Back to Basics (5) – Report Writing

By Jo Cavanagh

reports 1It is fast approaching that time of year which many teachers dread – the report writing season. Before sitting down to write this article, I thought back to my own experience of receiving reports whilst at school. I was relatively hard working and never dreaded what my teachers had written about me, but I do remember often feeling disappointed when reading my reports. In some subject, statement banks were often used and I never felt that the comments really described my performance in that subject and the hard work I had put in. On chatting with friends about their reports, I remember being horrified that we had exactly the same comments, which often left me feeling that the teacher didn’t really know me and that my effort had gone unrecognised. As a teacher I think that this is fundamentally the most important thing when writing a report- it must be personalised to each particular student.

At Beaumont the leadership team and heads of year are tasked with reading whole year groups’ reports, so I thought I would ask them for their top tips on report writing.reports 2

Their responses are below. Happy writing.

Paul De Kort (Head of Sixth Form): “Good reports are specific about what the student needs to do to  improve whether that be, for example, “expand their explanations”, “take appropriate time with their homework” or “focus in class activities.” They are positive but realistic – “greater X (from student) should allow her access to a higher grade by the end of the year.” They should be aware of the passage of time ie refer to things that need to/will happen after the report is published.”

Laura Hawkins (Assistant Head): “You need a real sense that the teacher knows the student. Honesty – don’t fear the L (less than expected). Excellent should only be reserved for those that are truly excellent. Useful advice on how to improve, as well as lots of praise when deserved.”

Elena Dundjerovic (Head of Year 9): “Try to focus on their skills and the progress that they have made and give them a target.”

Liz Hitch (Headteacher): “Make sure you do not write them too specifically in ‘real time’ – it takes at least 2 weeks for a report to go out once written, so don’t refer to things coming up within a short time period. It is better to write less than waffle when you don’t know the student too well (eg in year 7).”

Danny Sievewright (Head of Year 11): “I would suggest, where appropriate, a balance of positive and areas for improvement. Also making ensure that the comment matches up with the effort grades for that student. For an end of key stage report, something that encapsulates their overall performance – particularly if the student has made particular improvements across a year. Dare I also suggest using the spellchecker, reading over and checking grammar – from a staff well-being point of view, that is really important as it makes life much easier for those checking them and would cut down the amount of reports that a teacher has to re-do.”

Below is a guidance document which we refer to at Beaumont to try and keep the consistency of writing across the various subjects on a report.

Reports Style Guide

Back to Basics (4) – Be Quiet! Attention Please!

By Sarah Lofthouse

Be quietSometimes it can be difficult to get your students’ attention if they are busy and noisy during a lesson.  Here are some strategies you might like to try to help regain attention and quiet when you want it.

Students need to be told the idea and your expectation at the start of the lesson.  Practising the routine will also help reinforce it for use later.

1.  Countdown. A simple countdown from 5 could be employed. Add the expectations as you practise, for example: 5 – in your place facing front; 4 – stop fidgeting; 3 – pens down; 2 – closed mouths; and 1 – we are ready.
2.  Adding time. Every time the class do not act quickly when you ask for quiet you put a tally mark on the board. One mark means one minute being kept in.  The beauty of this is it is simple and effective and you can also easily remove marks to reinforce positive behaviour.timer
4.  Location anchor. Cut out a circle from brightly coloured paper. Stick it onto a point on the floor or wall and tell students you will give them important information when you are at this spot. Regularly reinforce the importance of the location by only giving important pieces of information when you are at that point. Then every time you want quiet, walk onto the spot or lay your hand on it on the wall. This method will need practising and could be made into a game to begin with.
5.  Lights. Simply switching the light on and off to give a visual signal that it’s time to be quiet and face the front.
6.  One for all and all for one. Tell the class you have chosen one student at random (don’t tell them who it is) and that their behaviour during the lesson will apply to all. If they can listen and settle quickly when asked then the class will be rewarded.
7.  Copy cat. The idea is that the class have to copy your sound. For example, you clap twice, they clap back. You could try it with song lyrics or movements.

This is what other Beaumont staff have suggested:

Jane Pearson (History): “A visual clue to the lesson on the board such as a large picture and they have 2 minutes (show a timer on the board rather than a little hand held kitchen one) to figure out how the picture links to the lesson/explains something etc. Seeing the time ticking I find is more effective. I have this timer document on my desktop so I can open it quickly whenever I need it.”

