The catchphrase #lovingthelearning entered my vocabulary at some point in the year 2013 after being inspired to join Twitter. I think it was first used in my then GCSE class and I suppose it has come to sum up my approach to teaching. Teaching is about inspiring our students and making them to want to ‘love learning’.

When I was at school I really did ‘love the learning’. One of my favourite memories of school was the weekly creative writing task that we did with our teacher in 3rd year juniors (now Year 5). I still have the book and it’s one of my treasured possessions. Our teacher was called Mr. Gee and although he was somewhat strict he was an excellent teacher and inspired me to ‘love the learning’. I think we can all remember those inspirational teachers.  Harold Gee was one. This is one such piece of writing that Mr Gee…

View original post 303 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Top 10 ways to help with the marking workload

The report produced by the government last year has got schools thinking sensibly again about the workload that can be produced by excessive or unrealistic marking policies. This is an important issue in all schools and undoubtedly a correct balance needs to be found. There can be no doubt that feedback and marking is a vital part of a teacher’s toolkit and it is inextricably linked to students making good progress. However, an emphasis on quality and not quantity is essential so that teachers and of course students are not drowning in marking.

Here are my top 10 tips to help with the marking workload.

1. Strategic written marking

Students should benefit from regular feedback on their work. Teachers should think strategically about which pieces of work to mark in detail and focus on giving quality feedback on this particular piece of work. For example, giving quality feedback on a piece of written work that students have built up to over a series of lessons is better than marking every annotation and note taking that students did in the build up to that work.

2. Feedback codes

How often do you spend time writing out the same thing? Stop. One method of overcoming this is to use feedback codes. You can create some generic ones such as the ones below for literacy.

Literacy pics

You can also have a power point open whilst you mark. Most often, students come up with the same misconceptions. Therefore, assign a feedback point a numerical code and then rather than writing out the same thing 5 or 10 times you simply write the code in the margin. When students are responding to feedback they can write out the feedback point in full themselves. It might be you realise most of the class have the same misconception. In such a scenario, re-teaching would be better than writing the same comment out 30 times! Here is an example for an essay about the causes of World War One.

Feedback codes

3. High expectations

How often do you find yourself giving feedback on work that does not represent a student’s best work. If student work is not their best effort then it is pointless to mark it. In such a scenario get the students to do it again so that you are able to assess their best work. “If it’s not your best then it’s not finished”. You will save time by not marking sub-standard work and also increase your expectations of yours students.

4. The power of self-assessment

How often do your students really read their own work? You’d be surprised at how little they do. We encourage our students in our school to self-assess and check their own work before handing it in using the SCOPE acronym. When students finish them we tell them to ‘scope their work’.



Read more about the power of self-assessment here on my blog on the pedagoo website.

5. Book Review Sheets

Regular book review sheets that can be completed either by students themselves, their peers or by the teacher are useful to give feedback on class notes focusing on the quality of their literacy. These can be adapted and edited to suit. We normally photocopy them on purple paper on A5 so that they can be easily found inside exercise books.


6. Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing

A whole school focus on DTT ensures that students are continually focused on considering their own progress linked to clear success criteria. Read my blog on DTT here

7. Reflection Time and Purple Penning

There is nothing worse than spending a rainy Sunday afternoon in the company of a set of books and some strong coffee to find that the students ignored your feedback or didn’t do anything with it. Make sure you devote time to thinking about how you want the students to use your feedback, how you will structure their ‘Reflection Time’ when they can respond to feedback and make corrections and how you will help them to understand feedback. We have clear routines in our school for Reflection Time. Our students, like in many schools, have to respond to feedback in purple pen. This gives a signal that students are completing Reflection Time and allows teachers to see how much students are completing in Reflection Time. Here’s our whole school poster which focuses on this.


8. Quality not quantity

The maxim that the more feedback the better does not hold true. Imagine that somebody observed your lesson and gave you 10 different things to work on. You’d feel a little downbeat to say the least and wouldn’t feel at all motivated either. It is better to ensure that students know the purpose of a task with clear success criteria and then giving the students one or two things to work on that they can remember in a positive way. So, in giving feedback on an essay you might focus on sorting out their paragraphing before you decide to correct every single spelling mistake. It is easy for feedback to be seen in a negative way despite your best intentions and then students become disheartened and demotivated.

