Meet the T&L Team – How you can get involved this year

Today, in a special Teaching and Learning briefing, the members of the Teaching and Learning Team introduced themselves and their roles for the year. Read on to find out more about the various foci of the team, and how Beaumont staff can get more involved with T&L.

Bring Your Own Device and New Technologies

Andy Gray


To share and demonstrate ideas on how mobile devices and ‘new technologies’ can be used to enhance and extend Teaching and Learning at Beaumont.

Aims for 2015 – 2016

  1. Create a document/booklet containing examples of apps, websites and platforms, categorised according to the following key areas of Teaching and Learning: feedback, assessment, revision, differentiation and collaboration and communication. Ideas have been (and hopefully will continue to be) submitted by a wide range of Beaumont staff.
  2. Seek feedback from departments with regards to which apps, websites and platforms they wish to utilise/learn more about. Find time in department meetings and/or INSET to demonstrate and provided training.
  3. Explore the use of Google Apps for Education, including Google Classroom (with James Goddard). Google Classroom serves as a platform for teachers to create and organise assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently and easily communicate with their classes. Works alongside Google’s popular suite of productivity and storage applications.
  4. Set up a working group to test and feedback on the effectiveness of Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom. This is currently in its early stages of testing – more details will follow on how and why to get involved.

New Ideas for Everyday Teaching

Nat Moody


  1. To form a working party to experiment with new ideas, and then share their experience with colleagues and the wider teaching community. The group will draw on various resources e.g. T&L library, colleagues to get new ideas, and use them within lesson where appropriate once every term.
  2. Following the trial of the new ideas, members of staff will be asked to write a review (in which they should provide some context of the lesson and group) which can be shared via the T&L blog, Bring and Buys, resource board and possibly through Heads of Subject.

Higher-Level Thinking and Challenge 

Fiona Pinkerton


Development and research of new strategies to encourage students’ higher-level thinking, and to challenge them in the classroom. To provide resources, ideas and support for Beaumont teachers to allow them to implement new strategies in the classroom and in lesson planning, with the main aim being to support students in gaining a better understanding of how they learn.

Aims for 2015-2016

  1. Meet with a group of teachers, across a range of subjects, to introduce ideas and feedback from students so far, with the aim for Beaumont teachers to then trial their preferred ideas in the classroom. Meeting: 5/10/15 in Lab 42.
  2. During the course of the year I will email those teachers who attended the above meeting with resources, new things to trial out and to check in and see how things are going.
  3. During the year there will be a following two meetings in the Spring term and Two in the summer term. This will provide an opportunity for the group to discuss and share successes and failures.
  4. There will also be opportunities during the year for the group to observe one another; this will allow teachers to see how strategies are implemented differently in different classrooms.
  5. I hope that collectively during the course of the year we will collate resources and ideas, and make improvements to these strategies in order to share them with the rest of the staff.

What students are saying so far

“When Miss Pinkerton showed us some of these learning methods it helped me to understand what is going on. It is not all in the teachers’ hands. It’s given me a sense of control over my own learning.” Niamh (Year 12 Chemist St Michaels Garston)

“Using the hexagons helped me to understand how to link the ideas together. It enabled me to answer the harder question and get full marks.” Will Mattin  (Year 10 Chemist Beaumont)

“The hardest questions in the exams are the ones that seem to have nothing to do with what we have learnt. When Miss used the cause and effect map to break down what I needed to put in my answer, I started to make the links and finally understood what the question wanted me to answer.” Amy Cowan (Year 9 Beaumont)

Smarter Marking and Assessment

Fiona Rosler


To examine and apply various time-saving marking strategies to try and reduce workload of marking, whilst still providing enough feedback for students to progress.

