Upton TEEP Peeps and marking tips

This week the Upton TEEP Champs and E learning facilitators (ELFs) delivered TEEP peeps to their colleagues. Below are the resources they used.

You are the examiner by Mr Caine and Mrs DeCosta

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Click on the links below to download the resources for this TEEP Peep:

You are the Examiner (1) You are the examiner worksheet – lower (1) You are the examiner worksheet – higher (2)

snakes and ladders template (2) Playing Cards Template (3)  blank_wordsearch_grid – Higher (1) blank_wordsearch_grid – Lower (1)

Growth Mindset by Mrs Critchley and Mr Keegan, with a lot of help from Mrs Connor – All Hallows  in Macclesfield

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Click on the links below to download the resources for this TEEP Peep:

TEEP PEEP 24.2.15 (2)

Revision Party presented by Miss McLean, Mrs Smale, Miss Summers and Mrs Melville

We can’t give you the option to download the presentation due to copyright issues, but I think you will get the idea.

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Brain food

How technology in schools has changed over time: This is too difficult to read. Click on it to zoom in.

How-Technology-in-Schools-Has-Changed-Over-Time-Infographic (1)


How to reduce your workload – working smart: http://teachertoolkit.me/2015/02/28/the-5minworkloadplan-by-teachertoolkit-and-leadinglearner/


 Article of the week 

How to make marking more efficient: three new techniques for teachers

English teacher Andrew Tharby shares his advice on how to significantly reduce the time spent marking while improving the quality of feedback for students
Marking techniques
Andrew Tharby uses the gallery critique technique to help students receive detailed feedback from their peers. Photograph: Alamy

In Ted Hughes’ visceral first world war poem, Bayonet Charge, a young soldier experiences a moment of psychological clarity amid the chaos of the battlefield. He realises that he is running “Like a man who has jumped up in the dark and runs/Listening between his footfalls for the reason/Of his still running…” Sometimes, as I crouch over another seemingly endless pile of marking, Hughes’ words pop into my head. Why am I doing this? Is there any point to this madness?

Thankfully I am a secondary English teacher not a first world war soldier. Research confirms that feedback has a vital role in learning – take the evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation, for instance, or John Hattie’s table of influences on learning. But is it possible to significantly reduce the time spent marking while improving the quality of feedback students receive?

Three reasons lie behind my quest for a more efficient alternative. Firstly, marking saps a huge amount of time and energy that could be redirected into the research and reflection required to plan lessons that genuinely challenge and develop students’ learning. Secondly, the process feels depersonalised because it happens away from the classroom, making it difficult to maintain meaningful dialogue with students. Thirdly, by marking too regularly we create a culture of dependency, denying students the opportunity to develop important self-regulation strategies such as editing and proofreading.

The answer is not to ignore feedback, but to bring it to the forefront of everything we do in the classroom. Here are three ways you can do that in your classroom:

The five-minute flick

This is one of my favourite strategies. I check through a cross-section of books – five or six – to assess how students across a range of abilities performed in the previous lesson. If they have produced a piece of writing, I will begin the next class by showing an example from one student – typed up or photographed – and we critique it together. I guide the class through the editing process, staying focused on common misconceptions and weaknesses, so that we model an improvement together. Individuals then return to their own work and edit independently with this example in mind.

Gallery critique

In my experience, peer-assessment is fraught with problems; however well I train a class to do it proficiently, each student is at the mercy of the accuracy and commitment of the pupil next to them. Gallery critique draws on ideas from Ron Berger’s book, An Ethic of Excellence, and involves students moving around the classroom critiquing one another’s work using Berger’s “kind, specific, helpful” mantra, along with a plentiful supply of post-it notes. Not only do students receive detailed feedback from a number of peers, they also learn from reading each other’s work. I have written in depth about the strategy here.

Live marking

This also has huge potential. As the students are working, I call them up one-by-one to my desk. We discuss their work and l feedback both verbally and with symbols. If you are required by your school to demonstrate evidence of marking, a verbal feedback stamp can be very useful. I find this technique works best if the class is undertaking an extended written piece. I can see a whole class over two lessons and can differentiate the timing of my feedback, as some students need to be left to work independently for longer and others need to be steered on track much earlier. The strategy can be manipulated in a variety of ways depending on the subject and task.

Over time, I think it is possible to replace traditional marking with more efficient and effective alternatives. Marking books will never completely go away, but combined with approaches like the above it can become far less onerous.

Andrew Tharby is an English teacher at Durrington High school and has been teaching for eight years. He writes a blog about his classroom experiences, Reflecting English, and can be found on Twitter as @atharby.

The 5 minute marking plan by Teacher Toolkit


Click on the link below for the presentation:

5 minute marking plan


1) Mrs Humanities shows how she has developed DIRT even further within her department. Click on the link below:


2) IPAD TEACHERS – Video: 20 iPad Lesson Activities in 2 minutes.


3) An interview with @TeacherToolkit: How To Become A Great Teacher by @WonderFrancis


4) Andy Griffith – Outstanding Teaching: A toolkit to succeed

5) Teaching Ideas and Resources


6) Teaching websites


Differentiation: ideas and resources on it and for it!

