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
Professional Learning
Scottish Learning Fringe
Social Studies
Boarding Pass – @FernwoodDT
Used as a starter (Boarding Card) and plenary (Departure Pass)Used as a starter (Boarding Card) and plenary (Departure Pass)

I saw this idea on Twitter originally and like most of our resources it was amended to our students. The concept is simple the ‘Boarding Pass’ is given to students as they enter the classroom and are instructed to fill in their name and ‘One fact from last lesson’ the teacher then goes through some of the answers with students writing them on the board. G&T students and students that finish early are encouraged to write down a ‘key word’ from last lesson too. Again these are reviewed and shared on the board. This is a great way to link previous learning.

Lesson objectives/todays outcomes are then presented to the class by the teacher. Students are asked to digest this information and fill in an individual ‘target for todays lesson’ and ‘what level I aim to achieve’ these are kept by the student throughout the lesson.

At the end of the lesson students are asked to fill in the ‘Departure Card’ (which is eventually torn off via a perforate edge). Students write ‘One thing they have learnt’ and ‘What level did you achieve’ based on the learning in todays lesson. Students then love tearing off the Departure Card with the perforated edge and handing it to the teacher as they leave the lesson. The ‘Departure Card’ can then be used at the beginning of the next lesson again linking prior learning/showing progression and/or stuck in a work book. Questions can be changed to suit the lesson/subject I imagine it could be used in all subject areas it has worked particularly well in our schools MFL lessons too. This shows fantastic knowledge and understanding of a topic in an engaging yet simple method!

Here is a link to a presentation that shows how the boarding pass is used/presented to the students – Boarding Pass – PowerPoint

Here is a link to the guillotine we use – http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/A4-Paper-Trimmer-4-in-1-Card-Crease-Wavy-Cut-Straight-Cut-Perforation-/281181932948?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item4177bfcd94

See @FernwoodDT and @Me77ors on Twitter https://twitter.com/FernwoodDT for more ideas and resources

Any questions/feedback please email m.mellors@fernwoodschool.org.uk :)

How many uses can you think of for a paper clip?

“It is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but how and why he believes it. His beliefs are tentative, not dogmatic; they are based on evidence, not on authority or intuition.”

Russell, 1945

I posted my Critical Thinking in Psychology essay recently where I discuss in depth critical (or rational) thinking in the context of A Level psychology. Here I want to share one of my favourite lessons of the year where I encourage my students to start thinking critically (find the lesson powerpoint at the bottom of the post or here).

One approach to increase students critical thinking skills is to get them considering methodological issues outside of the narrow framework of each subject specification and bring these issues to life. The use of activities such as ‘More cat owners have degrees’ demonstrating the dangers of misinterpreting correlational research and the possible bias caused by funding, and ‘The dangers of bread’ again illustrating issues of inferring causation from correlation act as excellent points for discussion about causation and correlation. Articles such as these teach students to be ‘savvy consumers and producers of research’ and develop the abilities needed to analyse, synthesise and applied learned information.

A key element of critical thinking is not taking results and conclusions at face value and questioning the methods that were used and any biases that these could have introduced when making inferences from results.  I have designed several activities  to make learners aware of  ‘blind acceptance of conclusions’conclusions’ and the fallibility of accepting results  without question. I have pulled all of these activities into one lesson with the aim of engaging students and creating an enthusiasm about evaluation.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 16.38.14Initially, I start with abstract questions to get the learners considering critical thinking outside of psychology and allow them to develop their own awareness. This starts from the moment they enter the room when the starter is the question ‘How many uses can you think of for a paper clip‘. After giggles, head scratching and some quite lateral thinking we move on to discuss what ‘critical thinking’ is.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 16.31.22

Before moving into discussion explicitly linked to psychology studies I ask them to write some instructions as to how to make a piece of toast. The students are a little suspicious at this point but after a few minutes you get the usual: get the bread, put in the toaster … and of course the debate on Nutella vs Marmite! Then I pose the question ‘but where did you get the toaster from …‘ and show the excellent TED video ‘Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster — from scratch

From here is time to turn my new ‘questioning‘ students back to psychology …

The first activity is based on hindsight bias, or the “I knew that all along” attitude, helping students become aware of the fact that anything can seem commonplace once explained if you are not aware of the underlying methodology.

This was the rationale for the ‘Lazarfield task’ that starts with the class being divided into two groups with each half receiving conclusions from a study (adapted from Lazarsfeld, 1949). However, unaware of this, the two groups received the opposite findings. For example group one would receive:

“Better educated soldiers suffered more adjustment problems than less educated soldiers.”