Aims for 2015-2016

  1. Trial various marking and assessment strategies with my own classes to examine any advantages or disadvantages.
  2. Look at examples of marking from other departments to examine what works best for specific subjects. Departments will be contacted about this in the coming weeks.
  3. Provide ideas and advice at the November INSET to help staff to find a system that will work for them and which fits around their schedule.
  4. Collect feedback and opinions from a variety of staff and subjects to help advance these ideas throughout the year.

Developing Numeracy Skills

Fiona Rosler

Aims for 2015-2016

For all students to be able to understand and work with numbers in any subject. They should recognise when it is necessary or appropriate to use their numeracy skills and be able to apply these skills in various contexts outside of the Maths classroom.

This will be achieved by:

  1. Working initially with the Science, Geography and PE departments. Heads of Department have already been contacted.
  2. Looking at areas on SOWs which already involve numeracy and examining how/when these topics are taught – are they consistent with maths lessons?
  3. Attending department meetings for these subjects to discuss teaching methods and consistency with methods and keywords.
  4. Running Maths Week activities as last year.

To get involved, please speak to the member of the team responsible for each focus.

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.”

Learning to learn again

By Heather Duckworth (Languages)

mandarin symbolsIt’s been almost 7 years since my PGCE, so it’s been a while since I was in the position of being a learner, therefore it was with excitement and no small degree of trepidation that I signed up for the Mandarin evening class this autumn. As a language teacher I have got used to being the ‘expert’ in the room and I know that at times in the past I have lost patience with students who require an explanation of grammar rules again, or still can’t remember that vital piece of vocabulary.

The past 8 weeks have reminded me of what it is like to be lost in a sea of sound.  As a Mandarin learner I have had to come to terms with a wide variety of ‘initials’ and ‘finals’ which make up the pinyin system used to teach Mandarin using the roman alphabet.  A great many of these sounds are noises that have never come out of my mouth before, despite having mastered the delight of French multiple vowels!  After our first 2 hour lesson our faces ached and I dutifully spent the next week practising all my ‘initials and finals’ – delighting in the novelty of something new to learn.

Then life, children and work got in the way and I didn’t manage to get as much practice in as I would have liked. I missed a lesson due to illness and sat there a week later totally lost as the rest of the class happily chanted the numbers one to ten, and recognised the characters! The feeling of being ‘stupid and rubbish’ was horrendous and I felt like an idiot in front of the other adults and my Head of Department! This reminded me how much repetition and consolidation is required to enable things to stick and how hard it must be for students who have barriers to their learning, or have been absent.  We are fortunate at Beaumont that we can teach language lessons in 45 minute chunks and not mammoth two hour sessions. By 9 pm on a Tuesday I am washed out with the effort of listening and trying to copy an unfamiliar writing system, without even mentioning the tonal system which means I have to carefully look at which letter is being stressed and remember which symbol to use.

The experience of learning to learn again is having a very positive impact upon my teaching; my patience with differentiation and students who are struggling is increasing.  When I plan my activities I am able to refer back to my recent experiences and my sympathies are definitely with my students!

T&L INSET Tops and Tails

Our Teaching and Learning INSET on Tuesday 4th November was all about sharing ideas for how to ensure all pupils make progress in every lesson – how we differentiate for both the “tops” and the “tails” of our classes.

We used a “Balance Wheel” to help us discuss the strategies we are already using to help us differentiate for pupils in our classes. Staff were asked to give themselves a mark out of ten for how often they used certain strategies in their teaching: use of seating plans; providing model answers; grouping students.  Joining the dots to create a personal balance wheel allowed a quick and informative chance to look at our existing practice.  It helped give confidence in the fact that many of the things we do already are part of differentiation and that differentiation does not mean having to create a different task for each and every student.  Staff considered at each others’ wheels and shared ideas on how they might balance their own.The balance wheel itself is also a useful idea to use with pupils to help them reflect on a variety of areas, personally and in particular subjects.

