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SWAT 2016 -Poetry from Sue!

On Thursday June 16th, I left home at the unearthly hour of 7am to ensure bagging one of the sought after parking spaces at Exeter Uni for the SWAT conference. I was due to present a workshop with my colleague from Eggbuckland who was kindly driving and despite my cough and sore throat we talked all the way to Exeter, attempting to perfect our presentation.

As the sun attempted to break through the mist, we pontificated on the importance of the – in our opinion – incorrectly titled “soft skills”, & managed to reach the Uni and one of those coveted spaces. The Forum, a relatively new area of the University, is a fantastic space and ideal for this kind of conference – lots of well-appointed classrooms for a variety of audience sizes and a fabulous lecture theatre for the keynotes – one before and one after lunch – with tiers of comfortable high backed swivel seats.

As well as the wide variety of workshops there were also opportunities to listen to student speakers from some of the schools including our own brilliant Alfie Carlisle.

I listened to one speaker on how to prepare for, apply to and interview for a new job or role – no amazing new insights but presented with some humour and relevance.

Our talk on the necessity for employability skills in addition to exam grades unfortunately only attracted five delegates so we had somewhat over prepared resources, but at least the nerves were gone in time for my final workshop choice which was a very interesting explanation of growth mindset in action throughout Gt Torrington School.

An eclectic and on the whole valuable day – wish I’d been presenting earlier so as to lessen the stress!

Here is my not very successful attempt at putting the day in rhyme…

So delegates who made up the quorum

Were asked for a short piece to blog

About the conference in Exeter’s Forum –

That’s the reason for this monologue


Communication as in sharing good practice

Or gath’ring classroom top tips and some notions

No end to the subjects designed to attract us

From growth mindset to prep for promotions


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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I really enjoyed observing Al Morris’ Year 8 DT class last week.

This lesson allowed the students to tidy away after a busy practical session in a safe and ordered environment. During the previous lesson, the students had been made aware of expectations to clear away. Al has used music to establish routines and teach pupils to associate particular cues with specific behavioral requirement’s in the classroom taken from Pavlov’s theory. Music is a great tool to signal a transition from one activity to another, for both the teacher and the student. The students knew exactly what to do when they heard the music, Benny Hill’s theme tune and responded right away. The room was tidy within 2.40 mins, a seriously impressive time. Pupils also had an incentive to do well as groups were timed and feedback and commendations given to winning tables.

The lesson ended with a ‘catch the question’ plenary.” Al started the ball rolling by asking a question, on answer a pupil could then ask a question to the class that they were sure or unsure of the answer and so on. Pupils were really enthusiastic to take on the teacher’s question role. It was a quick and easy plenary to apply in any lesson.

On arrival I had noticed a sign which read “Luke Warm Lesson!” Al, you need to change the sign to Red Hot Lesson.

Amanda Burdon

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 lessons Blog Post 2:Exam Questions

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In an attempt to improve student’s exam technique and literacy ability I have been experimenting through a number of strategies with GCSE students. This has been an ongoing measure so the opportunity to receive some feedback from peers by demonstrating one during Red Hot Lesson fortnight seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

The task involved setting students an exam question and allowing them time in groups to plan a response on a specially prepared sheet. Students were asked to write their responses themselves under timed conditions, then rotate answers to allow their peers to review their work and make suggestions for improvement. Another rotation of work allowed for peer marking of their initial answers against the GCSE mark scheme, The activity culminated in the final rotation of work to allow students their books back to review the comments and marks. Students were finally asked to take home their books to act on the comments to result in an answer worth full marks.


Most students coped well with this approach and were happy to participate in the activity, benefiting from the opportunity to plan their answers together and then offer suggestions for improvement. There were general nods of agreement after the lesson that they would be happy to undertake this approach again. What stood out for me most, though, was the fear in a couple of students eyes who actually failed to write more than two sentences (most wrote  between half and a whole page). They were anxious that their peers would be reviewing their work so closely, preferring instead to maintain a solitary approach to their learning (despite careful planning of groups to alleviate  this anticipated situation). They were reluctant to join in the group planning and could not bring themselves to write their answers. The interactive approach took them out of their comfort zone and, despite coaxing in the lesson, they did not benefit from the approach. I need to find a way to include them without them realising their are being included!

Their books and answers are due in for marking today so I hope the quality of the answers reflect the effort that appeared to be shown in the lesson.

Kerry Anstee


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