty need to be considered and addressed if necessary. Wise.


New school, new ideas and many, many acronyms…

… and too many commas apparently, according to my PLC (Professional Learning in Context) feedback, which was positive but rather vague. My PLC tutor pointed out that it;s hard to assign a mark to a mere 1,000 word commentary, since our slides/ presentations aren’t assessed.

This is a bit of a shame, since I felt that our collaborative PLC1 project was of a high standard, since our teaching timetables allowed more time to invest in the research, whereas PLC2 may prove more difficult. It involves planning a series of lessons (now) and teaching these (before Easter). School Direct pupils are changing school back again after Feb half term however, and as I wont have a timetable ’til then, and it wil be much fuller, it put s abit of a squeeze on.

Still, if you gotta squeeze, make lemonade or something like that – so sure it’ll be fine/fun/fantastic* (*delete as applicable depending).


I’m thoroughly enjoying my time at School 2, much positive energy, progression tactics and sky high expectations that actually level the playing field so that each child can achieve. There’s also a fantastic literacy focus on reading to enjoy reading, great resources and team.

My first training session at School 3 was also great, which was all about Kagan structures and the SOLO taxonomy, which the wonderful HOD at School 1 introduced me too. (She also got me hooked on the Learning Spy, who is everyones secret best blogging friend, and I’ve got an entire file made up of his blogs, printed, lovingly annotated and categorised).I really really like SOLO, and I have a feeling it;s the way for me, hopefully back in school 1 – although it might be difficult to really embed this in my practice with new classes, half way through the year, so one to talk to my mentor about. I’m itching to start next year, with clean books and complete classes and a much better idea of where we’re all going, and how to get there!

I’ve also been cataloguing the smart group work ideas of Mr Alex Quigly, and today tried out Home and Expert groups with a year 7 class. Team work really does make the dream work!

It took a lot of resourcing but worked really well, and the class quickly understood that coasters would be swiftly ousted and each rose to their part of the challenge and engaged, producing work with evidence of a depth of knowledge I was pleased with.  I’m looking forward to breaking into a class and then reusing it as a much quicker way of developing reading, informing, explaining and summarising skills. Like.


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.

Professional (pretty) dialogue

So now that TTT2 is all turned in and tucked up, I started thinking about TT3 and thought these little notebooks were too beautiful an opportunity to pass by. So I bought them for myself and the 2 other School Direct English teachers to keep notes of all our professional dialogues. And the odd shopping list, website, idea, thought, wish, hope…. lovely!


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.

w/c 12 Nov: Weekly Reflection: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”

The misattributed and mistranslated Marie-Antoinette quote. Why? Well, the cake was made by girls from my mentors pastoral group, to celebrate a birthday, and they were so proud of it, and keen to discuss the effort gone into it, I felt pretty privileged to be offered a slice.

T8: Wider Responsibility
This was especially rewarding after my much harder lined Thinking Curriculum session I taught the pastoral on Thursday. I read through and annotated the supplied lesson plan beforehand, and the ever-awesome hub picked me up some Under 19 bank account flyers from Lloyds. Then I served it straight up, stayed strong and kept much better control (oh boy, ask me about the last session of you want a giggle sometime!) Improvised a peer questioning and answering AFL when one of the resources failed to materialise, and got good feedback from my professional mentor too, so felt pleased and mostly, relieved.

Back to cake. Princess MA is supposed to have dropped the immortal cake line, off the cuff and dripping in frippery, as a comment in response to ‘learning that the peasants had no bread. Since brioche was enriched with butter and eggs, as opposed to ordinary bread, the quote supposedly would reflect the princess’s obliviousness to the condition of the people.’ Thanks wiki.

T2: Pupil progress
Tenuous link now…myth, math – mix it all up and what you have is a shocking attempt at a solution to hunger. Got no Bread? Got any Brioche? No? Ok, well I give up.

As target setting week draws to a close, I’ve been asking myself what to do if a pupil doesn’t even have the requisite level of basics to bake with. Spelling, punctuation. The ability to sit in their chair. Moreover, I might see a need to feed, but when they don’t, do you bust a gut to give them flour and teach them how to fold?! Basically – yes.  Even after a handful of lessons, I do care about the progression of individuals. (See post beneath this in Assessment, and follow up comment). And that’s probably my major reflection of the week. The class is becoming a collection of individuals.

