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Visual Hexagons
Battle of Britain Hexagon

I am an unashamed admirer of hexagons in the classroom. Hexagon activities (which can be found on my blog – www.jivespin.wordpress.com) promote deeper and independent thinking on any topic as well as focus on different elements when answering a specific, exam focused question. They encourage students to make links between different elements of a topic and forces them to e plain and employ higher order skills.

With such an activity, some students can find hexagons a challenge – especially Key Stage 3 and less able students. This is because the very skills hexagons encourage are higher order ones that students can struggle with. As a result, I have been thinking about modifiying hexagon activities to make them more accessible to all students without diluting the outcome of sharpening students’ higher order skills set. Coupled with this I have experimenting with a variety of visual resources, such as creating comic strips and word clouds – some of which you may have seen elsewhere on the blog.

Putting these two together, I have experimented with usual visual hexagons. I create them using the Moldiv app, as recommended by Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist). I give my students a fixed hexagon pattern like the one below with images relating to a central question or topic in each hexagon. Usually, I give students an A5 size copy of the hexagon pattern so they can stick it in their exercise book and write next to it.

Firstly, students must identify the images and how they relate to the central question. The image can represent not only a specific person or event but also a larger point that may summarise an area or bigger aspect which link to the set question. This can be part of a starter exercise in a lesson. Once students are clear about each image, students can then complete the main task which is to explain each link between the images where the sides of the hexagons touch. To add competition and engagement, this can be completed in pairs under a time limit. Once the time runs out, there can be a class discussion where each pair share their links and students can fill in any links they have missed or write improved ones from others.

This task can be extended by asking the class extension questions to promote thinking, such as –

What other images can fit in the middle of the hexagon pattern?

What other images could be used in the pattern?

If you had to replace one image from the hexagon pattern, which one would you remove?

Once students have completed the visual hexagon task a few times, you want to place greater challenge, freedom and independence by giving students blank hexagon patterns for them to fill in on a given question or topic. Alternatively, visual hexagon tasks can also be used for –

Revision activities – reviewing a topic and preparing students for an exam in an active and engaging way.

Plenary – summarising learning in a lesson and encouraging students to demonstrate their progress utilising higher order explanation skills.

Planning an essay – visual hexagons can be used to prepare students for a specific exam question. 

These visual hexagon activities create engagement in lessons and can provide students with a visual learning aid which gives the hooks to prompt memory as well as attractive summary of a topic or question within a students’ notes. Many visual hexagon resources can be found at www.jivespin.wordpress.com, where if you type in visual hexagon in the search engine you will be present to links to the resources. Although these resources are history subject based, they can act as a guide on what other subjects can produce.

Find below an excellent example of a student’s work on a visual hexagon exercise, explaining the links and exhibiting higher order thinking to an outstanding level.

Mini portraits and time travel to engage our budding historians

The world of twitter was never something that I was interested in, until I completed my teacher training. Now in my NQT year I eagerly scroll through the #PedagooFriday tweets on a quest to steal new ideas and strategies from everyone else. Having posted an idea last Friday I was approached to write about it on the blog. Please forgive any ‘blogging faux pas’ I may commit as I am completely new to this too!

During my training year I had a conversation with a fellow teacher who suggested using portraits to explore pictures, so this idea really is the result of that conversation. This technique encourages students to put themselves into the pictures and let their imaginations run wild. I have used this idea recently with my year 7 groups, who have been investigating what it was like to live in a Roman town; however the idea could be adapted for almost any subject.

Initially provide each of your students with a small piece of paper, no more than a 2-3cm square. Instruct them to draw a portrait of the person they are sat next to; give them no longer than two minutes to complete this task, it does just need to be a sketch not a masterpiece. Then let the students hand the portrait to the relevant person. There will of course be lots of laughing and joking at this point as a result of their creations.


In this case the whole process hinges around the idea that each of the students has had the opportunity to time travel. I explained this idea to the students and then revealed the picture we were going to explore. In this case I used a lovely view of a Roman town. A large colour version of the picture was on the projector and each student was given a smaller copy with a number of descriptive words and key features of a Roman town, as a scaffold for their discussions. Initially I asked each of them to place their portrait into the picture and imagine they were there, in this case back in AD55. I gave them a demonstration as if I was the person in the picture and then gave them ten minutes, in pairs, to discuss the picture and describe their surroundings.

