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.

Beaumont Maths Week

By Fiona Rosler

The idea to run “Beaumont Maths Week” arose after attending the Beaumont Teachmeet last November. I attended Sue Lutz’s seminar on “Raising the profile of your department” and came away feeling inspired. I wanted to do something that would get students thinking about the maths skills they were learning and how they could apply them in other areas, and also wanted to promote enthusiasm and excitement for maths around the school.maths cakes

We launched Maths week with an assembly where I shared the story of how I was drawn to the subject of maths when I was in school and the aspects of the subject which I found difficult. The idea of doing an assembly was quite a daunting prospect, but I knew that it would create the right kind of buzz about the subject and the activities that were coming up. I booked myself in for an assembly slot before I could overthink the idea and talk myself out of doing it so, although I didn’t sit down to properly plan what I would speak about until February half term, the thought process began months before and I always had a vague idea of what I wanted. I felt nervous before I began but once I started talking the story just came naturally. The high that I felt when I finished (and realised that people liked it) was amazing and it’s something I’m really glad I did.

maths cake 2There were various activities run during “Maths Week”. Because the idea had formed in my mind so early on in the year, I actually had a few months of being able to let ideas float around in my mind and decide what was good and what wasn’t, or what would work better than something else. This meant that when I sat down to actually write the challenges and questions I had a clear idea of what I wanted.

The staff questions were a big hit and I was so pleased with the response from so many different departments – who knew we had so many talented mathematicians? The competitive element obviously made it a bit of fun and I’m already thinking about more difficult questions for next year. It was really great the way staff talked about the quiz with their classes and the students who helped teachers couldn’t wait to come and brag about it to the maths department.

There were house activities for each year group and again, the response from these was amazing. It was great to see so many students working on problems together and to have students come up to me to chat about what they were doing and see the enthusiasm and excitement it had created.

There was the Numeracy based T&L Challenge which staff also got involved in and which really highlighted how numeracy skills can be transferred across subjects.maths cakes 4

As the finale, we ran a Maths-themed bake off and cake sale for the 6th form. This was the part I was most worried about as I knew that if there weren’t enough entries we couldn’t then have the cake sale that had been advertised. Believe it or not, I actually had dreams the night before about setting up a shop with nothing to sell, My fears were unfounded however – we had so many entries that looked and tasted amazing and the subsequent cake sale was so popular that it only lasted about ten minutes before we were completely sold out. We raised almost £90 which we donated to the National Numeracy Organisation whose work you can read about here.

maths cakes 3For the week to be successful, there was a lot to organise, but with everyone in  the lovely Maths Department pitching in, as well as the 6th form Maths Captains, all of the effort was definitely worth it. I was so pleased with the response from staff and students and am already looking forward to next year.

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

In loco parentis – How much parenting should teachers do?

By Elena Dundjerovic

As a Head of Year, I deal with young people outside of the classroom, helping them to manage their personal and educational lives. Through this role, I am fortunate enough to meet a number of parents and have learned an incredible amount, not only about the importance of strong parenting skills, but also about the huge range that exists in this important skill set. So when the opportunity to attend a 6 week course about parenting teenagers came up, I leapt at the opportunity.teenagers

At first, I felt a bit of fraud, as I was asked how old my children were. When I responded that they were 7 and 5 years old, I could tell that the other parents thought I was being a bit over zealous. However, once I explained that I was a teacher, this mood seemed to settle.

The content of the course was extremely practical. I learnt ‘how to increase your confidence in your skills and abilities to parent’ and ‘how to help the relationship between you and your teenager be even better than it is now’. The real nitty gritty came later with ‘how to teach skills for helping your teenagers to be more secure emotionally and to raise their self-esteem’ and to ‘identify the best way to effectively discipline your teenager’.

Approaching the end of the course, we were asked to reflect on what we were going to do with what we had learnt, and that’s where I came a bit unstuck. How much of the course should I and would I be able to use with the students that I teach?

One exercise involved choices and consequences. For illustration purposes, let’s say the child is called ‘Bob’.

‘Bob, you have a choice, you can either (insert positive action). Or you can (insert negative action). If you choose (positive action) then (positive outcome). But, if you choose (negative action) then (negative outcome). It’s up to you, it’s your choice’.

Great stuff. One for all trainee teachers to store in their toolbox. Or is it? Can you, as a teacher, afford for a student to pursue the negative action in your class to the detriment of other students? With careful planning, this would be an excellent way to manage a challenging student. I certainly wouldn’t recommend using it ‘off the cuff’ in a lesson.

And I think this is the main point of understanding what our ‘duty of care’ is as teachers towards our students. How do you occupy a parental role with a class of 30? I think that the phrase ‘in loco parentis’ is really being tested in schools today. This is in spite of a move away from it and towards a more preferable (and realistic) phrase – ‘duty of care’. Schools are having to educate pupils more and more about self-harm, e-safety, building self-esteem – is this really part of our remit? We are not social workers, but more and more emotional needs are creeping into schools at an alarming rate. Why is this? The answer does not lie in this post but is certainly a topic of much current debate in the education sector.