Brain food

Do we have fixed intelligence and ability?


Click on the link below to find out more about Michael Jordan:

Differentiation tool kit diagram

Article of the week:


A few decades ago the world of education was very exercised by the forerunner of differentiation which was called ‘mixed ability teaching’.  Then people began to realise it was not just ability that could be “mixed’’ and that teachers had to cope with a plethora of differences: learning style, age, motivation, prior learning and experience, gender, specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, and so on.  Consequently the term ‘mixed ability’ began to be replaced by the less vivid term: ‘differentiation’.   But what does differentiation mean exactly?

Differentiation is an approach to teaching that attempts to ensure that all students learn well, despite their many differences. Catch phrases which go some way to capturing this concept include:

‘Coping with differences’.

‘Learning for all’ or

‘Success for all’.

There are a number of common misconceptions about differentiation.  Some believe that it is something ‘added on’ to normal teaching and that it just requires a few discrete extra activities in the lesson. In fact, differentiation permeates everything a good teacher does and it is often impossible to ‘point’ to a discrete event that achieves it.  It is not what is done often, but the way it is done that acheives differentiation. For this reason differentiation may not show up on a lesson plan or in the Scheme of Work.  However some teachers try to show their intentions to differentiate by setting objectives in the following format:

All must….

Some may…

A few might…

This may help novice teachers to think about the diversity of their learners, but having such objectives does not guarantee differentiation.  It is the strategies, not the objectives that achieve differentiation, and this should be the focus of our interests.

Differentiation is not new, good teachers have always done it.  However, it does chime with a new conception of the teacher’s role.  Once we teachers taught courses, subjects and classes.  But no more.  Now we are teaching individuals.

Once education was a sieve.  The weaker students were ‘seived out’ and they left the classroom for the world of work, while the able students were retained for the next level.  ‘Drop outs’ were planned for, and seen not just as inevitable but as desirable.  Put bluntly, the aim was to discover those who could not cope, and get rid of them.

But now education is a ladder, and we expect every learner to climb as fast and as high as they are able. ‘Drop outs’ are seen as a wasted opportunity, for the learners, and for society as a whole.

Underpinning these conceptions of education as being a sieve or a ladder, are assumptions about the capability of learners and the nature of learning.  Once learners were thought to have a genetic disposition for learning, or not, which was measured by their ‘IQ’.  This placed an upper limit on their possible achievement.  Some students were thought to reach their ‘ceiling’ after which further teaching would be in vain.

This is no longer thought to be the case.  Experts on the brain and on learning now stress that everyone can learn more, if they are taught appropriately, whatever they have previously achieved.  A vivid illustration of this is provided by the work of Professor Reuven Feuerstien.  He teaches learners with what we call ‘moderate learning difficulties’, using a very special and unusual programme involving intensive work for one hour a day every day.  Four years later these learners have ‘caught up’ and are found to have an average ‘IQ’.  They can live independent lives, learn normally, and are indistinguishable from average members of their societies.*

Needless to say, remnants of the ‘ceiling’ model of learning can still be found in many teachers’ conceptions of teaching and learning.  These ideas need to be tackled.  Luckily in most colleges examples can be found of students who entered the college on a level 1 programme, and progressed well, eventually leaving for university.  These are persuasive role models for other learners and for teachers.  Teachers can make much greater differences than they themselves realise, and we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what is possible.

Click on the links below for more information

how to do differentiation



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Recommended Reads

1) The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners Paperback by Carol Ann Tomlinson (Author)9781416618607

Drawing on nearly three decades of experience, author Carol Ann Tomlinson describes a way of thinking about teaching and learning that will change all aspects of how you approach students and your classroom. She looks to the latest research on learning, education, and change for the theoretical basis of differentiated instruction and why it’s so important to today’s children. Yet she offers much more than theory, filling the pages with real-life examples of teachers and students using-and benefitting from-differentiated instruction.

2) Differentiation for Real Classrooms: Making It Simple, Making It Work, Edited by Kathleen Kryza, Edited by Alicia M. Duncan, Edited by S. Joy Stephens

With their characteristically joyful and conversational tone that celebrates learning and diverse students, Kathleen Kryza, Alicia Duncan, and S. Joy Stephens offer teachers dozens of pract9781412972475ical strategies for designing and delivering differentiated lessons to reach all learners. “Differentiation for Real Classrooms: Making It Simple, Making It Work” is a ready-to-go resource for creating lessons that allow all students to take in and process new information and teachers to assess their learning. It includes abundant illustrations, vignettes, sample lessons and units, and adaptations for ELLs and students with special needs.


