Category Archives: PedagooLondon

Winter Wellbeing

What is Our Winter Wellbeing Calendar all about?

Whilst the Christmas period is seen as the time of the year for joy and celebration, what’s often not recognised, is that it can be a particularly tiring and stressful time of the year for school leaders and teachers.

The plays and special assemblies are all wonderful cause for celebration. However, the continuous run of late nights, mixed in with the everyday pressures of school life can take their toll!

That’s why this year, we thought we’d try to lend a ‘virtual’ helping hand! To help make December just that little bit less stressful and more joyful for you, with our first ever, Winter Wellbeing Advent Calendar.

What can you expect?

The Calendar will involve 24 days of mini-blogs/thoughts for the day designed to offer you encouragement, support and useful advice to help you stay positive right through to Christmas day.

These mini-blogs will be provided by inspiring educators, focused around a different theme of Well-being in education. We have enlisted top educational thought-leaders, bloggers, coaches, authors and inspiring school leaders to bring you a fantastic calendar of wellbeing wisdom, thought-provoking questions for reflection, and words of encouragement and inspiration.

Here is the list of the first 12 days of blogs for the Calendar:


Our Calendar will also be run in collaboration with #Teacher5aday (Twitter Teacher Wellbeing initiative set up by Martyn Reah) and @Tim_JumpClarke’s Winter challenge calendar, which consists of 24 winter challenges, to help you relax and be more compassionate to yourself and those around you this Christmas.


How does it work?

The window will be opened every day between 6:30Am and 11:30AM, on our Twitter account,  where we will be announcing when the day’s window on the advent calendar has been opened and the new mini blog/thought for the day has been released –  click here to follow us on Twitter

Even if you don’t have Twitter, when the window has been opened you’ll be able to read the day’s mini blog by following the link on the calendar itself or via our homepage.

Alternatively, you can now sign up to receive every day of the calendar by following the link below.

Sign up to receive everyday of the Winter Wellbeing Calendar straight to your Inbox

How can I get involved?

We’d love you to get involved with the calendar as much as possible, so if you have any reflections on the winter wellbeing thoughts of the day, please do share them via Twitter using the #WinterCalendar hashtag.

Likewise, if you have any photos, snippets of wisdom or quotes that have inspired you and think would inspire others through the month of December, please do share these too.

Just be sure to use the #WinterCalendar hashtag!

Taking Care of the Soul in the Role – #PedagooHampshire16


I was delighted to be offered a chance to speak this coming Saturday 17th September at Pedagoo Hampshire 16 in Alton. This event, which features a day of interactive seminars hosted by individuals across the educational landscape, aims to discuss and tackle key issues in education and create a forum for speakers to share their rich experience and expertise. If you have been lucky enough to get a ticket and you are thinking of coming along to my session on Saturday, there’s one key question on which I’d like you to ponder, as this one question will form the core of my session.

And that question is…

“What do you believe is the most precious thing that you bring to your role as an educator?”

We’ll be exploring this question, because for the last eight years, working as an Executive Coach, I have spent easily over 100 hours listening to the inner most thoughts and questions of Head teachers and senior school leaders, and when individuals find their own answer to this question, things begin to change.

I also have another question for you, … What do you know of the journey you are on?

From ‘walking alongside’ individuals on their leadership journeys, I have come to the conclusion that school leadership is a journey of deep growth and personal transformation. However, because of the systems over-emphasis on results and league tables many individuals are devoid of a language or a space to describe the inner dissonance that often accompanies this walk into the unknown.

It is not until they have been afforded this space, that they begin to see the role of school leadership anew and in so doing make the vital connection between being alive to what Parker J Palmer [American author and social activist] calls the ‘Soul in the Role’ or the ‘being’ in Human-being’

Having been in the profession now for over twenty-eight years, I fully get why this is so; why it feels so alien for us to engage in conversations that take us inside of ourselves. I believe it is because too often we are asked questions that demand that we justify, explain, give account for;

– Good results

– Bad results

– Good performances

– Bad performances

Persist in asking me questions that seek justification for external outcomes and I become a stranger to my inner world, upon which these external outcomes depend. I will seek to defend, ‘who I am’ and what I bring to my role. On the other hand, ask me questions that invite me to explore the ‘how and why’ of what I do and then you invite the best in me to come forth. You invite my soul to come out from behind its defences and engage in more live giving and affirming conversations about what matters most.

My session on Saturday will be just that, an invitation to begin taking part in a journey with us on the subject ‘Taking Care of the Soul in the role’.

The journey begins with Saturday’s interactive workshop and continues throughout September with a series of related blogs on bringing who we truly are into our roles as educators and leaders. The journey’s end will be on Tuesday 4th October from 8:00-8:30 PM when we will be hosting our webinar on Staying in Love With School Leadership.


