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The #PedagooAwards
November 29, 2012

In a random, and frankly quite odd, discussion on twitter the other night, Eddie and I began batting about the idea of having some sort of awards for/by Pedagoo…

I have to admit that I have an element of distrust about education “awards”. I think this is related to my emerging thoughts on good/best practice: http://fkelly.co.uk/2012/01/good-practice/ However, there’s something in this idea which appeals to me.

I don’t think we’d do anything web-focused, there’s quite a few of those sort of “best blog” type awards around already. And anyway, Pedagoo isn’t really about blogs and twitter as such, it’s more about making use of blogs and twitter to develop and share practice in order to improve the educational outcomes for our learners.

So, what would our awards be for? Well how about the following awards, each of which could have a number of categories: Educator/School/Local Authority/Student…?


So, there could be an ‘Innovation Award’ given to an educator AND a school AND a Local Authority and so on…

How would this work? I think we could ask for nominations from individuals as blog posts on pedagoo.org. The nominations would need to include an explanation for each category submitted. We could then either have some sort of vote amongst the community…or the formation of a judging panel…I’m not sure what would be best here.

Why does this appeal to me? As Eddie said…

@mrewhite: @fkelly a body of teachers awarding authorities & schools for their conduct. This is brilliant. Could never happen without a pedagoo though!

So…what do you think? Good idea or bad idea? If you think there’s something in the idea, how do you think it should work? And, given that we normally need a new #PedagooAdmin for each new Pedagoo idea…would you be interested in running these awards?

Would love your feedback on this…please comment below…

November 26, 2012

RMPS, RME, RE…whatever you want to call it, religious education can have an undeserved reputation as perhaps the most ‘boring’ subject in the curriculum.  This prejudice isn’t only shared by pupils, but by staff and parents alike.  I know this, because as an RMPS teacher I am too often expected to justify my subject, my career choice and the place of religious, moral and philosophical education in school.  When out socially, I often wonder what people think my response ought to be when I explain what I do for a living and they reply “I HATED RE!”.  Usually, I chuckle and wonder what on earth could have happened in their RE classroom to incite such hatred for the subject.

I don’t mean to start my post negatively; let me be clear, I relish challenging the perceptions of RMPS.  In fact, one of the main things I enjoy about being an RMPS teacher is challenging perceptions and welcoming discussion and debate about religion in the curriculum.  There is nothing I love more than watching a pupil, who has for many years been entirely disengaged with the RMPS curriculum, suddenly pick up a pencil and for the first time…perhaps ever…meaningfully engage in their core religious education.  Why?  Because their perceptions have been challenged with a ‘fun’ activity.

Currently I am teaching my S3’s a core unit on Christianity.  It can be difficult to convince pupils that this is going to be interesting, never mind fun!  Quite often, pupils react to the news of a Christianity unit with a unified ‘uuggghhh’ and many other grunts and groans that suggest they are going to do their very best not to enjoy any of this.

Working through the unit of work, during term 1, I managed to get almost everyone on board.  We’ve had role-plays, presentations, treasure hunts to find evidence for Jesus’ existence…continuously I have strived to do all that I could do to enhance enjoyment and engagement in the subject.  However, there is always a pupil who, in their determination not to enjoy RMPS, cannot fully engage in the subject and as a consequence misses out.

This particular challenge came to me in the shape of a 3rd year boy who after being, as he described, “dragged” to a Christian Sunday School every week as a young child, was absolutely determined that he was not going to enjoy RMPS and refused to fully participate in ANYTHING.  Upon speaking with him about what he enjoyed out with the RMPS department, it became clear that he very much enjoyed watching and drawing cartoons.  Given that we were about to study some Biblical stories, it was obvious to me I would need to harness this existing interest in cartoons whilst studying The Good Samaritan.

A quick search on YouTube led me to Bibletoons; simple, but effective Biblical cartoons, less than 5 minutes long, that subtly use humour without deviating from the story.  The Good Samaritan cartoon provided an engaging introduction to the parable.  Pupils were engrossed in the cartoon and participated fully in class discussion.  I was able to assess understanding whilst the pupils discussed their own interpretation of the story.  Remember my disengaged S3 pupil?  During group discussion, he was sharing his own interpretation of the story with his peers, explaining that he knew this story quite well…from Sunday School!

I wanted every pupil to produce a cartoon comic strip of their own to explain the story.  I have used cartoons in class before and already had a comic strip worksheet.  These are easy to come by with a simple Google search or, of course, you or the pupils could draw your own template to allow for flexibility of space.  I always have a class set of these cartoon strip worksheets handy since it’s a very effective visual teaching aid that some pupils respond extremely well to.  I have found myself giving these out when I see pupils struggling to engage with what they are being asked to do in class.  Some pupils like to use these as templates to plan ideas or to plan a presentation.  However, for this task, pupils were required to submit a cartoon strip like that you would find in any newspaper or magazine.

So, now I have a collection of Biblical cartoons.  Looking at them, it’s interesting to note that every pupil varies in their approach; some are contemporary, some are traditional, some are beautifully illustrated, others are simplistic…but all tell the story of The Good Samaritan in their own unique way.  To my delight, as illustrated below, thanks to a very simple idea, I have a beautifully illustrated, detailed cartoon produced by a pupil that only a few weeks ago I could not have engaged in any aspect of their core RMPS education.

And my favourite part of this whole teaching and learning experience? Seeing a disengaged S3 boy visibly change his attitude and engagement when suddenly he realised RMPS doesn’t necessitate boring; it can be fun and relevant to him. Engaging this pupil has been the biggest challenge for me this year; however, upon reflection it has also been a highlight. It shows that if I can be creative and play to the strengths of a pupil then any topic can be made relevant and engaging. It’s about putting the learner at the center.


Beermeet Lothians 2
November 24, 2012

We scheduled the second of the BeermeetLothians for this coming Thursday, 29th November (also known as Pay Day in WL!!).

Unfortunately in the excitement of being ill at the start of the week I forgot to post about it earlier.

As yet I haven’t booked a space for us anywhere, but I’m willing to do so once we get an idea of numbers. Due to the short notice, however I wondered if we should just check…

1) Whether we want to go ahead this month on the topic of Motivation.

2) Whether we would  prefer to try a virtual gathering for this month – maybe on Google+ hangout or on a twitter conversation (#BML)

3) Leave for the end of November and aim for Thursday 13th December instead.

Apologies and thanks,



#PedagooFriday 23/11/12
November 23, 2012

Really cracking #PedagooFriday today.

QR quiz for N3/N4 chemistry kids loved using technology, totally engaged and 'found' so much shared (cont) http://t.co/UrIeGOPw
Charlaine Simpson
#pedagoofriday Made a massive map with Y10 business studies - label & discuss different sorts of ownership #ecbusteach http://t.co/kGxLKY5H
Mad (name not fact)
@ #PedagooFriday pupils self evaluate own work with SOLO stage and identify feed forward comment...then peer evaluation ...share
Andy Knill
#PedagooFriday My Year 9s were brill this wk using their knwledge of forces to write a report advising Lewis Hamilton what car he shld buy!
Doug Cremin
#pedagoofriday Persuading my yr12 L2 re-sit girls to speech map their speeches and remember them! #AnEndToDullReadingOfSpeeches
Claire Howlett
Launching Marginal Gains and #SOLO this week with several groups was a highlight of my week. Match made in heaven #PedagooFriday @
Simon Baddeley
#PedagooFriday My Year 8s produced some outstanding E/Q proof buildings. Some even had inbuilt electrics with 'generators' attached #amazing
Emma Rawlings Smith
Using the ipad to improve the quality of my demonstrations during my swimming lesson today #PedagooFriday http://t.co/MxRFcu0X
Jon Tait
SMT observation feedback that was pretty fab and a reminder that sometimes I do get it right #PedagoFriday
Miss Cunningham
#PedagoFriday year 8 creating poetry using concrete, haikus or acrostics about water! Amazingly creative.
Karen Duxbury-Watkin
#PedagoFriday Great to see year 8 girls getting into computing this week - excelling with HTML!! #computing
 Mr O'Callaghan
Marginal gains and a llesson objective focus - seeing my sixth formers really love the concept and fly with it! #pedagoofriday
Claire Doherty
@ - the highlight of my teaching week is my #5MinPlan being viewed used in schools across the UK!http://t.co/5SOUYuos#PedagooFriday




Raising Boys Attainment or Superheroes need Super Teachers

Boys… They have it tough. The gender attainment gaps in Primary school result in a reduction of life choices and chances by the end of High School. In 2011  48% girls went to University whereas only 37% boys had the same chance.
At our INSET with Gary Wilson (www.garywilsonraisingboysachievement.co.uk) on Friday we were taken through the challenges of boyhood and the barriers to boys learning. From succumbing to the peer police (“Better to be seen not to be bothered by winning than to try and fail.”) to issues with independence; with parents who have been lured into the false impression that it’s easier to do everything for our boys rather than live with constant nagging, raised blood pressure and ranting that even the smallest of requests can result in. From low self esteem to the negative labels society puts onto boys from a very early age Gary is on a one man mission to change these negative stereotypes (once challenging British Home Stores when they advertised a boys T-shirt in their Spring Collection declaring “Lazy and proud of it!”).

So what can we do in our schools and classrooms to give boys the best opportunities to meet their potential? Gary’s main suggestions of the day were: 

– Promote breakfast – by not eating breakfast by 10.30am we have the reaction speed of a 70year old. 
– Promote a “can do” ethos  –  internal auditory is louder in boys heads.
– Positive visualisation ensures success – Imagining yourself doing well means you most probably will.
– Feed your brain! Giving children fruit and a drink prior to test helps with attainment.
– Assist neuropathways by ‘piggyback’ learning- teach someone else what you’ve learned. 
– Promote creativity- children who play instruments do better at school.
– Develop leadership capacity in boys so they get attention for the right reasons.
– Boys prefer active learning. Although there’s a need to balance approaches across learning styles make sure there’s enough active learning events in our lessons to motivate and engage so boys work to the best of their ability. 
– Superheroes! Tapping  into this genre helps to boys to make links to the real world. Staff should value play based on children’s interest whilst promoting order and boundaries. Superhero play = emotional intelligence = clear rules = structure = guidelines for success. 
– Ban setting! Setting reinforces negative stereotypes. The younger a child is ‘set’ the worst they’ll do at age 16. 
– Celebrate success by using hand written ‘I did great work’ style labels as success stickers to give parents a focus to celebrate success at home.
– Aifl- use those lolly sticks or a random name generator (http://www.classtools.net/education-games-php/fruit_machine) to ensure children are focused and expect to be included in the lesson.
– Plan the plenary! Don’t let the boys skip any part of Kolb’s learning cycle (http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html) in their rush to be finished.
– Focus on Fiction: it promotes emotional intelligence and 
          – exposes children to wider experiences,
          – aids understanding of what others think,
          – helps children identify with characters and their issues,
          – gives children strategies to deal with dilemmas.
-Set up Systems – When in doubt give them a system! 
– Think in the short term for long term success: Short term goals, short term targets, short term rewards = boys striving for success.
-Cut out the copying out – it has no purpose and is predominantly used as behaviour control. Out of the mouths of boys: “Teachers’ can’t be bothered to teach us when we’re copying out.”
-Make learning real and fun by giving children real audiences. Use Crazy Talk (http://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/crazytalk_trial.asp) software to manipulate pictures and provide a purpose to writing. 
– focus on fine motor control development. Often this is an area of difficulty for boys (http://scotens.org/sen/articles/primary_reflexes.pdf) so praise for quality ideas when quality presentation is a mountain too high!
– Consider training staff to teach the children peer massage  (http://www.misascotland.org.uk/index.htm) or yoga (http://www.yogascotland.org.uk/findteacher.html). Positive touch  and relaxation helps to keep students calm, focused and motivated.

Through Gary’s work with groups of boys their top tips are:
– Choose the right time of day to teach important stuff- not when we’re excited.
– don’t criticise if you can’t read my handwriting, it’s not always the most important thing.
– be more persuasive!
– writing in small chunks is best.
– we want to write in any way we want!
– use mind mapping ideas.
– you start the story, let us kids finish it.
– give us basic ideas to get started.
– make it fun!
– use lots of props.
– find out what interests us
– use mind maps as a form of plenary/ help me share my learning with a partner.
– read to us – it helps us with our own stories and poems. 
– let us act stories out.
– give us time to think and talk.
– model writing – use visualisers to share pupil work.

All the approaches above are very much good learning and teaching and would benefit any pupil regardless of gender but with a focus on engaging boys and bridging the attainment gaps the whole class will benefit.

Other places to get Gary’s words of wisdom are:






Thoughts on the NQT Year
November 18, 2012

My NQT year was absolutely superb, and not just because I secured a permanent job at the end of it. Having ‘ticked the box’ I was sent to Arran (a place I had only visited once for a less-than-sober camping trip) along with a friend from teaching training. Was I a bit nervous? Of course, but my excitement really did outweigh the nerves.

I was massively lucky to have been sent to Arran High – it’s a great school and my PT and mentor is a remarkable teacher. I was made to feel very welcome immediately and encouraged to do my own thing, which leads to my first piece of advice: take risks! I changed the whole Int2 course by introducing 4 new texts; I published a book of short stories with an S2 class (which can still be bought online…); I carried out debates with a less then perfect S3 class (in front of the HT). There were plenty of mistakes, but as i often tell my pupils you learn a lot from getting things wrong.

There is another key piece of advice that I would give, and this one might be a bit controversial: cynicism is not always a bad thing! There are times when a good teacher will have to protect their pupils from the worst excesses of a system run by politicians and bureaucrats, and sometimes that will mean upsetting people. Every new innovation is not automatically a good idea, even if driven by people who generally get things right, and it is important to be brave enough to recognise this.

Also, be ambitious! Great results stem from high expectations, and I personally believe in setting targets that are slightly beyond attainable to encourage constant progress. Your pupils are invariably capable of more than they think. This ambition shouldn’t be restricted to your pupils though. There are lots of great things happening in education right now, but a crippling lack of ambition still presents barriers far too frequently (ie. E-portfolios). If you’re going to do something, don’t just do it right, do it brilliantly – never settle for what is provided for you just because it is easier (ie. Glow).

Finally, have fun! Teaching is a superb job, and teaching teenagers is a privilege – as soon as you forget that the job becomes ‘just a job’, and if that’s all you’re looking for there are much easier ways to make a living.


What did you learn from your NQT year? #NQTlearn

It’s been a while since we had a theme for posts on Pedagoo…it’s time rectify that. We asked for ideas on twitter and one of them was to ask for posts with advice for Newly Qualified Teachers. So, let’s make this a theme!

What did you learn from your NQT year? If you could send yourself one piece of advice before you started that year, what would it be, and why? Or maybe you are in your NQT year right now? What would you like some advice on? Or what have you learnt already?

Share your thoughts, advice or questions and add the tag #NQTlearn

Pick of the week 16th November
November 18, 2012
#pedagoofriday the audible ‘ahh’ from my year 11 when they got ionic bonding and formulae… never had that before in this school.
#PedagooFriday Year 8 students self assessing their learning & setting their own targets #punklearning style! http://t.co/h6wVkOCS
Tait Coles
#pedagoofriday staff senior choir rehearsal yesterday lunchtime. Wonderful to be singing with the pupils.
Robert Jones
When a yr 11 starts presentation with celebs/media and develops it;Harry Patch & moves peers & teacher to tears #pedagoofriday #youthoftoday
Bev Sharp
#Pedagoofriday my behaviourally challenged y4 boy has not been in trouble all week and wrote 6 pages in 40 minutes!
andrew cowley
#pedagoofriday HT stunned at S2 microbiology investigation into cleanliness. He's cleaned his keyboard!
Paul Cochrane
Int.2 research into radioactivity, one group came up with their own idea: 'Is the Queen Radioactive'. Hilarious to read #PedagooFriday
Christopher King


Thoughts on Class Dojo – Class Don’tJo
November 4, 2012

I’m cross-posting this from own Blog as I genuinely want to seek answers. I do want to make it clear that I am not criticising Class Dojo itself but my own use of it. I know there are people using it in better ways than me so please feel free to add your thoughts afterwards. Class Dojo looks good; teachers and students clearly love it. But is it a BETTER, more effective way of managing the classroom than other things? I want to be convinced but, thus far, can’t really say that I am. So, apologies if you read it first time round but let’s collect examples of ways to use Class Dojo more effectively than I have.

Cross-posted from Just Trying to Be Better Than Yesterday

After a promising start, I’ve become a bit disillusioned with Class Dojo. In case you are unaware, Class Dojo is a behaviour management system – their words – which promotes positive behaviour in the classroom. I won’t explain it in detail. Have a look here for more. Kids love it because they get points and create a wee avatar for themselves. Teachers love it because they can display progress on the projectors and whiteboards in their classroom. Win/ win? Well, I’m not so sure.

What started well – the younger kids were constantly asking about points and competitive to get to the top – it became exactly that. A competition. After a few weeks, inevitably perhaps, the ‘running order’ took on a familiar look. The boys who had previously been poorly behaved started to drift to the bottom of pile – it is not so easy for them to remain consistently on task, or always stay focused – and others began to pull ahead.

The system began to reaffirm the class stereotypes and reaching the bottom become a race and then, inevitably, an identity. I’m fully prepared to put my hand up and admit that it could have been my failure to implement the system properly but class dojo wasn’t working for me.

As Shirley Clarke says:

‘Children who are used to rewards tend in future not to choose activities when there are no rewards to be had, and also prefer less demanding tasks.’

It had become a system of rewards with an inevitable ending. I may as well have hung a string of mars bars at the front and promised them to the good kids. My reading and understanding of Mindsets didn’t seem to square the circle. Points didn’t add up for me. (sorry). Having had a similar experience with Accelerated Reader I have now, perhaps temporarily, stopped using Class Dojo.

However, the point of this post is not to be negative about a resource that others are using more constructively than me. The whole point of my blog is to reflect and discuss. What was I doing wrong? Or what was wrong with Class Dojo I could fix before giving up on it?

My biggest problem was/is with the original ‘reward’ list, both negative and positive. My 30 mixed ability S1 (year8?) kids had no problem with the good things. They could ‘do’ teamwork; they generally ‘helped others’, participated, often worked hard, were on task etc. Although I really believe that vague comments about hard work don’t help.

However some of these young kids come from chaotic backgrounds where disruption, disrespect and the absence of anywhere to even do homework is a real problem. Of course schooling should be about teaching them these qualities but making that very public is really bad, in every way. Sorry. I found that many were switched off when they started losing points for this and many were always going to do that.

I’ve stopped using it for the moment until I can come up with a set of ‘rewards’ that all can realistically achieve, consistently. Getting the comments right will be essential if this is to really work beyond a bit of fun. Otherwise it is merely a tech tool which is only skin deep and, potentially, very damaging.

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