Roman town

Roman town worksheet 

To consolidate this work each of the students wrote a letter to a friend describing their time travelling experiences. Overall, the students produced some amazing letters talking about their experiences and this technique was one that all students could access. Very pleased with the results so I am looking forward to using this idea again with future topics.


Why blue sky?

At some point while thinking about our approach to education we asked children 1 question: What would you like to find out from scientists?

What did we do at school? 😉

We had of course some responses in our heads (it was not THAT bad, you know), but we got to the point where adding some additional “but why’s” made us realise, that we just don’t get it really :) – and also, that we CAN (and do) live with that. It left us wondering how at some point we just accepted the level of our lack of understanding and moved on skipping yet another “but why?”.

Who to ask though? How many “but why’s” of an average kid can an average person handle?:) Some of us are parents and – believe us – we know what we are talking about here: the constant inflow of ‘Why’s?”, ‘When’s?”, ‘How many’s?”, ‘Which’s?”, ‘For’s?” and  ‘How’s?”…

Because it is so, okay?” :) We read somewhere that an average 4 year-old asks 437 questions a day. Scary?

We haven’t read anywhere though how many questions an average adult asks a day, yet we’re pretty sure it would probably be MUCH less than 437. Even scarier? Do grown ups already know the responses to questions they do not ask? (which was definitely not the case in our little experience with kids’ questions) – or is it that we just do not notice the “question-opportunity” anymore :) – or not give ourselves time to wonder. Why is the sky blue?  Do you know? If not, what would it change for you if you knew? What would be different if you gave yourself some time to think about it?

And this is how we knew we would engage our actions in appreciating the ability to wonder why, or simply – the CURIOSITY – as one of the most important competences for life.

We’re WhyBlueSky
Check out our all open source LESSON PLANS that respond to REAL QUESTIONS of real children! :)


Differentiated CPD – It’s The Future! I’ve Tasted It!
Garlic Bread

Have you ever been forced to sit through a whole day training session on an area of teaching you consider to be one of your strengths? Has a trainer visited your school to say that you should be teaching in a style that really wouldn’t work for you? Did you go to the same Teachmeet as me last year where an ‘Educational Consultant’ stood up and spent ten minutes telling a room full of qualified teachers what the difference is between formative and summative assessment? (She gave me her business card if anyone’s interested.) How about a death by Powerpoint experience? An evangelist with an annoying amount of enthusiasm for an idea that’s a tiny bit rubbish? If you are like me, the answer will be yes to all of these questions.

It’s funny how we are all busy differentiating our lessons for the benefit of the children we teach. But what about our learning? How can we make sure that we are getting the CPD we need to be the best we can be? The answer is something like Pedagoo Hampshire.

A menu selection of 40 mini seminars, each delivered by different speakers who ranged from primary, secondary and further education teachers from across the south east of England, was available to choose from before arrival. After a talk by @graham_irisc which set the tone superbly, it was off to the starter course – Telescopic Education by @chrischivers2 and Collaboration by @hayleymc2222. Hayley bought to the table a plethora of suggestions on who to follow in the Twitter world as well as some wise words on how to organise a Teachmeet – something I would recommend to anyone looking to develop their own, as well as their school’s teaching and learning philosophy and delivery. I love the fact that Hayley organised one in her NQT year – amazing! It was nice to get a mention on one of Hayley’s slides (they say everyone is famous for 5 minutes don’t they?) but I didn’t let this go to my head. Instead, I concentrated on the importance of learning from each other. Next, Chris Chivers stimulated a discussion between a group of primary teachers on the barriers faced when trying to implement a bottom-up teaching model to secure progress. Admittedly, the group digressed into a sharing of ideas on curriculum enrichment and CPD opportunities and what the barriers to these are instead. The message was loud and clear – lots of teachers feel scared to digress from the core subjects – a terrible shame in my opinion, and that of my peers in the group.