If you would like to receive our register for this webinar, please click here.

Where the Sun Shines #PedagooLondon

A write-up of my keynote at Pedagoo London 2015. Summer Turner (@ragazza_inglese)

I am really honoured to be the final speaker today. Much like many of the people who have spoken today, I have a big place in my heart for Pedagoo and so it means a lot to me that Helene asked me to end this day.

Phil Stock spoke eloquently at the start of today about the power of this type of CPD and he also spoke about leaking roofs. Weirdly I had this metaphor in my mind about the two. I’ve always felt Teaching found me – walking into a classroom for the first time since leaving school and watching a commanding female teacher weave a magic spell over her pupils with literature – I remember feeling that I had found my home. Yet two years later, worn from an onslaught of behaviour management and an ill-balanced workload, it began to feel like the roof of my home was leaking. Seeping through were the negative images and words whether from politicians, the media or most sadly other teachers. And then my colleague, Chris Waugh, encouraged me to explore the world of Twitter. I was already online but unsure what I was doing (hence the silly Twitter handle) or what I wanted to say but with guidance I began to cut a path for myself. The next step was a TeachMeet – this one at Tom Sherrington’s previous school KEGS. Suddenly I felt that: yes the roof of my home had holes but the sun was shining! Being in a room surrounded by teachers determined to be better, to do better by their pupils was amazing but even more so was the generosity of spirit which I found there and which I find today. There is no keener example of that than Helene, who organised today, she is the embodiment of this generosity: someone who gives so much of their time to helping others in the teaching community find a voice, someone who works tirelessly to provide a space for this meeting of minds. For that I would like to thank her most deeply.

Today there has been some great sharing of ideas but, perhaps more importantly, there has been disagreement. One of the themes that has come out today is the importance of teacher autonomy. In the London Nautical English Department session they discussed the importance of this in terms of their approach to curriculum and assessment. Teachers are empowered by their ability to make choice and to therefore have a sense of autonomy. This prompted a debate about how how autonomous teachers should be – where is the role of leadership and whole school ethos?Recently bloggers such as Kris Boulton have started a discussion about whether teachers should have any say in curriculum design at all. Phil Stock provided an example of something which perhaps bridges this gap with his workshop on on collaborative teaching cycles in which there was a suggestion about the value of a framework provided by leaders but with some autonomy at department level. It’s clear there is a healthy debate to be had here, one which I have certainly begun in my own mind!

Another point of friction came through the discussion of assessment – including a continued argument about the importance of progress measures. In her session on assessment without levels Hayley Earl talked about the fear that schools have about developing a new system and called for leaders to be brave and to have conviction. It’s a concern to me that we are still discussing progress measures when we should be focused on valuable assessment systems which are driven by curriculum and by the desire to work out what our pupils know and how to help them make genuine improvement. I concur with Hayley that fear is the one thing that is holding us back. I’m not sure if it’s a hang up from previous criticisms levelled at teachers or from the accountability system and Ofsted but fear is the one thing that is going to stop us from making the change that we believe in. Fear is also what leads to some of the stupidity that still goes on in schools and results in people thinking that they can go to a PixL conference and pick up some hot trick that will make their school outstanding. There’s still this terrible culture of trends in teaching based on little to no evidence and usually ending up reducing the complex questions of education into a motivational laminated poster. If your thinking can end up in three words on a poster, I would suggest you need to think again. I think what all of the sessions shared was the importance of ethos, values and courage of conviction.

The reason this isn’t seen across school is I think a consequence of a fear of “the struggle”. We constantly encourage our pupils to embrace risk and struggle and that point between challenge and failure – yet half the time we run a mile from it ourselves. We run from the feeling that comes when you have to think about something complex and have to navigate the difficulties. Yet sitting in sessions today hearing ideas that I disagree with forces me to consider and refine my ideas. How do you know what you really believe until it is challenged?

These challenges are easier to face here because we are not alone. A number of people have talked today about the feeling teachers have of being ‘on their own’. It’s much less terrifying to take risks when you know you have this community and it also means you don’t always have to re-invent the wheel; I think we can put pressure on ourselves to always be original and be our own island of inspirational teaching. But it’s not cheating to work together, to collaborate, to use other’s ideas – with suitable credit of course. And that is just another reason why today has been so worthwhile. I lead on Teaching and Learning and after Phil’s session today I do feel a bit like he’s taken a year’s worth of thinking and work off my shoulders. Even in the divisions and differences and arguments that ensue as part of the profession we are truly united by the passion we have to do the right thing by our pupils – to provide them with the best education. Determining what that is demands argument but this can be achieved positively.

