Bring and Brag

IMG_0659Beaumont recently held it’s first Bring and Brag as part of a Teaching and Learning INSET. The idea is simple; every member of staff brought along an idea that could be easily explained in one minute, and the room was set up as a speed dating activity. In all, staff swapped ideas with around 10 other people and took away loads of new ideas! It was great to see everyone talking so enthusiastically about their own ideas, as well as making notes on what everyone else had to offer.

In between the two speed dating sessions, there was also a chance to have a lookIMG_3858 at the work that the Teaching and Learning team has been up to so far. Focussing on marking, two display boards were set up based on examples of great marking and ideas for reducing marking workload, and staff could also have a look at the numerous books laid out around the room. Andy Gray also set up a station demonstrating some of the new ideas for using technology in classrooms that will hopefully be adopted.

As an exit pass for the INSET all staff filled in a slip asking them two questions about what ideas they will take away from the session, and if there are any strategies for marking not already featured. Look out for a blog post on these ideas in the future.



Let’s bring an end to boring INSET

By Sue Lutz

After a buzzing MFL Teachmeet on Wednesday 3rd June, I headed home to relieve my babysitter, a friend who is also a teacher. On hearing that I had run a twilight training session, he started to sympathise because, at his school, there was a lot of negativity regarding INSET sessions. He described “death by powerpoint” and irrelevant training sessions, which I had to tell him just don’t happen at Beaumont. It is a real privilege to work in a school where there is such a positive culture surrounding development of teaching and learning. The twilight Teaching and Learning INSET sessions are relaxed and enjoyable, being in a small group format and mixing staff from a variety of departments so that you can get a real range of ideas. Far from the grumbling described by my friend, my Teaching and Learning group was characterised by laughter. It is a shame that too many teachers still experience training where they are simply lectured at, an approach they would never countenance with their own classes, when there is so much more to be gained by having a chance to talk about teaching with as wide a range of colleagues as possible. Let’s hope that the Beaumont T&L model of show and tell sessions, Teachmeets and generating enthusiasm in all sorts of ways will be spread across as many schools as possible, bringing an end to boring INSET.

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.

Spreading our wings

By Jo Cavanagh

comments postitOn the 23rd September Zoe, Nat and I had the privilege of being asked to deliver an INSET  on marking and feedback to the teaching staff at the Hemel Hempstead School. Our presentation revolved around our journey in terms of marking of students work, creating a dialogue with students and our OFSTED experience. The important aspect of the session however, was to encourage Hemel staff to discuss and share their own best practice. We asked teachers to write on a post-it note one top tip for speeding up marking, encouraging dialogue, their best stamp – basically something to do with marking. Below are the ideas they came up with.

Teacher/student Dialogue ideas (in no particular order)

  • Set a specific task that must be completed;
  • Use a pre-prepared feedback sheet and get students to stick it in before taking books in;
  • ‘Fix it’ – a section of work to rewrite;
  • Set a clear and specific target with an example;
  • Create half a dozen follow up questions that you project on the board at start of the next lesson and tell students which ones they need to look at when you write a comment; circulate, mark and put a sticker on;
  • Verbal feedback and flag this with a stamp. Students write date, the feedback give and action they need to take;
  • Essays have cover sheet which invites student comments;
  • Assessment feedback; target grade; current grade; 2 positive comments and one target for improvement;
  • Literacy support e.g. good x 3 means write 3 new words you can use;
  • Don’t state the exact issue, give them a clue, get them to think about it e.g. what is wrong with the layout of this document?
  • Use a ‘check your spellings’, ‘Capital letters’ and ‘full stop’ stamp to highlight errors.
  • Ask a question to check student understanding;
  • Encourage peer target setting using a mark scheme – to be checked by the teacher;
  • Ask students how they could improve;
  • Highlight effective work with a highlighter pen;
  • Top Tip stickers;
  • Pose a question with a timescale for the answer;
  • Ask pupil to re-write the weakest paragraph of an essay. Explain how they could improve it;
  • Star Task to extend student’s work if they have produced accurate work and everything is correct. Student then answers the question;
  • Students write their own targets;
  • Assessment cards for coursework that have rows for each accessible section and columns to show feedback and response for each deadline;
  • Question that can be answered in one sentence;
  • Sections in workbooks at key points for evaluation;
  • Medal and a mission (medal =positive feedback; mission=how to improve);
  • Students to copy questions they got wrong from mymaths HWK into their books – then have another go;
  • Give a specific area for improvement linked to a grade/mark development;
  • Make sure students get TIME to correct/develop work;
  • Next step targets;
  • Set a specific topic area as a target. Student then has to copy an exam question related to particular topic and complete in marking feedback time in class;
  • Get students to write and comment on their progress in the lesson. What we have achieved.

