Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in comments
Search in excerpt
Search in posts
Search in pages
Search in groups
Search in users
Search in forums
Filter by Categories
Curricular Areas
Expressive Arts
Involving Pupils
Modern Languages
Outdoor Learning
Professional Learning
Scottish Learning Fringe
Social Studies
Visible Learning
Poetry By Heart Scotland 2016-17: open for registration!
October 13, 2016
Poetry By Heart 2015-16 FinalistsPoetry By Heart 2015-16 Finalists


Poetry By Heart 2015-16 Finalists

Poetry By Heart 2015-16 Finalists

Poetry By Heart Scotland was first launched by the Scottish Poetry Library in 2014 as a new, pan-Scotland competition, encouraging and maximising secondary school students’ engagement with the richness of past and contemporary poetry. Participating students are challenged to learn and perform poems from our specially curated competition database.

Feedback shows that participating students develop confidence in public speaking and also deepen their relationship with, and appreciation of, poetry in general. 2016 Joint Winner, Craig McCorquodale said:

‘I’m not sure that PBHS was about who was given first place; it was about the power of having a voice. It was about sharing something with others, and making a concentrated form of language a rather simple one.’

On the SPL website we have a short film (6 minutes) which showcases students from the 2015-2016 finals. Students, teachers and poets talk about what they have enjoyed and what the benefits are. The film’s well worth a watch to get a flavour of the competition and a sense of its varied benefits. You can watch it here.

Keen to find out more? Below are details about PBHS, including how to register. If you have more questions that aren’t answered here, please do get in touch  directly with me at georgi.gill@spl.org.uk.

WHO takes part?

  • Pupils in S4-S6 as competitors; non-competitors can also be given supporting roles in running your contest.

WHAT do competitors have to do?

WHEN is it all happening?

  • School competitions by 16 December 2015
  • Regional semi-finals Spring 2016
  • National finals to be held on 18 March 2016

WHERE is the action?

  • First rounds in any Scottish secondary school.
  • Regional semi-finals in towns and cities across Scotland, in libraries, community arts centres or museums. Already we have schools signed up in Aberdeen, Stirling, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth. Schools in these and other areas are very welcome to join us!
  • National finals at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh

HOW do we get involved?

  • PBHS is completely free of charge to all secondary schools in Scotland.
  • Schools MUST register in order to participate – email Gill@spl.org.uk to register or phone Georgi Gill on 0131 557 2876.
  • After registration you will receive free resources to organize your competition and have fun!

Georgi Gill, Learning Manager, the Scottish Poetry Library

Unleashing Learners & Educational Leaders #PedagooMuckle

I was lucky enough to be involved in the fantastic #PedagooMuckle yesterday…what a day! It was great to meet so many new folk and I’m very excited to see what happens next…

At SCEL we are really proud to have supported this event and we’re looking forward to seeing what other teacher-led professional learning events we can support in the future also.

I thought I ought to share two of the presentations I gave on the day on here in case anyone was wanting them. I started off in the morning talking a bit about what educational leaders look like. You can see my slides from this here.

The point I was making here was primarily that we need to dissociate the word ‘leadership’ from the word ‘promotion’, which relates a lot to my work in supporting the development of teacher leadership. However, I was trying to go a bit further here by suggesting that perhaps a key element of effective pedagogical leadership is the power of collaboration…which relates strongly to the vision of the Pedagoo movement. I concluded with the #scelfie above and argued that this collective group of teachers is what educational leadership looks like.

If you would like to know more about SCEL’s teacher leadership work you can download our recent report or you can take your own professional learning forward as a teacher leader through our Framework for Educational Leadership. You should also check out our upcoming series of Enquire Connect Engage events!


I then also led a learning conversation based on my work as a teacher to find ways of involving pupils in planning learning. You can view the presentation I used for this here.

I’ve written much more about this approach here, and you can also download this excellent book which relates to this approach for free!

If anyone wants to get in touch regarding either of my presentations yesterday, or anything else related to teacher leadership, please feel free to do so. My contact details can be found here.