In my first ever blog post I demanded that we all face the education world with this unrelenting positivity. I now realise that what I wanted was for us to be positive activists. As the years have gone on, this positive activism has been realised through the grassroots movement from events such as Pedgaoo, ResearchEd, Headteachers Roundtable, TeachMeets, Twitter, blogging and more. We have seen curriculum, assessment, teacher training, behaviour management and even Ofsted be shaped by those within the profession. What is happening here is not only CPD it is this meeting of minds; a collaboration of ideas and an active pursual of change from the profession itself. It is the very best of what we are about.

What I also heard today was a plurality of voices. Even within the education community we can sometimes be self-limiting in terms of who we listen to. This is a problem, which we need to address. And I’m going throw in the F word now – FEMINISM. (Not a swear word but sometimes it feels like one.) 74% of the profession are women – yet think about the biggest voices in education when it comes to blogging, Tweeting and conferences. How many of them are women? How many women here today probably didn’t ask a question or make a comment out of insecurity or ‘imposter syndrome’. If we are taking charge of our profession then we need to take charge as a whole group together. We need to follow the example of Helene and work to allow a multitude of voices to be heard. In that space lies our power.

I recently re-read the book ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ and there is a moment at the end of the book where the protagonist Charlie reflects on his journey over the time he has been writing. He says:

I don’t know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might

be too busy trying to participate. So, if this does end up being the last letter I just wanted you to know that I was in bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who’s gone through it you made me not feel alone, because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen, and there are people who forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen.

I know these will all be stories some day and our pictures will become old photographs and we will all become someone’s mom and dad.

But right now, these moments aren’t stories this is happening, I am here and I am looking at her, and she is so beautiful…I can see it.

This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story, you are alive.

And you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder, when you were listening to that song, on that drive with the people you love most in this world.

And in the moment, I swear, we are infinite.

In the moment, I swear, we are infinite.

It’s that I feel when I am surrounded by my profession at events such as these; it is standing up and seeing the lights and it is beautiful. And everyone, every teacher, should feel this. So I urge you all to become positive activists for our profession, to contribute to the multitude of voices and to allow our passion to unite us. Together, we are infinite.

My thoughts and reflections… #PedagooLondon

Saturday was a wonderful non-stop carousel of enthusiasm and inspiration. I had not attended a Pedagoo event, nor even a teachmeet, before and it looks like I will now be making up for lost time! What follows below is a brief chronological summary of my Pedagoo experience.


As the eighth floor of the Institute of Education was slowly filling up I found myself agog at the fact that so many of the teachers I follow on Twitter were in the room. One of my happiest moments was spotting the batman socks of a certain well-known tweeter!


Phil Stock gave a very welcoming speech and channelled Andy Lewis’ question of whether we were “Mugs, Martyrs of Fools” to be giving up a day to take part in CPD on the weekend. The question he put to us was “what is missing in our schools for this to be the case?” However, his positive summary that we can and are growing CPD from the inside out clearly resonated. Who could question the need to put student learning firmly at the forefront of our training?

Session 1

I am currently part of a working party to look at redesigning the marking and assessment at my school, so it was logical to attend Dawn Cox’s “Assessment without levels.” Indeed this topic is very much en vogue and I have read many recent blogs with great curiosity. During this session I was very interested in the development of Dawn’s assessment system for Religious Education. Two ideas I particularly liked were:

  1. The concept of students working back from a definition of a command word (e.g. explain) to the actual command word itself.
  2. No stakes multiple choice question testing where one option is always “I don’t know” to see exactly what a student doesn’t know.

Two simple yet highly effective strategies to help students engage with the assessment process. I will be interested to hear how it progresses as it is rolled out next year, particularly the no stakes testing.

Session 2

For the same reason as above I chose to attend another session based on assessment, this time Chris Curtis’ “The link between planning, progress and marking.” He started his talk by asking whether books actually tell the story of how a student is taught and of their learning. This again is a key topic in the days of work scrutiny and book checks. His use of the magician mastery and leaping up the ladder analogies were spot on and ones I will be using with staff and students alike. As part of an activity during the session I wrote down two very prosaic sentences on London and then managed to self-mark using a very clever grid of 15 targets to improve my work; unlike the famous Paul Daniels quote I liked this idea a lot!