1) 5 minute essay plan

5 minute lesson plan

2) Differentiated algebra

Algebra 1.6 factorising linear differentiated

3) Differentiated Food tech

worksheetcook off answers

cook off work sheet

cook off

4) Differentiated learning mats – from TES resourcesDifferentiated learning mats 2 Differentiated learning mats

5) Evaluation and reflection

Effective plenaries

6) Differentiated literacy mats

Literacy mat whole school

7) Mock exam reflection from the TES website

mockexam reflection

8) Strategies for EAL students from TES resource area

strategies for EAL students


9) A link to methods of differentiation in the classroom


10) 80 strategies and techniques for differentiation



Challenge them and change their mindset

 Good Practice at Upton :

Below is a photo of Hannah and Lauren, Year 8, receiving their certificated from Mrs Dixon Headteacher. They took part in delivering a work shop on Feedback using iPads for learning at the SSAT national conference. Well done!

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In Science Year 7 have been learning about specialised cells and have produced some fantastic models and cakes for a homework task. The photographs are from Mrs Bradbury, Head of Science.






 Level 1 TEEP training. Presentations on the TEEP journey below by Upton staff, 12/1/15

the journey


Brain food:


mindset responses





Learning that tastes good, and gives us that sense of satisfaction after a good meal.  What might the ingredients be?

  • Staples: learning from the teacher – direct instruction; formative feedback in some form;  learning from books; reading aloud; think-pair-share; asking questions; solving problems;
  • Variety: making videos or websites; teaching part of a lesson; making a model or a composition; acting out a role-play; experts and envoys; peer assessment; debates and discussions; designing your own experiment; pre-learning material from online video tutorials; using ‘ExplainEverything’ to produce a short presentation for the class.
  • Tastes: Having the option to respond in a variety of forms; or to choose the topic; or to work at a pace that suits; to create learning independently; to work collaboratively with a group of my choice; to learn through extended open-ended projects with opportunities for doing some things in depth over time.

Pitch It Up. Aim High. Expect Excellence. Demand It.

It’s not one strategy…it’s more a frame of mind; the cumulative effect of the many micro-strategies that result in higher levels of engagement, longer periods of concentration, wider use of vocabulary, better explanations, deeper learning and stronger performances. Click on the link below and watch the video.


The TEEP planning cycle: Common misconceptions

It has been a while since your 3 days of training and since you revisited the planning cycle. Click on the link below to dispel those common misconceptions.


Article of the week:

Using Tests Formatively by

The goal of summative assessment is most often to measure student learning at the end of a topic or unit by comparing it against some ‘standard’ – i.e. a grade or level. Summative assessments – tests, exams, final projects etc. – are often high stakes and ‘one-off’, and in many students this can lead to a ‘fixed mindset‘ approach to them.

On the other hand, the goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning by providing ongoing feedback that can be used by students to improve their learning. This process should help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work, and in the process help teachers identify where extra support/teaching is needed.

What if we could do both at once? Do we have to choose? Isn’t that what the growth mindset is all about?

Possibilities for using a mock exam formatively:

  • Revisit questions answered incorrectly – students go back and improve, then remark!
  • Break questions down and attempt as a rally
  • Get students to mark / coach each other
  • Agree as a class what is required for the marks in advance
  • Use previous papers to help recognise the type of question and the style of answer
  • Identify common misconceptions to address with students – build this in to D.I.R.T
  • Reflect on one’s own teaching of problem areas to identify gaps in teaching /learning
  • Co-construct a WAGOLL by taking the best student answers from each question – groups have ownership of a ‘perfect’ model paper
  • Incorporate quick strategies like a ‘5 minute steal’ or use question tokens during the exam – students can ask you questions but it will cost them a token!

If you’re going to set a mock exam, you might as well make it work for you. I strongly recommend getting into a habit wherever possible of marking mocks quickly enough so that students can act on your feedback in the next lesson, therefore planning your next lesson for you. If this isn’t practical, why not get them to mark their own/each others in class? Some teachers would recoil in horror at the idea (“what if they cheat?”) So what! Let them ‘cheat’ if it helps them learn! After all, we can never go back in time, all we want our students to do is to do better next time.

How do we ensure that students do better next time? Give them the time and opportunity to improve – D.I.R.T or ‘MAD time’ next lesson. Here’s an example of the guidance given to Engineering students the lesson after their recent mock exam:

Summative Assessment used formatively

They then had a good chunk of the next lesson to ensure they went back and improved their score by at least ten marks. Simple, no bother formative assessment leading to progress for the students.

Recommended Reads

1) The Secret of Literacy: Making the implicit, explicit by David Didau


Literacy? That’s someone else’s job, isn’t it? This is a book for all teachers on how to make explicit to students those things we can do implicitly. In the Teachers’ Standards it states that all teachers must demonstrate an understanding of, and take responsibility for, promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy, and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject. In The Secret of Literacy, David Didau inspires teachers to embrace the challenge of improving students’ life chances through improving their literacy. Topics include: Why is literacy important?, Oracy improving classroom talk, How should we teach reading? How to get students to value writing, How written feedback and marking can support literacy.

mindsets2) Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci

When students believe that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school, they grow to become resilient, successful students. Inspired by the popular mindset idea that hard work and effort can lead to success, Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with ideas for ways to build a growth mindset school culture, wherein students are challenged to change their thinking about their abilities and potential. The book includes a planning template, step-by-step description of a growth mindset culture, and “look-fors” for adopting a differentiated, responsive instruction model teachers can use immediately in their classrooms.


