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Teaching and Learning Toolkit

My toolkit contains tips, tricks, ideas, strategies, suggestions, resources and information for teachers across all subjects, ages and phases of education!

The toolkit is a central location for teaching and learning related posts laid out in a simple to use and interpret fashion. The information is short and snappy and links to what is needed are always provided.


You can search for a post using a particular keyword or you can filter the posts based on their tags. Such as literacy, group work, independent learning and so on.

The toolkit is designed to allow teachers to become more creative, more inventive and most importantly allows them to save time by using some of the effective ideas that have been shared. The posts usually contain images showing the activity in action and provide links to further reading if relevant.

Currently the toolkit contains over 215 activities that have been tried and tested by teachers. I know they are effective because the activities I post are ones that are being used in classrooms. Ones that have been used and been successful with the students I teach.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 15.14.17

To date the toolkit has had over 550,000 views and is used worldwide! Many posts are currently being edited/updated to include the variations educators have made having seen the original idea from the toolkit.


The principle behind the toolkit is to create more agile teachers who want to liven up the learning of their students. The toolkit is also a central hub to share important information such as the changes in Special Needs provision in the UK and so on. Some ideas you will love, some you will think about, others you may not agree with at all. That’s the beauty of the toolkit- it is guaranteed to cater for some of everybody’s teaching methods. If an activity doesn’t sit well with you, simply ignore it and try another? :)

If you would like to guest post and share an activity that you have used in your lessons on the toolkit then please email me on aal@cheney.oxon.sch.uk over 30 teachers have written a guest post to date.

Get in touch… @ASTSupportAAli


The toolkit was recently featured on BBC News show BBC Click in the #Webscape section as a fantastic tool for educators worldwide.


The toolkit is also linked to many websites/blogs.

You can help spread the world by sharing posts on twitter, facebook and google +.





Grid(un)locked-inspiring creative poetry analysis

After 18 months in Special Measures and being constantly under scrutiny (a particularly devastating blow to our department – we’d just attained 81% A*-C against a target of 69% when it happened) we’re always looking for new and interesting ways to bring engaging ideas into our classrooms. This idea came about in February as we were bracing ourselves for another Ofsted visit and has been a massive success with Year 10 and Year 11.

Here’s how it works:

1. Students work in pairs/groups with a poetry grid and two dice (tip-use foam dice!)
2. Take it in turns to roll the dice and answer the question. Others can add to/ expand an answer to raise to overall level of response once they’ve exhausted their ideas
3. If a double is rolled, talk on the topic area for 30 secs without hesitation, deviation… (you get the gist)

It’s simple, effective and fun but there’s more to it than just being a grid with pretty colours. Firstly, the questions are all linked to the mark scheme descriptors for the exam. The one in the picture is designed for the AQA unseen question and I’ve also created an adapted version for the Anthology poetry. This allows students to respond to the poems in a way that is directly beneficial to the exam skills they have to demonstrate.

Secondly, The colours aren’t random. Each colour is linked to a different area: pink=structure, purple=feelings and attitudes/mood and tone, yellow=language, blue=themes and ideas, orange=talk for 30secs, green (without doubt the favourite with students)=creative connections and ideas (not directly linked to a specific mark scheme area but to access the poem in a different way and just maybe come up with something that unlocks the poem in a way they wouldn’t have considered).

Thirdly, the way they choose the question to answer is differentiated. Say they roll a two and a four. If they take the larger number horizontally across the grid and the smaller number vertically, the question will be more challenging than if they do it vice versa. All the questions require thinking about but I think that to access discussion and ideas at the highest levels students often need to ‘warm up’ and this is one way they can do it.

You’ll see in the picture I also made a vocabulary grid to use alongside the game. Eight of the boxes link to the question areas, one includes the tentative language (could, may, might, possibly) we’d encourage students to use when exploring Literature. Whilst the words on the vocabulary grid are pretty comprehensive, I also made sure they fully covered anything students might need for the ‘Relationships’ cluster in the AQA Anthology.

For Year 11 who have studied all the poems and are preparing from the exam, they have used the grid in a few ways. Sometimes we focus on two specific poems. This is particularly useful prior to writing a ‘powergraph’ (more on this another time but it’s transformed the approach for our more able students). I mentioned creativity earlier. Combining the questions with a pick-a-poem style (ie pick two poems randomly from a bag/spinner) has generated all sorts of links and connections that students might never have thought about otherwise.