Session 3

The ever enthusiastic dynamic duo of Crista Hazell and Candida Gould were up next with their “Recipe for Deep Learning.” This was a fun session, but also one that made me question many of my core educational beliefs; although not specifically about this session Hélène Galdin-O’Shea put it brilliantly in her tweet “I guess when you are struggling to agree with some of what you hear, it helps you figure out exactly why you do.” During Crista and Candida’s presentation they had a slide with a scale from the seemingly interchangeable Nicky Morgan / Michael Gove Tory Secretary of State for Education to Sir Ken Robinson. Perhaps my difficulty in digesting the mention of “Shift Happens”, “jobs that don’t exists” and “digital natives” would put me squarely at one particular end of that spectrum? However, that is not the point and I took many fine ideas from this session. Indeed it was a celebration of enthusiasm, hard work and, above all, passion for the job. Whilst listening to both Candida and Crista speak the sheer love they have for student learning come across loud and clear. PS – many thanks for the sweets!

Session 4

This was the session I was delivering, ostentatiously called “The one hundred one percents.” This topic is very close to my heart and was essentially a whistle-stop tour of ideas, gimmicks and thoughts to get the best out of teaching and learning. Since its first outing in March I have tweaked, changed and (I think!) improved the session. It was very enjoyable running the session and I am hugely grateful to Hélène for inviting me to do so and the wonderful people who actually came to listen; I do hope they took away a few ideas and look forward to hearing how they get on.

Session 5

Grassroots Leaders and Research-Focused TLCs was next on my list from Athena Pitsillis and Keven Bartle. I particularly liked the idea of pedagogy leaders as “brokers” between SLT and teachers and this made me think how it felt to be in such a position. My initial thoughts of it being akin to metamorphic rock were allayed as the session progressed. One thing that struck me is the sheer volume of leaders that this approach develops, in some schools such opportunities are few and far between. This reminded me of the Multiplier Effect and echoed the theme that all teachers are leaders. Finally it was also inspiring to hear Keven talk about how they have broken down barriers between teaching and support staff; as a teacher that relies on two excellent technicians I heartily agree that we should be doing more to develop the roles of support staff within schools.


The final official part of PedagooLondon was Summer Turner’s summary of the day. This was particularly apposite as she called for more autonomy and empowerment in what we do as well as encouraging debate to help allow opinions to form. Summer also echoed Hélène’s sentiments when she said “how do you know what you really believe until it is challenged?” But I will remember this final talk as embodying the collaborative nature of the event as we look to maintain the positive activism.


There was also time to see Martyn Reah’s collection of #teacher5aday ideas in an exhibition on the seventh floor. Not only were there some great thoughts and reflections but this also distilled just how connected we can be and was a lovely way to leave PedagooLondon.

The Marquis of Cornwallis

This led nicely to a nearby pub where I was lucky enough to meet some extraordinary teachers, chatting for hours and reflecting on the day. Certainly I hope to return in a year’s time to PedagooLondon16, but until then I will be keeping in contact and trying to get to as many events as possible.

Thank you to all who were involved in organising such a fantastic day!

Everyone has a voice #PedagooLondon

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting London, not to take photos of architecture, nor to experience the pomp and circumstance of our great British institution. Interestingly, despite the fact that one of the biggest tennis tournaments was taking place in London, I wasn’t anywhere near Wimbledon either. I was a delegate at Pedgaoo London, a TeachMeet organised by Hélène Galdin-O’shea (@hgaldinoshea) that I hadn’t been aware of until quite recently and, honestly, if my ATW (@hayleyearl) hadn’t been presenting there (which now makes her the Most Amazing Teacher Wife!) I wouldn’t have attended nor would I be blogging tonight (sorry Hélène). However, I cannot express my delight in attending and my gratitude towards Hélène for organising the event, supported by Kevin Bartle @kevbartle, to the many speakers and to the delegates also, many of whom I have started to follow and extend my own professional network.

Whilst my ATW was nervous about speaking to her peers, I housed my own anxieties: I would be in a room with delegates with extensive levels of knowledge and experience compared to my 7 years as a TA, Unqualified Teacher and Student, how could I participate in the anticipated discussions? Listening to Phil Stock (@joeybagstock) and then Chris Waugh (@edutronic_net), I was filled with awe; these two guys could hold an audience with musings of wisdom, and evidence of practice that I hope to achieve one day in my career. Maybe I had a right to be nervous, these people were eminently worthy of their podium position at the front of one of the IoE’s classrooms, what could I offer in discussion?

However, these fears were somewhat alleviated when I entered the room and realised that everyone was there for the same reason, to learn, share and develop professionally, a common expectation. What’s more, when I shared opinions, I found I was not alone, nor were they dismissed, people were interested in my thoughts and could relate and, dare I say, agree.