Useful links/videos/resources

 1) Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet? A great introduction to this influential field.

2) Execellent examples of starters and plenaries.


3) Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

4) What Twitter offers teachers: The evidence


5) Blooms Taxonomy revised and high order thinking


Behaviours of effective teachers and learners

Brain food:

Effective Learner Behaviours:

PEEL: Project for Enhancing Effective Learning (www.peelweb.org)

They identified a list of Poor Learning Behaviours

frustrationWhat frustrates teachers most about the way students approach their learning?

Rarely contribute ideas Don’t think about the meaning of what they read or hear
Don’t link different sessions/units Don’t think about why or how they are doing a task
Don’t learn from mistakes in assessment tasks Won’t take responsibility for their learning
Dive into tasks without planning Have no strategies when stuck
Don’t link learning/assessment work with real/work life Don’t believe that their own ideas are relevant
Are reluctant to take risks in creative tasks Are reluctant to edit or check their work
Existing beliefs are not easy to change

They asked teachers what they would like students to be doing instead?


Seeks assistance e.g.·Tell teacher when and what they don’t understand·Checks work against instructions, correcting errors and omissions Reflects on their work e.g.·Plans a general strategy before starting.·Explains purposes and results.
Checks personal progress e.g.·When stuck, refers to earlier work before asking teacher·Checks personal comprehension of instruction and material.  Requests further information if needed. Links to beliefs and experiences e.g.·Independently seeks further information, following up ideas raised in class.·Seeks links between non-adjacent activities, ideas and between different topics and subjects.
Plans and anticipates e.g.·Checks personal comprehension of instructions and material.  Requests further information if needed·Anticipates and predicts possible outcomes and results Assumes a position e.g.·Suggests new activities and alternative procedures.·Expresses disagreement,  justifies opinions and offers ideas, new insights and alternative explanations

PEEL Procedures aim to:

  • Share intellectual control with students.
  • Look for occasions when students can work out part (or all) of the content or instructions.
  • Provide diverse range of ways of experiencing success.
  • Promote talk which is exploratory, tentative and hypothetical.
  • Encourage students to learn from other students’ questions and comments.
  • Build a classroom environment that supports risk-taking.
  • Use a wide variety of intellectually challenging teaching procedures.
  • Use teaching procedures that are designed to promote specific aspects of quality learning.
  • Develop students’ awareness of the big picture: how the various activities fit together and link to the big ideas.
  • Regularly raise students’ awareness of the nature of different aspects of quality learning.
  • Promote assessment as part of the learning process.

Guy Claxton: Expansive Education at IoE, May 2012: 

A comparison of learning habits in schools (red) and attitudes for the real world (green) indicating that if we wish to prepare our learners with 21st century skills we need to give opportunities to nurture and develop these attitudes.

Guy claxton

Article of the week: Effective Teacher Behaviours: SSAT

Prior Research on Teacher Effectiveness

In the 1960s researchers began to look at the actual behaviours of teachers, using classroom observation in the main, together with surveys asking teachers what they did in the classroom.

Most research has been done in the USA, in the 70’s and 80’s,e.g. Evertson, Brophy and Rosenshine. Studies in Europe include Westerhof,1992, Creemers 1994, Mortimore et al, 1988,Reynolds 1996 .

More recent researchers and writers have reinforced earlier findings on what makes effective teaching e.g.Hay McBer 2000 Research into Teacher Effectiveness: A Model of Teacher Effectiveness pub. DfEE; Hattie, J.A. 2003 Influences on Student Learning; Marzano, R. J. 1998 A Theory-Based Meta-analysis of Research on Instruction; Petty, Geoff 2009 (2nd edition) Evidence-based Teaching pub. Nelson Thornes.

DeBonos HatsFactors associated with higher student achievement

  • Opportunity to learn
  • Focus on teaching/learning
  • Effective behaviour management
  • Effective classroom management
  • Effective direct instruction
  • Individual and small group work
  • Structure
  • Effective questioning
  • Variety of strategies
  • Classroom climate
  • Student achievement

These factors can be grouped under the following headings:

1.Classroom Climate

2.Interactive Teaching

3.Range of Teaching and Learning Approaches

4.Classroom Management

What does this mean in practice?

Effective teacher behaviours are significant: they explain the majority of variance between classroom test gains. Holding all other variables constant, being taught by the most as opposed to the least effective teacher increased a student’s scores by 18% (one to two levels or grades). If the effective behaviours and strategies can be developed in all teachers, then the impact on attainment would be significant.

Effect of a school Vs. A Teacher on Student Entering at 50th Percentile


Robert Marzano’s research on classroom management.   A child goes into school at the 50th centile (absolute average in America): if taught by A is still at the 50th centile 2 years later; if taught by B is at the 4th centile; if taught by D is at the 90th centile after 2 years!   This bears out experiences in challenging schools where effective teachers get good results. Expectations and belief are very powerful.