9. Good boy

Make sure your feedback is meaningful. I’ve blogged before about the power of feedback – see blog post. See this classic feedback from my own book in 1989. How things have changed! Think carefully about what your feedback will mean to students, that they can understand it and in my case that they can actually read it (make it legible!). Try to keep the feedback as brief as possible and think about how it will be read from a child’s point of view. Above all, will these feedback help move them on in their learning. It’s likely that comments such as ‘well done’ and ‘good boy’ won’t!

Good boy

10. Online quizzing

Imagine your students could all complete a piece of work, it would be marked for you and you could download a spreadsheet of all of these results all done for you. Of course, this exists out there. There are numerous programmes and websites that can do this for you not least socrative, google, quizlet et al. My favourite is kahoot. See my blog about the power of using Kahoot.


I haven’t even gone into comparative marking, live marking, or the importance of using marking to inform the next stage of the learning. There are lots of great ideas out there to help making marking meaningful, manageable and motivating.

Good luck!





Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Revision Tips for Parents

There is much advice out there for students on how to revise. However, exam time is also a stressful time for parents who worry about their children and the pressures they face in taking these all important exams. Parents need advice and ideas on how they can support their child through exam season. What’s more, parents can make a huge impact in helping their children to be successful in their exams. Many schools, including our own, now host an information evening for parents so that they can help their children with revision. Here are some of our top tips for parents.

1. Revision timetables

Revision timetables are a great idea. We gave our students the advice that they should try and complete a minimum of 40 hours of revision over the Easter holidays. We also gave parents and students advice on filling out an effective revision timetable which ensures that different subjects are revised to allow revision to be ‘spaced out’ and avoid cramming. We would recommend that students build into their revision timetables time to study but also time to relax and enjoy themselves. Parents should have a copy of the revision timetable so they know when they should be pestering their child to revise and when they should allow their child some relaxation time. The family should pin the timetable up somewhere where everyone can see it.

2. Turn off the wi-fi

With the exception of websites that teachers have told students to use, surfing the internet is generally a bad way to revise. The teachers at our school have all given students revision materials and resources to use that are bespoke to the courses they are studying. Aimlessly surfing the internet will waste time and invariably involve rereading chunks of information that will not aid effective revision What’s more parents should either take their child’s phone or turn off the wi-fi so their child is not distracted by social media. If students are going to revise then they should ensure that the revision is fully focused time.

3. Provide a quiet space for revision

Students need to revise somewhere quiet and away from distractions. It is important for parents to provide this for their child if possible. Ideally, students should revise in silence at a desk without any distractions such as music.

4. Know what works

Parents need to know what kind of revision works. The best strategy for revision is for students to test themselves. This is often referred to as ‘practice testing’. The process of being able to retrieve information helps students to remember it. This is why completing practice questions is such an effective method of revision. Students should ditch the highlighters and avoid aimlessly rereading things that they most probably already know. Parents can take an active role in revision by talking to their children about their revision and testing them on their knowledge and ideas.

5. Be there for your child

The exam period is a stressful time for the whole family. Parents and the whole family can help by just being there for your child, listening to their worries and looking out for signs of exam stress. If parents are worried they should talk to the appropriate person at their child’s school. Planning in some fun family activities and simple things like making tasty meals and a supportive cup of tea or coffee can make all the difference. Ultimately, the more support parents can give and the more interest they take in their child’s revision the better students will do in these exams.

Good luck to all students and parents!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing with Kahoot

This year in our school we are focusing on the PiXL idea of Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing (DTT)  as a key school priority. I’ve blogged about this already here.

Recently, we had a staff CPD session where a number of our colleagues presented how they have made it work in their classrooms. We saw a range of fantastic ideas during the session presented by enthusiastic and interested teachers who have really grapsed this idea and thought about how to make it work and have impact in their classrooms. One idea that came about from this presentation was to use the website Kahoot. This is a site that allows you very quickly and easily to create and then run your own quizzes. Students can easily access the Kahoot site either on their mobile phones (Bring Your Own Device) or through our school’s chrome books. What is great about Kahoot is that it is engaging, easy to use and gives you real time feedback on the performance of students in your group.

