Teacher Toolbox – our in house T&L bulletin

Source: Teacher Toolbox – our in house T&L bulletin

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Whole school literacy ideas


Wellacre are looking to share ideas and successes for whole school literacy.  In 2015, we received two accolades:

  • Best performance by Boys taking IGCSE English Literature
  • Excellent performance by Boys taking IGCSE English Language

In the Autumn of 2016,  Rob Chisnall (HOF) recruited literacy champions from each Faculty to further drive and embed literacy across our curriculum.  The English Faculty have worked with John Nield this year, to improve extended writing,  all staff are currently investigating the impact ‘Rothko paintings’ on literacy.  james gillan rothko

20170420_081513James Gillan, NQT in our Humanities Faculty, created new literacy displays to enable his KS3 to visualise their writing by using Rothko imagery.  Student commitment to writing has improved and the scaffolding is supporting independent learning in the classroom.

Julie Sharrock, has created resources to support Year 11 active revision.  Student work is improving as a result.  History rothko

The Science Faculty have been creating new literacy mats.  Impact to be shared in our next T&L bulletin by Ben Nassau and Sam Badawy.

BLOGLiteracy mat scienceLiteracy mat science

WBD AT’s 2017   Resource for world book day.

Literacy Poster 1 pdf Resource for each classroom.



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All the presentations from #TMWellacre 2016!

We were delighted to welcome over 100 teaching colleagues from 19 schools to our second annual TeachMeet last week (read about the first one here). By popular demand, here’s a summary of all the presentations, with downloadable PowerPoint slides where appropriate.


Very much the warm-up man (@WellacreTL)

Once the practical stuff about how a TeachMeet works was out of the way, I opened proceedings by talking about why teachers should collaborate. I cited Hattie, Tim Brighouse and a key research study into this area: Leana (2011) and gave you my top six ways for teachers to collaborate:



  1. Open the door
  2. Talk
  3. Be open-minded
  4. Make it trans-disciplinary
  5. Share
  6. Cultivate a PLN

Steven Worthington (@S_WRN)

Steven’s presentation was entitled T&L approaches to the new GCSEs and highlighted the importance of regular testing (even before content has been ‘covered’) and retrieval practice. Oh, and CUSTARD!

His great blog on the subject is here.




Ben Turner

It’s a brave thing for an NQT to present to a roomful of more experienced teachers, but Ben did so eloquently, engagingly and with a frank honesty about the trials of assessing every KS3 pupil in the school, every six weeks! His presentation slides are here – The practical assessment carouselBen Turner Sale High




Anna Clark (@annamainwaring1)

With an unapologetic subject bias, English teacher (and published author) Anna presented on Teaching poetry with the AQA e-library. Far from being a sales pitch, this is a freely accessible online resource with the potential to save valuable time for our English colleagues.





Carl Todd (@toddyboardart)

Carl’s distinctly old-school presentation
The art of board and marker was a firm favourite with the #TMWellacre audience, and a refreshing change to some of the other ‘techy’ subjects on the evening’s programme. Carl’s visual approach also rather neatly tied in to themes of memory, revision and retrieval from some of the other presentations.

Further examples on his Twitter page.



Claire Reynolds

Claire’s presentation on SIRT vs. DIRT – marking in perspective shared the evolution of her school’s approach to marking and feedback.

Presentation slides are here: Claire Reynolds Stretford High





Sandra Smith-Brown

Sandra gave us an insight into Peer and self assessment in practice at the same school, Stretford High. Sandra was the first of the evening’s presenters to mention the incredible impact that Teacher Learning Communities have had. More on this to follow!

Presentation slides are here: Sandra Smith Brown Stretford High



Deb Richardson

The opening image of Deb’s presentation (“Warning: Teacher in Bad Mood”) resonated with one or two of us in the audience, which is why her Engaging Starts were so welcome! This is a TeachMeet at its most useful: some short simple ideas that can be shared on a Thursday evening  and be used in the classroom by Friday morning.

Presentation slides are here: Deborah Richardson Penketh High School


Kal Hodgson (@GM_BFET_SCITT)

Kal leads our local SCITT, and spoke passionately about the benefits of having a trainee teacher in your classroom. Instead of seeing it as an additional burden, mentoring a trainee can be just as developmental for you as it is for them because it forces you to have conversations about teaching and learning that you might not otherwise have.