Townsend School Market Place

By Helen Wilson

use and choose 2In a return invite following the market place event at Beaumont School in the summer term 2013, Townsend School staff opened their doors for a Teaching and Learning Market Place. On 17 June, all the staff from Beaumont School travelled to Townsend School in St Albans to talk to teachers about the ideas they had been using, and which were set out in a series of stalls which could be visited over the course of the INSET session. Beaumont School staff were given a “Use and Choose” slip to be completed during the event. The “Use” section needed to include something which they already have in their Teaching and Learning repertoire. In the “Choose” section, staff were encouraged to note an idea which they came across which  they could adapt to their own teaching in some way. The slips were collected in at the end of the event and ideas on both sections of the form were many and varied. A small selection can be seen in the photos and the list below. More will be found in the next edition of the Beaumont Teaching and Learning Newsletter later in the term.use and choose 3

“Choose” ideas

  • A display board updated with what will be happening next week;
  • The 4 B’s. Brain, book, buddy – before you ask the boss (teacher);
  • Verbal feedback stamps;
  • Questioning cards, on a small key ring, coloured and adapted from Bloom’s taxonomy;
  • Adapt the game Monopoly to revise lots of aspects of a topic;
  • An opinion washing line in languages with vocabulary running from best to worst along the line;
  • Using “speed stories” to record prior knowledge;
  • Use of the acronym “MRI” for “my response is…” in books for marking;
  • Challenge Corner in classrooms;
  • Use of the games “Call Them All” and “Taboo” for key vocabulary terms;
  • Individual learning logs which travel with the pupil and are with, but not stuck into, books.

use and choose 1We would like to thank the teachers at Townsend School for inviting us and sharing all their ideas.

Magic Marking

marking and feedbackWith reports of teachers spending 60 hours a week working, there is always a need to consider how we can make life just a little bit easier. However many teachers quite  rightly feel that time  marking pupils’ work is simply one area which cannot be eaten in to – there is just no substitute for the feedback which pupils receive from properly marked work.

Our Teaching & Learning INSET focused on ideas that might help staff find ways to reduce the time spent marking, but without losing the quality of feedback which pupils receive. We wanted to look at how  we could help students progress with effective and timely feedback and think about whether we are giving pupils the information and time they need to reflect and understand how they can improve in the future. As usual, in our small working groups, staff discussed what they currently do, their concerns and problems, and we shared ideas and tried to support each other in finding ways to reduce time but increase the impact of our marking strategies. We started by marking a piece of work individually and then looking at the ways we had approached this.  Did we take the same amount of time?  Did we find the criteria for marking helpful? What are we looking for when we mark?  how long did it take and could we reduce the time taken?

RAG123Thanks to @Listerkev, Helen Wilson and Sarah Lofthouse have been trialling a system known as RAG123, where books are marked much more often (every lesson in an ideal world) and pupils take part in the marking by assessing both their effort and understanding. This powerpoint was discussed in the INSET, but there is lots more detail in this blog post (and the related links within it) from @ListerKev and on twitter using the hashtag #RAG123. The powerpoint used in our INSET also includes quotes from our own pupils when feedback was discussed by the student voice group. Some staff (eg Fiona Pinkerton in Science) use the idea of “Praises and Raises” codes – pupils receive a code in their book which they can then relate to a list of strengths and targets and find their specific feedback. There was a great deal of discussion about how the different ideas could be applied to various subjects and many staff thought about particular adaptions that they would make to a variety of ideas raised.

Moving onto the feedback we give to pupils, staff were asked to brainstorm about what would be totally ineffective and unhelpful feedback.  We then looked at how we could address these issues.  Examples included making feedback in a timely fashion and allowing pupils sufficient time to act on targets given. Through our student voice group, we also had thought from pupils about what was helpful to them when receiving feedback through marking – these ideas can be seen on the Power point.magic marking stars

A sheet of ideas about reducing marking workload was given to staff before they were asked to give some feedback to the T&L team on the INSETs run this year and also add their own ideas to some “Magic Marking” stars (some of these are already on the staff noticeboard, others will appear on the blog in a later post, in the T&L newsletter and on more cards for the black boxes).

Marking and feedback are a continual source of discussion among teachers, and there no real “right” answers. There are other ideas to read from Belmont Teach in this article. Hopefully you will find something in all of this to try for yourself – if you do, and you want to share you adaptations with us, please get in contact via twitter or email.

Quality Questioning Quails

Questioning QuailAt the end of the INSET on Questioning, staff were asked to complete a “Questioning Quail” with an idea which they would like to share with others – a way to engage pupils with a questioning technique, or something which would help pupils develop ideas through questioning. Below are some of the ideas which came from those quails – thanks to everyone for your amazing contributions. questioning quails

