Author Archives: beetlebug1

Eyes Down for Bingo!

Using bingo cards is something I’ve done since I was an NQT and I’ve always found it to be a useful way to test pupil knowledge of characters or quotes. It’s simple enough to include a group of either on the cards and then call out a clue which the class have to decipher in order to cross off enough to get a line or full house. It’s fun and as a simple knowledge test, reliable but it can take up a lot of time both during the lesson and in the planning stages.

Recently I’ve been thinking about developing the quality of the content as well as making it more focused on pupils taking ownership of the game. Most recently with Year 9, I was hoping to embed their knowledge of the characters at the beginning of a unit on Romeo and Juliet (particularly now that they need to have a much greater depth of knowledge with the new GCSE assessment approach) and ensure that they were able to link these with key quotes in preparation for a scene analysis of theme.

Each board had a slightly different layout to ensure that the whole class didn’t match everything at once but in order to foster a more independent approach; the pupils worked in pairs with a set of coloured character cards each turning over the cards and matching them to an appropriate quote or analysis point. As you can see in the pictures, cards can be laminated and two coloured highlighters can be used too. Wipe clean and reusable!

This format is so versatile that it can be developed from Bingo to Connect Four according to the rules that you set as a teacher. It can be used as an indicator of gaps in knowledge or as a springboard to prompt further and more detailed discussion. Rather than having simply characters and quotes, the boards can be developed to include analytical statements about characters and events which pupils must discuss before ‘marking’ or blank squares can be left in order for pupils to add their own thoughts. Used as an individual or paired task, for a quick warm up, plenary or as a revision tool before the exam, it never gets old. Let’s face it, the novelty factors will always be there. After all, who doesn’t love a good game?

Cross-posted from The Ramblings of an Enthusiastic Teacher


I had promised to blog when time allowed and it finally has…the joy of half term.

Being an avid advocate of the @pedagoo movement, I jumped at the opportunity to present a workshop at the much anticipated #pedagoosunshine event at Joseph Swan Academy for several reasons. I’ve explained the benefits of Pedagoo #pedagoosunshine #pedagoolondon and its linked events such as Teachmeets and (the slightly differently formatted) conferences like #Tlab13 yet the unique ‘selling’ point for me with Pedagoo will always be the grass roots nature of the events. Pedagoo is made by teachers, for teachers and designed to share elements of pedagogy and practice that are working in the classroom, in order that teachers are inspired to take away ideas and mould and shape them for themselves and their pupils.

I’ve had quite an eventful fortnight, all be told, and one thing that sticks in my mind is that when talking with passion about pedagoo, I described it as Guerrilla CPD which may or may not be correct. The Oxford Dictionary defines the noun (when referring to combat) as ‘a member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces’ I wouldn’t consider what we do as fighting, but it is something that is largely outside of the norm. CPD on a Saturday and also the small (yet growing) independent group part does ring true. I much prefer the definition when used as a modifier: referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorization.

To me, I think the idea of ‘activities performed in an impromptu way’ is one of the key identifiers of this type of event. Although extremely well organised and thoroughly supported by the school, it shines through as being grass roots and is set up as a sharing and extremely positive environment for all that attend.

During the course of the day, I was fortunate to be able to drop in to a range of workshops including those of: @Bunnyscience @TeamTait @PunkLearning @stevebunce (who really should have a blog!) @KennyPieper and the wonderful workshop presented by @lisajaneashes Year 11 pupils, showing us how they want to learn and what works for them.
In addition to the workshops, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet up and have learning conversations with so many more inspiring educators: Zoe Elder Jim Smith (the one with the toolboxes not The Lazy Teacher!) John Sayers @Fkelly @KerryPulleyn and Rachel Orr

What is the commonality here? Each and every person is enthusiastic, passionate and dedicated to improving their classroom practice, subsequently benefitting the learning of their pupils. It will never fail to give me a buzz, seeing so many enthusiasts in one room, after all, it’s fertile ground for so much more: project ideas, mutual support, bringing together like-minded folk. So guerrilla CPD it may or may not be. All I know is it is something that has changed my attitude towards the way I work, opened my mind to the possibilities and afforded me the opportunity to meet a wealth of inspiring and like-minded people who genuinely want to make a difference for the better.

Pedagoo, it just works!

Writing with them & iPads as a tool for feedback – late to the party?

Do you ever get that horrid sinking feeling? That ‘late to the party’ feeling when it seems that everybody around you doing something that you’re not? Well, that’s pretty much how I felt about the good old iPad. Yes, I have an iPhone and yes, I was using it to take pictures of positive learner behaviours, projecting photos that I had taken on to the IWB, using the odd app etc. but with such a small screen and such terrible eyes…I really wasn’t doing it justice. We’ve all heard the expression ‘using tech for tech’s sake’ and I’m a firm believer in only using something if it enhances the learning experience for the pupils in the classroom so, when I recently gave in and got an iPad, I was understandably cautious. I had got it to use for work yes, but in spite of the mountain of amazing recommendations from others far more experienced than i (see @ICTEvangelist), I am still following the line of ‘cautious’ in my approach.