Whereas the second group would have:

Better educated soldiers suffered fewer adjustment problems than less educated soldiers.”

Each group have to make inferences about ‘why’ the conclusions might be true. Following on from the task students were asked to “did the findings make sense?” and to feedback their reasons. Only at this point will the class be made aware that they had the opposite findings and how easily it is to justify a finding after the fact. A discussion about the fallibility of the “I knew that already” attitude follows in relation to the students that the students have completed. This allows for the learner to review conclusions made and consider alternative arguments, confounding variables and biases in generalisations made.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 16.55.09

To then scaffold students’ analysis and evaluation skills a set of critical thinking questions to frame evaluation of research was adapted. These critical thinking questions provide students with important questions that they can use to establish the credibility of a research method. It also allows differentiation across learners providing the opportunity for those with low ability to give limited responses and the more able students to expand and demonstrate their synoptic awareness of research methods and the surrounding issues and concepts.

This is one of my favourite sessions of the year – you can actually see the students thinking, discussing and debating issues. They are staring to think like psychologists, like scientists. Not accepting what is in front of them but asking important questions. What is great to see is the reaction following the session – how the students often refer back to the session.

My only warning – I asked my students to keep asking ‘but why?‘ – they do!

How do you develop critical thinking skills in your learners? Could you adapt this session to your subject? If you do – please share it in the comments.

Jamie’s Flipped: (almost) a year with a flipped classroom

There are lots of different ideas about Flipping your classroom, see this TED talk for more. But essentially you provide your learners with resources and videos to allow them to ‘learn’ the material as homework and then build on this with skills in your classroom. Starting in September 2013, and as part of my MSc research, I have implemented my own interpretation of a flipped classroom with really interesting results. This post is a brief into to the research behind the flipped classroom and then I discuss how I have implemented it and the power of blogging to engage students outside of the classroom.

Flipped learning? Flipping mad?

Flipped learning is “…a form of blended learning that encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing” where the instructor provides “an opportunity for academics to provide more personal feedback and assistance to students, but also to receive feedback from their students about the activities that they are undertaking and what they don’t yet understand.” (Wiley and Gardner, 2013).


Several papers have reported on the impact of ‘flipped learning’ on undergraduate psychology courses and suggested that there is a positive impact of this on students’ attitudes toward the class and instructors as well as on students’ performance in the class (Wilson, 2013). There are far too many technological changes to how we are teaching and learning to list here, but they all suggest that same fundamental question: How do students learn best? (Halpern, 2013) and the possibility the flipped learning could be a step forward should be considered.

Using videos to support students’ learning has attracted the attention of a large number of researchers (Young and Asensio, 2002) and a key concept within the idea of flipped learning is the use of new technologies to support learning; or as some would label: blended learning (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). To successfully implement the flipped classroom approach, a change is needed to the existing traditional teaching approach. These changes have been conceptualised by Hamdan et.al. (2013) into four important elements referred to as four Pillars of F-L-I-P. These four pillars stand for Flexible Environment, Learning Culture, Intentional Content, and Professional Educator.

An interesting comment from Wilson’s (2013) action research where she attempted to flip her classroom is that she suggests that what she implemented was not totally a flipped classroom:

Although I have attempted to ‘‘flip’’ my classroom, what I have achieved is really a half- or three-quarters flip. I have removed much, but not all, lecture content from the course. (pg. 197)

This raises the idea that a flipped classroom is a binary entity – it is either flipped with no teacher delivery of knowledge or it is not. This I disagree with. Flipped teaching is just another tool which teachers should embed into their lessons when and where appropriate. Especially at post-16 level it would be difficult (impossible?) to completely flip ones lessons and expect all learners to assimilate all of the knowledge of A Level  outside of the class.

The Power of Blogging

For the best part of a decade I have been using blogs to stretch my students and have given several lectures, INSETS or workshops on the topic. This started with PsychBLOG in 2007 where I hoped to provide wider reading and current research for my students – now a site getting ~25,000 views a month. Moving on our department has had a blog and posted notes and extra tasks for the last four years with great success.

Blogging software is becoming more advanced with each  day and now it takes nothing more than a few clicks to create your own part of the internet. There are really an infinite number of uses for blogs within the field of education: writing and collating new and relevant news for your students, giving students a summary of what was covered in that past week, leaving homework assignments, and so many others. Not only can you write your blog posts but students, other teachers and colleagues can comment on your writing and start discussions about what was raised.