Steve Jump (PE): “Just wait and be patient – someone in the class will get the fact you are waiting for silence and usually tell the rest of the class to stop talking.  This then usually ripples through the class until all are quiet. I sometimes hold up my hand in class and wait – usually works. Finally – only done occasionally if you have a really troublesome class – I sometimes leave the class and wait outside the door for a 10 – 20 seconds and then come back into the room.  This works brilliantly as the pupils are almost all silent when I re-enter…weird!”

Sue Lutz (MFL): “​I try to find a song that is linked to the theme of my lesson. For example I played “Keep Young and Beautiful” for a lesson on fitness/healthy eating.  They are quiet as they are listening to the song and starting to engage with what the lesson is about.  Works best with music that they do not know!”

Fiona Pinkerton (Science): “My normal method of getting students to be quiet is ‘3,2, and…….1’ the ‘and’ drawn out depending on how quickly they tune into realizing they need to be quiet! It works well especially if I then deduct them a minute of their time for every second I wait. I also use names and a good old glare at individuals to get them to shhhhh. Once for my year 11 class who were lethargic and not listening I did a little Irish dance at the front of the classroom. Strange I know but they tuned in following a good giggle and I consequently had their full attention.”

Laura Hawkins (MFL): “My idea is ‘Pumpernickel’.  If the students are working in groups/teams they all have to stop if they hear the word and put their hands on their heads/be silent.  I give points to first team to be silent and remove points for last team to be silent. The word could obviously be anything.  It works best when there’s a competitive element to the activity.  Obviously, what you make them do on hearing the word could be anything relating to their subject. Other than that I just use the old favourites of hand in the air or countdowns.”

Kyl Messios (Drama): “With KS3 I set up expectations at the start of the year and introduce a clapping rhythm that they join in on at the end (idea stolen from Harriet Rowlands years ago).  It’s really important that I can get their attention quickly and safely during some of the more ‘energetic’ lessons. Sometimes I dance about or say funny things (that I think are funny). I find that the best thing to do is get the lesson/activity going quickly and energetically.”

For more ideas try these links:

Back to Basics (2) – Behaviour Management

By Sarah Hosegood

The Hosegood family are not very interesting people. We are all Geographers and we are either teachers or town planners (my sister was the rebel!), so dinner table conversations are a little bit dull for outsiders. However these dinner table conversations have given me one of the best pieces of behaviour management advice.

My mum always said the most valuable thing a teacher has at their disposal is their voice. As a trainee teacher I don’t think my voice was always under control but as I have gained more experience my voice has become more powerful.

My (and my mum’s!) top tips:

  • When using your voice, always give yourself somewhere to go. This means that you can’t shout all the time. Shouting should be an extreme of your voice and should happen very rarely. This means that when you do shout you have the desired effect.
  • Once you have the attention of the students keep your voice low so you keep their attention and they have to listen carefully.
  • Even if you are tired and having a bad day your voice can disguise this so go up tempo and bright in your voice and ‘trick’ the students into enthusiasm.
  • Always welcome your students into the classroom with a bright, enthusiastic, cheery voice and it will start the lesson in a positive mood.
  • When you want to get your point across, repeat the point slowly in a deeper tone to your normal voice.

teacher voiceYour voice is only one aspect of behaviour management and other teacher hints and tips below offer you some key ideas.

Lucy Sidney; “If a class are too chatty (during a discussion or at beginning of the lesson) I ask them all to stand up. They are not allowed to sit down until they are all silent. If they start talking whilst descending they must stand up again! They soon learn that being quiet is better than standing up.”

Zoe Shepherd; “Only ever pretend to lose your temper. Don’t actually lose it. Know your kids and remember they have stuff going on in their lives that may affect their behaviour. Own your space/ classroom you are inviting students into your class to share and learn with you – be confident.”

Helen Wilson; “Wait for pupils to be displaying the behaviour you want and then praise it with thanks. Develop a “waiting stare” which says, “we are not moving on until I’ve got the behaviour I expect”.”

Hanh Doan; “Have a seating plan. Organise/plan pairs and group work. Give clear instructions and clear warnings of sanctions for misdemeanours”

Beth Ashton; “With a difficult group, have a clear, visual way to keep track of where students are in terms of the behaviour diamond. I usually write “warning, move, detention, on call” so they can see what the next consequence will be.”

Michael Tatham;Praise all those who are doing what you do want (the others will eventually get the hint that they need to do or change something!).For example, ‘Well done Tom’s table, you’re books are out and you’re all ready to start’. Or, ‘Thanks Bethany, you’re looking this way and listening.’”

Jo Cavanagh;Establish routines early on in terms of your expectations e.g. stand behind their chair in silence when they first come in.”

Nat Moody; “If you are taking a new group learn names as soon as possible. Set routines as early as you can. Do not allow them to speak when you are.”