In whole class feedback, there a couple of ways it can been taken further. I usually ask what the most perceptive point is that someone in a group has made so everyone can benefit from different ideas. I’ll also ask which question has promoted the best discussion in the group-it can vary for different poems. I’ll then give students extra time to continue discussions, possibly looking at questions mentioned in the feedback part but they can also look at questions of a certain colour if the dice have missed out any areas or even just choose a question they fancy.

One of the other benefits that my less confident students have found is that certain questions really help them unlock ideas. These are the questions they revise and when going into an exam they can consider them if they are stuck. Many of my Year 10s reported this was the technique that helped them the most in their recent Unseen Poetry mock.

It’s interactive, fun and relevant. The responses are genuinely worth it and encourage students to think in a way that isn’t gimmicky but genuinely higher level. That’s been my experience anyway!

I’m happy to email the resources via DM.


Thought Bombs: Splinter Cell

I love the smell of thinking in the morning…

I came across this idea from @lisajaneashes and was instantly hooked.  It seemed like a great way to add a bit of extra excitement into lessons so I thought I’d give it a try.  Like any new toy I wanted to see all the different things I could do with it; a sentence which probably explains a large number of Accident and Emergency admissions.  These are a few of the ideas I’ve tried and a few more I’m planning to try next with my general reflections.

Classic: Basically you cut a hole in a plastic ball, give the learners some information to have a discussion on then drop in more information that will support, challenge or change the direction of their thinking in the bomb and throw it in.  The original blog post to explain this properly is here…http://thelearninggeek.com/2013/08/thought-bombing/

Challenge: Another way in which I’ve used them is to place surprise tasks inside.  This way if a learner needs and extension task or has a choice of activities as part of the lesson they can select a Thought Bomb.  I’m trying to make the bomb tasks focused around creative or metacognitive tasks to give them a specific flavour and expectation.

Question Bomb: This is a very simple adaptation of the theme,

1)       Throw in a challenging question linked to the theme being studied.  You can even differentiate the questions for different ability groups.

2)        One member of the group reads it, 3 minutes to discuss.

3)        Then everyone in the group writes down the question and their answer in their books.  This promotes a focused, time controlled discussion followed by a bit of literacy.  The writing is supported by the group sharing the ideas before they start writing.

Different coloured pens or the word thought bomb next to this will evidence it if necessary.

Holy Hand Grenade:  I like to count to three before throwing these.  When the learners are working on a task or exam style question and look like they are struggling or slowing I’m experimenting with throwing scripture quotes linked to the topic for them to use to develop their ideas further. What I like best about this method is keeping the expectation and challenge high for completion of exam style tasks and adding in extra support when they need it rather than scaffolding so heavily that they’re not challenged.  These have seen a very positive response with learners asking for them when needed.

This could be easily done with chunks of content from other subject areas but you’ll need a subject specific dramatic name for them.

What Next?

Propaganda: That’s right I plan to bombard them with positive messages.  Will it be useful to put specific praise in a Thought Bomb and drop it into a group for one of the learners to read to the rest of the group?  The intent being to reinforce specific positive learning behaviours and strategies in the class by explicitly sharing them.

Pass The Bomb: As a plenary task I’m planning to have groups make their own bombs.

1) Each group will create a challenging question which can be answered using the learning from the lesson.

2) They pass their challenging question to another group who read it and try to answer the question to demonstrate their learning.

Reflections: Although a lot of the same tactics could be utilised in a wide variety of ways the Thought Bombs are certainly highly engaging.  The learners have been very enthusiastic about these and have demanded that we use them again.  The small amount of time invested in the making of the bombs was well worth the fun and excitement.

Finally I’d like to publicly thank the awesome Technicians in Seaham School of Technology who built my showpiece ammo crate above.

Entry and Exit Slips

This week I tried Entry and Exit Slips.

I’ll come clean from the beginning: this was for an interview. I didn’t get the job. But it’s a strategy I would definitely use to get students to reflect on and articulate their progress and their learning. I’d definitely use it for an observed lesson again.