The sorbet course to cleanse the pallet came in the guise of @basnettj on giving pupils feedback and @lizbpattison on how differentiation might just be counter-productive. There were some great discussions generated around the importance of involving students in feedback. I raised the question of peer feedback in mixed ability groups and whether this can work for the higher attainer – I haven’t yet found my answer. Then my clever (sorry I mean able/gifted/talented *delete as applicable) friend Liz stepped up with some fascinating thoughts on the effectiveness of differentiation on the growth mindset we are all looking to expand. What did I take away from her talk? Well, it reinforced my view that differentiation is brilliant when done properly but can be disastrous when done badly – as it was for Liz during her school days when she was labelled ‘middle ability.’ (You wouldn’t know it to hear her now!) Unfortunately for Liz, but fortunately for us, she still can’t let it go, which means I am very much looking forward to hearing about the research she continues to do into the subject.

The main course was a corned beef and pickle sandwich (me) paired with a fillet steak and triple cooked chips (@graham_irisc). Graham invited a discussion on what is important to focus on – is it inspection? Is it budgets? Is it the standard of biscuits in the staffroom? No, the room came to the conclusion it was teaching & learning. Although, in my opinion, biscuits definitely feed into this. (Pardon the very accidental pun) Then it was my turn to evangelise on the benefits of empowering middle leaders along with some tips on how these vital members of staff can empower themselves to deliver brilliant learning experiences for their pupils. Thank you to everyone who turned up – I hadn’t slept for a week wondering if I still would have delivered my presentation to an empty room! I think I would have – it would have been a terrible waste to have not given it an airing.

And then, just when the full-up sleepy feeling started to take over, there was @natalielovemath to wake us up from our slumber with a very inspiring talk on using objects bought from Poundland to enrich Maths lessons. I don’t teach Maths anymore and this session only served to make me sad about this fact. Although, the idea of pasta graphs, children writing on disposable table cloths and sticking numbers on fly-swatters have been enthusiastically received by the Maths teachers at my school! Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal (in a brilliant and inspiring way!) @haslemeremuseum extracted woolen brains from a poor Egyptian rag doll. Learning through objects is very under-rated and can be the key to unlock the door of learners who struggle to take an interest.

Before departing, the classy port and cheese board came in the form of @lcll_director who pressed home the need for using days like this to actually make changes in our practice. “All of these brilliant ideas are no good just stored in our heads,” murmured the rag doll from session 4.

So there we have it – a day of differentiated CPD just for me. Imagine if groups of schools got together to do this at the start of every school year – giving teachers a choice of CPD suited just to them through the sharing of strengths and passions of their peers. Would that be better than a whole-school INSET day which doesn’t differentiate for the needs of every learner; in this case, teachers? I think so. How about you?

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
IMG_0285 (4)

My first blog post for Pedagoo – no pressure! *steadies nerves*

I am @louisateaches and I am a passionate educator in Work Based Learning (16-18 year olds).  Worked Based Learning helps our learners understand how the things they learn in my classroom are connected to the real world and I focus on employability in particular.

More recently I introduced a new project to my learners, a class magazine! This enabled my learners to take a little break from our regular classroom activities and individuals were enthusiastic to work on something completely unique and of interest to them.  It also meant learners could work at a pace appropriate for them, with confident/more independent learners producing 3 page articles for example, as well as giving the less able the opportunity to excel.

A number of roles were assigned to aid in the production of the magazine; everyone was a reporter, there were also editors (who SPaG’d!) and designers who worked on the front cover.  We used a variety of real magazines for inspiration and took a vote on a name for the finished article (‘On Point’!).

So what’s in it for them?  I hear you ask;

Everyone’s ideas matter – so this encouraged learners to engage and it empowered them to contribute to discussions, giving them more confidence.  As it was a collaborative process , it helped them in their development of good judgment and most importantly, the task required teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, creativity and self-control – all skills that are in demand in the job market!

Here are a few images to show the development of the magazine over the last couple of weeks;

Class Magazine (1) class magazine

Hand outs learners were given to describe and inspire them for the task

class mag2 class mag3

Learners mind mapped using the Popplet app to decide topics they would report on

class mag4

They were given a range of magazines to research content, topics and layout

class mag1

Learners use Piktochart, a free online infographic creator, to design their articles

class mag5 class mag6 class mag7 IMG_0284 (4) IMG_0285 (4) IMG_1834 (3)

A selection of the finished articles and learners proudly viewing their work!


For any extra information on this activity or about the work I do, please don’t hesitate to contact me!