There are many kinds of blogging software but the two most popular ones are WordPress and google’s Blogger. Both of these sites allow you to set up your own blog online and post articles or general musings through a web-based interface allowing access wherever you have the Internet. If used well blogs can provide to be a central part of teaching and independent learning, however, general rules of web etiquette still apply and all users need to be aware of this.

With this in mind, I decided that a blog would make an excellent platform for my flipped classroom

Jamie’s Flipped…

I’ve written before about flipped classrooms and how you can flip your classroom with Resourcd. This year I have partially flipped my classroom with one flipped task each week for students to complete over the weekend before their first session of the week – you can see it at jamiesflipped.co.uk or @jamiesflipped. I talked a little about my experiences of my flipped classroom at a ‘teachmeet‘ back in October (notes and video here)

My approach to flipped learning involved giving students a ‘task’ each week to compete which introduced the topic for the next week. This flipped task involved reading a chapter (a few pages) from their course reader, watching a video clip and completing a quick multiple-choice quiz (see the gallery for screenshots).

One reason the flipped experiment was so successful was the addition of the quiz each week. This ensured that I could monitor the completion of the tasks. It is also good to stand by the classroom door and know before the students arrive who has not completed their homework task. After a few weeks the students knew there was no escaping it.

As well as the flipped tasks, each week I would publish the work that was going to be completed in class, the powerpoint and extension tasks on Jamie’s Flipped. I was surprised how many students actually read the articles, watched the videos or completed the extra tasks. Many commenting that they would do them on the bus on the way into college or while sat watching television.

At the first consultation evening of the year I canvased opinion as to my new approach and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive with students stating that they liked the format of the tasks, it was more ‘fun’ than usual homework, and that they found the lessons easier as they had an underlying knowledge about what was going to be covered. More than this it gave me more time in class to complete tasks and develop my students understanding of the content and experiment with other activities that I would not usually have had time for.

My experience of ‘flipping’ my classroom this year has been a really positive one and it is something that I will continue to develop and use in future years. As well as all the benefits of the flipped classroom my students know that all of their resources, homework and guidance is going to be ‘on flipped’. They know where to go if they miss a lesson to get the resources, and where to get extension exercises from when revising. It has required an investment of time – but nothing horrific – and now that I have the lessons for this year, as with everything in teaching, I can adapt and reuse these next year.

Flipping great!


I have had loads of emails and tweets from people that would like to flip their classroom but don’t know where to start.

Here is a short (~15 minute) video that I have made that will take you from nothing to having a blog with your first flipped task containing text for your students to read, a document for them to download, a video for them to watch from youtube and a quiz to check their progress.

Here are links that I mention in the screen-cast:

resourcd.com – teacher resource sharing site
resourcdblogs.com – where it all takes place
wordpress.com / blogger.com / edublogs.com – other sites you can set up a blog
If you are considering flipped learning or just giving your students a different type of homework once in a while then this could be an excellent opportunity to experiment.

I could have spent hours talking about wordpress and all the ins-and-outs of it – so it might feel a little rushed. The best thing you can do it set yourself up a blog and spend an hour experimenting and seeing what you can achieve.

Let me know how you get on

Post original written on jamiedavies.co.

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.

Pedagoo & TeachMeets

This week has seen my introduction to pedagoo and also presenting at teach meets. I was originally going to blog about how I think consistently good is outstanding, but I’ve had to rethink!

My school hosted a teach meet this week and I was asked several weeks ago if I would present. I had thought about presenting at a teach meet since I attended one earlier in the year and this was a great opportunity to do so. It was also lovely to be asked! (I made sure that I was doing a 2 minute nano presentation rather than a 5 minute one at the front of a lecture theatre). Although I found out closer to the teach meet that I had to present 11 times in 22 minutes! I was nervous prior to the event but afterwards it felt great to have been one of the few to present – I look forward to the next one! I didn’t really feel proud of what I had done until the following Saturday…

This Saturday I went to Pedagoo Wonderland at Joseph Swan Academy. I must admit, at this stage of the term I’m flagging considerably and I was very tempted to spend that Saturday wrapped up watching Soccer Saturday. However, I did find the energy to go with a friend who I trained with last year (lovely to catch up!) and not only am I glad that I went, I feel extremely grateful to all the effort put into the day by some very talented and enthusiastic people. I’m sorry I ever even considered not going!

