Tag Archives: Teaching

Bravery versus blanks: reflections on the South West Academic Trust Conference 2015

150612 LEL

When have you experienced your strongest sense of trepidation? Before an interview? Prior to a bungee jump? Awaiting the results of last month’s general election?

Stood in front of approximately 70 of my DHSB teaching colleagues ten days ago, I quaked. Having been given the opportunity to share results and reflections of a collaborative action research project carried out this year, I felt overwhelmed by the professional experience, skill and intellect of my school team.

Thankfully, they are also a lovely group of individuals and were receptive to my stammering, halting presentation. Audacious goal number one: achieved.

Forward another ten days and I was ready to quake once more; this time preparing to deliver a workshop on a similar theme to delegates at the 2015 SWAT Conference, in a seminar room with seemingly robotic facilities and a sweeping view of Exeter.  Once again, one crucial common denominator saved me: teachers are genuinely lovely people!  My workshop title began ‘Filling in the blanks…’ and, without encouragement, the delegates immediately began to do just that whenever given the chance.  Not that there were blank gaps per se, more carefully structured opportunities for discussion. Teachers are curious, hungry for knowledge and keen to support; they are the perfect audience.

Personal bravery aside, a key theme began to emerge throughout the day.

Dan Roberts’ emphasis on the personal crusade that teachers must wage (with He-Man as a metaphorical lynchpin) was pertinent, given the emphasis on bravery and independence seen elsewhere in workshops.

Year 10 students from Torquay Boys’ Grammar School led workshops on teaching techniques and were able to argue, with conviction, for greater independence in learning. Another Torquay voice, this time a literacy coordinator from the girls’ school, has engendered bravery around grammatical skills by fostering a ‘grammar amnesty’ in which staff and students alike are encouraged to debunk notions of mistakes as failures by sharing them and address issues through witty videos.

Young undergraduate students delivered a keynote to the entire cohort about the challenges and issues faced throughout the transition from KS5 to university and spoke with compelling honesty on some difficult subjects such as sexism and mental health among students.

Therefore, despite some of the many challenges, changes, accusations and cuts faced by educators, teachers and students alike are working as hard as ever. Despite political change, the classroom remains a shared space in which teaching and learning drive the development of people.

The diversity and passion of the students and teachers at the SWAT Conference 2015 was infectious.  Bravery as an approach allows us to experiment, innovate and reflect: it builds our resilience (like He-Man, we will master the universe) and enables a sense of defiance to drive our work in turbulent times.

Louise Everett Lindsay @EverettLindsayL

Teacher of English and Media Studies


Going SOLO involves the whole school – blog post 1 from #SWATCONF15


Making flowers out of bits of foam at 10am in the morning, I wondered how this could ever help me in teaching Economics. SOLO taxonomy is a way of getting the students to order their learning to enable them to asses how they are progressing, what stage they are at and what they need to do in order to achieve top level. What I particularly like is that students can visually see how they can stretch themselves in any subject. I can visually see how students are able to become more independent learners if they understood exactly how this works.

The orders are PRESTRUCTURAL; Find out the key idea takes you to UNISTRUCTURAL; Find out more, do further research, ask questions takes you to MULTISTRUCTURAL; Go deeper. Find out WHY. Link knowledge and ideas to the bigger picture takes you to RELATIONAL; Think critically about the issue. Analyse and evaluate. Be creative. Think for yourself, takes yourself to EXTENDED ABSTRACT.

For Theory of the Firm in Economics it would look something like this:

PRESTRUCTURAL – I do not know anything about the structure of different markets

UNISTRUCTURAL – Explain how the market goes from Perfect competition, to Monopolistic, to Oligopoly to Monopoly. I can define what these are.

MULTISTRUCTURAL – Describe the characteristics of each of these markets. I can list and explain the key characteristics of each market structure.

RELATIONAL – Explain how different firms fit into different markets dependent on their objectives. I can independently analyse the market structure for long-haul and short haul flights (for example)

EXTENDED ABSTRACT – Critically evaluate how firms can move from one market structure to another dependent on their behaviour. I can analyse and evaluate using examples of different firms the type of market structure they operate in and how impacts on profit.