The day was a resounding success for everyone involved, for my ATW with her new-found desire to speak publicly (see but selfishly, for me too. I’m lucky enough to have lots of CPD opportunities, formerly as a Schools Direct student, now as an NQT and as a Teacher at a forward thinking, staff investing school. Notwithstanding the existing opportunities, I cannot advocate enough the professional and personal rewards available from attending TeachMeets. The TeachMeets don’t have to be as big as Pedgaoo London or Northern Rocks (which will be in the diary next year!): try to meet locally in cluster schools to discuss progress and experiences. Meeting with colleagues of various levels of seniority, form varying backgrounds (primary and secondary) and with different levels of experience is an invaluable form of CPD. I’d even go as far as saying that I would happily organise PedagooGlos if enough are interested (will book ATW first!)

Finally, from this weekend’s experience, never underestimate the value of your own knowledge too: everyone has an opinion, everyone has experience, everyone deserves a voice.

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: . 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.

Cinderella’s reflection on a day at #PedagooLondon

So, I sit on the train home like Cinderella having to leave early in case she turns into a pumpkin, or fall over! After an amazing day at Pedagoolondon, I am trying to be reflective on all the amazing inspirational ideas I have heard to day. Whilst also getting my head around the fact that the people I have been tweeting with for the last six months are actually ‘real people’, who like me have their insecurities of meeting the real life versions of their avatars.

The keynote by Keven Bartle was inspiring ( I think I am going to use this word a lot!). We have to be ‘Trojan Mice’ bringing innovation, focus and above all “pedagogy, pedagogy, pedagogy ” to our classrooms. Bravely we need to use ‘Guerilla’ tactics to push up standards and improve the outcomes for those pupils in our classrooms. Only by doing this from the ground up will we show the government, senior leadership, OFSTED and the media that we are truely are a profession who take our practice seriously. One by one our numbers will increase and we will make a difference which, if shared slowly, will percolate our everyday practice and we will encourage more risk taking to push our learners forward and achieve their potential. Bring on the MONKEYS, let the mess begin.(

From there, I went to Rachel Stevens @murphygirl, looking at how to do ‘Group Work’ better. The reasons for not doing it are often due to our relecutance and nervousness in handing over learning to the children . It’s messy, how do we manage it, how can we prove they have learnt what we want them to, how do we evidence that elusive “progress” ?. She gave us some amazing strategies to setting up ‘Habits of Mind’.to give us as teachers confidence in managing group work effectively. If you want “a bag of tricks” then you can DM her for the contents. But these “tricks” will allow risks to be taken with some “gurillela” teaching thrown in.

Then on to planning with the exceptional Hayley Thompson @HThompson1982 the 7E’s of planning. The focus was ‘How to ensure we focus on the learning of the students rather than the teaching.’ Making sure we are focusing on the concepts, ideas in more detail, and how we will engage them from the start to ensure that you carry them with you through the ultimate goal, of making independent learners who know how to investigate and develop learning and knowledge gathering, rather than those who rely on us to give them the information needed to pass the exam. (

The atmosphere as we moved around the corridors of the IOE was amazing, teachers sharing, talking, smiling about what they are doing and learning, plus lots of wide eyes looking like they couldn’t possibly absorb anymore information but still two session to go!

I opted for David Fawcett and his PBL/ SOLO mash up. This has triggered more brain cells and neural pathways being fired up than I thought possible. Getting the big question, purpose behind the why you are doing this project, getting the buy in from community, locals and experts to show the value of the project. Do something that might have an impact on the community rather than some made up scenario. I am inspired to move forward with my ideas for my disengaged Year 9. The wonderful Hayley Thompson has happily offered to do work together on ideas. This is the true impact of these sessions where teachers from far and wide come together to share, offer support, extend our thinking. (

We are on to session four by which time I’m exhausted and a little sweaty but going for a SOLO experience with Joe Freeman@biomadhatter. Here I got to spend a lovely 30 mins chatting with Andy Knill @aknill about how we have used SOLO in our classes and where we go from here. (

This is where I need to digress to one of the many highlights of the evening as Andy route marched us around London in search of the Holy Grail that was Macdonalds. We passed the ‘Green Man’ noting location for the later more traditional Teachmeet. Only to get a frantic tweet from Helene to say it’s the wrong ‘Green Man’. We noted new location and set off on our route march up Great Portland Road, with Mr. Knill leading the way almost getting us run over!

We arrive at the right ‘Green Man’ this time to discover a relieved Helene and Kev who had ten minutes earlier thought they’d be presenting to an empty room. Very quickly the room filled up,and there was a palpable buzz about the room and this wasn’t just the noise of all the phones and iPads being put on charge as they were exhausted from the earlier events of the day.

The beers, wine, and some soft drinks were purchased and the TeachMeet in its truest form started with Andy Knill starting us off and then the steam train that is the wonderful sharing of ideas, suggestions flowed with some memorable performances from Jenny Ludgate @MissJLudd with her Monster Cook Off, @ICTmagic, magic video session with a voice made for radio, many others who I lost track of, and then just as ’The marvelous Kev Bartlett’ stood to do his thing, the quickest ever departure ensued and I was gone, like Cinders, running towards the tube, to catch my carriage to whisk me away from an inspiring, challenging, fun and exhausting day home.