Jane Pearson;Keep the pace by using music as a timer when you want minor things done quickly and efficiently eg packing away, handing in textbooks, writing down the date and title.”

Sue Lutz;Timing activities using a stopwatch keeps them on task.”

Susan Kent; “If an individual child is off task just approach their desk quietly kneel down so you are at their eye level and explain that they have a choice – they can get back on task in the next 30 seconds and show you how awesome they can be or they will be moved to the back of the classroom to work alone/sent outside.  Their choice.  Give them 30 seconds and go back and ask them.”

What would your top tip be to ensure good behaviour management?

Useful links:

Back to Basics (1) – Seating

By Helen Wilson

Over the coming weeks and months we are starting a new series of articles called “Back to Basics”. These articles will cover any aspect of teaching, with the overriding idea that they are ideas useful for NQTs, recently qualified teachers, or the more seasoned practitioner who wants an easy reminder of skills. We will include tips from Beaumont teachers and if you have something you wish to add, please feel free to comment on the article. This week we will look at seating in classrooms, and there are plans for posts on behaviour management, group work, getting the attention of a class, report writing, being a form tutor and more. If you have a topic which you would like covered in the Back to Basics series, please feel free to contact us on twitter (or email one of the Teaching and Learning Team).

desks and  chairsSeating

Seating plans (not the the pieces of paper you might give to an observer in your classroom, or a cover teacher, but the actual idea of deciding who sits where in the classroom) are useful for all sorts of reasons:

  • ensuring you meet the special needs of any pupils in the class;
  • managing behaviour firstly by showing that the classroom is your space; but also by ensuring that disruption is kept to a minimum by strategic placing of certain pupils;
  • ensuring that you can easily change to group working where necessary with minimum fuss.

After an initial seating plan in September with a new class, where I will have considered the obvious things like SEN and tips from previous teachers, I invariably have a change of seating within a few weeks, once I have got to know the pupils for myself. At this stage, I will think about raising expectations, developing confidence and managing potential disruption.

I try to raise expectations by, for example, seating a pupil with excellent written presentation next to one for whom this is a target; a pupil who doesn’t contribute much next to a pupil who needs no such encouragement; a pupil who is always completely focused next to one for whom that is a difficult skill. I have found that I can use seating to help develop confidence by placing pupils who just need a bit of teacher encouragement and praise in an easily accessible seat, or next to someone working at a similar ability. And like many others, I place potentially disruptive students in a place where they find it difficult to do so – this can involve some experimentation, but once that place is found, I stick to it.

Below are top tips and ideas from other Beaumont teachers:

Susan Kent (Geography): “I try to mix up the boys and the girls, but in the case of a boy heavy class I keep some of the quieter girls together for confidence.  I also think about ease of grouping them for group tasks and making sure I have mixed abilities in each row/section. I keep the attention seekers at the back but where I can see their books easily.  I always work from the middle of the classroom outwards so the spare seats are in the harder to reach areas of the classroom.”

Frances Jackson (English): “When deciding on a seating plan for mixed ability classes, I like to practise G&T by stealth. Rather than just focus on my lower ability students, I like to think about how to get a good spread of my more able in the classroom. This way, what my more able students say is accessible to more of my class, especially in pair/group work.”

Helen Robson-Smith (Maths): Once I know a class I usually sit students of similar ability next to each other, so bright students can inspire each other to greater things and weaker students don’t worry about ‘he’s on question 7 and I’m only on question 2’.”

Ella Dickson (Maths): “When I am planning a seating plan I consider the four most disruptive students and seat them in the four corners. Then I work inwards. When I know a class better I ask for their input. When I don’t, I try to ask their last teacher for any tips. Sometimes it’s best to put the two chattiest next to each other.”

Elena Dundjerovic (Business and Economics): “At GCSE level, I use target grades to guide my seating plans and my expectations of the students. I sat a student I really wanted to challenge with a very weak student so I was able to observe the more able student’s knowledge and provide support for the weaker student without having to sit with them throughout the lesson. Again, I like to keep pairings mixed as well. The key is to rotate them each half term, even if they are working really well. You can always tweak and it keeps the students focused. If a student is sat on their own because of odd numbers I always do a new seating plan each half term and let them fill the space of a student that is absent during this time.”

Sarah Hosegood (Geography): “I ensure that all SEN students are ‘accessible’ e.g. on the end of a row or at the front so it is easy for me and a TA to support. I also have times when they are able to pick other people to work with free from the seating plan for part of a lesson or all of a lesson and talk about how I am ‘trusting’ them to work well together and it normally works really well and gives them a break from the normal people they sit next to.”