To help both the teacher and the learner in this quest, there are colour-coded symbols for each of the stages. We saw it effectively used in Art, Design Technology and French. During the student research presentations we saw it effectively used in History.  I can see it being used effectively in Economics, so does this call for a whole school approach to solving the dilemma of how to help the students visualise stretch and challenge?

I have lots of resources on how to use the method if you are interested in seeing if it would work for your subject.

Nicola Lilley @nicolalilley3

Teacher of Economics and Business

Do you stretch and challenge in the classroom?

Picture by  @RWM_learninglab
Picture by @RWM_learninglab

It is certainly time for an update on progress for my Challenge project at DHSB. My last post was in May last year! However I can confidently say I have made substantial progress in that time.

I had posed a number of questions in my last post outlining the aim of the project and those remain.

*What is stretch and challenge?

*Why stretch and challenge at DHSB?

*How effective is stretch and challenge at DHSB?

Whilst I cannot reach a conclusion I can start to surmise why I am looking at challenge with DHSB.

My starting point for this research was to survey the teaching staff. They are driving forwards teaching and learning in our school and so their thoughts and opinions are paramount. The data was based on the teacher standards and focused on how we support those students who need greatest challenge.  The data was interesting with 50/70 (check figures) staff completing the questionnaire, a brief summary of some of the data is below

  • 76% set goals which stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds and abilities
  • 74% plan homework to consolidate and extend the knowledge and understanding pupils have achieved
  • 66% know how and when to differentiate appropriately

I know these are quite broad and crude calculations, however the important question is how do we know this? How can this be evaluated, triangulated and evidenced more?

The next stage now is for our most able students to go into their lessons and reflect on the teaching and learning going that is happening.  They are receiving their training next week which will enable them to be confident to make judgments in lessons about what they are observing. They will be considering the following:

  • I learn best when…
  • I am challenged when…
  • The type of teaching I enjoy most…

This will naturally require them to highlight particular subjects and teachers, but will also provide irrefutable evidence which is essential to effectively evaluating the provision of challenge at DHSB and whether it meets the thoughts and opinions of teachers.

I am really looking forward to this part of the research, giving ownership to our students who after all are the ones who benefit from the great teaching which happens at DHSB.

Rachael Green @dhsbgeography 

Head of Geography

SWAT Co-ordinator


Why don’t you Pecha Kucha in your next lesson?

Pecha Kucha? What is it? Well it is Japanese and is pronounced –”pe-chak-cha”,

“The presentation format was devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture. The first PechaKucha Night was held in Tokyo in their gallery, lounge, bar, club, creative kitchen SuperDeluxe in February 2003. Klein Dytham architecture still organize and support the global PechaKucha Night network and organise PechaKucha Night Tokyo.” Wikipedia

It basically involves you showing a presentation of 20 different images, you show each image for 20 seconds and you talk about something. This means that your presentation will only last for 6 minutes and 40 seconds on a topic of your choice.

In fact I was asked to present in this format at the Education Show in Birmingham recently. I was sharing the innovative approach to Teaching and Learning that is happening at DHSB. I talked about 20 creative ways we were improving Teaching by using a timed PowerPoint that automatically changed slides every 20 seconds.


In the past I have asked students to create their own Pecha Kucha’s as part of a revision lesson however if you want to do this with younger students or more quickly you can perhaps get them to select 6 key images that they will talk about so their presentation only lasts 2 minutes.  It is an exciting format so why not try it in your next lesson or at your next CPD session in your school.

Dan Roberts @danjjroberts

Deputy Headteacher

TOOLKIT #2 – Reviewing learning

The following ideas for starting a lesson arrived in the DHSB Teaching pink post box this week. If you want to add any more please leave a comment:


’Bounce, Pounce’ – Using higher order questioning (Bloom’s) to bounce questions from one student or group of students to others to review what they have learnt.

Student led review’ – Empowering students to take the lead in this see our recent Lazy teacher post.

‘Random name picker’ – Randomly selecting a student or small groups of students to answer specific questions related to the learning objectives of the lesson. There are many examples out there such as the hat or the famous Fruit Machine.