Hopefully see you at another Pedagoo event or TeachMeet, perhaps even one organised by you, very soon…

My Reflections on a Wonderful #PedagooHampshire16

What happens when Teachers and School Leaders learn to put themselves first?

On Saturday 17th September, I was delighted to attend Pedagoo Hampshire 16 in Alton. This event, which featured a day of interactive seminars hosted by individuals across the educational landscape, aimed to discuss and tackle key issues in education and create a forum for speakers to share their rich experience and expertise.

My belief is that teaching is a vocation. In the words of Parker J Palmer, it is a calling that invites our “deepest gladness to meet the world’s deepest need”. Yet for so many in the profession their ‘deepest gladness’ has been lost.

I decided therefore to base my seminar around “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role” and on how teachers and school leaders must learn to nurture the ‘being’ in Human-being’ through affording themselves the kindness and attention to meet their deepest needs. I sought to encourage those who attended to reflect on what was the most precious thing they brought to their role and challenged them to reflect on these crucial questions:


Click here to download the rest of the slides from my talk “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role”

In my talk, I also emphasised the dangers of living in the Sacrifice Syndrome. A place where teachers and school leaders “sacrifice too much for too long – and reap too little.”  Personal Sacrifice and the diminishment of one’s own needs becomes the norm. Leaving individuals feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, and deriving less satisfaction from their lives.


Click here to download the rest of the slides from my talk “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role”

I put it to those who attended that the only way to break the cycle of the Sacrifice Syndrome, is through regular relationships that invite a deep engagement with one’s own soul.  Relationships that invite engagement in affirming & life-giving conversations, that regularly allow time and the opportunity for genuine renewal. When this becomes a deliberate practice we are able to sustain ourselves for the long-haul and remain connected with what really matters as an educator. Above all, I stressed the need for teachers and school leaders to feel:

–          Celebrated

–          Affirmed

–          Encouraged

–          Supported

What struck me was that at this event, everyone appeared to feel this way. This event really was about all that is good and noble in the profession. It provided the opportunity for these affirming conversations and time for reflection so necessary for genuine renewal. On top of this, it was a great chance to make connections, build new relationships, offer hope to one another and most importantly for all present, to realise that there is nothing to be lost, but everything to be gained in putting oneself first.


Click here to download the rest of the slides from my talk “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role”

As individuals shared stories, examples of best practice, personal and professional techniques for improvement both on a personal and a professional level, I saw colleagues around me realise that by putting their needs first, they could let go of feeling

–          Guilty

–          Overwhelmed

–          Isolated

–          Confused

–          Disillusioned

And instead discover that by asking themselves “What do I need from myself and others to be by best?” and by taking proactive steps they could instead feel:

–          Re-energised

–          Inspired

–          Hopeful

–          Connected [to themselves and others – so important!]

–          Valued

In short, they had rediscovered their ‘deepest gladness’ and hence were better prepared to meet the ‘deepest needs’ of their students/colleagues at the start of the new school week.

Finally, #PedagooHampshire16 for me was made even more exciting and wonderful because it marked the beginning of a journey for me and Integrity Coaching. Namely, my session marked the start of a month of exploration into the “Bigger Picture” of what it means to be an educator, seeking to understand what our deepest needs are as human beings and ultimately, how  we can bring who we truly are into our roles as educators and leaders.

The journey will consist of several blogs around the experiences of educators, the issues facing school leaders and teachers, and eventually this adventure of thought will culminate on Tuesday 4th October from 8:00-8:30 PM when we will be hosting our first ever webinar on “Meeting the Deeper Needs of Teachers and School Leaders”.

In this webinar, we will look to discuss the ways in which schools can support human growth and development, whilst also support educators in maintaining their ‘vocational vitality’ amidst feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and stress.

We hope you can join us for this.

If you would like to find out more about the webinar, please click here


Reciprocal Teaching

Recently two colleagues taught me all about Reciprocal Teaching as a way of encouraging literacy in the classroom.