(Robert Marzano 2003, “A quantative synthesis of research on classroom management”)

Recommended Reading

1) Teaching Backwards by Andy Grffithteaching backwards

In an era when schools and teachers often seem to operate at one hundred miles an hour, Teaching Backwards offers a more reflective and measured approach to teaching and learning. Where many teachers focus on delivering content in a linear fashion, those who teach backwards start with the end in mind. This means that they know in advance what levels of knowledge, attitude, skills and habits they expect their learners to achieve, they define and demystify ambitious goals, and they establish their students starting points before they start to plan and teach. Teaching Backwards ensures that learners consistently make great progress over time, and offers a practical, hands-on manual for teachers to further develop their attitudes, skills and habits of excellence both for themselves and for their learners.

This book is the follow-up to the best-selling Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners. It is based on the analysis of thousands of hours of primary and secondary lessons, part of Osiris Education s Outstanding Teaching Intervention programme over the last seven years.

2) 100 Things Awesome Teachers Do by Mr William Emeny (Author)

Number 1 bestseller in the Apple iBookstore Education books and Professional and Technical books sections in March 2012! What are other people saying about 100 Things Awe100 thingssome Teachers Do? “I would heartily recommend this book to any teacher – whatever subject you teach, whether you are new to the profession, or if you are looking for new ideas and a chance to reflect on your existing practices.” – Craig Barton is an AST from Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton. “William Emeny’s ‘100 Things Awesome Teachers Do’ is a fantastic book, crammed full of wonderfully unique ideas to engage learners, improve learning and create that buzz about your classroom. The book is separated into 10 key topics, each with 10 innovative ideas. It is thoroughly enjoyable to read and can easily be dipped in and out of as required. As a trainee teacher on the GTP, I have found the ideas Emeny presents invaluable and his passion for teaching shines through in every idea. Every teacher wants to be an awesome teacher; how many of Emeny’s 100 things are you currently doing?” – Paul Collins, Mathematics Teacher New to teaching and want some good ideas? Been in teaching a while and looking for some fresh things to try? 100 Things Awesome Teachers Do is like a breaktime chat between teachers who share things they have found work for them. The book is split into 10 sections including, lesson planning, motivation and engagement, learning environment, learning styles, independent learning and more. Each section has 10 ideas for you to try out. This isn’t a book that focusses how to pull off a single outstanding lesson to please the requirements of a formal lesson observation, although it does help with that! This book is more about getting excellent learning happening in your classroom everyday, day-in day-out. The book is full of tried-and-tested ideas that teachers have learned both from academic research and The University of Life and Experience. Bursting with ideas about things awesome teachers do, this book should give both newbies and seasoned pros something new to try out!

3) Outstanding Formative Assessment: Culture and Practice by Shirley Clarke download

Shirley Clarke provides a wealth of high quality ideas, practical strategies, classroom examples and whole-school case studies for teachers in primary and secondary schools.The most comprehensive of Shirley Clarke’s titles includes extensive examples and realia, in full colour. The book is clearly structured around the ways in which teachers actually teach, with QR coded web video clips to illustrate key points in action.

– Helps teachers create an environment for pupils to be active learners, constant reviewers and self-assessors

– Ensures teachers start and finish lessons effectively by initially establishing their prior knowledge and capturing their interest and finally encouraging pupil reflection to find out what has been learnt and what still needs to be developed

– Develops learning by helping children articulate their understanding and focusing on constant review and improvement

– Focuses on whole-school development including lesson study, assessment policies and stories from outstanding schools

Interesting articles/videos/resources

1. Growth mindset vs fixed mindset:the impact on student progress

2. Green shoots at the grassroots will grow a better profession


3. Thirty Words CPD in 30 Seconds – some great ideas


4. Seating plans: the first link is a video on the importance of seating plans. The second link is a PowerPoint showing how we can identify students by ability, FSM, Pupil Premium, target grade, current grade etc.


seating plans_secondary mixed ability groups

DIRT for boys, active learning and differentiation

Good Practice

Dedicated Improvement Reflection Time (DIRT) Resources by Mrs Johns

English Dirt

My Year 11 did a ‘Lego Movie’ ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ DIRT response today. Students then ‘Build upon their work’ with the Lego builder Emmit! (See the PDF below- It is still a work in progress!)
Above is a students work as an example, as he is a classic borderline C/D student.
Mrs Johns

Formal Letter DIRT (1) (1)

Click on the links below to see other DIRT resources created by Mrs Johns:

DIRT self assessment

DIRT Peer assessment

DIRT self assessment KS3

Brain Food
Poster by Nana Adwoa Sey. Contest winner.


Differentiation – Making it Happen:

Five steps to improve teaching   Explore -> Experiment -> Improve -> Celebrate -> Embed

Explore:Explore the context: Given our course and our students etc, what are the key issues and problems in ensuring success for all? Explore present practice: How do we differentiate at present? Explore the pedagogy :What other learning and teaching strategies could we use to differentiate better?

Experiment:Plan Experimentation and implementation: Decide as a team and as individuals how you will differentiate better.