The slips themselves were simple. They had two columns, the ‘Entry’ part slightly smaller than the ‘Exit’ part, and they had a question related to the learning objective repeated in both columns. For this lesson, it was ‘What do you know about how to identify the meaning, ideas and emotions in a poem you have never seen before?’ (I’d been asked to teach Year 10 Unseen Poetry.) I’ve seen several templates which just use ‘Exit’ slips, getting students to write down what they’ve learned, but I wanted them one the same piece of paper, so students could compare what they knew at the beginning to what they knew at the end.

As the students were entering the classroom, I gave them the slips. This was a useful ‘Bellwork’ task, as it got the students doing something as soon as they came in. It also got them immediately thinking about the topic and objective of the lesson.

I gave students permission to write ‘I don’t know,’ and most of the students did that. Some wrote down things like ‘Pick out key words’ and one or two wrote ‘PEE.’ One wrote ‘Read it through,’ which I thought was a good start!

Then I taught the lesson, based around ‘Funeral Blues’ by WH Auden. As they were an able group, I challenged them to look for alternative interpretations and to engage with the emotions of the poet.

In the last 5 minutes, I asked the students to complete their Exit Slips. There was absolute silence as 28 students tried to articulate the strategies they had learned in the last hour. Across the room, the exit slips were filled. I read a few (chosen at random) out at the very end of the lesson, to celebrate achievement, but I have read them all since coming home. They are packed with strategies they used during the lesson, and, interestingly, each is slightly different.


It’s a strategy I’ll definitely be using again, and an easily adaptable resource. Just what I like.

Ofsted Prep: How 5 good habits can lead to excellent teaching and learning

I recently had an observation with my line manager. I used to dread observations, especially when being judged by an expert teacher. I think the thing that even the most experienced teachers fear is an Ofsted inspection. Having received positive feedback for my recent lesson observation, I looked back on what I did and realised that most of it was automated, I do these things every lesson without thinking.

I came to learn about these techniques through our head of CPD (@HFletcherWood) whose numerous techniques come from the books of Doug Lemov and also talks and inset by Dylan William (See Youtube for a taster). By automating these good habits, we can free ourselves (literally and mentally) to address student’s queries more effectively. Since the beginning of the year, I have managed to automate 5 techniques which have had a huge impact on my teaching:

1) Start the class with a “Do Now”

This should have a low threshold for entry and plenty of room for growth. My example was simply to state what you like/dislike about the following posters and to suggest improvements.


2) Positive framing (Catching them when they’re good)

By using positive framing; only announcing names of people who were doing the right thing, it encourages those who are slow to start. “I can see James has started jotting down some ideas…I can see Megan has put one point for improvement”. Within 30 seconds, everyone is settled, they all have opinions and are scribbling away. This is the most challenging class in the school. Those who looked like they had finished were asked to suggest improvements to the posters or think of general rules to make the posters better.

Compare that to negative framing where you call out people’s names for being slow to start, “Ryan, you’ve been in here 5 minutes and you still haven’t got out a pen…Janet, why are you walking around?”. This type of framing adds a negative vibe to the lesson and may also lead to confrontation.

3) No hands up and no opt out

Asking only students who put their hands up is probably one of the worst habits you can get into according to Dylan William. The shyer students never get to contribute, those who are feeling a bit lazy will simply opt out and those with their hands up will get frustrated when you don’t pick them. Using nametags or lollipop sticks on the other hand keeps the class on their toes.

Source: goddividedbyzero.blogspot.com 

In combination with Doug Lemov’s “No opt out”, it ensures that all students will contribute when asked to give an answer. If a student answers “I don’t know”, you can respond with “I know you don’t know, I just want to know what you think”. Every student has something in their head. If they’re still hesitant, simply reinforcing that there is no right or wrong answer will build their confidence and even the shyest students will usually contribute an answer.

Extra tip: There are times when the question is so difficult that there is a good 30-40% of students who do not know the answer and do not even know where to start to think. In these situations, it is a good idea to do a “Think-Pair-Share”. A think pair share with a written outcome means you can quickly see if the majority now have an answer to give or if you need to go from pairs to fours to widen the pool further.

4) Student routines

All the aforementioned are teacher routines. As a Computing teacher, you will appreciate that we have one big distraction in front of every student, their own screen. For some teachers, they dread laptops or a lesson in the Computer lab as it just leads to students going on Facebook. Social networks aren’t even blocked in our school, but a student has never gone on a social network in any of our classes as far as I can recall simply because the consequences are so severe. Some teachers also find it difficult to get students attention. I would recommend asking students to close their laptop screens to 45 degrees on a countdown of 3-2-1. Some people call this “pacman screens”, I’ve heard of teachers literally holding up a hand in the shape of a pacman which seems quite novel and efficient. I just call it “45″-efficiency in routines is important!

