#TLT16: Final keynote

Lindsay Skinner invites us to consider teacher presence in the classroom.

Think about what moves a lesson from a cover lesson to a lesson: the teacher. Focus on the voice, the body, the person. What is it that makes one person someone the kids want to listen to? Clear, fluent, emotionally engaging: eloquent.

Eloquence tends to be referred to in formal situations. Are our lessons formal, or everyday events when we forget about eloquence?

Attention span. Lower at the start, then rises as you become engaged with the speaker, then falls and rises again at the end, in anticipation of it. Use that: put something at the start to catch attention (an anecdote?) and recap the lesson content at the end. Break up the learning to re-engage attention.

Speed of speech. Conversational English is 5-6 syllables a second; newsreaders speak deliberately slower because they are transmitting important information.

Choose your words: go for a more formal phrase. Realise I do this: the difference between calling attention with, ‘Guys’ and, ‘Year 9’ is a big one. I use the latter when the former doesn’t work.

Give instructions in the correct order. ‘Use key words’ should come at the start, not the end, for example. Begin sentences with an imperative so your instructions are clearly to be follows: don’t give students the opportunity to opt out.

Beginning with a personal anecdote humanises you to your students and gets them on board.

This was engaging, funny and the perfect end to the day. Great conference.

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#TLT16: Workshop 3

Toby French on “Marking and assessment are not the same”.

Why do we think marking is so important?

  • We care. Read what students are writing, but it isn’t always necessary to mark all of it.
  • CCTV for senior leaders – but like a CCTV camera, this shows only some things, not all.
  • We’re in a terrible marriage. Apparently Didau has now changed his opinion on his “Marking is an act of love” catchphrase (for the record, I haven’t) – it’s a loveless marriage. We are trapped by it.
  • We talk about marking: it is part of our everyday teaching chatter.

Marking takes a huge amount of time. It over-complicates teaching. It’s too much about making evidence for the teacher and often confused with feedback.

We discuss the different between marking and feedback amongst ourselves. I mention that I gave up marking classwork as a matter of course a few years ago, with no discernible negative impact, but that it feels odd to be doing this in my new school because the students are expecting it.

Other responses: it’s a territorial pissing contest. One says verbal feedback has to be recorded on the VLE for parents to see it. Toby shares details of a marking scrutiny that he has experienced, that was followed up with a league table of staff, published to all staff.

Who are we marking for?

Toby asks us to discuss what we should do before to ensure students do the work better to start with:
1. Add comments from a piece of work to a spreadsheet and display next time you set the task.
2. Set success criteria with the students (very TEEP).
3. Have a checklist of the key things needed in a piece of work and have them tick them off as they do them.
4. Have pre-agreed expectations and refuse to mark a piece until those are met.
5. ‘What’s wrong with this?’ – write WWWT? next to the work: students have to figure out the answer.
6. Live modelling an answer.

(I missed a couple of these, sorry).

Toby suggests:

  • Modelling
  • Scaffolding – ask a series of questions to help students move themselves on; occasional sentence starters or key words (thinking of Rich Kennet’s ‘This is not surprising’ in sourcework)
  • Common misconceptions
  • Pre-editing
  • Pre-highlighting – ‘I hope you’ve mentioned xyz…’ before they hand it in.

What does Toby mean by feedback? It’s teaching: wandering the room and giving them prompts and help; asking the right questions; facilitating their discussion.

A practical tip: if you start with a lesson question have three colour coded answers on the board at the end of the lesson and ask students to choose one and display the corresponding page in their planner.

Another one: Toby’s take on dot marking – a red dot means you do the blue target, a blue dot means you do the green target and so on. At the top of the ladder you get a written target. This would solve the problem I have with coloured dot marking: once students (think they have) finished their target, they don’t know how to improve further. My coloured dots are a bit more bespoke because they cover content and skill but it would be good to think of a way to combine these things.

Whole class marking: there are several people writing about this at the moment.