  • Globe knockout – pupils take it in turns to throw the globe to each other and ask a question on the topic to try to knock them out. They must know the answer themselves in order to be able to knock someone else out.
  • For a new topic, students come up with 3 questions about this particular topic that they have always found interesting, which they should be able to answer by the end of the topic.
  • Working backwards – Give pupils 3-6 key words (answers) at the start of the lesson (be sure answers will be provided in the lesson). Pupils write the question which links to the answer at the end of the lesson.
  • Question Carousel – Each student has an answer to a question. On the back they have a question. These can be tailored to different abilities and students can have easy/hard question which ends with every one answered.
  • Heal or steal to improve on a question asked or steal the answer.
  • Question relay – Ask students to come up with their own questions related to a topic. Any student that can give a correct answer gets to ask the next question.
  • Using the fortune teller for GCSE students – as the topic progresses pupils make up exam questions A-C and write on the coloured dot according to the grade. Assemble at the end of the topic and use to revise in class by verbally testing each other.
  • If this is the answer what is the question? If this is an extract from an exam response, what was the question?
  • Change any questions to “what questions do you still have?”
  • Try posing 3 questions at once and students choose which to answer.
  • Give students a % correctness of their answer and get other pupils to build and perfect.
  • Students can choose to give a 1,2,3 point answer. You can then get others to improve it to a 2 or 3 pointer or challenge the original student to gain another point.
  • What’s in the bag? Have an object/picture/person/place etc inside a bag. Students have to work out what’s in the bag by asking the teacher a question. Teacher may only reply with a yes or no.
  • Give each students a blank envelope with a question inside it. Ask them to guess the question and write it on the envelope. At some point in the lesson, ask students to open the envelope and answer the question. Students love the suspense and it shows their prior learning as they try to guess the question.
  • Question plenary – Students write 2/3 questions about the lesson or topic and they quiz one another. If they couldn’t answer the question they need to find someone who can or go away and find out. The questions could be things they don’t know and then they find someone who can help.
  • Make questioning a competition. Split students into groups. The groups that asks/answers the best quality questions or answer in the lesson wins – normally chocolate. This encourages better quality answers and students to ask better questions. It is even better if it is carried through a topic with a leaderboard.
  • Pupils create questions using starter sentences e.g. who, what, where, why etc

The Questioning Quails have arrived

question marksIn our Teaching and Learning INSET sessions at Beaumont, we always try to demonstrate the ideas we are aiming to raise and discuss, by using them in the session itself. For our third T&L INSET of this year we focused on how to use questioning in lessons in order to assess understanding, increase engagement and promote depth in pupil learning. We tried out and discussed a variety of techniques during the session and staff (as ever) were enthusiastic about about sharing their own ideas.

The first slide on this powerpoint shows the questions we talked about first – showing questions at the start of the lesson as pupils arrive is always a good way to get them thinking right from their arrival in the room, the trick being to find the “right” questions. We then went on to play “pass the parcel” (yes, we had a real parcel and music – thanks Dave) and inside each layer was a new question which we could discuss. This idea could be used in small groups to promote discussion amongst peers, or as a whole class for assessing understanding and promoting further learning. As a whole class teaching and assessing device, it works at it’s best when the questions are “bounced” around – using the ideas from one pupil to feed the understanding and further ideas from others. The technique of “pose, pause, pounce, bounce” promoted by @TeacherToolkit is a useful tool here. The questions we discussed in our pass the parcel were:pass the parcel

  • What do you do about the student who always says “I don’t know”?
  • How can you ensure the class listen to and build upon the responses of others?
  • How do you encourage students to ask quality questions before, during and after your lessons?
  • How do you ensure your questions cater for all abilities whilst making sure all students are engaged?
  • What is the best question you have ever been asked by a student?

thinking diceWe then had a go at using the “Thinking Dice” by throwing these lovely soft cubes of questions around the room and thinking up questions as we went along. Something similar with particular questions could be produced by pupils (cube nets are very easy to generate) or by using the dice which have a little whiteboard on each face (see the advent calendar).

A treasure hunt followed where we had time to think about how some very useful questions can be used with a very powerful effect – allowing pupils to make connections, extend their thinking, provide more depth in their answers, but also teach the idea that learning is also about them asking quality questions of their teacher (Skills for Success strikes again!).

Staff then spent some time thinking about a lesson they were going to teach the next day, using the questioning triangle and answers triangle to plan their questions for the lesson. They considered:

  • When they were going to ask the question (at which point in the lesson);
  • How they were going to ask the question (a technique we had talked about or another they already knew to be successful);
  • How the answers might affect the rest of the lesson (there is space to write these thoughts at the bottom of the sheet).

Most felt that this process was extremely valuable as it showed how by deciding upon the questions for a lesson, and considering what a teacher does with the results, allows the lesson to be very effectively planned.Questioning Quail

It was then time for a bit of origami, as those teachers who could remember fortune tellers from their primary school days deftly demonstrated the technique of folding which had previously allowed them to find out which primary school classmate was to be their future husband (or wife!). These fortune tellers are a lovely engaging way to get pupils asking and discussing questions, perhaps even designing their own in order to challenge their peers.questioning quails

Finally, the Questioning Quails were brought out so that staff could write down ideas which they already use and know to be successful ready for sharing around the school. Some ideas are already in the nest of Questioning Quails in the staff room, some will be made into cards for the ever growing black box of ideas, and we will put a list of as many as we can in a blog post once they have all been gathered in.