Be Persistent – The Ballot

By Helen Wilson

Be Persistent voteBack in September 2014 we set ourselves the task of raising awareness amongst our year 10 and 11 pupils of the need to Be Persistent. It was the beginning of what we saw as “Phase 2” of the Skills for Success Programme. As explained in this post, we launched the idea through assemblies and through the “envelope activity” which both pupils and staff took part in. As the term progressed, we talked about “Being Persistent” in lessons, persevering even when things are hard, being prepared to start over and try again and again to achieve a goal. We heard teachers in the staff room talking about the challenge they had set themselves in their envelopes; pupils were heard reminding each other to “stick at it” and “Be Persistent”. In form rooms, posters appeared celebrating the successes and achievements of pupils who had met personal goals.

Towards the end of the term, there were two things we wanted to do to continue to raise the profile of this important skill:

1. Open the envelopes

2. Reward those who had really shown what Being Persistent meant in some way over the term.

Pupils opened their Be Persistent envelope in the last week of term and tutors were given this guidance to help lead a short reflection as the envelopes were returned to their authors. The important idea was to let those who had met their goal feel that real sense of achievement which comes when you have to work hard at something, but also to encourage discussion of strategies for the future to help those who needed more encouragement to continue with persevering to achieve their goal.

As staff we realised that just simply rewarding pupils who had achieved something over the course of the term did not really fit the bill. We wanted to reward and acknowledge the pupils who had persevered, sometimes against the odds, even if they had not yet achieved what they were working towards. We felt that the people who would know best who had been really putting in the effort, were the pupils themselves. Hence we set up the Be Persistent Ballot at for year 10 and 11 pupils at the end of term.ballot 2

ballot 1We advertised the ballot through assemblies and posters; made ballot boxes and set up a polling station; gave each pupil their own personalised polling card; set a date for pupils to go and vote at break time and lunchtime; and then waited nervously – would they “get it” – the fact that they were the ones who knew and could tell us who had been persevering? We needn’t have worried – the turn out was 72% of both year groups – better than any recent UK general election. The comments made on the nomination forms were touching and showed how much the pupils really understood about persevering even when it’s hard. Certificates and rewards were given out to pupils with the highest numbers of nominations in end of year assemblies – to enthusiastic clapping and cheering, and all pupils who were nominated by at least one other member of their year group will receive certificates in the new year. Hopefully the process will have highlighted that the perseverance is as important as the goal achieved.

So what makes a good assembly?

miss shepherd assemblyBy Zoe Shepherd

I am starting my thirteenth year of teaching (unlucky for some). I have seen a lot of assemblies, some good, some bad and some a bit ugly. So before I started planning my own I thought it only right to think about what makes this traditional element of education effective.

As a Drama teacher, I believe there are crucial things such as volume, tone, pause and emphasis that cannot be ignored. You are trying to engage over 300 students for 20 minutes. If you do not think about how you will use your most effective teaching tool in this situation you are missing a trick. Public speaking and presentations are such an integral part of the workplace that we must show our students how to do it effectively. Even after a career as an actor I still rehearse in front of a mirror, I stop and go back to improve how I might deliver one of the vital lines I have composed in order to make my message clear.

Some of the best assemblies I have seen have a personal touch. Some Beaumont staff may remember Charles Cross and the pick and mix assembly or Andy Goodwin’s wife’s onesie. In my opinion this personal touch lets the students see that we are human. We are not robots or strange creatures that live in our classroom cupboards. In doing this we open a window and allow our students to see a part of us they do not normally see in the classroom. We make our audience feel special.

Finally, I was fortunate enough to be able to do an assembly about something I feel passionate about, working hard and not giving up when things get tough. Find a way to be passionate about what you are talking about in your assemblies, you will engage your audience and make them reflect as they are leaving if you do. Surely that is the point of the whole thing?

Be Persistent

20140520-221553-80153485.jpgSeptember 2014 sees the launch of Phase 2 of the Skills for Success Programme at Beaumont where we will be focusing attention on “Be Persistent” in our pupils’ learning. We want to help them see that by persevering with tasks and skills which they find difficult, they can go on to achieve great things. We will be giving assemblies on the idea of persevering, by using examples from people in the school community and from more famous people who pupils may be able to identify with. We will be giving pupils the chance to take part in the Be Persistent Envelope Task (write down something you feel less confident with and what you are going to persevere with this term, put it in an envelope and then we’ll take them in until Christmas when they can reflect on what they have achieved – staff are taking part too). Click here for the content of the cards we will be giving to pupils for this task and here for the tutor instructions to help run the task.

We are also keen for staff to promote the idea of Be Persistent in all lessons – as we do for all the Skills for Success skills – and have provided them with a tip sheet of ideas for simple things that can be done in every lesson with little or no extra planning. The sheet can be downloaded here.