#LOVEOFLEARNING : Where has all the active learning gone? The demise of some great pedagogy?
October 14, 2015

Sage on the stage or guide on the side? A false dichotomy

There is no “correct way” to teach. This is a rather obvious statement, which has been reiterated by professors of education, school leaders, psychologists and OFSTED. The problem with this is that rather than protect the profession against “fads” of pedagogy, this stance can in actual fact encourage them. If there is no correct way (which there isn’t) then the tides of opinion effect the teaching climate even more. What used to be seen as effective teaching has been criticised to the point where we are in danger of replacing one “fad” with another. It seems that “active learning” (which was never a panacea anyway) has been replaced with more “traditional” practices such as write and listen. If learning is complex we should not forget those active strategies which not so long a go were seen as so effective. Here I argue that active strategies can create a love of learning with students. This is not saying that other methods can’t either. As with most things in teaching “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it”

Over the past few years there has been somewhat of a backlash to “active learning”. Trends come and go in teaching and this one had its day… or has it?

Rightly so OFSTED over the past few years responded to the criticism that it was judging lessons and teaching against a “style”. For a while probably from 2005 -11 this perceived style was characterised by whizzy activities, performing arts, teachers as facilitators and measuring progress every twenty minutes, with a “plenary” that involved going back to the learning objectives that students had copied down at the start of the lesson.  Whether or not this is actually what OFSTED was looking for is down up for debate, (I suspect the truth is that it was a communication breakdown between the inspection regime and school leaders) but nevertheless many schools designed lesson judgement criteria around this perceived “Outstanding Lesson” format.  People made money out of courses on OFSTED active learning strategies etc.

However, over the past few years this “style” has been rightly criticised. Michael Wilshaw has publicly come out stating that it might be totally appropriate that students sit and listen… and that passivity should not be criticized as a matter of course. At the same time there has been a rise of what I call the “anti-fad” brigade which rightly attacks fads in teaching that promised “outstanding lessons” and “rapid and sustained progress”. This is good, but there is a danger that the baby is thrown out with the bath water.

At Debden Park High School we have a tradition of “active learning” strategies. When specialisms mattered we used our Performing Arts status to spread effective teaching. It bound the school together. It helped us win the battle against special measures by engaging often very disengaged students.  Far from a “style” of teaching active strategies enhanced effective teaching.

Much of what is seen on Twitter, and #PedagooFriday is exactly the kind of strategies that engage students. Yes students can be engaged through silent reading, yes they can demonstrate a “love of learning” through essay writing, but let’s not forget some of the innovative and interesting techniques (there I said it techniques) that can be highly useful to teachers and students. Here are some of the strategies that have been spotted in the past 5 days, they engage and create interest as part of a “varied diet” of effective teaching.

Speed dating

Yes this was a staple of the “active learning” repertoire. But how effective if used properly! Seen in a science lesson where students “dated” around some very challenging questions and used the power of peer collaboration to learn.


Class debate.

Two sides debating the effectiveness of Gustav stresemann’s leadership in Germany.  The teacher was the “guide on the side” but what a way for students to demonstrate their hard earned knowledge. Not only this they extended their understanding by debating, listening and reconsidering their views based upon the presentation of evidence and argument.


Character mind –map

How about a twist to Mind mapping? Here students carousel around characters writing down in depth analysis of them. Memorable. This also encouraged a level of dialogue between students which would have been unlikely in a tradition mindmap. In addition the teacher could (and did) circulate around monitoring student responses and extending them via questioning.



Teacher in Role

A great way to engage students in the subject matter. The “character” can question students and give them “knowledge” about the topic studied. Moreover, who forgets a loon enter the classroom dressed up? Look at the levels of engagement in this classroom when Charlie Chaplin starts dancing:

chaplin from Pedagogy Prowess on Vimeo

These strategies were seen in classrooms in the past 5 days, and they were very effective. Could other things have been as effective? Probably, but these did create a huge amount of engagement and may just work with your class.


Shaping our Global Future

Young people worry about the future: including their own personal, family and economic futures. So why don’t we evolve a curriculum that amounts to a structured conversation with them about these futures? If we could do this, we might shape a dialogue that allowed them more ownership of the lives they might lead and the people they might become. We might help yah people to imagine themselves and feel excited about the future and the challenges it presents.