Through our work on DTT, we teach a whole unit of work getting the students to diagnose their understand with clear success criteria at the end of each lesson using a Personalised Learning Checklist (PLC). After we have taught the unit we teach some ‘therapy lessons’ where students have time to work further on any misconceptions they have, review their learning or expand upon their learning. Pictured is an example of one of our PLC resources.


I tried Kahoot in a lesson this week on a double lesson that worked as a ‘therapy lesson’. The topic was Crime and Punishment in the Early Modern Period. Students had already been taught the whole topic. I gave them a ‘diagnosis quiz’ which tested their knowledge of the course. The students were engaged in Kahoot and were excited about the competitive side of the quiz. Many of them had already tried it out in their Science lessons. The quiz only took me about 10 minutes to make and it took around 10 minutes to run in the lesson. As Kahoot runs automatically, I was able to spend the time assessing student understanding and picking up misconceptions with students in real time as I could see who was performing well and who was not. Kahoot also gives the teacher a spreadsheet of which questions students got right and wrong which helps the teacher to diagnose individual misconceptions and whole class misconceptions. For example, it showed me that students did not have a full grasp of religious change in the Early Modern Period and this enabled me to re-teach this to the class. Students then completed a variety of activities personalised to them for the rest of the ‘therapy lesson’ of which the Kahoot was just one route in helping them to determine which aspects of the course they were understanding well and which they were not.

At the end of the ‘therapy lesson’, I reran the quiz with the group. I used this as a ‘test’ to determine how much impact the ‘therapy’ work had had on their understanding. It was pleasing to note that in the first Kahoot quiz 51% of the answers were correct whereas by the second Kahoot quiz 87% of the answers were correct. All students had done better in the second quiz. It would be interesting to repeat the quiz a third time in a few weeks to see whether the students could remember the information over a longer period of time.


Kahoot is a great tool both for engaging students and also to diagnose student understanding. It is another very useful diagnostic tool in helping us determine how much our students understand. Of course, it can only really reliably assess knowledge through multiple choice which does place a limit on how deep a diagnosis it can make. For example, it cannot tell me about the quality of the students’ evaluation skills or their ability to complete extended writing tasks. However, I can assess this through the formal  end of unit test.

In summary, do try out Kahoot. It is a highly engaging resource which will promote fun, enjoyment and great diagnosis of student knowledge. Another great teaching and learning tool to support our work on  Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing.





Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing

As a school, we have worked within PiXL over the last few years and have gained a lot from their approach known as Diagnosis, Therapy and Testing (DTT). This is a fantastic approach to raising achievement and supporting Teaching and Learning. We have used ideas from PiXL within our school over the past couple of years within our intervention programme.  For example, we have successfully used approaches such as Walking, Talking, Mocks and the idea of Question Level Analysis.

This year, we decided we wanted to take the approach of DTT even more into the classroom having been inspired by the PiXL Classrooms approach.  We surmised that for it to truly have the impact we wanted, we needed to embed it into our schemes of learning. We have used Personalised Learning Checklists (PLCs) with students before but decided we wanted to give PLCs and their link to DTT even more of an emphasis for the new academic year. Knowing that curriculum change and 9-1 assessment meant new schemes of learning anyway for Year 10 classes we felt this provided an opportunity to really embed DTT within our work at school.

Therefore, one of our key priorities this year has been to embed DTT within our Schemes of Learning and lessons, initially for Year 10 only, with the hope and expectations that this will spread further in future years. In many ways it already has done this year by osmosis because many of our teachers feels that the approach is useful for supporting high quality Teaching and Learning. Our rationale for only choosing Year 10 was to ensure that the change was realistic and manageable for our teachers who are dealing with unprecedented curriculum and assessment change at the moment.

We began by launching our ‘non-negotiables’ around DTT to our whole staff back in June through a whole staff CPD session. We had previously discussed this at both a SLT level and a Curriculum Leader level. Here is an extract from our annual Teaching and Learning handbook which communicates both our ‘non-negotiables’ and also examples of best practice.