Source: itnews.com.au

By having routines for handing out folders, getting students’ attention, you make your life as a teacher much easier. Expectations are clear and students do not need to think about their actions, they just do it and in turn you’re making their lives easier. By having clear consequences for not following the routines, most students are quick to latch on.

5) Ending with an exit ticket

Ending with an Exit ticket is the quickest way to find out what students have learnt in your lesson. No student can leave the room before giving you their exit ticket. With these little slips (No smaller than a Post-It Note and no bigger than A5) you can quickly spot misconceptions and it also helps plan the start of your next lesson. It’s one of the most efficient forms of assessment. Some teachers sort these exit tickets into piles, one for those who will be rewarded with housepoints next lesson, one which is the average pile and the last pile is the one where students simply “did not get it”. The last group can also be pulled up for a quick lunchtime mastery/catchup session before your next lesson with the class. As mentioned earlier, these piles go directly to inform your planning. Very quickly you can plan for the top and the bottom.

Closing thoughts

When you get the dreaded Ofsted call, remember that there is no way that any teacher can change their teaching style for one lesson observation without seeming un-natural about it. The kids spot it, your observer spots it and you just end up running around the classroom sweating whilst trying to do a load of things you’ve never done before. Yes, I’ve been there loads of times, in fact probably for every single observation in my first 6 years of teaching! It took a school culture which does not believe in “performing for observations” or “pulling out an outstanding lesson with lots of gimmickery” which really changed my practice. The most important lesson I’ve learnt this year (mainly from my amazing head of CPD), is that in order to be excellent, you have to practice (and practise) excellence everyday. As your good habits become automated, you end up freeing up some of your mental capacity and therefore you are able to do even more for your students.

Source overlays

These are something I have been using this week, which started with the fabulous question matrix by @JOHNSAYERS.As a history teacher I spend a lot of time using my Ipad as a visualizer for sources in textbooks or searching the internet; so that we could discuss, annotate and question the content. I created A4 sheets which we have used to annotate sources and then compare propaganda posters. I also have smaller ones that students can use over textbooks.

I have plans for different versions and I am looking forward to seeing how many uses I can find for them. I am going to use them with post it notes, by having a range of sources which students have to annotate and then mix them up to match the source and overlay.

Yes they are a bit fiddly to stick and cut out to make them double sided and yes because it is just normal laminating they are a bit wobbly. However I think that they will really help my students develop their questioning skills and better still I am sure they will be useful in other subjects. A technology colleague left my room yesterday planning how to adapt a version for product design.

If you manage to use or adapt them let me know and we can share the different versions and uses on pedagoo.org.

Happy making.

Carol (self confessed geek)

source grids

overlay example

Using pupil feedback to improve teaching

At the end of every lesson, I try to evaluate my teaching. Sometimes I manage to do this, othertimes, there’s simply not enough time. I’ve even thought about giving myself DIRT on my timetable so that it’s not just the students who are doing explicit improvement and reflection. Towards the end of a major unit however, it’s difficult to evaluate how effective your teaching has been. Of course, I could look at test results, but sometimes the test doesn’t catch everything. It may tell you that your teaching of x, y and z was ineffective but it won’t tell you why. This is where pupil feedback can help.

Laura Mcinerney once asked the daring question, “Should teachers publish the test scores of their classes” . I wondered what would happen if I published the pupil feedback of all my classes. It has certainly forced me to reflect more honestly and openly about my own practice.

You can find the original pupil survey here: http://goo.gl/W2mRPk . I have been selective with the publishing of my results, generally ignoring repeats and responses where students replies were too general and not actionable e.g. “Mr Lau was great”.

What could Mr Lau have done differently / better:

    - let us figure out what has gone wrong with our code.
    - Maybe give us more time to actually try ourselves rather than watching the board quite often. I also think it would be useful to sometimes have a quick break from python and try something else like scratch for one lesson
    - Explain coding simpler and talk a bit less so we have time to get the work done better.
    - he could have showen a demo of what he wants us to do
    - Mr lau could have simplified the technical language.
    - come round to every one
    - Maybe explain in more detail.
    - Explane more clearly
    - put more computing lessons on the time table.