The Skills for Success blog (see Skills for Success on the menu bar on the homepage, or by clicking here) is a growing source of videos which can be used in tutor time to help show what we mean by Be Persistent.

Skills for Success Marking

S4S stickersBy Andy Gray (RE)

Whilst I appreciate the importance of giving time for pupils to respond to feedback after their books have been marked, I have often found it challenging to ensure that the “book polishing” completed by students is sufficiently detailed and meaningful. In order to increase both the amount and the quality of teacher-pupil dialogue, I have started using some newly created marking stickers. These stickers have been developed over a period of time with the entire RE department working on the project to ensure that the stickers met the needs of all.

We wanted to create stickers which linked to our Skills for Success programme. All pupils are familiar with what is meant by a ‘Quality Question’; they recognise that they need to ‘Take Ownership’ in all their work and studies;  and they understand how to ‘Use Information’ appropriately to help develop their skills and understanding. By making clear references to skills that students are already familiar with, we felt that there would be an increase in the quality of student responses. Additionally, we decided to incorporate the new area of focus in ‘Phase 2’ of the S4S programme: ‘Be Persistent’.

As a result of using the stickers, the teacher-student dialogue  has become more meaningful and of a higher quality. Pupil are taking more of an active role in the dialogue, asking their own questions and personally reflecting on how their work could be improved. Below are some examples of the stickers in action and the pupil responses that they have generated.

Sticker examples

Skills for Success – Phase 2

By Helen Wilson

20140520-221553-80153485.jpgWe’ve long been proud of our Skills for Success programme, developed internally to help our pupils develop skills which will enable them to both learn well and achieve highly. In September, the cohort of pupils who have been experiencing the programme of integrated activities and teaching and learning techniques from their arrival at the school in year 7, will move into year 10. These pupils understand well the skills they need to develop in order to succeed both in their studies and beyond school life – they know what is meant by a “Quality Question”; they understand that just being in a lesson is not enough – they need to “Tune In”; they recognise the need to “Take Ownership”. We realised that we no longer have to help them understand the language and see what it means to them individually, although they still need activities to help them practise those skills both in Form Time and in lessons. However, we felt that we needed to move the programme on to PHASE TWO.

The area where we had not focused so far, which was on our original list of skills but needed to come after the BIG FIVE had been embedded into our school culture, was “BE PERSISTENT”. We will be integrating this idea and language into all activities for other year groups, and providing staff with ideas for how to help pupils with this skill in lesson time (if anyone has a useful idea for helping promote persistence in lessons, please let us know through the comments on the blog, or via twitter). But for year 10 and above, we will have some activities which will directly focus on the need to persevere when times are hard, on skills that are difficult, in areas where they feel less confident. We want to help address the issues raised by business leaders (in the words of James Dyson):

“But that’s the point about analysis and failure. Failure is so much more interesting because you learn from it. That’s what we should be teaching children at school, that being successful the first time, there’s nothing in it. There’s no interest, you learn nothing actually”

In addition, the Beaumont Teaching and Learning blog is getting a sibling – the Beaumont Skills for Success blog. Click on the link to see some resources and latest news from the Skill for Success programme. Eventually there will be one site from which you can access both our blogs easily, and new posts will be tweeted from both blogs through @BeaumontTL

We’ll let you know when the new site is up and running, but in the meantime Look out for resources and developments as we move into Skills for Success – Phase 2. There are exciting times ahead.


Revision tips in a video

Zoe and AndyAs part of our revision activities for years 7 to 10, helping pupils to prepare for their end of year exams after half term (see the previous post “Taking ownership in Revision Time”), we will show a video which was put together by our fabulous colleague Andy Gray (@gray_aj ). The video, which can be found here or in the resources section of the blog, features members of staff (including our Headteacher, Elizabeth Hitch) and some of our Sixth Form students explaining their own tips for revision – things which they  have personally found useful. The video follows the leaflet of revision tips very closely and also allows pupils to see how the Skills for Success, which they are encouraged to use throughout the year, become equally important in preparing for tests and exams.


Taking Ownership in Revision Time

As the year 11 students start their study leave, attention starts to turn towards the exam week looming for all our pupils in years 7 to 10. It’s hard for pupils in the lower school (year 7 in particular) to recognise what we mean when we tell them that they need to start to do some revision for their end of year exams after half term. They haven’t really come across the phenomenon before – preparing for tests in all their subjects can be pretty daunting, especially when they often do not have a clear idea about what they will actually DO in order to revise.revision tips

The Teaching & Learning team have been working on a short programme of activities for form tutors to run in two 45 minute tutor time sessions in the run up to half term, tailored to the needs of each year group. These sessions will be preceded by pupils receiving their exam timetables and information about what format the tests in each subject will take. The sessions also link closely with our Skills for Success programme, where one of our key skills is Taking Ownership of your learning.