Each member of a group is given a different role, Predictor, Clarifier, Summariser or Questioner. All group members are given a piece of text to read, with each of them looking at a different role within this, it means that when they go to discuss the piece of text, they all have different ideas and perspectives to bring to it and it structures the activity much better.

Not only does this encourage literacy, it also encourages group work and makes each member accountable.

I have created some worksheets that will aid each member with their role and tasks to structure their reading.

You can download them here. Free Printables- Reciprocal Reading

Reciprocal Teaching

Read More Here: http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/reciprocal_teaching

[Posted originally on Learning RMPS.]

The Zone of Relevance…explained.

On a Friday afternoon I often share teaching resources on Twitter, like many other teachers do, using the hashtag #PedagooFriday. The Zone of Relevance resource generated a lot of interest. I was contacted by teachers asking for further explanation and asking questions, which is understandable as 140 characters can be very limited!

The Zone of Relevance works best with GCSE and A-Level students because it is very useful to complete when preparing and planning an exam answer. However, it can be used with other year groups and across the curriculum. The idea behind this is that students recognise what information is relevant for a specific exam answer and essential to achieve exam marks. It also helps students prioritise information. This task supports students to understand what they should and should not include in their answer. This will highlight what information is irrelevant to that specific question to prevent common mistakes being made.


The example I have included is from a Year 10 GCSE History class. The question asks how abolishing the death penalty was a turning point in punishment in the 20th Century. We discussed this question as a class and then looked at the mark scheme success criteria. Students then filled in the outer circle, it also works with concentric squares too. The largest zone must be for the relevant information, as that is most important because it is the content of the answer. Students include the relevant information with supporting detail and justification. Then in the middle zone or section students included extra information they could add to their answer such as examples and stats etc. The final and smallest zone was basically what not to do! I was able to help students with this, based on many common mistakes I had come across over recent years marking exam answers! Students can also refer back to previous exam answers and learn from mistakes they had made. For example, students would often express their views on the death penalty despite the fact the question didn’t ask that or offer any marks for that either. The question also specifically asked about England and Wales, yet students would write about the USA where again there were no marks available. The question was asking about the 20th Century so discussion of any other periods were not required or rewarded.

This activity can be done individually or in groups. In groups with a larger template works well as it promotes discussion, decision making and working with others. It can be a great plan for students to refer to when completing exam questions, either in the classroom or at home. It helps students understand and identify what the exam question is asking and what information is required. Many teachers may have used this idea before or in a different style but I recommend it as a revision activity! This activity also works well accompanied with highlighted notes, to include in the relevant sections. You can download the template for free on my TES page here. It might be too late for some of your exam classes or perhaps just in time!

Engaging pupils with iMovie trailers
June 7, 2016

Following a challenging morning, we were bracing ourselves for the afternoon session in our nurture base. We support the most vulnerable children in the authority. We base our practice on the nurture principles and the Boxall profile and the children’s mental, social and emotional well-being is a priority for us. Or, as I’ve seen on social media, ‘the Maslow stuff needs to be done before the Bloom’s’. As a number of our pupils were at bump up days or transition to secondary visits, we were expecting only two pupils.

The first to arrive insisted on some outdoor learning (or absconded if you prefer) following various expletives and suggestions to the taxi escort regarding how she might like to spend her time. Two members of staff headed out to ensure his safety and encourage his return. This left me with one senior primary pupil (there were other staff with younger pupils next door). Let’s call him Jamie, for any Outlander fans.

A calm entry and exit is an important part of a session, so there were three activities available for Jamie to choose his soft start. He chose the Geomag magnetic toys and we chatted about his day as he built his characters. He was a little unsettled so I extended the activity to allow him to quietly focus on his construction. Jamie suddenly asked me about an iMovie trailer he’d seen me make with another pupil. This had been inspired by a session at Pedagoo Perth and had been very successful. With an animated face, he asked if we could make one with his Superheroes.

This led the afternoon away from the plan but was responsive to his needs. We began to plan the trailer. Never one to use twenty words when eighty will do, this took some time but we got there. As we filmed and took photos, Jamie kept saying, ‘awesome’ and ‘cool’. He was fully engaged and, in fact, was leading the project. He chose the text and insisted that his middle name was included in his name for the credits.