Analysis and Response: Students have raised the issue that I help them too readily. Whilst a growth mindset and persistence is abundant in the majority of our students, it appears that in my teaching, I could demonstrate these learning habits more by helping students less, offering more waiting time and responding with questions rather than answers. Several students also thought that explanations could be clearer; teaching computer programming for the first time, I think this is to be expected but I will try to observe more experienced Computing teachers. Key words and language was also raised as an issue, so I think a Vocab list for each unit would be helpful. On the positive side, many students replied with “nothing” on the improvements list with the last comment of putting “more computing lessons on the time table” brightening up my day.

What would you like Mr Lau to do more of:

    - Letting us work on our own, a bit more .
    - more of prasing people
    - Demonstrate code before sending us to do work.
    - more work on your own
    - come round to more people
    - explained things and use more visual things like pictures

Analysis and Response: Firstly, Praise praise praise, it’s an invaluable currency. Secondly, many students preferred working on their own. I think I have done paired programming for several reasons, firstly because the research suggests it can be the most effective way of coding:




The second reason is because our laptop trolley rarely has a full class set of working laptops. However, I will certainly pilot more independent working and solo tasks next term.

What would you like Mr Lau to do less of:

    - Speaking to the whole class about something a few people have got wrong.
    - work sheets
    - stop showing people what to do if they are stuck.
    - Keep on showing us the board
    - To do less talking when teaching and to pick people to come and try the code on the interactive smartboard.
    - canstant doing hardcore lessons may be sometimes we could fun lessons
    - I would like to get on with the work straight away on the and have a learning objective on the table
    - stopping the how class when only a few people need to know things
    - speaking less at the start and giving us more time to practical work time.
    - dont explan to fings at wons

Analysis and Response: Early on in my career, I had a lot of helpless handraising. This was partly to do with my teaching and partly due to the culture of the school. I decided to combat this by judging when it would be appropriate to stop the whole class. If a student asked a question that I thought the whole class could benefit from hearing the answer to, I would stop them. No teacher likes repeating themselves afterall. It appears that my students don’t like this strategy as I am stopping the majority in order to help a small minority. I therefore plan to get around this by helping Student A with their problem, then when Student B asks me for help on the same problem, I could direct them to Student A. If Student C asks the same question, the chain continues. Whilst there are clear literacy issues (perhaps distorted by the use of computers and their association with txtspk), the last student makes a point about working memory and helping students remember. This reminds me of Willingham’s work on helping students remember and learn.

Any other comments

    -stop 5 minutes early to put the computers away
    - computer science is fun
    - Thanks Mr Lau I am getting Better .
    print(“Thanks Mr Lau again”)
    I think i need a new account sorry :( i will try to remeber please dont give me a detention soryy

    - It was very useful to work in partners and also rate and and have your own work rated.
    - my mum is impressed
    - Computing is such a unique subject to learn in a secondary school and I am so happy to participate in it as it is intresting, inspiring and useful if you want to have a future career in game making or something like that.
    - I have really enjoyed computer science this term I have had fun playing and exploring around laptops. Making chat bots and having challenges I have learnt a lot about computers and how they work. I am looking forward to doing more work this term and learning different things.
    - I have really enjoyed codeing i really like it some times i do it at home with my dad because he enjoys it to just like me.
    - PLEASE show us how to do spreadsheets through the medium of dance like in your old school.

Analysis and Response:
Timing is an issue for me. I need to fit in an exit ticket, house points and packing away. That’s a good 10 minutes before the end of a lesson. To close on a bright note- clearly computing is having a positive impact on many of our students. The highlight for me is the student who wrote a print command in Python in her comment!

How useful was this process for improving my teaching in general? I think it provided a great deal of stimulus for reflection and improvement. Using Google forms, I also managed to sneak in an exit ticket, which I quickly evaluated using conditional formatting.

As a result, some students will be due housepoints, whereas others will need mastery classes.

After all this analysis, hopefully I can put some of these ideas into practice and feedback on the process.

#PedagooFriday 15/11/13
November 16, 2013
#PedagooFriday 8-11-13
November 10, 2013
#PedagooFriday 25.10.13

Check out all the rest of the fantastic tweets over on twitter