My abiding memories of today will be laughter, sharing, meeting great teachers and believing in a profession that has at its heart the welfare of the children that walk through our doors, ensuring we are doing our very professional and personal duty for them everyday. Thank you Pedagoo.

#PedagooFriday 8 March ’13

Friday 8 March saw one week on from the brilliant #PedagooLondon event. It’s been great to see all the ripples of impact from the event. The many attendees going away inspired by the wide variety of amazing sessions on offer and the subsequent blogs talking about what teachers will do, what students have done and the ideas taken from the event.

As always, the #PedagooFriday hashtag was busy with the uplifting stories of amazing teaching, learning, pedagogy and impact in classrooms across the week. Here are a few of them:


The quality and frequency of CPD that teachers receive can be measured on a scale of dismal and seemingly pointless hours of INSET days (see a great post on this from @learningspy) right through to those memorable experiences that can offer a true and real impact on both pedagogy and practice. I am not claiming at this point, that all such experiences are without value, far from it, just that some need to reach far beyond the traditional notion of ‘inflicting’ it upon teachers and engage the willing audience in an honest way in areas that really matter. Unfortunately, I’m certain that we have all experienced both; which is where @pedagoo comes in to its own.

Like a superhero in the throws of a crime wave, pedagoo breaks through the (sometime) monotony of CPD and actively encourages teachers to invest their own time and passion into an event which brings them together from afar. Such a simple idea and one that we try and embed within our pupils every day, the desire to learn, be better; yet too often forgotten and left to others. Having been to two of these events, I have been lucky enough to see some truly inspiring teachers who, in a situation where role and responsibility are left at the door, are simply enthused about the things that work in their own classrooms (yes, they do still teach – a telling point!) and are willing to share, help and foster their own passion within other teachers.

Most recently at #Pedagoolondon I was able to spend my day exploring Manglish, an approach to literacy across the curriculum, Debunking theory in Education and exploring the Anatomy of an Outstanding Lesson; topped articulatly with the wise words of John Tomsett and, all of this on a Saturday! Who’d have thunk it? I even managed a session of my own, discussing a little of ’what I do’, based on the work of Ian Gilbert and his THUNKs.

Personally, I think that Pedagoo and its champions Kenny Pieper and Fearghal Kelly [Ed. there’s more than the two of us!] have a great deal to offer to teachers; regardless of their experience or knowledge; it is there to ‘open your mind’, engage your passion and challenge you to be the best that you can be. Pedagoo is, in its most simplistic form; by teachers, for teachers and regardless of your input, be it #pedagoofriday on twitter or travelling 100 miles to experience the event, pedagoo hits the spot that other CPD often does not.

Cross-posted from Ramblings of an Enthusiastic Teacher

Group Work for Humans

Why for Humans?

Well, at a time where the word ‘outstanding’ has perhaps the most loaded and misinterpreted meaning in education right now, there is an unreasonable pressure for teachers to teach in a super-human way. We are
seemingly required to promote visible learning as their students make rapid, sustained progress; we need to provide enjoyment at the same time as rigour and probably add extra calcium to their little bones as they do so.

But we are human; we make mistakes; we cock things up (royally sometimes). We have great lessons, great days, great weeks even; we inspire some students and we occasionally make lives a tiny bit better. And I can’t recall observing a lesson or supporting a colleague or visiting a school where the teachers aren’t trying their hardest to be better. It’s just sometimes they don’t know how.

One of the ways to support teachers in doing this is to instill them with the confidence to try new things out. And also to learn to structure their strategies so they can recognise where good-quality learning is taking place; reflect on what works and what might not and why.

At #Pedagoolondon on March 2nd, Tom Bennett warned against junk research in education. Imagine my little face just 15 minutes after presenting on group work in the room next door when I saw Tom’s ‘Rogue’s Gallery’ of the worst offenders in educational guff, with Group Work placed just a few places below Thinking Hats. Oh the shame! Oh the irony!

But after suppressing the desire to immediately run away to sea to be a sailor like Piglet when he realised his Terrible Mistake with the Heffalump, I reflected on what we were being asked to think about. As with most educational medicine, we’re sometimes too eager for a cure to all classroom ills to swallow it all in one go, without a thought for the side-effects or long-term damage.