Improve:Improve and ‘coach-in’ strategies: teachers develop strategies for themselves and the team, while receiving support and coaching from the team and others.

Celebrate:Celebrate Success: Teachers report on their experiments and share their strategies.

Embed:Embed practice: Schemes of work, assignments, worksheets, lesson plans etc are changed to embed the changes


  • Only teachers can change teaching
  • Changing teaching is itself a learning process
  • Learning requires support, practice, and feedback

Article of the week: 

Active Learning Works: the evidence by Geoff Petty

“Active Learning? You must be joking, there’s no time for entertainment – I’ve too much content to cover.”

We have all heard such views in staff rooms, yet in official circles active learning remains the orthodoxy. Professors queue up to insist upon it, inspectors require it, and conference speakers chant its praises. Many of us also remember long lectures about its effectiveness during our teacher training! Yes, we all know the theory — but does it actually work in practice? 

Many researchers have asked this question, and have tried a ‘let’s suck it and see’ approach to answer it. These are rigorous control group studies with real teachers in real schools and colleges.

Hundreds, or even thousands of students are divided between:

  • an ‘experimental group’ which is taught with active methods and
  • a ‘control group’: which is taught the same material without active methods.

The control and experimental groups are carefully composed to be identical in their mix of ability, social background, and so on. The control and experimental groups are taught for the same length of time, by the same teachers, or by teachers of the same ability, and the students are tested to see which group has learned best. In study after study of this type, active learning produced much better learning.

Never mind the theory – does it work in practice?

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 18.20.44

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 18.21.15

Active Learning adds a grade and a half to achievement.

Professors John Hattie and Robert Marzano have independently used careful statistical methods to average the findings of many thousands of the most rigorous studies on active learning. Their findings show that, for the best active methods, if you put a student in the experimental group, then on average, they will do more than a grade and a half better than if they had been placed in the control group.

The time the teacher has to teach the topic is not a factor here. Remember that the groups taught with active learning methods were taught for the same amount of time as the control group. While the experimental group was engaged in the active learning methods, the control group was receiving more content and fuller explanations from their teacher. But the control group learned less.

Many teachers say active learning would be great ‘if they had the time’. But the research shows that if you make the time for effective active learning by doing less didactic teaching, then your students will do better. It may seem strange not to be able to say everything you know about the topic you are teaching, but it won’t help if you do. You know too much!

Active learning works best at every academic level. Peter Westwood, summarizing research on how best to teach students with learning difficulties argued for highly structured, intensive, well directed, active learning methods.

What active methods work best?

Any activity will not do. We need to set activities that require students to make their own meanings of the concepts you are teaching, and that get them to practice important skills. Ideally the activity is highly relevant to your goals, is an open task, and is challenging. Lets look at some examples of methods that have done particularly well in these rigorous trials.

‘Same and different’: Tasks that require the learner to identify similarities and differences between two or more topics or concepts, often one they are familiar with, and one they are presently studying: ‘Compare and contrast viral and bacterial infections’

 Graphic organisers: The student creates their own diagrammatic representation of what they are learning, for example in a mind-map, flow diagram or comparison table. They get out of their place to look at other students work, to help them improve their own. Then they self-assess their own diagram using a model diagram provided by you.

 Decisions-Decisions: Students are given a set of cards to match, group, rank, or sequence. For example: ‘rank these advantages of stock taking in order of importance, then sort them by who benefits, customer, business, supplier, or investor. Students are asked to reject your ‘spurious’ cards that do not describe an advantage of stock taking.

Feedback: There are many feedback methods including self assessment and peer assessment. Ask students to decide on what was done well, and what they could improve.

 Hypothesis testing: You give students a statement that is partly true, but partly false: “The more advertising the better”. “Cromwell was religiously motivated”. Then you ask them to work in groups to evaluate the statement. When the groups are finished you get one reason in favour of the hypothesis from each group in turn, continuing until all their reasons have been given. You nominate the member of the group to give the reason and to justify it: ‘why did your group think that?’. When a reason has been given say ‘thank you’ but don’t agree or disagree with it. Repeat for reasons against. When all the reasons are in, ask the class as a whole to try and agree reasons for and against. Then give your thoughts on their ideas.

I expect you can guess why these methods work: they force students to think, and into making sense of what you are teaching them.

Let’s not confuse good explaining with good learning. The delivery of content does not guarantee its arrival. In the end it is perhaps no surprise that students only get good at doing it — by doing it!