How can you promote this? Show its efficacy in your own subject: build a system and show how well it works.
Don’t …

  • Create a whole school marking policy (wince…my successful trial of doing DIRT with a purple pen led to a whole school policy that was firmly laid at my  door when my old HoD did my leaving speech in July. In my defence, I never advocated it for outside of Hums. Sometimes these things just seem to take on a life of their own.)
  • Create more work for anyone.
  • Ask students about marking.
  • Think you care more than others.
  • Think you don’t care as much as others.
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#TLT16: Workshop 2

Stephanie Keenan on wider reading: the 7 year plan.

What do we want the ideal A-level student to look like? This needs to be built from year 7. We discuss what our ideal students would look like. Do we agree with Stephanie’s list? Is it any different between y7 and y13? Should staff be teaching these skills?

At Stephanie’s school they made it a whole school, all years focus and gave staff CPD time for the development. Time is given to departments to develop their own literacy focused booklets to encourage wider reading. There is a focus on three things:
1. Speak like an expert: staff correct small speaking errors like ‘I done it’
2. Write like an expert: subject specific language
3. Aim high: DIRT time
It’s reinforced verbally in class and visually through posters.

The three main areas of focus is to:
1. explicitly teach tier 2 and 3 vocabulary (2 is words that are common in written texts but rare in speech; 3 is specialised vocab: key words)
2. improving subject knowledge through wider reading
3. SPAG: “think pink” – all teachers highlight spag marks that are then corrected in dirt time; also grammar workshops for staff.

Put reading ages on seating plans (reading age is one of my favourite strategies for differentiation in group work) and encourage staff to set wider reading texts.

Apparently, we need to know 95% of a text’s vocabulary to understand it. This means students often give up if they are struggling with the text.

We discuss strategies for teaching key words. Stephanie questions whether staff are teaching both tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary: I think 3 is easier than 2. Is it possible to ask departments to provide a list of all the tier 2/3 language necessary in their subject? Somebody makes the point that there might be significant crossover in command words among departments, so sharing the load for this might be possible.

Stephanie suggests some strategies.


Wider reading: focus on core knowledge, cultural capital and key/threshold concepts. All English homeworks are spg or wider reading based: recommendation is to alternate wider reading homeworks with subject specific homeworks. Reading a secondary text increases absorption of the primary text – try pairing fiction with nonfiction. Faculty challenge:


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#TLT16: Workshop 1

Kamil Trzebiatowski is talking about EAL students and using academic language.

As competent language users, we don’t see the language: it is like a window through which we look at the content. For children who struggle with it, the glass is frosted.

The Prism Model helps students catch up with their native speaking peers. The triple focus must be language, academic AND cognitive development. So, withdrawal doesn’t necessarily work because it removes them from the school.

Children will develop BICS on their own, just more quickly with school intervention. CALP takes much longer – 5-7 years to reach the same level as their peers. Students need CALP to get at least a C in English.

EAL students have to learn English, plus the curriculum content, plus social language, plus culturally-embedded social practicrs: following the teacher’s gaze, knocking on the door etc. They have to make MORE progress just to keep up.

Strategies. If you use pictures, they can use the context to understand the words: no need to lower the language level (also promotes high expectations: Ofsted approved!)

Kamil talks us through the A-E EAL grading that has come in this year. At C, many students flat line: this is the area where academic language should begin to come in. He talks us through some examples from each level. This is extremely helpful: it gives me some ideas about what to look out for in my students’ written work.

Kamil sometimes records himself explaining something before a lesson so he can check his use of language ahead of time. Using substitution tables to show how sentences are built up assists EAL students when you’re checking content knowledge:

There was more to this, but the WordPress app ate it. I am no longer trusting the WordPress app with my conference notes. Google Keep FTW.

Trying to piece it together, I know Kamil also talked about using graphic organisers to help students sort out their work, building on the work of (I think) Malbec. Here is one that I thought would work in History, that I photographed:


Here is a link I have found to more of them.