I’d love to be able to teach the Boy In The Striped Pyjamas with added emotional zing by the end of my teaching period – inspire some aptitude and appetite.

Now that I’m more on on top of the classroom environment I’m going to use some drama approaches (although I made the classic mistake of getting into a confrontation with a pupil who was being deliberately obstructive and argumentative and I asked them to leave the classroom. She said no. Cue nerves of steel, calm insistence and success on this occasion but I wouldn’t ever do it like that again – and got some quick staffroom advice in break on how to handle it better in future).

Differentiation /IEPs
I also spent a break time with a SEN coach – one of my kids has just been given a dyslexic diagnosis and expressed a lot of worry over this. I did differentiated starters anyway this week (depending on your target card – I always set up early so that each pupil arrives to a book, a worksheet and a target card on their desk. Once established I’ll get a pupil to do the resources, especially if it’s straight after my duty break.) This week I did this particular pupil something different again, and got coaching on how to  work with him 121 for a bit while the rest of the class completed their worksheet. It seemed to help, and I’m using the same techniques for improving spellings in the pupils exercise book too.Its very hard to offer additional support to 1 pupil without singling them out though. I did however seat the pupil deliberately in a seat that meant I could work next to him but still see the rest of the class. Need to go back to the SEN coach on how not to alienate this pupil.

T4: PLanning 
I’m doing a lot better with timings (my target for last week). Have nearly halved my expected content and this seems ot be more accurate, and now I’m really enjoying having the time to do meaningful plenaries (I’ll unpack this more in my weekly lesson observation on the uni blog later). I’m also not indicating in the pla which bits of the lesson plan can be cut or shrunk, depending on the comprehension time needed by pupils- becasue this is harder to predict, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s take the time to make sure the class gets it before moving on. O know this seems obvious – but it’s great when you see the product of that ‘click’ moment in their produced work. And a tiny bit soul destroying when the semi colon you’ve  imaginatively and creatively taught, is spotted in an exercise book subdividing a single independent clause. Noooooooo!

OK. More lesson plans to do. Trained on using the camera this week at school too, to get footage for my TTT2 but it;s totally booked up, forever. Need a plan B. Think the Uni might have some cameras…

Assessment. Me. I did it!

Life at school feels so intense. It’s target setting week, so lots of marking, and this is just a small note to celebrate my first formative marking. Actually really enjoyed it – especially setting hopefully helpful and detailed targets. Got a whole new set for another class tomorrow night, and spent today assessing a third class for speaking and listening levels. Definitely getting to grips with what the general levels ‘feel’ like. Also, marking so thoroughly and for target purposes has helped me ..

* understand what the end goal is
* evaluate how I taught toward it
* reflect upon how I’ll teach differently next time

How? Well, I’ll define the end goal more precisely and map the learning journey backward to the learning objectives, with everything in the middle positioned more obviously toward this progress. Lovely. Oh for some time to be so consistently thorough… with a mockstead looming, PLC1 about to boil over, TTT2 on the horizon (mixed bag of metaphors if ever I saw one) and Leo’s scary big injections on thursday, I’m feeling the burn. Let’s just hope he doesn’t :( wish I could be there to hold his hand and tell him how brave he is. Better be brave about all this myself.

w/c 12 Nov: Weekly Reflection: Wise Words from Mz Wintour

“It’s always about timing” she said.
If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.”

This week I’ll be focussing on Standard T4 – Effective Planning,with an emphasis on TIMING. With 100m lesson cycles, you wouldn’t imagine this to be a problem, but the ideal lesson plan follows a double learning loop, which, coupled with extensive SOWS, has left me prising in my plenaries with seconds to spare. I’m aiming to talk less, cut out unnecessary class feedback (i.e after every activity, they don;t actually need to respond back to the front, if Ive circulated and dealt with misconceptions etc) and be more ruthless about how much of the SOW lesson plans I try and teach – and also to what level – a lot of things I’ve pitched prohibitively too high, and need to work on ways to chunk learning in a staggered approach toward the difficult concepts.

My week B is also much heavier, with A Level and Y10 classes too (I team-teach the Y10 class and assist with A Level, although the teacher has suggested I try my hand at some parts of the lesson.) So my holistic timing was out of line too – lessons are still taking me a long time to develop, so I had some crazy late nights toward the end. Multiple music practices for a wedding this weekend didn’t help either, and my poor voice has taken a battering that even Voula-cises and Vocalzone couldn’t  really help with. Still, the more time I get under my belt, the better I’m getting.