‘In seeking to equate the role of the reasonable and caring parent with that of the teacher there are immediately difficulties. Parents do not have 25 or 30 children to control and supervise at any one time.

……Hence teachers who ask “What would a prudent parent do in this situation?” may give themselves a misleading answer. Parental concern derives from natural love and affection for the child. The concern of a teacher derives from a different source.’

(https://www.torbay.gov.uk/sl01_loco_parentis.d)

Whichever way you look at it, there is one thing that unites parents and teachers – we all want the best for the teenagers in our care. How we manage this is another matter. One hand-out we were given on the course was called ‘Top Tips for Parenting Teenagers’. I have listed the points –

  • Be a positive role model
  • Be open
  • Get to know their friends
  • Ask them what they think about specific issues
  • EMPATHY IS YOUR ACE CARD. Look for the feelings behind their behaviour

If this was a test, teachers would score 99%. This is what we are trained to do. And I think that’s why I found it tricky to identify what I could use in school because so much of it is done already. Being a positive role model and being open are absolutely fundamental skills for a successful teacher. You have to lead by example and demonstrate the qualities that you are looking for in your students. At the beginning of each year, I always tell my students ‘whatever I expect of you, you can expect of me’. Students know where we all stand and we can all hold each other accountable. Getting to know their friends is a gift for a teacher. It’s not a skill. You don’t have a choice in the matter and boy, does it make it a difference in understanding students’ behaviour. Finally, ask them what they think about specific issues. That’s our job. It doesn’t work unless we do. Empathy is your ace card – this is the fundamental issue. Looking for feelings behind our students’ behaviour should be a high priority of all teachers in my opinion, but do we dedicate enough time to do it? I am in a fortunate position as a Head of Year to gain a more detailed insight into the lives of my year group. We cannot escape the fact that ‘students bring their lives into the classroom; they do not leave their problems and feelings at the door’ (www.empathyed.org). Do we train teachers in this skill enough? Empathy might just be the missing 1% to help teachers ace the ‘top tips’ test.

Learning Lunch – Pupil Presentation

A group of Beaumont staff met together on Fri 13th March for a tasty lunch and a discussion about pupil presentation. We started by trying to guess/work out the national curriculum level for the national curriculum level descriptions for writing (English KS2 NC).  We talked about the expectations on punctuation, grammar and spellings as well as the element on presentation.

Sarah Lofthouse then presented findings from a student questionnaire (see this questionnaire and the PowerPoint which includes graphical data).    We looked at the reasons students give about whether presentation is important or not.  Most students agree that presentation gives a good impression and is useful to them in terms of having clear notes to revise from.

We looked at two statements from our OFSTED report (March 2014) and thought about how important presentation may (or may not) be and what gender differences there are.  We could see that student presentation at our school is generally good but there is a definite slip in presentation from boys from KS3 into KS4 (from data collected from over 100 students).

We brainstormed ideas about the ways we, as classroom teachers, could help students improve their presentation. The ideas which arose are on the last two slides of the powerpoint.

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:

http://headguruteacher.com/2013/01/06/behaviour-management-a-bill-rogers-top-10/

http://topnotchteaching.com/experts/behaviour-management-strategies/

http://www.theguardian.com/society/joepublic/2010/feb/09/pupil-behaviour-management-tips

Become a Magpie!

By Sarah Hosegood

twitter image 2Following our Learning Lunch on getting to grips with technology, several staff decided to get signed in with a twitter account. When starting out in Twitter it is always good to have a few people to initially follow. Once you have followed them for a couple of weeks you can see who they follow and re-tweet and then start to branch out. The list below gives you some people who tweet general teaching and learning ideas which can be then adapted to lots of different subjects. It is also worth looking out for people who specialise in your subject.

@teachertoolkit – the most followed teacher in the UK. He also has a blog with lots of articles related to a wide range of teaching and learning www.teachertoolkit.me

@ASTSupportAAli – also look at his blog which has a lot of free teaching and learning ideas www.cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.co.uk

@Tombrush1982 – a PE teacher who posts some good teaching and learning ideas which can be adapted to other subjects

@OTeaching – authors of the books Engaging Learning and Teaching Backwards. They also work in a lot of schools and post pictures of ideas they have seen

@Gemmaharvey73 – a Sandringham teacher who also has a blog with lots of teaching and learning ideas www.gemmaharvey73@blogspot.co.uk

@Wendy21brown – she attended our teachmeet and works in a variety of schools across the country. She posts lots of ideas she sees.

@hannahtyreman – is in charge of teaching and learning at Reading College

@ICTEvangelist – specialises in using technology and Google in the classroom

@rlj1981 – teaching and learning co-ordinator who also has an excellent website www.createinnovateexplore.com

@pedagoo – has an excellent website as well www.pedagoo.org and look out or the #pedagoofridays when hundreds of teachers share good ideas

@FullonLearning – a member of SLT at Clevedon School and in charge of the Clevedon Learning Hub

To search for these accounts use the magnifying icon on the top right when you click on ‘home’.

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.

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!