Tom England and Kath Adamson (@DrKathAds)

Kath and Tom discussed both the practicalities and the impact of a flipped learning approach – in this case in English but adaptable for most subjects. This is something we’ve explored at Wellacre too, but I loved the example of using Genius to facilitate easy online collaboration. See Tom’s example here, and presentation slides are here: Kath Adamson Tom England AGGS




Lisa Newman and Sara Cain

Lisa and Sarah from Harper Green were the second presentation to talk about Teacher Learning Communities and the impact they’re having on CPD at their school.

Presentation slides are here: Lisa Newman Harper Green




Matt Lowe

Finally, just before our fantastic prize draw, Matt wrapped up the programme with his case study of the next steps on the TLC journey: Professional Development Communities.

Presentation slides are here: Matt Lowe Mount St Josephs



As if that wasn’t enough, we were also delighted to host some incredible marketplace stalls featuring teachers from Wellacre, Stretford, Harper Green and MSJ, as well as our commercial partners Renaissance Learning, Connex, Future Leaders and Inspired Touch – thank you all for helping to make the evening such a success. Here are a few snapshots:

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Speed Dating!

i_heart_teaching_classic_round_sticker-ra2213e64c5454589b0b6fa00f7ce4796_v9waf_8byvr_324Last Wednesday I went speed-dating with my entire teaching staff. My wife will no doubt be pleased to hear that I didn’t go home with any of them, but I did come away with a whole list of great teaching ideas and examples of good practice that are already making a different in classrooms here at Wellacre. Read on to find out what they were…

It’s all @TeacherToolkit’s fault. In this blog post he describes it as a ‘risk’, and I certainly felt that way as I stuck 50-odd sticky labels with pre-assigned numbers and letters onto the chairs in the school hall. What if they didn’t say anything at all? How could I be sure that what they were talking about was ‘on message’?

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. I’d been deliberately open with staff before the event, and I think colleagues appreciated having plenty of prep time to hone their 60-second delivery. My guidance was as follows: “I want you to be ready to talk to a colleague for no more than 60 seconds about a positive change that you’ve made to your teaching since September, what it’s impact has been and how you know.” I provided some simple prompts for both speakers and listeners, and topped it off with a simple voting system – all of which was shared in advance and helped along some colleagues who might not have been as confident speaking about their own practice.

The experience of standing – ringmaster style – in the centre of 30 simultaneous conversations about improving teaching was quite simply humbling. At times I struggled to keep an eye on the timer because I became temporarily distracted by a snippet I’d overheard, but on each occasion I just managed to get the whistle blown. What’s a few seconds between friends?

It was all over too quickly and very smoothly, and it was fantastic to hear some of the conversations continuing throughout the rest of our twilight CPD programme.

I’d promised prizes though, so there were votes to count! In staff briefing on the Friday morning I wanted to read them all out but had to keep to time so I’m sharing some ‘honourable mentions’ here in addition to the most popular. Here they are, in no particular order:


Richard (Science) – No longer accepts one-word responses. Students have learnt that they need to extend their answer before they are let off the hook.

Mark (Business) – Shares a WABOLL (what a bad one looks like) instead of a WAGOLL. Powerful for students to deconstruct this and see what not to do.

Julia (Technology) – Chooses a different student to rephrase her question to follow-up on a student whose answer wasn’t deep enough.

Jen (English) – Working on lengthening her wait time after a student answers as well as before.

Rob (PE) – Gives written feedback anonymously; students have to work in small groups to match which piece of work deserves which feedback.

Sinéad (RE) – Students peer-assess using a ‘Prove It’ ladder after drafting a piece of work but before handing it in. Peers hold each other to account over whether they have demonstrated understanding or not.

Amit (Technology) – Uses simple questions (e.g. “Tell me why” for students to respond to in his written feedback. Gets straight to the point, is easy for students to follow and makes marking quicker.

The runners-up

Paul (Geography) – Shares his WALT and WILFs in numerical codes that students have to crack.

Céline (MFL) – Has an ongoing competition within her classes based around the Tour de France. Teams earn points for speaking in French, which increases engagement and target language participation.

Steve (Computing) – Uses multiple-choice quizzes for real-time assessment and instant formative feedback. Maximises impact for very little effort.

The winner

Heather (RE) – Uses a random selector to choose which student feeds back after a quick Do Now task. This ensures all students engage and have a response ready without taking up valuable lesson time in collecting responses from every student. They all know it might be them so there are no opt-outs!

Why not choose just one of these ideas to try this week?

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February Bright Spots

One of the highlights of my working week is visiting classrooms on the lookout for our Teaching and Learning ‘bright spots’. For those unfamiliar with the term, we borrowed the idea from Shaun Allison at Durrington High School (his excellent blog is at www.classteaching.wordpress.com) who in turn borrowed it from the inspirational authors Chip and Dan Heath.