The mistake is to assume that group work is THE best way for children to learn. I certainly don’t think this is the case. However, the ability to use group work well and where appropriate is an extremely useful string to your bow as a flexible practitioner. After using lots of group work in my teaching repertoire over the last 5 years especially, I also believe strongly that it can increase students’ confidence in quality discussion; their ability to work well with others and it presents lots of opportunities to problem-solve, consider alternative viewpoints and work under their own initiative.

I would imagine that every teacher that presented at #Pedagoolondon gave those who attended much food for thought, some practical ideas and, most importantly, the confidence to try some things out that they may have considered too risky or lacking in worth. I expect some critics might feel that the Box of Tricks is just that: a collection of gimmicks that promise much and devalue skills. Maybe so. But it also strikes me that the Box of Tricks can also act in the same way as Dumbo’s Magic Feather.

Remember Dumbo, the elephant that could fly? He was convinced that his magic feather gave him the ability to do the things he never believed he could do. One day – rather inconveniently, when he was plummeted towards the ground during a perilously high launch – he dropped his feather but before he hit the ground, realised that he COULD fly unaided. He didn’t need the feather after all, but it had given him what he’d originally needed: confidence.

I don’t use my Box of Tricks much these days. (Except the Euros. I love the Euros! Some of my students have insisted on roll-overs and bank accounts before now.) I don’t need the tricks because my groups are well-versed in how to behave in a range of situations: groups, pairs, solo, upside-down, etc. They’ve been trained and I feel confident.

So I’d argue that the Box of Tricks could well give a colleague the confidence to try something that might refresh their practice; encourage them to re-think a mindset or support them in giving opportunities to students
who might otherwise slip under the radar, I’d say there’s nothing tricksy about that.

Here is the Prezi I used in my presentation for #Pedagoolondon.

And here’s a guide to group work that our Teaching & Learning group created when we made our Box of Tricks, updated for 2013.

Why do Group Work?

Students with good team working skills are likely to be better at problem-solving and resolving conflict. It is an
important skill throughout school and beyond and is valued highly by universities and employers.

Vygotsky’s hypothesis makes a link between social activity (the ‘intermental’) and individual development (the
‘intramental’). In human language, if students are encouraged to ‘rehearse’ their thoughts aloud before committing them to paper or becoming stuck in their initial thoughts, firstly, they recognise how to refine and clarify ideas. Even better, if they are challenged or supported in these vocal ideas, they are
encouraged to extend ideas further.

Narrowing Gaps

Many subjects are mastered through dialogue and discussion

Good group work promotes inclusivity. Many FSM students (and other students) that under-achieve lack confidence when working with others. They are often exposed to poor quality levels of discussion and mostly colloquial levels of dialogue. Exposure and access to technical language and higher order speech on a regular basis is crucial in raising standards for these students.

Many FSM students underachieve as they lack confidence with others; they might seem to lack effort in the attempts to slip off the teacher’s radar – give them opportunities to grow in confidence and take ownership in the way more confident students take for granted.

Mercer (2000) states that engaging in collaborative talk improves ability of children to think together critically
and constructively.

Good group work also gives G&T students the chance to reinforce knowledge, to consider alternative interpretations through ideas of others (an A* skill in English)
How do we make sure our groups function effectively?

Studies have shown that the most effective groups are ones in which high levels of communication and organisation are found.

Here are a few of the issues that must be addressed in order for a group to function effectively:

  • Establishing success criteria
  • Agreed allocation of roles (preferably by the students themselves)
  • Conflict
  • Criticism
  • Responsibilities

Starting Group Work

Sorting the groups

You decide: You could, of course, sort your classes into groups that you have carefully decided on. This might help eliminate problems when potentially disruptive students end up together or you end up with a group of very quiet/shy characters. You might be tempted to sort by personality or maybe by ability (but ability in what? Try to avoid making assumptions on students’ performance in other areas).

I usually sort groups completely randomly, using the animal cards or more often than not, just numbers scribbled on desks with a dry-wipe and giving the students numbers as they troop in. This also usually stops friends bunching together as they come in in their packs and numbers immediately split them up.

Random groups have very often resulted in the most surprising of collaborators that on paper seem  the very definition of chaos, but in reality produce surprising and very pleasing results. Try it. And if it goes wrong, just move someone. It’s your classroom, your task. You’re the boss.

If you change the groups on a regular basis, it will allow students opportunities to become more flexible and willing to adapt; it will mean that ‘problem’groups don’t have the chance to get used to one another; and it will discourage complacency and laziness from others who know that other students will do much of the organisation and hard work.

Sorting ‘Random’ Groups – some ideas


Give them out and ask students to write their names on the end of their lollystick. You now have a class set of sticks that you can pick out of a hat to sort groups. (Also good for no-hands-up questioning – AfL)


One set is sellotaped to the desk assigning each place to a number. Use the second set in a hat for students
to pick as they enter the room to determine their place for that lesson.