At Joseph Swan they have a beautiful learning environment and they had gone to great lengths to put on a spectacle for us – sleighs, balloons, turkey sandwiches, Christmas cards and even Father Christmas himself made an appearance! I attended four workshops which were all very different but all equally brilliant. My workshops (which were personalised!) included a differentiation carousel, foldable fun, independent reindeers (or learners if you prefer) and enquiry based learning (specifically for maths).

I gained so many ideas from the day but I have to say that they weren’t the reason why I’m thrilled that I attended. At this winter wonderland were masses of people who had given up their Saturday to attend and some incredible individuals, teachers and students, who had put a huge amount of effort into creating such a fantastic afternoon of CPD. I thought as the afternoon went on that there is probably no other profession in the world where the professionals volunteer to train one another and do so at such a high level. The passion and commitment was brought to the day by NQTs all the way up to people who have been teaching for longer than I’ve been alive! I found the enthusiasm and passion again that brought me into teaching which had begun to fade away as I struggled through my NQT year. I feel re-invigorated again and I can’t wait for more teach meets and pedagoo wonderlands!

Many of us are worried about where the government is taking our Country’s education system. I think we should take comfort in how our profession, through teach meets, blogging, twitter and pedagoo, has shouldered the responsibility of developing each other in order to give children the best education we possibly can. We should all be very privileged to be part of such a passionate, talented and giving community.

Pedagoo needs you – Yes, You!
November 21, 2013

Pedagoo needs you! Yes, You classroom teacher!

We would like to invite all our followers to write a post for the Pedagoo website, to share your day-to-day classroom practice. We firmly believe that Pedagoo is a grassroots teaching movement, run by teachers for teachers. We can improve our own practice by learning from the wisdom and mistakes of others, and one way we can do this is by sharing.

Many teachers might feel they don’t have anything special to contribute, or that their practice isn’t interesting or special enough, but it is. We are over whelmed by the wealth of Pedagoo Friday tweets each week, and would love to see more of them explained a bit more fully as a blog post.

You might not have written about your teaching practice before, but the Pedagoo community is a welcoming and nurturing one, where we welcome submissions from any classroom practitioner focused on pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. Take the plunge- it is truly rewarding to see your ideas having impact beyond the four walls of your classroom, and receiving feedback from teachers all over the country.

Maybe start with a post that is a walk-through of a successful lesson, or anything else from your teaching practice that you feel is appropriate. It can be any length, and include images if you have them.

You can submit a post by creating an account on the Pedagoo website, and submitting your post for review, or if that sounds daunting just contact us by DM and one of our admin team can help you with the tech side.

Please think about writing for us. It’s a brilliant boost to receive feedback in a profession that often feels beleaguered and you will be helping other teachers at the same time. We don’t always have time to ask teachers individually, so this is an open invitation to you, yes you.

We look forward to reading about all the brilliant things that go on in your classroom, and sharing them with the wider teaching community.

Money Man’opoly’ – A board game for a broad gain…

This weeks blog reflects on a lesson I delivered a little earlier in the year as part of an enrichment session to level 3 learners.

At the beginning of the academic year, learners were given autonomy over the topics delivered and this week, the session was based on money management.

In preparing for the session, I considered simply investigating the income and expenditure of learners and helping them to plan how they could save income and prioritise and calculate their spending. However, would this approach really engage 16-20 year olds? Possibly not some of them anyway – despite the consensus that this was an area they wished to look at.

So what did I do?… Well I approached the session with the mindset of a child – by playing a game! My favourite board game, monopoly was surely the perfect way to subtly utilise money management skills?…

Of course, I couldn’t just use the traditional monopoly board and let them play, it would have no meaning like this. So I embarked on creating my own monopoly board with items that would resonate with the learners (see board).

I had to ensure that I had differentiated objectives and this could only be achieved by giving some structure to the game, so I made four characters with different likes, dislikes and incomes (which they received when passing go). This meant that learners could prioritise what they spent based on their characters. The characters with more disposable income were strategically given to the less able learners and vice versa with more able, meaning the learners were challenged according to needs. Of course it goes without saying that learners had to keep a record of all calculations on their task sheet. The aim of the game was to finish with more money (inclusive of the value of items bought).

Prior to the game, learners were asked to identify different money management skills using a post-it note approach and questions were posed to ascertain meaning. Although I encouraged learners to utilise these skills, I was hoping to let the use of them occur naturally based on the restrictions imposed (i.e. character likes/dislikes etc), with the intention that reflection would demonstrate an understanding of skills.