We launched our CPD session by going through what DTT means and  by being able to already share some good practice that our ‘early adopter’ faculties of English and Maths had already been using within their Year 10 lessons (having begun the new curriculum one year earlier). Teachers then prepped up their new schemes of learning complete with PLCs, DTT ideas and ‘therapy lessons’ ready for September. We have continued to use our whole staff CPD sessions in September and October to ‘over-communicate’ this key priority and ensure that staff are confident in their pedagogical practice regarding DTT. We have also ensured that when we complete QAs and lesson observations that we are specifically looking at DTT and can use this information in future CPD sessions. For example, we know that we need to keep coming back to how we can successfully use PLCs in lessons. We have also included a DTT poster in all classrooms to help communicate to students what we mean by DTT. This has been reinforced with students during mentor time. Our Year 10 students can now confidently explain what a ‘therapy lesson’ is without thinking they are being sent to their GPs!


A central premise of our work on DTT has been to consider the purpose and role of the PLC. For us, we have made the students the ‘gatekeepers’ of the PLC with staff support and guidance. We felt it would be wholly unrealistic for staff to fill in all the PLCs and the notion of students being gatekeepers will help our student take more ownership and independence of their learning and build their reflective skills.  In Year 10, every student has a PLC stuck into their books or folder which gives them a clear overview of the learning they will be doing in a particular topic or unit of work. One approach, such as this example from history, is to get students to Red, Amber, Green their learning twice so that they can evaluate the impact of their ‘Therapy lessons’. Once as a diagnosis after the initial teaching and then after they have completed a formal test which tests their learning of the whole unit.



Teachers are now regularly referring to PLCs in lessons and students are using their PLCs to help them to reflect on their learning. Reviews take place at the end of lessons where students are often guided as to how they can ‘diagnose’ their own understanding such as this example below.


One challenge for us this year has been to consider what ‘therapy’ lessons should look like. We use the term ‘therapy’ lessons with the students and our students now understand that these are lessons where they can work on using their PLC to carry out extra work to help develop, consolidate or extend their understanding. One option is for students to have a menu of activities to choose from which they can select according to their PLC. Some subjects have used technology and resources to support this such as MyMaths. Other subject areas have used programmes such as Socrative, Google docs or Kahoot to diagnose student understanding and put into place ‘therapy lessons’.

Another initiative that has supported DTT within the school is to ensure that students are all using a purple pen when completing Reflection Time (our version of DIRT time). Clearly, Reflection Time and responding to feedback is a key aspect of effective ‘therapy lessons’. The use of a purple pen has given consistency across subject areas and acts as a clear visual sign to students that they are completing Reflection Time. Although, we have provided all our teachers with a complete set of purple pens, some of our students have even gone out and bought their own purple pens. As with the DTT initiative, we have a poster in all classrooms that supports our work on Reflection Time.

reflection time.png

As a school, we are continuing to keep DTT as a prime focus within school. We are still in our early stages of making it have impact. But, hopefully by keeping our focus on this as a key priority, it will continue to have impact on the learning of our students initially in Year 10 and across the school.

Below are some more images of DTT resources within school that we are creating. A huge thanks to PixL and the work of their teams for inspiring us with their ideas and support.





Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Coast 2 Coast update

With just over 2 months to go I and 3 other colleagues from Norton College in the heart of rural North Yorkshire are preparing to cycle the Way of the Roses cycle route from Morecambe to Bridlington.

Training has been going well. I’ve been braving the Hambleton Hills including the notorious Boltby (Sneck Yate) Bank with its eye watering 25% gradient. Others have been cycling to work, speeding around York narrowly avoiding injury from errant cars, and travelling to Wales to gain the extra challenge of the Welsh Hills. The miles are certainly piling up! 

We are doing this for the charity Candelighters and you can sponsor us by visiting our page http://www.justgiving.com/Norton-Coast-2-Coasters

Happy cycling! 


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lesson Feedforward

Lesson feedforward

When we get feedback from a lesson observation we should hopefully leave with some constructive new ideas or strategies to try out to sharpen our professional practice. Yet, how often do we leave a little frustrated and think if I could just go back in time and teach that lesson again it could have had even more impact? Inspired by some of Doug Lemov’s ideas here is the concept of lesson feedforward which is the idea that before the observed lesson takes place the teacher meets with a person who will review the lesson and feedforward rather than feedback. This will enable the teacher to more fully reflect on the lesson prior to the actual lesson taking place. It can also be done as part of a ‘lesson study’ approach. For example, we used it in school through our work on Teaching Squares. See blog here

