Category Archives: Literacy

Juicy Words, Word Games and Words Apps and Websites…

Literacy changes lives: not only does it enable accessibility to education and exams but it has been proven that those with good literacy also have improved economic well-being and aspirations. keep-calm-and-love-literacy-8.png

In September, DHSB staff committed to developing both their own literacy practice and the literacy skills of the students they teach through a whole school literacy focus. In March, there was the opportunity to share new strategies gained in the lively carousel CPD session.

New websites and apps have been  identified: Zygolex, Task Magic; Memrise; Versal and Literacy games such as Taboo and Codenames have been developed from their original format to develop specific key word use in Maths and Biology. Marking and feedback strategies that focus on improving literacy have played a significant part in developing subject literacy particularly with an enhanced focus on exam questions now requiring much longer written responses with good SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar). This has taken many forms: yellow-box marking; students analysing and marking answered exam questions for themselves and peer assessment sheets that focus on literacy.

In addition to all of this, staff have had fun with the students developing both their reading, writing and oral skills using activities including word wheels, anagramised texts, key word cards, ‘this is the answer: what’s the question?’ games and many more.

Rebecca Edwards @Becky123Edwards



Red hot lesson blog post 5

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Peer Monitoring the SPAG helps fill the pot to success!

On each table is a laminated A3 coloured sheet demonstrating best practice use of SPAG. All students are consciously aware of their grammar expectations.

During the previous lesson, the students were required to write a paragraph using creative writing skills to compose the beginning of a ghost story.

The peer mentor went around the room whilst the teacher (Gemma)  was delivering the next part of the work, reading over the students work and awarding them a gold star if they managed to get no grammar errors. If the peer mentor spotted an error this would be circled to allow the student to make the relevant correction.

Brilliant – 1) teacher spends time teaching instead of marking, 2) it acts as a learning opportunity for the peer mentor, 3) there is no disruption or time lost from peer marking in class 4) the students have the incentive to do well so they get a gold star……which leads to a bigger prize.

What’s not to like? Everybody remembers getting gold star in school it’s nostalgic.

Well done Gemma!

Nicola Lilley  with thanks to Gemma Machray


Red hot lessons- Blog post 4

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“Spot the errors”

Nicola produced an A5 size sheet with five questions/statements each of which contained one or more errors.  As the class entered they were given a sheet and the questions/statements were also projected onto the screen.  They had five minutes to study the sheet before Nicola started to ask students to identify the errors which they then had to circle.  Not only did they have to identify the errors, they also had to justify why they thought they were errors.  The questions/statements were progressively more difficult.

An ideal starter to assess prior learning (could also be used to introduce a new topic) and to get the students ‘warmed up’.  They responded very well indeed and the use of ‘errors’ made it that more interesting.  Some struggled with justifying their answer and Nicola used this as an opportunity to develop their answers with further questions. Sheets were then collected in at the end.  

Kevin Mitchell (Observer)

Interestingly, I called the starter “Beat the Teacher”, but it all amounts to the same thing.  The previous lesson I gave the students the opportunity to fill in a table identifying key aspects of legal structures of business. As I was unsure of whether or not they really appreciated the nuances, I created a starter to check their understanding and reinforce their knowledge by putting the A01 knowledge into context.  

I’m definitely using it again; 1) it gave me chance to get organised and take the register, 2) it got them settled in to the lesson quickly, 3) I was able to challenge their understanding and application to a high level, 4) it gave me an opportunity to hand out commendations at the start of the lesson which got us off to a positive start.

Nicola Lilley (Teacher)

Red Hot Lesson Blog post 3:Exam Technique/ Literacy and collaboration

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The FARM Plan

I had the pleasure of observing a Year 11 Religious Studies GCSE class last week. I had previously seen Kerry Anstee use the FARM PLAN resource, in another lesson and was delighted to see it used once again. In groups of 4, the class used a graphic organiser to discuss and develop their their viewpoint on the statement ‘religion and science can never agree’. This lesson not only allowedFarm plan the students to practice exam technique, sequencing thought within a framework and literacy skills but they were also able to collaborate and work together therefore developing independent learning and more importantly the shift was towards the students doing the hard work and not the teacher! An excellent example of great practice that can be adapted for use in any subject.

Becky Edwards

Red Hot Lesson Blog post 1

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Well that was (not so) pointless!!

I have stacks to do at this time of year with all the marking, report writing, parents evenings and now CPD. Isn’t strange, yet a testimony to how seriously we take our jobs, that we put ourselves last in all of this?  CPD? What? In February?

It came to my attention during Tuesday’s Bluesky sesh, that one of the ways I was going to achieve my objectives was to improve my starters and plenaries. Basic stuff I know, but easy to let go when you’ve been teaching for a few years.