During the game, learners were questioned to check understanding such as “what was your last purchase and why?” This was accompanied by the chance and community chest cards which threw in ‘curve ball’ income/expenditure, which learners had to explain what they would do based on the information provided. To end the lesson, learners were asked to reflect on the money management skills that they had used in the session. Peer assessment was utilised to ensure that they were able to justify where each skill was used in the game.

In summary, the session was highly engaging, fun and certainly ‘enriched’ their studies. It may have had more of an impact in a longer session… All of the above was done in an hour! Quite a lot to cram in really. I will certainly be using the method again and am happy to share resources if anyone would like to try? Tweet me @danwilliams1984 for more info.

Analogies and metaphors to aid understanding…

Having been introduced to Hattie’s work on ‘effect sizes’ in the learning environment last year (http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm), I took it upon myself to investigate advanced organisers in my own practice. This is said to have an average effect size of 0.37, which in comparison to other methods is reasonably small. However, I opted to focus on the use of analogies and metaphors within my teaching practice, as personally I believe comprehension to be greater if a new subject is related to a familiar subject. Of course, many of us will naturally do this without a second thought, but I intended to consciously approach sessions with the intention of overtly using this method.

One example of this practice quite recently was when teaching the flow of blood around the cardiovascular system to a group of level 2 BTEC learners. I introduced the topic by asking the group to share their thoughts on the process of going to the gym – this involved eating food to give you fuel (collecting oxygen from lungs), travelling to the gym and going through the changing rooms (left side of the heart), working out and ‘burning’ the fuel (feeding the muscles with oxygen), travel back through the changing rooms (right side of heart) before travelling home (the lungs) to start the process again. Obviously when doing this, I did illustrate on the white board. I then made reference to the fact that the gym process is similar to the flow of blood…Following this, I gave the learners the opportunity to create their own analogies of the process. Working in groups they created some amazing ideas such as the process of topping up and using a mobile phone, travelling through the petrol station to name a few.

For the learners, this particular process taught alone can be very challenging, yet now they have their own analogies for the process, they are able to demonstrate a far greater understanding.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

Colour and the figure
September 3, 2012

Yesterday I was working with my students on figure drawing using colour. Most of the work we’ve done until now has been using the usual monochromatic media of charcoal, inks, conte crayon etc. so introducing colour is always a bit of a challenge.

How often have you really looked at the colour of your own skin close up? Take a wee look now, what do you notice? Of course, it’s not just one colour it’s a variation of colours and it’s not just pink I shouldn’t imagine. What you’re seeing is the transparency of the skin and blood vessels and veins that slow beneath the surface. Equally if you are black, white or Asian, you will see variations in skin tone and colour.

If you’re white you will see anything from pinks, ivories, creams, blues, yellows and purples. It also depends on how warm you are, if you’ve been exercising, how much sun you’ve been exposed to over your life and your general health and wellbeing.

skin tones and colours

Looking at the figure from a further distance, 2 or 3 meters for example as it typical in the life drawing room, the changes in colour and tone correspond to the lighting, shadows and reflected light.

So how can we use these observations and knowledge when we’re drawing the figure?

Well, 2 artists that you’d be crazy not to look at are Jenny Saville and of course the master of figure painting, Lucian Freud. (below)

Lucian Freud

Jenny Saville

Due to time restraints and student experience we have mainly worked with coloured pastels as we only have sessions that last 1hour 45 minutes. If you have more time and are more experienced I would suggest using paints, either watercolours or acrylics and a set of large-ish brushes.

When considering the approach to your life drawing/painting you’ll need to think about whether you want to make your work closely linked to the colours that you’re seeing or to work more freely in a creative sense. In the works of Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud the colours are exaggerated and simplified somewhat, however, this allows us to observe more keenly. Basically we’re looking for neutral colours with hints of these colours that we mentioned earlier; pinks, ivories, creams, blues, yellows and purples that flow from one to another.

Introducing colour in a really simple way by working on coloured paper can be helpful. As is remembering that we’re not only thinking about colour but also tone. It’s worth spending a little time just looking at the model to begin with and making some observations of colour, tone and relation to shadows, highlights and mid tones. Don’t get too bogged down in mixing lots of paint to tackle each colour.