The structure of the meeting is important. The teacher should begin by presenting their lesson going through their ‘5 minute lesson plan’ and their resources. The reviewer then asks clarifying questions such as enquiring as to how many are in the group, what are the learning needs of the group, will there be TA support etc.. This helps the reviewer in their evaluation of the lesson. The reviewer then identifies the positives or ‘bright spots’ of the lesson explaining why they think it will work well. This helps the teacher to think about really accentuating these aspects of the lesson. The reviewer, hopefully through getting the teacher to reflect on their own lesson through questions, will help the teacher shape some areas for development. The following are lists of questions which could be used to explore this.

What might students have misconceptions about?

What, if any, are the missing steps to a lesson?

Which explanations could be even clearer?

How will the lesson impact on the behaviour of the students?

Is there enough challenge in the lesson?

Is the subject knowledge of the teacher at an appropriate level to teach the lesson?

Does the questioning provide opportunities for students to think?


The teacher then leaves the meeting with affirmation about the positive aspects of their lessons and one or two areas for development. There shouldn’t be any more than this so that the teacher can really focus on these aspects of their lesson. Crucially, the great aspect of this is that the teacher gets the feedback before the lesson which enables the students learning to be even better and the teacher to hopefully deliver an even better lesson.


I recently used this format with one of our NQTs Sam Stones. Here are his thoughts on the process.


A view from Sam Stones

The collaborative feedforward was invaluable and provided an excellent opportunity for improvement and reflection. The very nature of feedforward means that both teachers and students alike benefit hugely from the process.

Much like a typical lesson observation, the feedforward gave me an opportunity to explore both strengths and areas of development. However, the feedforward process was particularly invaluable as I was able to respond to this exploration before actually delivering the lesson.

The lesson in question involved a Year 10 Business Studies class looking at organisational hierarchies and the challenges of centralisation and decentralisation. A result of the feedforward, Pete suggested that the students be given an opportunity to create a hierarchy for our own school. This activity gave students a chance to apply their theoretical knowledge to a real business scenario, thereby facilitating a deeper understanding of the topic and its real life application. Indeed, it is often true in the subject that students find it difficult to marry theoretical concepts up with their real life counterparts, yet this lesson improvement provided students with a great tool to address this exact difficulty.

Had this suggestion arisen as a result of feedback and not feedforward, this specific class would not have benefited from this tweak and subsequent improvement to the lesson. Indeed, it would also have been a year before I had another opportunity to improve and redeliver the lesson to a new cohort.

Feedforward also presents a number of additional benefits. As a teacher new to the profession, the process can instill confidence which in itself can be detrimental to a new teacher’s success.

The process furthermore provides the teacher and observer with an opportunity to challenge one another and discuss planning methodology. This discussion alone can result in the teacher or observer picking up a new idea which can be taken back to faculty and trialled in a range of different settings. Feedforward provides a platform on which best practice can be debated. It provides those involved with an opportunity to challenge, adapt and build upon the ideas of one another. It’s a great example of collaboration and joint professional development (JPD).

Feedforward also allows new ideas and strategies to be discussed and trialled. Such ideas and strategies may not be trialled where there is no opportunity for teachers to discuss their implementation. Feedforward therefore promotes risk and change where risk and change may otherwise be unseen.

I am confident that feedforward has improved my teaching. It improves my willingness to take risks, as I can discuss these risks in a safe environment before getting on stage to perform. The process reminds me that lesson observations are about developing and supporting, both of which help me to professionally challenge myself in the pursuit on continuous improvement and educational excellence.

Of course, it is easy to believe that time constraints may leave teachers wondering how they could possibly engage with the feedforward process, however I firmly believe that feedforward is very much a case of sharpening the axe before cutting down the tree. If the process results in a teacher picking up only one new strategy, it must still be remembered that one strategy is all it may take to change your approach and help you benefit from longer term planning efficiencies.

If you haven’t already, give it a go. I’ll certainly be booking another feedforward in the coming months and until then remain excited about the discussions which I know will arise.


 So, you can see this is a really great way of thinking about lesson observation. It’s great to see how much lesson observation has moved to a much more developmental and supportive process linked to CPD. This tweak in practice can only add to this. Why not give it a go in your school?


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment