#15MinForum 26/1/16

Our first 15 minute forum took place earlier this week, kicked off by Gabby Veglio (Yr9 Year Leader and whole-school numeracy coordinator) leading a session on ‘Top Tips for Positive and Assertive Classroom Management’.15 minute forum

The Context

Although as a school I don’t think we would recognise ourselves as being part of the bigger picture presented in the media of ever-declining standards in student behaviour (and I certainly don’t think our students experience anywhere close to the supposed ‘average’ of 38 lost days of learning each year due to low level disruption (as reported last summer in this article)), that doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of students who, on their day (and possibly most days!), can present challenges.

At the other end of the spectrum, I would even dare to suggest that a great many of our students are so compliant, that it means we as teachers can get away without deploying (and thereby refining) our full armoury of strategies that force us as teachers to think carefully about what we say (or don’t say), how we say it, where we are in the room, etc…

And so this was a session which had a little something for everyone, be they individuals who recognise that there are classes who aren’t quite where we want them, or staff who feel proficient based on the fact that they ‘don’t get any hassle’ but who want to take the opportunity to reflect on the language they use and the steps they follow (and then consider how these factors contribute not just to behaviour, but to the general ‘climate’ of the classroom).

The Forum

Gabby led us through her top tips – Positivity, Prevention, Deal with the Low Level, Consequences, and Lesson Planning – before we then had chance to unpack some of them further in groups. Gabby’s resource slides can be seen in full further down (and are well worth a look!), but here are some of the highlights in a more ‘stream of consciousness’ format…

  • Use the non-verbal cues. Eye contact and long pauses – don’t fill the silences! Own the classroom and consider your position in it. Just changing where you are standing can modify the behaviour of individuals (and if it doesn’t, you are well placed to quietly redirect them)…
  • State what you want, don’t just label the behaviours you can see that you don’t want. This means phrasing things wherever possible (is it ever impossible?) in the positive: rather than “stop talking”, try “I’m expecting you to be listening, thanks” (using “thanks” rather than “please” changes what you are seeing from being a plea to an expectation of compliance)…
  • Public praise – catch them being good. Use this to highlight what you are looking for – identifying these role models publicly allows you to reinforce what you are expecting students to do without simply restating the original instructions…
  • Give students choice. Here we are aiming to be assertive without bullying. “Richard, you can work sensibly with Adam as I’ve asked, or you can work at the back on your own”, or “Michael, you can come back into the classroom and complete the task in the way I’ve asked, or you can choose to go and work on the safety net. Going to the safety net obviously means it will need to be followed up with a further sanction, but it is your choice to make”…
  • Avoid humiliation and confrontation. There may be a place for carefully-deployed sarcasm, but rarely is that place classroom/ behaviour management!
  • Avoid escalation and confrontation by acting ‘casually’ – “Steven, can I borrow you for a minute for a quick word” is less likely to cause a scene than launching into Steven in front of his peers…
  • Avoid unnecessary dialogue. This is partly about non-verbal cues, partly about diverting attention away from someone who may be looking for it, and partly about avoiding escalation: remember who is the adult and who is responsible for modelling the behaviours! We don’t always have to have the last word (but we do have to reinforce what we want and round off with a statement of expectation (i.e. “thanks” rather than “please”) – “but Sir, I wasn’t talking I was just borrowing his ruler” might be better handled, despite the fact that the student was clearly talking, with “ok, well now you’ve got the ruler you can carry on with the task without discussing it”…
  • Separate the person and the behaviour. De-personalise it, then emphasise that the behaviour is something the student is ‘choosing’…
  • Make decisions and follow them through! Never threaten something that you won’t/can’t follow through on…
  • Follow department/ school procedures. We each have our own approaches before we get to the formal heirarchy. It matters less what your own steps are before you get to the ‘formal procedures’ (i.e. how many verbal warnings you give, whether you use ‘good learning/ poor learning’ on the board etc) as long as you use the same ones all the time (it is shared) and you apply it in the same way each time (it is consistent). Linked to the earlier idea of ‘choice’, it is invariably a good thing to let students know what the next step will be (be explicit about expectations and where this is heading if expectations aren’t met)…
  • Routines, routines, routines. At the start of the lesson, at transitions between tasks, at the end of the lessons. Mek them explicit, reinforce them continually and ensure students understand the conditions under which tasks are being completed. One suggestion is to start the task, watch for a few minutes and observe, freeze the class, feedback on what is being done well and where (by way of clarifying and exemplifying expectations), then set them off again…
  • Use the seating pan (and vary it, if you there is a need to prevent students feeling that they, rather than you, ‘own’ a particular space)…

What next?

For those of you interested in some additional reading/ ideas/ support, here are my three top recommendations:


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Twilight INSET 19/1/16 – next steps with observations…

Having experienced generally very positive feedback from staff about the first round of observations that took place over the Autumn term (our first without grades and using our own Challoner 10 as the framework for discussion, rather than Ofsted criteria), we are now keen to get moving on the next round. And so, at the start of a twilight intended for developmental work in departments, we brought all teaching staff together to outline how the next round will work.

The general principles are the same as for the first round: the observations will be developmental (i.e. they won’t be graded and discussion after the observations will be focussed on reflective questioning and dialogue rather than ‘feedback’ per se) and we want to support teachers with everyday practice rather than one-off showpiece teaching.

At the same time as this, we want to create the opportunity for Subject Leaders to take some ownership over the process in terms of setting the agenda, in order to try and find opportunities for the observations to support departmental development priorities as well as the priorities of each individual teacher. Furthermore, we want to involve staff at all levels of the schools with the actual visiting of each others’ classrooms.

In order to do this, we are setting out to observe a department at time, seeing each member of the team on several occasions for 15-25 minutes at a time, as part of a series of Learning Walks, rather than observing each teacher once for a full lesson. The hope is to be able to schedule the Learning Walks to ensure that each team member is seen once with a priority group (the priority having been determined by the Subject Leader and their team), as well as visiting each teacher on a further couple of occasions on a more ‘impromptu’ basis. Each Learning Walk will be led by a member of the L&T team plus another member of the department.

In addition to identifying themes to be discussed with each class teacher at the end of the cycle, the intention is also to use the opportunity to develop the co-observer, partly in terms of their own noticing skills, but also in terms of their career development. For example, if I conduct a Learning Walk of a department and take the Subject Leader (or someone who is realistically aspiring to middle leadership) with me to co-observe, then the discussion with that person might probe their thoughts about what to raise in discussion with the class teacher afterwards, and how to go about doing so in order to stimulate a reflective dialogue (rather than just a retelling of events observed with some sort of judgement placed on it). If the co-observer who is on the Learning Walk with me is a newly- or recently-qualified teacher, the discussion may revolve more tightly around what we are seeing and the merits of the approaches being observed.

It seems like a good model to run with having already observed everyone once formally (and alongside regularly seeing staff across the school on the occasional whole-school Learning Walks and on our SLT Tours (which all of SLT are scheduled to do weekly, but which are more about showing interest in what the students are doing, showing support for staff where necesssary, generally ‘checking the temperature’…)), but it is going to be a big challenge logistically…

Twilight 19-01-16

iPads for Learning… keeping the emphasis where it ought to be

This week, we hosted a European delegation (mainly from Germany and Belgium) of teachers and educators (and a few Apple education resellers), who wanted to come in and have a look at what we are doing with iPads: we are now 18 months into our whole-school 1:1 deployment of iPads, and things are ticking over very nicely.

Neil Henderson (Deputy Head and all-round iPad guru) had done a great job of organising their time to give the delegates some time touring classrooms, some time interacting with apps themselves (led by Neil, showing examples of workflow and some of the potential that iPads offer), as well as touching on our model for financing and some of the technical considerations (ably assisted by Nick Carpenter, our Network Manager, who has been instrumental in making the scheme work).

Neil asked me if I would talk very briefly about iPads from a Learning and Teaching point of view, and the opportunity to do so got me thinking about what the message should be, given the limited time frame in which to convey it…

Back when we first started discussing the idea of a 1:1 deployment in 2013-14 (having already had a few class-sets, the use of which had hinted at their potential, but which was always limited by the fact that students couldn’t keep them and maintain them as their own, limiting the ease with which work was stored by individuals), one of my concerns was whether or not we, as a staff, were ‘ready for them’: did we have a sufficient number of staff with a sufficiently developed level of genuine expertise (in terms of learning and teaching, not necessarily technical know-how) to be able to exploit the potential of the technology in a genuinely transformative way (as opposed to simply using them for quick gimmicks and as a way of saving on photocopying)? I was unsure. Moreover, I wasn’t convinced that we had a sufficiently well-developed approach to professional development…

Back in May 2014, when the roll-out started (to staff, initially, ahead of a September 2014 roll-out to the first year group of students), I happened to read this article by Alistair Smith (@alatalite), in which he states that;

To start with technology and ignore the learning landscape is to invite disaster.

On first reading, it resonated with the concerns I had. However, at the same time as I was mulling over this important message I was, in my previous role before taking on L&T, becoming increasingly involved in carrying out lesson visits/ tours across the wider school, and for the first time felt I was starting to develop an accurate picture of where we were as a staff: we had the expertise in more than just ‘small pockets’ (though it wasn’t well recognised and shared and utilised to drive the school forward) and, more than that, we had a great deal of untapped potential which we simply had to harness, irrespective of whether we wanted to roll-out the iPad scheme…

In the absence, at that point, of any clear, shared whole-school vision in terms of L&T, maybe we could use the introduction of the technology as a trigger to stimulate something special for learning and teaching? Maybe introducing the technology could be a vehicle for getting learning and teaching back on the agenda? Maybe, with care, we could attend to the learning landscape using the technology as a lever?

We are still on that journey but there is no doubt in my mind that it has paid off, particularly since the launch of the new L&T agenda this academic year (the number one priority on the School Development Plan).

Slide2And so, rivisiting Alistair’s article, this is where I decided to start with the delegates: yes there are some great benefits of using a tool like the iPad: for instant AfL, to enhance/ facilitate feedback (teacher-teacher, student-teacher, student-student), for rapid access to a range of resources, for collaboration (student/teacher/peer), for construction (and co-construction!) of rich content, for differentiation and personalisation, for modelling, for flipped learning, to increase engagement and interaction… But none of these are the preserve of the iPad. Not one of them is an exclusive feature attributable solely to an iPad, or any other tablet technology. This is, first and foremost, a list of learning methodologies, and these must be the starting point.

If you or the staff in your school are starting with the questions ‘what apps are there for science?’ or ‘what apps are there for geography?’, then you are looking in the wrong place. There will, of course, be a periodic table app. There will, of course, be an app that allows students to interrogate maps (that’s bascially what they do in geography, right?). But these are one-off resources that are probably useful in a handful of lessons a year. Think instead about what you want to achieve in terms of assessment and feedback, then look at how the interconnectivity of the iPad can facilitate and enhance this. Think instead about what you want to achieve in terms of personalising the learning of individuals, then look at how the tools can make this possible.

Early on in our roll-out, there had to be training on ‘let’s look at how this app works’, and we had to do this for a lot of apps, and we continue to have to do this on occasion. But the emphasis now can come from point of view of the learning, not the technology: ‘let’s look at this particular learning methodology, why it works, the research/ theoretical underpinning, and then let’s see how the iPad can enhance (or even transform) the methodology in some tangible way’ (see this post about a recent twilight carousel for some idea of how we are working on this at the moment)

At least, that’s what’s working for us……….


…and then, just as I add the final touches to my post, moments before clicking ‘publish’, this pops up in my twitter feed…

The essence of my entire post summed up in less than 140 characters… probably could have saved myself the time and just published the tweet alone!

Twilight INSET 24/11/15 – Pt.2 L&T Carousel


The second part of this evening’s twilight was a carousel. Staff opted (prior to the afternoon) for 2x20minute sessions. Aside from the questioning session (led by Gabby Veglio, our Yr9 Year Leader and Numeracy Coordinator), the other sessions all had an iPad focus to them, part of our ongoing drive to ensure staff are supported with siezing opportunities to enhance learning using the iPads.

The sessions which show-cased socrative, nearpod, post-its and padlet were intended to be exactly that: a show-case of what the apps can do rather than necessarily how to go about setting them up (where is the incentive to go away and play with them if you haven’t first seen some of the reasons to have a play?!)

The sessions were followed-up with the opportunity for staff to come along to our iPad workshop on Thursday afternoons, hosted by Neil Henderson (one of our Deputy Heads and all-round iPad guru) and myself, to assist staff who now needed a little help working out how to actually incorporate these apps into their own classroom practice.

iPad workshop

Twilight INSET 24/11/15 – Pt.1 Professional Learning Projects

Having previously read a little bit about the idea of teacher learning communities in Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam, and subsequently read more here and elsewhere about collaborative models of professional development, a session led by @swhsleadership at the SSAT Leading Edge Annual Leadership Conference back in October was the final kick I needed in order to look at how we move forward with the idea.

The goal is to have ‘fully-fledged’ teacher learning communities (or whatever we end up calling them) in place for the end of the academic year, ready for them to form the backbone of our professional development programme next year (2016-17). The Professional Learning Projects was a way to collectively dip our toes in the water and get a sense of how they might work for us.

And so we started this evening’s INSET with a short briefing, all teaching staff together, to formally introduce the Professional Learning Projects…PLP header

Prior to the twilight, staff were given a brief sense of how the projects would work and were asked to express their top three preferences from a list of options:PLP choices

The opening 5 minutes was then a chance to make sure all staff were clear on why we were doing this and what we were hoping it would achieve.

Slide1It was a good opportunity to make it clear to staff that this is intended as a move away from stand-alone INSET sessions (not an abandonment of the stand-alones, but a re-prioritisation!) towards a longer-term, ongoing model in which the expertise of our own staff is valued, a forum is provided for discussion and sharing of ideas, choice and support is provided for staff in terms of their own individual areas of interest, and staff are given chance to experiment, take risks and learn from it all. No small ambition!

The general process, irrespective of which particular project group staff opted for, will be similar: Slide2

      1. A reflection stage, involving pooling of ideas and consideration of some carefully selected reading/ research literature that group leaders had assembled beforehand
      2. Moving to action, forcing teachers to make their ideas and intentions more concrete. Staff were encouraged to focus on a small number of changes, spelling out specific changes in teaching practice and time-frame, identifying some aspect of their approach to pedagogy/ classroom practice that will be done differentely/ additionally/ less/ not at all.
      3. Planning for reflection/ review – what was effective? how do you know? what next?

Having had a number of staff express interest over the last couple of months in structured peer observations, this also presents an opportunity to make peer obs part of the development programme, possibly by using a peer observer to help identify impact.

From there, it was off into the project groups (ranging from 5 people up to 16 people) to get cracking… more to follow in the coming months!

The support materials for the individual project sessions looked like this…

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INSET Day 7/10/15

INSET Day  07-10-15 focus The brief opening slot of today’s INSET provided an opportunity to set out some of the priority areas for the coming year: the inextricably linked ideas of shared success criteria, effective assessment and students knowing how to improve…

Prior to the INSET day, everyone was organised into groups of about 8 staff (to ensure staff were working in groups containing a range of subjects/ experiences/ characters) and an email went out with the subject ‘Important information for the INSET day (worth flagging)…

The body of the email repeated the hint: ‘You might like to flag this email ahead of tomorrow’s INSET… (and yes, it will help your team stake their claim on a prize)‘ and then provided a piece of information (each group had a different email, though they didn’t know this and nor did they know who was in what group… a sure way to create some intrigue in the staff room in the days leading up to the INSET! A nice way to get people talking about the INSET day in positive terms before it has even happened!)

Examples of the sort of information each group was given included:

Your population is 15.74 million, you produce most of the balsa wood in the world, and your capital city is Quito.

Your population is 8.098 million, public performances of your national anthem usually only involve the final verse and chorus, and your capital city is Tegucigalpa.

Your population is 22.92 million, you have 143,700 landlines in use, and your capital city is Antananarivo.

And so on for 13 different groups. The only bit that anyone needed to think about was the capital city, but the random facts added to the intrigue! Most staff googled the country, but not all had then taken the hint to look at the flag for their country!

running out of retort stands in the lab!

Watching staff run around the school hall (flight of the bumblebee blaring out) trying to work out which flag was theirs, shouting at each other for help in order to be able to start the first challenge (and win themselves a breakfast hamper of croissant, pain au chocolat and juice to consume during the rest of the morning!) was a great way to start the morning. The first challenge was a L&T Tarsia (if you haven’t discovered Tarsia, you’re missing out! Free, easy to use, kids love it)

And so to business…

INSET Day  07-10-15

First we took a look at some of the research headlines to provide some context for the decision to place some emphasis on the three specific areas of our Challoner 10 over the coming months.

INSET Day  07-10-15 research



This, combined with the fact that we have a new assessment and feedback policy in place this year which we are seeking to develop and embed, provides good justification for taking some time to think about these three areas!


Terminology and general rationale…

I started by suggesting that it doesn’t matter a great deal whether we call them objectives, outcomes, success criteria, aims, WALTs, WILFs,  etc. Rather, what matters is that we have a shared conception of the ideas, why they are arguably important, and how we might use them effectively. Given the seeming preference within the research literature (and my own personal preference for what I think is greater clarity than objectives/outcomes), I framed the session (and continue to frame my conversations with colleagues) using Learning Intentions and Success Criteria.

Learning Intentions & Success Criteria


Having explored, in groups and as a whole staff, what Learning Intentions and Success Criteria can be/ should be, we focussed our attention specifically on Success Criteria. The full slides from the session can be seen below, but the focus of much of the discussion was on the importance of students being able to operationalise and internalise the success criteria, through modelling and assessement (of various sorts). Unfortunately, there was little time left to really get into the value of modelling and some particular strategies for how to go about using modelling and collaborative assessment, but this is certainly something we’ll come back to… (in the meantime, check out this post over at ClassTeaching)


And here is a nice little video from John Hattie…


Full session slides below…

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