By introducing it into the classroom slowly however, I am finding that the simplest things are made far easier. Take revision with Year 11 for example. Having made it my mission to change their mindset when it came to drafting extended answers for the English writing exam (see my previous post Meat is Murder), we are getting through a good deal of past papers at the moment. In the spirit of channelling my inner year 11 pupil (scary at times!) and working to develop a Growth Mindset with the group; I have started to write with them, a fantastic tip from David Didau @LearningSpy , and it has developed both their learning and my relationship with the class in a very positive way.

In the vein of ‘exam papers are hard but they are worth giving your all to’ as opposed to ‘give up at the first 10 mark question’; I explained to the group that each time they were to write an exam answer, reading or writing paper, I was going to write with them. I too was going to ‘sit’ the exam. This was a novelty for them. Rather than me going round, peering over shoulders offering little or no input until the marking stage; I too was feeling the pressure of the silence, having to analyse the question, find the information and structure the answer. It’s completely different from writing model answers in the staffroom during your PPA’s let me tell you! It really was a great learning experience.

Rather than sitting at home or at my desk, creating model answers; for 30 minutes I was able to understand their experience and they loved it! With the occasional well placed utterance of ‘it’s a bit tricky that second one’ or ‘must remember to use the key words from the question here’ from me, it really enthused the pupils to know that we were ‘in it together’. Quite apart from that, the notion of me completing the exam with them removed the desire for those ‘can you just look at this and check it’s right?’ until the appropriate time, as I was doing the exam too and they ‘couldn’t’ disturb me. The subtle promotion of independence within this situation was something so simple yet so important. It is doing them a disservice to step in at every possible opportunity; after all, they won’t get that assistance in the exam. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t refusing assistance, we have been working on structuring responses for the better part of six months now, but in this situation, it can be too much of a temptation to ask teacher.

Having completed our allotted questions it was time to mark and feed back. During the initial attempt I used only the answers that I had written, photographing them with the iPad and projecting on to the whiteboard after which we marked them using the mark scheme, annotated key points and compared with pupils’ own work.

This technique of projecting your own work is beneficial for a number of reasons. On a human level, if you make mistakes (on purpose or not!) pupils are quick to correct them, suggesting improvements and learning from the errors – what not to do next time. We all make mistakes, that’s where the learning happens!

From a ‘time’ point of view; you are able to create model answers which can be used again with other groups, thus saving valuable planning time (we all need that!). From an expectations point of view, the answers, yours and theirs, can be used to raise pupil aspirations by explaining that only the best answers will be shown and analysed, therefor enthusing pupils to produce their very best work, ‘I’m going to get this just right so that mine will be shown’ or in contrast to remove the fear of feedback and move towards a focus on progress by using answers that aren’t quite there and building upon them as a group, visually, making improvements. I’m definitely a fan of the iPad, albeit a cautious one, yet its use to give instant visual feedback is a simple yet effective technique and I have found it to be great for exam preparation.

Although writing with your classes is not appropriate all of the time, I would really recommend doing it when you can as it promotes independence. If you are writing too it encourages pupils to independently work through any issues they might come across, using their own skills and knowledge to resolve them. You can always clarify misconceptions / misunderstandings at the feedback stage and most valuably, use these ‘moments’ to reflect upon and improve exam technique. It develops your understanding of the tasks you set – you see things that you may miss if you are ‘just’ planning it rather than ‘doing’ it. Finally, it develops your relationship with your class; they see that you are prepared to do the task rather than just dishing it out, struggle at times and then show them your work as well as theirs to critique. A useful technique for developing writing all round.


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


Apologies to those of you that may have already heard about this technique, I presented it at #pedagoochristmasparty and did promise to write it up as a post so, here goes…

The Clarify-Prepare-Share-Link technique is something that draws on the work of The Accelerated Learning Cycle by Alistair Smith ( (@alatalite) and Ian Gilbert’s THUNKS  (2007) (@ThatIanGilbert); combining elements of the two very effective methods to suit my own teaching needs.

Accelerated Learning, in a nut shell, is learning which happens faster than standard learning, provides a deeper level of understanding and is an integral feature of the learning cycle adopted by my school. This is a very simplistic definition and for more detail I would recommend a far more articulate explanation and clear definition of the cycle in Accelerated Learning in Practice (1998) by Alistair Smith, or the TEEP Learning Cycle which was developed using his methods ( Additionally, a THUNK, as defined by Ian Gilbert (2007) is: ‘a beguiling question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks’ (Little Book of Thunks – 260 questions to make your brain go ouch!)