By taking a look at the colour mixes below you should be able to start mixing some basic colours that correspond to the areas of colour and tone that you are seeing. Remember to think also in terms of warm areas and cooler areas in context of light and shadow.

painted flesh tones

Blogging with Freire

Steve Wheeler agreed to sharing this fantastic post on Pedagoo.org under a Creative Commons License.

Well …. not exactly. Paulo Freire, that great Brazilian educational thinker died in 1997, just as the World Wide Web was emerging in the Western world. So Freire didn’t actually live to see the power and potential of social media, or the impact blogging would have on education. But what would he have said about blogs if he had been witness to the participatory web in all its present glory? Here is my interpretation of some of his ideas, drawn from his most celebrated book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, and presented in six key points as they might apply to the art of educational blogging.

1) Respond to reader comments with humility. Freire wrote: “…dialogue cannot exist without humility. Dialogue, as the encounter of those addressed to the common task of learning… is broken if the parties (or one of them) lack humility. How can I dialogue if I always project ignorance onto others and never perceive my own?” (p. 71). This is not just a message for educational bloggers. It is a message for teachers everywhere. How can we stand there in a self proclaimed position of enlightenment, and view our students (or audience) as being in a state of ignorance? This is hubris of the first order. And yet that is what happens in many classrooms across the world every day, because that is often how teachers are trained. It is also acknowledged that many teachers teach in the same way they themselves were taught. In a blogging context, it is easy to be offended when an adverse comment is received on your blog. You may be tempted to respond aggressively, to ‘put the other person right’. Often though, good learning occurs when we consider the views of others. Even if we don’t agree with the views of other people, it is good to consider them, to evaluate their meaning and contemplate alternative perspectives. Dialogue is what blogging is really about.

2) Don’t be afraid to speak out. Freire counsels: “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” It’s clear that there is a lot of inequality in the world, and some of this exists within the world of education. Schools are not perfect, and there is no education system in the world that has it completely correct. There is no better place for speaking out against injustice, or exposing inequalities than a popular blog site. It’s better than owning a newspaper. People will read what you have to say if you have something interesting to speak about. So use your blog to speak out on behalf of those who can’t speak out for themselves.

3) Use blogs to circumvent regulated learning. Students who blog quickly realise that they can explore knowledge for themselves. They can become independent learners. Freire was critical of the banking approach to education, where teachers regulate learning: “The teacher’s task is to organise a process which already occurs spontaneously, to ‘fill’ the students by making deposits of information which he or she considers constitutes true knowledge” (p. 57). When a learner starts to blog, they start to think for themselves. They have to consider an audience of more than one (teacher and essay writing) and they are required to be masters of their own journey. In another sense, blogging can subvert traditional education in another way. The dialogue that can ensue from blogging is often more valuable than the act of writing on the blog. Quadblogging and the 100 Word Challenge are just two of the school based blogging projects that are making a real difference for learners by providing them with a guaranteed audience every time they blog.

4) Read other people’s blogs and make comments. The act of seeking out alternative perspectives and views in itself will sharpen the reader’s thinking and cause them to question received knowledge. Freire says: “… it is indispensable to analyse the contents of newspaper editorials following any given event. ‘Why do different newspapers have such different interpretations of the same fact?’ This practice helps develop a sense of criticism, so that people will react to newspapers or new broadcasts not as passive objects of the ‘communiques’ directed at them, but rather as consciousnesses seeking to be free” (p. 103). Alongside newspapers and news broadcasts we can add blog commentaries. Blogs are places where people can express their opinions and offer their interpretations, and these are the new street corners where individuals have their conversations. Engaging with knowledge in this way will liberate the mind and help develop critical thought.

5) Use blogging to support thinking. Often, abstract thoughts remain abstract unless they are externalised in some concrete form. Traditionally, writing has been used as a means to crystallise thinking, because as Daniel Chandler says “In the act of writing, we are written.” Freire writes that “In all the stages of decoding, people exteriorise their view of the world” (p 87) which implies that in order to understand our personal reality, we need to first bring our thoughts out into the open. Blogs are public facing tools that enable their owners to externalise their thinking in a way that is open for scrutiny. In the act of public writing, we expose our ideas and begin to understand our own thoughts more clearly.

6) Use blogging as reflection. Reflection is an important part of learning, and is a skill that must be developed if it is to lead to successful outcomes. Reflection is also the key to personal liberation. Friere argues that: “Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects which must be saved from a burning building” (p 47). Reflection means active participation in learning, and blogging is a very powerful tool to support this process.

Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin.

Photo by Steve Wheeler