Hattie, J.A. (2009) ‘Visible Learning a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement’. London: Routledge

Marzano R. Pickering, D. Pollock, J. (2001) “Classroom Instruction that works” Alexandria: ASCD

Petty, G. (2009) ‘Evidence Based Teaching’ 2nd Edition. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes See also www.geoffpetty.com

Westwood, P. (2003) Commonsense Methods for children with Special Educational Needs. 4th Ed. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Recommended Reads

secrets of teenage brain

1. Secrets of the Teenage Brain: Research-Based Strategies for Reaching & Teaching Today’s Adolescents  by Sheryl G. Feinstein

“Teachers will relate well to the many observations and vignettes about teenagers and will see many of their own students in these descriptions. The science and research-based evidence is explained simply and in easy-to-understand terms with connections to teen behavior clearly established. Readers can easily appreciate how the strategies described in the book link to the neuroscientific findings and research. The newer research, ideas, and supplementary material greatly enhance the book—particularly the new stories, vignettes, and other teaching strategies.” (Barry Corbin, Professor of Education, Acadia University 2009-01-23)

9781408504154 2. Teaching Today by Geoff Petty

This is the best selling teacher training text in the UK because it is so practical. Lots of detail on all the common teaching methods, classroom management etc. Lots of ideas for established teachers not just NQTs.

3. Make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown

make it stick

Drawing on recent discoveries in cognitive psychology and other disciplines, the author offers concrete techniques for becoming more productive learners. Memory plays a central role in our ability to carry out complex cognitive tasks, such as applying knowledge to problems never before encountered and drawing inferences from facts already known. New insights into how memory is encoded, consolidated, and later retrieved have led to a better understanding of how we learn. Grappling with the impediments that make learning challenging leads both to more complex mastery and better retention of what was learned. Many common study habits and practice routines turn out to be counterproductive. Underlining and highlighting, rereading, cramming, and single-minded repetition of new skills create the illusion of mastery, but gains fade quickly. More complex and durable learning come from self-testing, introducing certain difficulties in practice, waiting to re-study new material until a little forgetting has set in, and interleaving the practice of one skill or topic with another.

Useful links

1. 5 minute lesson plan


2. Blogging for teachers


3. 101 great teachers to follow on twitter


Teaching and Learning: Great ideas and practical tips from colleagues on social media and beyond

Brain food

This table was put together by Stephen Teirney (Twitter) and is a thought provoking way of looking at how to achieve great teaching.

higher quality teaching

Something to aspire to? Check out @urban_teacher


Article of the week: Dealing with Day-to-day Differentiation

Extract taken from an article on headguruteacher website.


  1. Differentiation does not mean that you must have tiered resources and tasks in every lesson.
  2. It does not mean you should have must-should-could learning objectives. It does not mean that a lesson where every student is doing the same task is fundamentally worse than one where students do have different tasks.
  3. Any given lesson snap-shot may not have explicit evidence of differentiation at all – and it could still be outstanding, or at least be leading to outstanding outcomes.

Differentiation needs to be seen as the aggregation of the hundreds of subtly different interactions that you have with each of your students, according to their level of attainment and progress.  Even OFSTED now officially do not expect that the needs of all students are being precisely and directly addressed in every lesson observation.  Differentiation is a long-term process that mirrors the long-term nature of learning and progress.

The bottom-lines

We all have ups and downs; we can all mess things up.  We all have lessons that seem too complicated to factor in yet another level of support or challenge; we have all had lessons where behaviour issues dominate or you do more didactic input and the differentiation is less evident. However, there are always two things that I’d say are non-negotiable:

  1. Neglecting the basic access entitlement of students with particular learning needs. If you have a student that can’t read the text-book or follow the standard instructions because of learning difficulties or physical impairment, you have to sort them out every time.  You need to plan for their needs every lesson and go to them immediately to make sure they know what to do.
  2. Setting work that is too easy for the top end. There is nothing worse than having students waiting for others to finish with nothing to do or simply having time for a good chat because they’ve completed a basic task.  Here the solution is to set in-built extension tasks as a matter of routine. “If you finish Task A, then go straight on to Tasks B, C and D”.   Of course, there is the issue that ‘more work’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘more challenge’. It’s better if each task is increasingly difficult and you can always consider allowing students to skip Task A and B if they feel confident to tackle other tasks straight away.   At the very least, there should always always be a ‘what next’ if the initial task is quite easy.


The main use of student data is to prompt you to ask questions about your perception of a student’s ability and progress.  Am I getting this person right? It pays to look back at prior attainment information a week or so after meeting a class for the first time and again after the first term. If you triangulate between the prior attainment info, your gut feeling and your own assessment data, you get a better idea.  Sometimes it’s quite revealing.  Oh gosh, I’ve been underestimating John all this time…. or perhaps I’m neglecting Michael’s underlying lack of confidence; his reading age is lower than I thought.

Most importantly, data helps to ensure that you never settle for mediocrity from someone who doesn’t perform in the way the data says they could.  Ben’s Official Target grade is A but his recent test score was C? Ok…something is going on there. That should catalyse a different response than if the prior attainment data suggested C would be a sign of good progress.

In my last comprehensive school job, I used to devise a differentiation guide for every class to help me plan lessons without forgetting about people. Other teachers made their own. An example is shown here. The grade here is artificial; in reality there would be lots of data points feeding into the crude categorisation: reading ages, MidYIS scores and KS2 entry data would play a part alongside other internal assessments.  The idea is to make it easy to think about the students in rough groupings rather than allow the complexity of the individual data sheet, usually presented in alphabetical order, to be overwhelming and ultimately unhelpful.