It is worth mentioning at this stage that if you do not already follow them on Twitter (unlikely I know), you must, as they are both an instrumental and inspiring source of teaching and learning knowledge.

At the beginning of term I found myself, as many teachers do, moving from one room to another when teaching certain classes, which posed concerns for two main reasons:

1)      Pupils were often there before I was and valuable time was being wasted at the start of the lesson.

2)      Further time was then required to settle the pupils and get them in to the correct ‘learning’ mindset, getting them thinking.

With a view to dealing with both, I decided to draw upon an idea that I first heard during a #teachmeet at Cramlington Learning Village, and started to leave a document wallet attached to the classroom door with my variation of THUNKs inside.

Initially, it did seem like a gimmick to the pupils concerned (which they loved) and they worked efficiently but as we all know, the novelty wears off eventually and it was important to clarify the process, to remove the ‘gimmick’ label and ground the activity as something worthwhile, rather than just an add-on or starter; which is where the link with Alistair Smith’s Accelerated Learning Cycle becomes important in developing a faster and deeper level of learning.

We (as a class) spent a large proportion of the ‘first lesson’ clarifying the process and levels of thinking required during each stage, (CLARIFY-PREPARE-SHARE) asking questions of each of the instructions and ensuring that all pupils were absolutely clear on the requirements. I found that expounding the ‘CLARIFY’ part was the most important; ensuring that they had actually read the task (initially some hadn’t and just assumed they were to collect it before coming through the door) and asking questions of the task; using each other as a resource before they were allowed to progress any further both physically (through the door) and mentally (with the task). I found it was really important NOT to allow them in until they had ‘clarified’…cue my staring hopefully at them through the window in the door for the first lesson but, I did find that the instructions on the door poster helped and they soon got the hang of it.

Having completed the CLARIFY stage, pupils were then able to come in to the classroom, sit down and PREPARE the task, confident that they could participate and most importantly, in the correct learning frame of mind for the lesson. They were thinking before they had even entered the room! This identifies the importance of choice of task and reinforces that it cannot be ‘stand-alone’ but must link in with the ‘cycle’ of learning or skills required during the lesson.

Linking in with the next stage, pupils were already aware that they would need to SHARE their work, weather this be with each other or myself, thus removing the opportunity to opt-out and ensuring that all attempted the task/s.

‘Well, that’s all well and good but what about differentiation?!’  I hear you cry!

In order to ensure that tasks are open to all while still providing a level of challenge, I tried to include 3 separate tasks which became progressively more difficult and/or were linked to the levelled assessment criteria of the appropriate exam board (see examples below).

Each pupil, knowing their level, attempted the appropriate task and as pupils became more comfortable with the process; I found that although they may start with the ‘lower’ challenge tasks; they were often keen to challenge both themselves and their peers by attempting higher level tasks or, completing their ‘target task’ and moving on to the next level.

This is not without difficulties though. I did have issues initially, some pupils raced through all tasks just to prove they could do it, while the quality of work produced was poor. This does require immediate feedback and re-clarification of expectations at the PREPARE and SHARE stages and also within written feedback, in order to remedy before continuing. The mantra that providing one quality and well considered answer is far more important than three of a poor standard, was a useful one to share.

So far, this technique has ensured that my pupils are thinking on a deeper level before they enter the classroom and has also worked to settle the more lively characters but, in order to promote the THUNKs as a valuable element of the lesson rather than just an add-on or a gimmick, i found the most important part was asking pupils to LINK the learning. Asking questions such as How might this link with last lesson / the topic? What questions do you have / does the task produce? or Why might I have asked you to do this?, while carefully considering the choice of question stems to promote higher order thinking, are very important. If pupils clearly understand the value of the task, then it instantly becomes more meaningful.  

I have been THUNKing since September (2012) and found that it works for my purposes but it may seem like a lot of extra work to some, which I accept…to a point. Stage 2 of the process will be getting my pupils to create their own THUNKs (as a plenary activity) for the following lesson, truly handing the thinking, and subsequently their learning, back to them.

I’ll let you know how they get on…


Further Reading

Alistair Smith Accelerated Learning in the Classroom (1996), Alistair Smith Creating an Accelerated Learning School (2001), Ian Gilbert Little Book of Thunks – 260 questions to make your brain go ouch! (2007), Colin Rose Accelerated Learning (1985), Howard Gardner Frames of Mind: the theory of multiple intelligences (1983)

Must follows

@ThatIanGilbert     @alatalite    @pedagoo

Cross-posted from The Ramblings of an Enthusiastic Teacher