‘Headlines’ – Get students to create 3 headlines that could be featured in a newspaper to review what they have learnt this lesson.

‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ – Students have to write 3 multiple choice questions related to the learning objectives, these can then be shared or used as a starter for the next lesson.

‘Self Assess’ – After completing a piece of writing or an answer to a question, students are given a mark scheme or success criteria and they use highlighters to self assess and check their own progress. This could then be combined with peer assessment.

‘Word games’ – You can use games like word association to link to the learning objectives of the lesson and to review the learning.

‘Mini Whiteboard’s’ – The teacher or other students ask questions related to the learning objectives that can be completed and shown on the whiteboard, a good way to assess the whole class quickly.

‘1 min challenge’ – Students have to sum up what they have learnt during the lesson in just 60 seconds.

‘Aide memoirs’ – Students devise their own ideas/mnemonics e.g. picture/visual clues to the meaning of key words.

‘Answer hunt’ – Questions with alternative answers posted around the walls and students go to the answer they think is correct and explain why.

‘Bingo’ – Using keywords or key phrases from the lesson to play a game of Bingo.

‘Charades/Pictionary’ – Get students to act out themes, keywords or draw them for other students to guess as a way of reviewing the learning.

‘Call my bluff’ – Give out unfamiliar or new terms linked to the prior learning of the current lesson and give students option of the correct answers or terms and they then need to work out the right answer.

‘Hot seating/Speed dating’ – Students work through a series of questions/answers or activities but regularly swap partners.

Toolkit #1 – 15 Engaging Starters

The following ideas for starting a lesson arrived in the DHSB Teaching pink post box this week. If you want to add any more please leave a comment:


‘Sketcha Pic’ – Students complete a timed sketch for 30 seconds to 1 minute from a photograph then they have to annotate the features or characteristics, a great way in any subject to generate ideas and thoughts at the start of a new topic or lesson.

‘Thunks’ – This originates from Ian Gilbert of Independent Thinking it basically is approaching a different way of asking a simple question for example using twitter as inspiration ask the question in just 140 characters sum up the theory of relativity.

‘Traffic Lights’ – Start the lesson with a focus on literacy in any subject by playing a key word game using the traffic lights in your school planner.

‘Praise’ – Start your lesson by drawing on the excellent achievements of the previous lesson, praising behaviour and attitudes etc to raise the expectations for this lesson whilst reviewing the prior learning and connecting it to the new lesson.

‘Word Wheel’ – Another great strategy to also help reinforce literacy, using the key words for the lesson in a word wheel and getting the students to discuss them or apply them.

‘Hang man’ – The gruesome yet effective way of ‘hooking’ students in to try to identify the title’ or learning objectives through play.

‘Taboo’ – A great engaging way to get students in small groups or as a whole class to guess the key words or the theme for the lesson.

‘In the News’ – Displaying a news article on the board or a series of articles displayed around the room related to the topic. Students complete a quiz or discuss them to explore the learning of the lesson.

‘Big Picture’ – Display some images on the board and students have to link them to their prior learning and also suggest how it links to their new learning. For example this could be more abstract that one image links to a series of answers that students have to explain step by step how they came to link the known topic.

‘Quotes’ – Writing words, examples or quotes on the board that link to the theme of the lesson. You could even use jokes or short video clips on a loop and students must identify the rationale behind it.

‘TED Ed’ – There are so many fantastic videos that you can use to start your lesson in an engaging and curious way. Check out this blog post for more detail.

‘Matching Task’ – Give students a hand out with some images and statements related to the learning objectives and they have to match them up then their peers check if they are correct.

‘Rally Robin’ – Getting students engaged in a dialogue about facts, knowledge and understanding from previous lessons which then links to the new knowledge of that lesson.

‘Mission Impossible’ – Hiding activities under chairs or tables and students have to find it then complete it before the music ends.

‘Circus Time’ – This has nothing to do with clowns or performing seals but basically you place several short activities around the classroom and each group moves round to complete the 7 or 8 1 minute starters including more practical elements.