Give each students a category card (we’ve provided animals!) and then get them to find the rest of their group for the task.

Co-ordinating & Monitoring Group Work

Aims in group work:

Students to create sufficient self-regulation and responsibility for teachers to feel confident about using
active and interactive learning strategies for students to feel that they can take part enthusiastically in whole-class and small-group activities without fear of negative consequences from their peers[1]

Focuses and Frameworks

Use the “Successful Group Work” laminated posters:

One for each group to keep them on track. They could use whiteboard pens to tick off where they are.

Remind students of the skills they need for successful group work. You could also use the “Working Together” statements in the same way as above: collecting/allocating statements when they feel they have achieved them during or after the task.

For formal assessment of oral skills/speaking and listening:

Create cards with specific assessment criteria on. As previously, students ‘collect’cards when they think they have
hit that criteria. Can be done during or after; individually or collectively.

Use tokens/Euros: Allocate a set number of counters, button, post-its to group members. They give one away each time they make a contribution, to ensure each member makes an equal contribution.

You can also use tokens to reward good group work as it goes along: don’t just reward the loudest, most confident
students; praise a reward the ones who listen well, who negotiate, who scribe, who mediate, etc. The Euros can also be used for this, and added to the final tally for the lesson’s work.

Encourage independence:

Use Euros (or whatever reward tokens you’ve chosen) to reward good ongoing work but also be prepared to fine groups if their members aren’t on task. If they want to ask you a question, let them. They are often questions that could be easily answered themselves, so offer the answer the question but charge them for your answer (I charge 10 Euros, which I think is a bargain but the students don’t tend to agree!) This will cut down the amount of ‘lazy’ questions being asked.

Use coloured markers:

When asking them to contribute equally to a mind-map, posters or flip-chart, give students one differently-coloured marker each, which they are not allowed to swap. Easy to see how proportionate the contributions have been.

Use time limits:

Quick tip: It’s easy to dedicate too much time to any particular group as you circulate. It’s sometimes necessary to intervene but you need to keep moving to encourage on-task behaviour and promote independence. Avoid turning your back on the majority of the class as you circulate by imagining you’re wearing a hospital gown with no pants on. Still want to turn your back on the class? Skirt the edges instead –for obvious reasons!

Evaluating Group Work

This is probably the most important element of group work. Students need to be able to reflect on their performance; understand what went well and what didn’t – and why.

They need to know how they can improve on their roles and responsibilities in group work and thus improve on their self-esteem and confidence when working with others in a range of challenging activities.

Learning Audits:

(Good for when groups are in categories). Create a little league table on the board for each of the named groups. As you circulate, award each group a smiley at different times of the lesson to indicate how well they are
working on task. If not all members are on task, they can’t get the reward.

It’s even quicker to use the Euros like this too. Even better, ask a student to conduct an audit by standing up and
observing the groups’ behaviour. Can they identify what an ‘on task’ group looks like? Who would they like to reward as a result?

Responsibility‘pizza’ charts:

A ‘wheel’ divided into 16 wedges. Groups assign each member a colour and shade it in to show who has taken the most responsibility for the work. You can use little individual ones or big ones between groups. Can be completed together or individually, although filling it in together allows students to take responsibility for their
roles/contributions and encourages group ownership.

“Framed!”[2]evaluation sheets:

Little sheets of paper divided into quarters and headed: “How I helped my group”; “How I hindered my group”; “How others helped my group” and “How others hindered my group”.
These can be completed individually without sharing. It’s very easy to get students to copy this format onto
post-its if you show them the frame on the board. Collect the post-its at the end of the lesson and you have feedback that you can compare to your own understanding of the success of the lesson, ready to pick up with students at the beginning of the next one. I actually get the students to divide post-its into quarters and head them up themselves – much quicker and saves on the photocopying. This can help if some students feel they are taking too much responsibility for the bulk of the work. As with the pizza charts, eflect on the findings and act on them next lesson so students know you follow things up.

It’s important with this to name behaviours, not names.

Pay Day Money!:

Euros – or whatever tokens you decided to use – to be divided up as payment for contributions to task – group to jointly decide on pay. The tangible nature of the money and the doling out of it at the end of a task works very well in my experience; the students are scrupulously fair!

Post-its: Secret or public evaluations on post-its by group members.

Traffic lights / target charts / blob trees:

To show success in group tasks according to set criteria.

Formal assessment:

Peer or teacher-led, using official assessment criteria.

[1] [2]From:The Teacher’s Toolkit by Paul Ginnis

If you’d like a kick-start with your group work, DM me via Twitter and I’ll email you some of the tricks to you to laminate, chop up and add to.