I know a lot of people will go into ‘Growth Mindset’ shock.  It’s important to have that in mind.  You are not using this to pigeon-hole students indefinitely.. but sometimes you need to cut through the noise to get some shape to your class and make differentiation meaningful and practical. If you allow yourself to let a guide like this write students off, then it’s a mistake.  If you use it to prompt you to prepare more effectively to help them learn better, then it’s a good thing.

The dynamics of each class will be different but personally I try to teach Group 1 and 2 in the same way, teaching to the top and thinking separately about the students who might struggle.  However, even then, there are one or two students in most of my classes who stick out at the top, running far ahead of the rest, who need special attention.

An important source of information worth revisiting once you know a class, is the SEND register and associated documentation.  It’s painful to realise that you have overlooked the info suggesting Jameel should sit at the front or that Jay is dyslexic and has gets help outside the school.  It’s hard to take it all in at the start of the year so, from time to time, go back for a look at see if you need to adjust things.  You may even have positive information to feedback to the learning support team in your school.

Keeping it Simple

In practice, there is one main form of easy differentiation: Same resources; Different questions

In a mixed ability setting, when you are up against it in terms of fine-tuned planning, you can always create open-endedness through the questions you ask in discussion and the tasks you set based on the same key resources.  That’s an important skill to develop. Whether it is a piece of writing, some practical work or a set of responses to a debate or some theory in science, you can usually set students off in different directions from a common starting point.  It is easier if the standard resources (text books and departmental ready-to-use worksheets) have a level of tiering built-in, but even with identical resources you can often direct students to produce responses at different levels of sophistication.

Nurturing the students at the extremes

Finally, teaching is a bit like gardening.  You have a group of individual specimens with their own precise needs and qualities and your job is to get them to flourish to the greatest possible extent. But, as with gardening, you often need to focus on one specimen at a particular moment. You can’t do it all at once.

You may feel that John is coasting a bit; he needs a push this lesson.  It may be that Albert has looked a bit bored of late. He might be finding things a bit easy; let’s really crank it up this lesson.  The last time Rory handed his book in it was a bit of a shocker; I need to sit with him this lesson and get a few things sorted out.  Daniel is always just below the top level. Why is that?  Is this an Austin’s Butterfly effect? Maybe he needs to do some re-drafting and I need to absolutely insist that he does it again and again until it’s hitting the top level.

That’s real differentiation: pushing, prodding, nudging, stretching…slow, subtle, nuanced, a step at a time, working around the class from lesson to lesson, to the greatest extent you can manage. It’s not a performance; it’s something you grind out over the long long run.

Within this, I think it helps teachers to forge special relationships with the students at the extremes – and their parents too if possible.  In all probability the strongest and weakest learners are likely to be the ones who you struggle with the most in terms of your planning and teaching. If you let them know very clearly that you are working for them, keeping an eye on them and giving them a bit of special attention, they will have confidence that, when things aren’t quite tailored to them, you haven’t forgotten. Their parents will know this too and that helps a lot.

My advice is always to try to be a teacher who champions the students with the greatest needs; it always pays off.  But, more generally, the main thing is to keep differentiation at the forefront of your thinking, doing your best to keep everyone in each class moving forward without limiting them.  It’s never going to feel that you’ve got it absolutely nailed – and that is teaching!

Recommended Reading

  1. Trivium 21st C by Martin Robinson: Could this be the answer?

The book uses an exploration of the Trivium as it once was – a set of principles for learning that evolved from Plato to the middle ages – as a template for considering a range of contemporary educational problems and debates.  Martin uses the story of his daughter as she embarks on her school-based education as a focus point. Through his hopes and dreams for her education, he is able to express the hopes and dreams we all have for our children – and the contrast with what is currently on offer in the mainstream of modern schooling.


  1. Teaching boys who struggle in school by Kathleen Palmer Cleveland

Let’s take a closer look at some “symptoms” of underachievement:

  • Acting out
  • Refusal to take academic risks
  • Desire to “save face” with peers
  • Unable to stay on task
  • Unwilling to ask for help
  • Disinterested, apathetic
  • Head down, eyes averted

Time and again we see that many boys who struggle in school share these common behaviors. It may surprise you to know that fear of failure is a central emotional underpinning of these familiar “symptoms” of underachievement. How can we, as educators, respond to this latent vulnerability – so often disguised as either reactive bravado or feigned disinterest – in a way that breaks the cycle of failure and helps each boy to reach his potential as a learner?


  1. Mindset by Dr Carol S. Dweck

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea-the power of our mindset. Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success-but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals-personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.


Links to useful articles – click on the link and away you go


  1. Great Lessons: http://headguruteacher.com/category/teaching-and-learning/great-lessons/
  2. Questioning and feedback – Top 10 strategies: http://www.huntingenglish.com/2014/11/19/questioning-feedback-top-ten-strategies/
  3. iPad related articles: http://www.huntingenglish.com/tag/ipad/
  4. TEEP in practice: Lots of ideas and articles – if you haven’t got a log in then let me know http://www.teep.org.uk/asp