But, we also need to make them more aware of the legacy being created for future generations in the early twenty first century. My book, Shaping our Global Future, A Guide for Young People seeks to inform young people about the world their children and grandchildren will inhabit. So the book focuses on seven global wonders and seven future challenges.

The book is part of the Postcards from Scotland series, commissioned by the Centre for Confridence and Wellbeing. It takes is available from the centre here. All money’s derived from this project go to the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, a registered charity.

I hope that young people read it and reflect. I hope that teachers read it and use it in classrooms. Mostly, I hope that it helps young people, educators and parents to have a structured conversation about our human future and the world we are building.

PedaWooWoo – professional development

Pedagooers, here’s a spicy little mix of podcast workshops bursting with tried and tested pedagogical concepts that will add value to your professional toolkit this year!

Unlocking creativity in the classroom




In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • The problems associated with creating activities that challenge learners to think creatively
  • Ideas on developing problem solving activities in the classroom
  • How to improve what we already know and unlock the creativity that exists within our classrooms

Enhancing your teaching toolkit to boost learning



In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • What is Mind Mapping and its power to aid learning
  • How to create a basic Mind Map
  • Using Mind Maps to enhance learning, improve revision and exam technique, improve feedback, assessment and classroom planning


Developing cross curricular lessons; snatching inspiration from other subjects



In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • A practical model for cross curricular lesson planning
  • Ideas on developing differentiated cross curricular learning pathways
  • Overcoming the challenges of cross curricular lesson integration
  • Extending cross curricular learning beyond the classroom


FedEx your Professional Development



In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • How autonomy based motivation models can drive professional learning sessions
  • How to launch your own FedEx professional development model
  • How to maximise the feedback delivery of your school’s professional development FedEx day to add value to the whole school

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community!

Poetry By Heart Scotland: calling S4-S6 teachers and students

Poetry By Heart Scotland is a competition from the Scottish Poetry Library that gives students in S4-6 opportunities to learn by heart and perform poems from our specially curated database. Students compete at school, regional and national level, culminating in a final event in Edinburgh where they have the chance to perform in front of high profile poets such as Liz Lochhead, Rachel MCrum, Diana Hendry and Tom Pow.

Schools that participated in the pilot have told us that through the competition students improved their self-confidence and went on to engage with poetry on a deeper, more meaningful level in the classroom. It’s a great chance for the teachers too – an opportunity to run the school competitions and regional heats in a personalised way that responds to the needs and interests of their students. Registrations are currently open till the end of September and we’d love for as many schools as possible to participate this year, following our successful pilot in 2014-15. To date, schools have registered from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeen, Dunblane, Perth and Kinross; there is capacity for more schools in these regions and others throughout Scotland to join us.

The competition is completely free for all participants and the Scottish Poetry Library funds all related travel costs and prizes.

You can find out more about Poetry By Heart Scotland on the SPL website at http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry-heart-scotland or email me at georgi.gill@spl.org.uk – I’d be delighted to explain more, answer any questions or engage in general poetry chat!


Preparing learners to face the future with a SMILE
Smart kids

“Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Smart kidsIf you agree with Sir Ken Robinson, then you’ll also agree that education serves a purpose bigger than a suite of academic outcomes that only capture part of a person’s ability at the end of the schooling process.  If you agree with that statement, you might also be inclined to agree that our learners need to know how to find their purpose in life, how to be successful but in a manner which ensures their happiness and gratitude.  But how do you squeeze these positive psychology messages into a curriculum that is already overburdened and where teachers lack the time to develop resources that focus on the learners’ well-being?

Gratitude trees are a visual representation of recognising acts of kindness.  They are easily implemented into a classroom environment and can be the first step in a process where our learners embark on a journey of well-being and self-discovery.

On episode 25 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Ashley Manuel, Head of PE & Sport at Immanuel Primary School, Adelaide, Australia and founder of Growing with Gratitude has developed a new revolutionary approach to help teachers and learners build positive habits.

Together Ashley and I discuss simple and effective strategies to implement positive habits of well-being into your classroom.

Episode take-aways:

  • Benefits of introducing habits of well-being, happiness and gratitude into your classroom
  • Classroom activities for promoting happiness, gratitude, mindfulness and service
  • How to develop positive and engaging habits
  • Modelling behaviours of service at school and in the community

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share with your community!



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