When he viewed the finished trailer, his face lit up and he beamed at his name on the credits. After watching it again, he turned to me and said, “This is the best experience of my life”. It was no exaggeration for him. He had been engaged, he experienced success and his day had been turned around. He shouted the other adults over, to share his success.

Jamie then naturally reviewed his project and decided that, next time, it would be better with a green screen so that his hands can’t be seen. I’m not sure if this is possible but requires some PL for me. I am very glad that I travelled to Perth that day – huge thanks to @ciaracreative for her session that day.
You can read about the conversation here. iMovie Trailers


A memorable week in an everyday class
May 28, 2016
via www.azquotes.comvia www.azquotes.com

I have had many weeks in my years of teaching where I have felt the magic and satisfaction of watching learning make it’s mark on little people and where that feeling has changed me just a little. But this week was one of the best.

I currently work with young learners with some pretty complex medical and developmental histories. We are happy together and,  though each year the classroom family changes a little, the friendships that develop as the children play, observe, listen and interact together have a significant impact on their learning and being. This week I felt at times that I was on the edge of what was really happening. It was exciting to watch …….different elements of exploring stories, and reading, and word making, and visualising (and more) came together as we collaboratively retold a story. I was the scribe as none of them are quite at that stage yet. But everyone contributed, building on the sharing of others, and together we completed the project.

I was going to say task…….but I don’t really like the word as it seems to have some toil about it!!!

Sometimes together, and sometimes with one to one support, the children have been writing the story for themselves. It seems to flow and, with no sense of isolation, they have been doing so well and feeling good. And there was a definite sense of ‘REALLY?’ when I shared it with each of their parents at our OPEN TIME afternoon. Some of the personal writing is not finished but we will complete it soon and find the best way to display it for them to keep as a piece of learning treasure.

I read a quote on Twitter this morning: “Observe, and in that observation there is neither the observer nor the observed — there is only observation taking place.” I liked that because it seemed to express something of what has been happening, and it has been so positive.

And it happened again at the end of the week. A group of  friends from P1 mainstream class came to join one of us for Active Maths. I had a plan……and I had some resources ready……but I had a bit of an accident with a walking frame and a painful, bleeding finger as a result! So as they tumbled into the classroom, full of Friday afternoon energy, I made a decision to let them explore any way they would!

Well…..I could not have imagined what would take place. Creating long chains with links…..led to spontaneously measuring the classroom by two of them. Pizza creating with 10 pieces in each – actually a resource called Place Value Petals , no longer available – led to working out how many could be at the party counting in 10s, and that was 160 just as our Head Teacher appeared in the room! And the number grew afterwards and when we tidied them up into 3 towers they could see that two were missing……and they turned up under the wheel chair. The suitcase of colourful shirts, shoes, socks and shorts led to the five anticipated outfits but then a very shy little girl, who has rarely said anything to me directly, put together an outfit with the left over pieces and said ‘ Now all we need is a head!’ And when I pointed to the paper tray she came back and completed the head with a smile! I took a photo with the iPad and I know I’ll remember much more than what I see when I look at that one in the future. Her smile and connecting with me said it all!

Today I’m still feeling the finger a little but it will heal before long and I will certainly be aware of the observations for much longer!!

Have a good weekend!


Positive Engagement through restorative approaches
May 21, 2016

I joined a group of colleagues in getting advanced training in restorative practice about 5 years ago. It was the best training I have ever received – and any of my colleagues will confirm I am a bonafide grumpy pants so I don’t offer praise on CPD stuff openly!

As a standard issue bloke, five foot ten, size ten shoes (but with safety packaging added around the waist) I was always able to pack an intimidating figure if I needed to. If a child yells at me, I can shout over them, arch slightly over them and make them defensive. Why? It was what I was trained to do.

My first acknowledgement of how this didn’t quite fit in education was when I met an American colleague who never shouted and operated what she called a ‘safe classroom’ which sounded impressive but, when she got threatened by a group of angry teenagers who clearly didn’t operate such a classroom policy, she yelled for me to ‘save her’ from the unsafe experience. It was my ‘classical’ training that indeed saved her.