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#TLT16: Opening Keynote

John Tomsett begins by recommending Better by Atul Gawande:


…memories of teachers taking something and applying it without thought, out of desperation for a quick fix. There isn’t a quick fix.

Dylan Wiliam clip: “Sharing good practice” is a bad idea. It is a fundamental distraction because teachers are like magpies. “I used to do that: it was good!” – so why did you stop? Focus on consolidating and embedding.

Metacognition: thinking about your learning; we need to model these mental processes involved in learning which we take for granted. Illuminate students’ minds with how you produce work or learn something. John shares his work writing an A-level answer on a visualiser (I have done this: it was good!) – to begin with he just wrote down what he was thinking when he saw the questions. John had successfully modelled how to apply what he had learned.


Rob Coe reminds us that you have to see strategies through and evaluate how they work. Plan something and use it before Christmas.


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#SHP16: My workshop

This year at SHP my workshop was titled Stickability and it was all about classroom practice that helps to embed knowledge across the two year GCSE course. I’ve been dipping into Make It Stick all year and most of what I shared was focused on interleaving and spaced practice. As I write my new schemes of work for GCSE I am going to embed a few things right from the very beginning: a benefit of having to rework an entire qualification is the opportunity to do this.

My focus for next year is going to be on core knowledge tests, 5-a-day sheets and flashcards for the units we’re teaching. Meanwhile, I’ll be rewriting the KS3 programme of study for my new school to reflect the change in GCSE units, and creating the generic core knowledge competition that I have been thinking about for the latter half of this year.

Here are my slides from the workshop, as a pdf – sorry, no PowerPoint this time but if you want my Smartnotes slides, please email me.

SHP16 Sally Thorne slides

Most of the handouts are available on this blog somewhere – American West/Crime and Punishment flashcards, Three Truths and a Lie, all my Crime and Punishment 5-a-day sheets. I’m afraid if I wait to add links to these, this post will languish unpublished for months, so please do a search but get in touch if you want something and can’t find it.

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Resources for revising Crime and Punishment

Just reading back over my last blog post. “Less busy”, haha.

Anyway, I have a couple of helpful things to share. The first is a set of Crime and Punishment flashcards I made for my Y11s. These are modelled on the American West ones I made a couple of years ago and are pitched at the Edexcel B specification. They are wildly popular; a couple of my girls asked me if I would create some for the Protests unit too. Unfortunately the clock might have run down for that one.

This is an Excel file and the definitions are back to front, so that when you print them double sided they match up with the correct term.

Crime Revision Flashcards

Secondly, a set of starter/revision/homework sheets. Before half term I saw Matt (@26mxw) tweeting about a 5-a-day starter sheet he read about in this blog post. I very much appreciated the uniformity of this approach and thought it might be a good way to help my Y10s to prepare for their mock. I had a bit of free time in the following school day so I set about creating a few for the following term.

I must confess that I was not thinking of these as quick 5-10 minute starter tasks; this was more about tackling the particular issues I have found Y10 struggling with, to wit:

  • Differentiating among the strands of the topic, eg the difference between law enforcement and punishment (I knew I should have gone back to teaching it thematically)
  • Treating sources as evidence
  • That tricky “how useful?” source Q3
  • Correctly ordering the chronology, particularly in the 50-1350 section

In addition, since I see my Y10s for a double every week and a single every other week, I created these with that double lesson in mind. It will make a good starter that we can revisit twice later in the lesson: once to complete, once to mark. Then I can collect and mark the bits they can’t. If I’ve got a particularly packed lesson planned, I can set as a homework.

The first three are pegged quite closely to last summer’s Crime paper, since that will be their mock. I haven’t tried it yet, so if you try it and like it, please let me know; likewise if you try it and have suggestions for improvements.

5-a-day starter 6-6

5-a-day starter 13-6

5-a-day starter 20-6

5-a-day starter 27-6

5-a-day starter 4-7

Matt has been working on something a lot snappier for Medicine so please tweet him if you’d like to see what he’s been doing.

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