The sessions focus on two aspects of preparation – planning revision time and revision techniques. A short video of revision tips from staff and older pupils will also be shown. Resources for each of the revision sessions can be found here, or in the resources section on the home page.

Collaboration …. with a cup of tea

By Helen Wilson

cup of teaAt about the same time as Zoe was writing her book review (here), I was also reading Ross McGill’s book “100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers” and, like Zoe, found a number of nice ideas and many reminders of tips and tricks. However I got ever so slightly uncomfortable when I read the section entitled “Don’t drink and teach!”. Now first let me clarify a couple of things: the section is not about refraining from alcohol consumption whilst teaching, but about refraining from having a cup of tea while in the classroom; and Ross himself noted that the idea might cause controversy and so my low level irritation was predicted. Ross, as you would expect, made some excellent points about the presence of a cup of tea in the classroom – what if an accident happened? (I would be very upset about a spillage on my iPad, I’m sure the IT people would be equally upset about a computer keyboard and a pupil would be upset by a tea stain on their pristine exercise book). 100 teaching ideasI also realise that if having a cup of tea available means that the teacher feels the need to ignore the 30 pupils in the room, put their feet up on the desk and stare into the distance thinking that a nice scone would go down well, then the cup of tea probably isn’t a good idea. However, let me paint a different picture. One where the cup of tea is representative of a level of collaboration in the teaching team that can only have a positive effect on the learning experience of pupils.

In the maths department where I work, my head of department (the lovely Mr Kevin Smith) sometimes brings in a cup of tea to me while I am teaching. I am always extremely grateful because, well, I like a cup of tea. Do I always drink to bottom of the tea before it goes cold? No. Do the pupils all grasp their exercise books to their chests in fear of a tea stain? No. But does Mr Smith get to see what my class are doing, get a chance to chat to a few pupils, help a pupil who is struggling that I haven’t had chance to get to  yet? Absolutely, and in a very relaxed manner without having to give the impression that he is ‘observing’ my lesson. What do the pupils see? They see me as someone in a team of teachers – a team who support each other.maths mug

More generally, as a team of teachers, we often take each other a cup of tea, or coffee, or whatever drink is preferred. We go into each other’s classroom and often see something wonderful happening and then ask each other about it later – “that looked a really cool activity you were doing this morning – tell me about it”.  The tea is not the only reason we wander into each others’ lessons – we share classrooms a lot and often leave behind resources, or forget that we need something in another room – but the culture of wandering in and out of classrooms is fairly prevalent. Not only do we get to see the great things that other teachers in the department are doing, but we support each other in answering questions from pupils and in accessing materials and resources.

What do the pupils see in all this? – a team of teachers who are all working together to ensure that pupils achieve as well they can in their studies. As a department, we aim to ensure that pupils feel that they can access the support they need from anyone in the department, not just their own teacher. If they have a problem with homework, there are lots of people who can help them. By all supporting each other in a way which is visible to the students, we ensure that pupils feel they have a whole team of people supporting them.

This practice is something which I understand is rife across departments at Beaumont School. Not only are we working collaboratively to share resources and ideas, but by making it very visible, we are allowing the pupils to see that collaboration is a sensible way to work and something which they too should be prepared to do if they are to succeed.

I know that this is not what Ross was trying to stop when he suggested that a cup of tea in the classroom was a bad idea, but I for one would be sad to see it disappear.

Sharing our love of the TeachMeet

by Jo Cavanagh

JoCav teachmeet 1On the back of our very successful TeachMeet in November 2013, I was asked to present at Bentley Wood’s Teachmeet on the 16th January on our  “Washing Line of Ideas”. The presentation was to last up to 2 minutes – a pretty tall order when there were so many ideas to share. On arrival at Bentley Wood I was very impressed with the set up, particularly when I discovered that every delegate received a goodie bag!JoCav teachmeet 2

The presentations over the course of the evening were fantastic, ranging from “The Power of Film Club” to “Dispelling the Myths of TeachFirst”. Particular highlights for me were presentations by James Davies and Sarah Robertson from Hertswood Academy. Sarah presented on independent learning strategies, essentially C3B4ME (see 3 before me). Students were shown talking about how they could improve their work with very little  input from the teacher, which was very impressive. James talked about Hertswood’s peer assessment strategy,  which is currently aimed at year 7. The idea that got me particularly excited was their use of effort descriptors, where students self-assess using outstanding to unsatisfactory criteria. I was so struck by this idea that, after getting home quite late, I devised some of my own descriptors to be used with my year 9 class the following day.  It worked brilliantly and I loved the fact that the students were so honest about their performance. I will definitely use them again.Jo

Attending the TeachMeet got me excited about teaching all over again. At a time when it seems that every day brings new pressures, it is nice to get back to basics and talk about teaching and learning  with colleagues. Bring on Beaumont’s second TeachMeet on the 10th July!