Over a decade later, things have changed. I have since worked in three regions, three schools and for six head teachers (plus a few acting HTs) and have had a flavour of current and evolving behaviour strategies. I have read and listened to a lot of dialogue regarding behaviour management over the years and before Restorative practice, I had one other gem from Andy Vass. That was to instruct, when a child is being a pain and maybe throwing insults (or bricks), you should rise above it. ‘Two reasons. One – He/She is a child. Two – you are not.’ That always stuck with me. So beautifully put.

When I explain my day to day interaction with restorative practice as ‘behaviour management’ I fear that I undersell it. It is about building relationships and trust and success and, the word we fear using in high schools, love. We need to build up our pupils. Some arrive in school with a significant need to be built up.

It is those pupils who misbehave and get into trouble can be categorised into different groups. I will let the reader divide them into groups as suits themselves, but I want to declare one group. This is the, ‘just yell at me and be done with it’ group who have grown up with anger. It is a skill they learn, switch off and let the adult scream. When they are finished, nothing actually changes. The adult is more stressed, the pupil is more stressed, but it is a way of life. Lessons learned by pupil through yelling? Be bad. People will yell. Life goes on. Nothing actually learned there.

Yelling at a pupil also introduces the Amygdala Hijack. This is not something I am an expert at, but I understand the theory through my own experience. If you have ever been yelled at by an irate or grumpy boss, colleague, parent, wife etc, that feeling of “woah…shut up…I can’t think here…” kicks in and processing ability reduces. So yelling at any pupil creates only negative lessons. Adults hate me…teacher is awful…I hate school…I hate learning…life’s unfair. They may not do the ‘crime’ again, but we aren’t there to police them, we are there to engage with and nurture them, even in later years of high school (and even with the ‘bad boys.’)

I found the principle outline of restorative practice allowed me to develop my pupil relationships the day I started introducing it. Those pupils who just want a yelling at to get back into class and get on with it hated the question, ‘What were you feeling when you said/did…’ Not asking what they did, not asking why. Asking what they were feeling and have the focus on feelings on them, their ‘victims’ the whole class. Wow, what a difference. On my class registers this year, I have perhaps two pupils who don’t engage well with this method. And two more who struggle a little – and I focus on the disengaged pupils as part of my remit.

What was even more surprising for me was this: with the improved relationships and higher expectation of engagement, and my deeper understanding of how anger comes from fear (The Anger Onion….), I have been able to get the poorest achievers in my school to attain more. Every single S4 pupil (including the ones who are ‘Special cases’ or ‘not our fault that…..’) have achieved something this year and many exceeded their own expectations.

I know that many readers will think that last paragraph is nonsense. Me too, I removed it three times and wrote it back in three times. There is more to that success and perhaps another posting as it involved intrepreneurship (google that word if you need to – I believe every teacher is, or should be, one), working with social work, empowerment by Head Teacher, PT, families etc etc. But if the ethos of the restorative classroom/school isn’t there, what do we have to build on for those kids who don’t traditionally love school because the rules say we should?

If we want to make outstanding, non-faddy, differences in our classrooms, it really has to start with the relationships with the children.

Bringing Children’s Rights into the Classroom [Scotland only]

Are you looking for a way to incorporate Getting it Right for Every Child into your classroom?

Child Rights Launchpad by Unicef UK aims to help you do this. Launchpad is a ready-to-use, Scotland specific resource that promotes learning about rights and supports the Curriculum for Excellence. It covers all 42 articles of the UNCRC directly relating to children and, best of all, this award-winning resource is completely FREE to use!

Don’t just take our word for how good it is, the resource is currently being used by teachers all over Scotland and they’ve been quick to praise Launchpad:

“We have introduced all our S1 pupils to Launchpad and it has definitely increased the pupils’ knowledge of Child Rights.  One great aspect of the resource is its focus on personalisation and choice.  I have also found it a helpful reference as a teacher and have used it to look up information on specific rights which I have then used in my lessons.”