Classroom Management (T7)
Feedback on last weeks focus is really positive though – and I got ‘outstanding’ feedback on my year 9 class! Was so so so delighted, as a lot of my effort last week went into working with the class teacher to develop strategies for managing the class, played it a lot stricter and stronger without loosing rapport with the class, who were much more attentive and progressed really well during my lessons with them this week. Even handled a repeatedly aggressive and argumentative pupil on report without faltering, and it’s boosted my confidence lots.

Pupil Progression (T2)
Moreover, its enabled me to plan for their progression, which has been on my mind a lot since my recent training gave me access to their statistics. Each pupil is supposed to make 3 levels of progress this year, but every one of them is already behind their targets from year 8.

I came up with these target cards (based on last lesson, where we determined what these were using the AF grids), which I also use to determine seating for the lesson. They remind pupils of simple ways they can progress, and I’m working on some sort of sticker on card system for their little victories.

Assessment (T6)
I also marked my first batch of assessed PEE work, which will be used to set year 7 levels thus far. Took ages, but feel like I got to grips with it by the end. Marking the end product has also really developed my understanding of the process of TEACHING it. That might sound obvious, but I’ll be able now to work out what level of output I’m looking for, look at the AF descriptor, and design tasks and teaching toward this.

I really put  a lot of thought into the targets for each pupil too, which I’m now aware of and can again, tailor my teaching toward individuals. I’m contemplating setting different homework depending on their targets too. As it’s a shared class, it;s a while until I see them again, so really hoping my ideas on helping the class respond to my feedback are still pertinent.

Right. Must sleep before  it all starts again tomorrow…

W/C 5 Nov: Weekly reflection

OK so yes, it’s Tuesday already. However, I have a lighter teaching Week A, so perhaps a little less actual teaching practice to reflect on, but plenty of lessons learnt!

Finding myself very hungry for feedback and ideas and suggestions for improvements because they are hands down the most useful part of training –  the teachers are genuinely so constructive and the department is delightful, that I haven’t ever felt miserable after feedback, but did find I had to give myself positive pep talks following lessons that I knew I should have done better in. I am here to learn, and learning I am, which is an achievement worth cheering. So here’s my low down…

1. Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

I came back after half term with some thorough medium term plans for each class, linked to some comprehensive lesson plans. They were outmoded before break time! The challenge of sharing classes, unscheduled hearing tests, slower progression and technology failures have invaluably taught me that whilst targets are essential, strategies should be sketched out in pencil!! My mentor reckons getting the nitty gritty of lessons nailed a week ahead is ideal, 2 at a push. I now have a sophisticated post it method, so I can shimmy things all over the schedule and stay neat. Result.

Talking of technology fails – that hit me hard but the class teacher was so positive and praised the way I didn’t go to pieces and managed to turn things around. Still, didn’t want to get caught short again so off I went with Boo and Cub to the Metrocentre to get myself apple kit proper….

I also touched on this quote in a comment on my last reflection. My main feedback from last week was that my planning and resources were thorough and good (maybe an tangential career in selling swish scaffolding to TES??!), they’re no substitute for getting kids doing the subject specific stuff.

Duly noted. Target now is to use the great SOWS and PPT etc available, and invest my time in developing my teaching persona and in planning for pupil progression (T5). I’ll touch more on this in the next reflection.

2. It’s the little foxes that ruin the vineyard.

Low level chatter. This really is undermining my teaching, and had feedback form 2 class teachers that complimented my good relationship and connection with my classes, but encouraged me to really stamp down on this – by waiting longer for silence before moving on, using discipline procedures to reinforce this, talking less myself, and using tone more effectively. Little foxes, left unchecked, grow into bigger foxes. So I’m focussing this week on managing the small stuff, because this is what really ruins the lesson. So I’ll be working on T7 and planning well for behaviour. Think I might need to practice a bit on the mirror. Feeling silly is a small price to pay for getting the class settled and achieving.

W/C 5 Nov: Weekly Lesson Evaluation

This is now done and online through my Uni e-portfolio, but I’m happy to share and discuss it with anyone, so do just drop me an email c.v.doherty@newcastle.ac.uk if you’re interested (it involves LAs Vegas and Guardian Angels if you’re just after the highlights ;)

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.


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Me and the minis

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.