The next part of the session involved watching a short video clip from the comedy ‘Big School’ (see the powerpoint from the INSET) and then looking at tasks designed for top end and tail end students.  We focussed on practical ideas that could be taken away and used by staff and help them challenge the more able students or allow less able students to access the work and progress.  Staff  chose where they would like to focus their time following the video.  Some chose immediately to go the tail end table and had a go at completing some of the tasks set out (for example a cloze paragraph, card sort and playdoh modelling task designed around the clip).  Other staff went to the top end table and thought about ways they might be able to use a Quality Question grid, or how asking students to ‘wear spectacles’ and view the lesson from someone else’s point of view.  It led to lots of new ideas and discussion about current practice and ideas we might want to trial in our own classrooms.

To summarise the session, staff filled in a ‘Top Hat’ and  a ‘Tail’ outlining other ideas or strategies for differentiation. We’ll include some of the ideas in a later blog post. We then spent some time working on creating our own adapted resources for use in lessons in the coming days.

Staff appreciate the useful format of having time to reflect on what they are already doing (using the balance wheel), share good practice and have time to create new resources.  Many of the ideas are well known and well used strategies, but it is often good to have a quick reminder.

The Learning Lunch Tackles Differentiation

differentiation 1Led by Sarah Lofthouse, staff gathered for the Learning Lunch and sat down for half an hour to talk about how they can differentiate for all types of pupils in their lessons. Whilst the general opinion was that the sandwiches were not of the usual favoured varieties, the discussion and ideas were up to the usual standard.

Sarah noted that it can be all to easy to make a note on the lesson plan that “differentiation will be by outcome”, and conversely for the teacher to spend hours producing several different graded worksheets. However there is much else than can be done quickly and without too much effort, which gives more helpful support and differentiation to pupils.

Teachers are already differentiating in many ways, but it is done intuitively as part of the every day job of teaching and facilitating learning in the classroom. Sometimes it is just a matter of highlighting to others that this is how you are doing it.

Seating plans

You have probably thought pretty carefully about where you seat each of the pupils who have special educational needs in your classroom. You have also probably thought about where you have sat the child who is chatty, or easily distracted, or who is particularly gifted in your subject – so this will have been part of your differentiation strategy, and is well worth a mention should anyone (observers) wish to know.

Group workdifferentiation 2.jpg

This is another way in which lots of teachers differentiate. There was much discussion on how to group and most agreed that there are different ways to group and each way can be suitable for different situations:

  • grouping with mixed ability in each group (could be done by looking at target grades);
  • putting all the pupils who need more support in one group if some would benefit from TA support and the TA then only has to work with one group – also allows the task to be easily differentiated between groups;
  • friendship groups, as often pupils will work and learn best with those who they feel most comfortable with;
  • groups organised based on relationships within the class which you know from experience work well.

However pupils are grouped, the ability to use this as a tool for differentiation is only really apparent when the expectations for how those groups operate and work well together are clearly set out by the teacher.

Take Ownership

At Beaumont School we place great importance on pupils using our “Skills for Success” (see the presentation by Nat Moody at the Beaumont TeachMeet in the menu page), one of which is Take Ownership. All pupils need to be encouraged to take ownership of their own learning, and knowing what your own targets are and what you need to do to get closer to those targets is an important part of that process. Setting sensible targets, and pupils being encouraged to regularly look at how they are progressing towards their targets, is another way to differentiate for ability groups.

Discussion moved on to the many other ways in which differentiation can take place – much of which is intuitive, but nonetheless effective:differentiation 3

  • being aware of what is happening in the lesson and moving on or slowing down as appropriate;
  • providing a choice in lessons regarding where to start on tasks or how work and learning is to be presented;
  • the teacher presenting information in different ways to accommodate different learning styles over a period of time;
  • perhaps providing a menu of tasks, possibly for home learning;
  • using the TA to support particular pupils on the same tasks as other pupils – providing guidance to the TA on what should be expected, or how the tasks can be broken down.

All the used by Sarah in the Learning Lunch can be found here, and also in the resources section in the menu.