Mrs. Hoyle, Teacher at Douglas Academy, East Dumbarton

See what other teachers (and children) had to say about Launchpad in this short video:


What to expect?

Launchpad is designed at three different levels, broadly aimed at the following age bands:

  • Level 1: three to seven-year-olds;
  • Level 2: eight to 12-year-olds; and
  • Level 3: 13 to 18-year-olds.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 09.27.40

Example of the site’s content.

At each level the ‘missions’ follow the same format. The exploration begins with an introduction to the right, before considering it in a Scottish context. The focus then switches to an international setting, exploring how the right is enjoyed in one or more countries around the world, followed by a related activity. Finally, the ‘mission’ is finished with an interactive quiz and a star for the ‘Super You’ character. After six missions each child or young person receives a certificate.

Detailed Guidance for Adults is available on the website- this will provide you with all the information you need about the resource. It’ll also help you to plan how you use Launchpad in your lessons.

Creating your free account is incredibly easy, simply follow this link, We’re confident that you’ll be glad you did – just remember to encourage your colleagues to create their accounts too!


Get into the pit – it’s great!!

I recently had the privilege of hearing James Nottingham from Challenge Learning speak about how to use the Learning Pit to develop resilience and a growth mindset in pupils. This was part of Midlothian Educational Psychologist’s drive to develop visible learning in Midlothian, which is having a tremendous impact in schools (many thanks to Sarah Philp and her fantastic team).

The Learning Pit approach is all about teaching children how to think, not what to think. It challenges children to question ideas, their own and others and be able to consider both sides of the argument. It as well as developing these essential life skills, using the learning pit approach also leads to more memorable, deeper and more purposeful learning. (At least that is the idea, I haven’t tried it myself yet, but it is hard to listen to James and not be utterly convinced!)

We were then given a run through of what a learning pit lesson would look like. Let me do my best to share it with you…

1. Concept
You need to start by finding a concept for the group to discuss. Make sure you don’t choose a fact, it must be able to be questioned. E.g. risk, friendship, fairness…Pupils need a surface level understanding of the concept. Using a story or picture is a good way to find a concept; it can even just be a front cover or recall of a well-known tale. Then you are going to set up cognitive conflict – two or more ideas in their mind that they agree with which are in conflict. Causing dilemma to teach them how to make judgments (critical thinking).

2. Conflict.
Once you have found a concept to focus on, you need to introduce some conflict. You want them to move from one idea to many ideas about the concept. Raise questions, it should be fun and it should make them think, and make them wobble. It is not about proving them wrong, but about blocking their normal way of thinking, the way a blocked road would make you think about your route to work, which is normally easy – easy is boring. Model wobbling and challenge for them to imitate. Don’t link challenge with making things harder, but with making thinks more interesting and fun. This is where you are putting the children in the pit. Their brains should be in a state of flux! Put them in the pit before they go off to work/discuss a topic.

Work with our group to find questions and develop dilemmas: give question starters on wall and refer to, using these as part of your habit will gradually become easier and become part of the pupils’ vocabulary too.

What is?
How do we know what …is
Who says what…is
What if
What’s the difference between?
When would it be good/bad/not to?
Is it possible to…
Add always /never
Should we…(difficult one to use)

Challenge commonly held ideas by reversing what the pupils come up with when they answer “what if?” If a=b does b=a?

3. Construct
You don’t want to leave the children I the pit, after any work or discussion you need to help them back out! You want them to come to a better understanding, the eureka moment (I found it). You have to struggle to reach and enjoy the eureka moment.

There are several tools you can use to help children out the pit such as:

– venn diagrams
– grouping
– ranking
– thinking hats
– PMI (Plus, minus, interesting)

4. Consider
The final stage is to consider the journey you have all been on. “What have we learned, how does this transfer, how did we get out of the pit, how did it feel, how do we feel now?”

I hope that makes sense, but you can learn more from taking a look at jamesnottingham.co.uk/learningpit and challengelearning.com

Skip to toolbar