Sharon demonstrated 4 different plenaries during her Y13 biology lesson of approx 20 students. Here are my thoughts:


Concept: Each square is given the first letter of a key word. Students pick a letter, teacher reads out the definition, student guesses the word.

Evaluation: If you put a cartoon underneath the squares it gives the students more of an incentive to guess the letters and speeds up the game. Works in subjects where the definitions are quite tricky. Would take a bit of time to set up but could last for years.

Original definition, Think, Pair, Share answer box:Capture

Concept: students are given a definition or a question (of around 6 marks at A-level). They put their original definition in next, then think what keywords they could add to improve, pair swop with partner to see if they can improve, share check with the model answer.

Evaluation: Easy to setup, easy to administer, gets the students thinking, revises key terms, good for level one stuff, however not so good at level 2,3 and 4 if you want to develop them a bit further.


Concept: Each student is given a unique answer card so they can confidently submit their answer without fear of being wrong. Question is up on the board. Student holds up the card with answer A, B, C or D, teacher goes round scanning cards with phone.Plicker feedback

Evaluation: Takes ages to scan a large class of answers so in this respect Kahoot would be much more effective. It doesn’t however require any of the students to use their devices, so would work with small groups and you get a cute little spreadsheet to show how you’ve assessed their A01 skills. 


Concept: 3 circles are drawn one inside another like an archery board. Each section scores different marks and first letter of keywords is inserted into the section according to its level of difficulty. Students pick a letter, teacher reads out definition, student guesses word, points scored. (I might get one of those velcro dart boards, so much more fun!)

Evaluation: Fun, easy to set up, good for competition, even better with a real board.

So, it was worth leaving my Y12’s with work to get on with whilst I dashed out for some CPD. Brightened up my Friday afternoon anyway!                                                  Nicola Lilley


Day 14:Literacy for Life


It is too easy to see literacy as a domain of words, a discreet procession of phonology¹, orthography² and semantics³ and while each of these is important, they are but tools for a greater purpose. To use a cliché sometimes we miss the wood for the trees. The UNESCO definition of someone who is ‘literate’ is, to paraphrase, one who is able to participate fully in their community and wider society. We forget this at our peril in schools. Students should not just ‘do’ a subject since subjects are at best artificial administrative divisions within a wider educational process. If so then an educated student, when they go into the wider world, if they are truly literate, can go beyond language, numbers and images to a deep understanding of the underlying cultural morés of society and in the present climate this is the greatest challenge facing all of us.

Graham Macleod @mcdhsb

Phonology¹ is the study of the sound system of languages

An Orthography² is a set of conventions for how to write a language. It includes rules of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation.

Semantics³ the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning.desktop_literacy_image

Day 13:Biscuits Club   Doctor Who Club   Mafia Club     Creative Writing Club



Unsure what to expect, I turned up for the first session of said club with a nervous knot in my stomach. I also brought along a rigorous lesson plan masquerading as a ‘I-definitely-didn’t-spend-three-hours-planning-this’ activity, and a packet of Oreos clutched tightly in my hand as a hopeful peace offering (they were even the ‘double stuffed’ variety – I was pulling out all the stops).

What I did discover, however, was a genuinely lovely group of pupils – a mix of eager Year 7s and Year 10 CW club veterans – who were more than happy to share their experience of how the club was run with me, helping me on what has turned out to be a significant learning curve.

So far this year, we’ve brought in random objects such as Rubiks cubes and human teeth (!) and used these to inspire original poems and short stories. We’ve rewritten classic fairy tales to include a modern twist, like Rapunzel accidentally singeing off her luscious locks with faulty straighteners. One pupil seemingly enjoyed the biscuity bribes so much, he wrote a piece called ‘Ode to an Oreo’…only at DHSB!

We’ve also attempted to go through every session without getting sidetracked by discussing Doctor Who (and how Peter Capaldi strangely resembles a recently departed headteacher…), and I’ve accidentally introduced a new obsession called Mafia. This might be my biggest triumph (and regret) of this academic year so far. It’s essentially a storytelling version of Murder in the Dark, in which the role of ‘The Mafia’ is anonymously bestowed on one of the pupils in the group, and allows them to ruthlessly kick their peers out of the game round by round, often sparking an extremely heated debate about who is committing these nefarious crimes.

Joking aside, it’s become a part of my week which allows me to go into a session without hyperventilating if I haven’t planned every minute detail. It’s a genuine highlight of my Mondays and a true win-win scenario, as it’s enabled me to both enjoy the students’ company and find out what I am capable of outside of the classroom. Meanwhile, I’m going to pretend the rise in members each week isn’t solely down to Mafia’s frighteningly addictive appeal.

So overall, two important lessons learned. Number one: take extra-curricular opportunities if they are thrown at you – after all, you can always arm yourself with Oreos and you will most likely end up enjoying yourself more than you ever expected. And number two: play Mafia at your own risk.

– Olivia Middleton