Put very simply, to continue developing we need to identify what we’re already doing well and ‘grow the bright spots’ in order to make our best practice even better. Here goes:

In Michelle’s Y9 drama lesson, detailed knowledge of her students allows her to be very precise in choosing partners for a paired activity. The rationale for this is shared openly with students with warmth and humour, but there is never any doubt about who is in control.

  • “You’re a giggler so I need to put you with someone who’ll keep you in check”
  • “You’ll really push him, and stretch his characterisation?”
  • “Make sure he keeps you on task and doesn’t let you lose focus”

The effect: lots of well-balanced pairs leading to some excellent dramatic dialogues based on this scene.

There was some excellent bouncing of questions around the classroom in Carl’s Y9 history lesson, and he makes sure that all students are challenged to answer more deeply, often following up with a “Why?” or “How would that make you feel, if you were in the same situation?”. In particular I liked the rally created between two students, each very eager to one-up the other one’s response, with a simple “What do you think about his answer?” Doug Lemov calls this one Stretch-It.

Dropping in to Tom’s Y10 English lesson as they were completing writing assessments reminded me that often the best learning takes place when embedded routines and careful preparation have combined to create an environment that needs very little teacher input at all. There was an electrifying – although silent! – buzz of purposeful practice, and plenty of evidence of the teaching processes that had led up to this point in the carefully-crafted plans that students were working from.

Ash’s science lessons are characterised by formidable subject knowledge, wonderful explanations and a real warmth and fondness for his students. I can’t think of many other teachers who can hold the attention of Y10 boys on the invagination of phagocytes by white blood cells without raising so much as a titter, and would trust his students enough to carry out a live demo of his own patella reflex (i.e. shutting his eyes and inviting a student to hit him on the knee with a ruler!) It was in Ash’s lab this week that I also observed some of the most subtle differentiation I’ve seen for a while – in full flow and without breaking rhythm, discreetly writing out a key word spelling on a mini-whiteboard for a student he’d noticed was struggling.

IMG_1426The iterative design process is the current focus for Julia’s Y8 DT students, who are completely used to the idea of evaluating and improving their own design decisions to meet a brief. When I dropped in, they were busy creating nets of 3D shapes and evaluating them as potential moulds for their concrete clock designs. Plenty of cross-curricular links to maths here, but also open-ended differentiation (all the way from a humble cube to a compound solid formed from three tetrahedra!) and an incredible level of creativity and independence shown by students, all facilitated by precise questioning from the teacher.

In several classrooms it was great to see some really effective use of our no-hands up strategies to make sure all students are fully engaged and accountable for their learning. Jason’s use of Cold-Call in maths meant that when he asked students to spot a pattern in the questions they had just answered, they all had something ready to contribute; while Jane opted to use Nominate in French for the same purpose – it was great to see you stick to this despite several hands creeping up at times!

I overheard a great snippet of growth mindset language in Lorraine’s Y10 maths lesson: “You know how much your muscles hurt the first time you go running, but then it gets easier as you get used to it? Thinking is the same, you’ve got to exercise your brain so it doesn’t hurt so much!” This came as her students were making good formative use of a test they’d completed the previous lesson – identifying the areas they hadn’t done so well in (yet!) and working in pairs to re-attempt them.

Still in maths, Colin also encourages his students to think harder by never letting anyone ‘opt out’ and accept a partially-correct answer. Some of his re-tracking phrases that I loved were “It is something to do with that 5…” and “That’s not quite it, but I like how you’re focusing on that 23…” In both cases, the student who’d got it wrong to start with managed to come back with an improved answer. Another gem in this lesson is the students’ unbidden use of correct mathematical vocabulary such as “inverse” instead of “opposite”.

Finally, Mark emailed me a simple technique and resource he’s been using in business studies lessons to scaffold higher-order responses from his students. The ‘Donut Matrix’ has come out of some of the work Mark has been doing through our TLCs and in his words is “easy to use and so effective”.

You work from the outside to the inside (effectively going up in levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy). I have found this hugely effective here so far for students in teams and all have to participate.

See for yourself here: Marketing Mixed UP TASK

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NQT blog: Establishing classroom routines

Every fortnight, one of our NQTs will write a reflective blog post focusing on issues raised in our professional development sessions. This is the first of the new academic year, by English NQT Jen Chapman, on the challenges of establishing effective routines with new classes.

Behaviour management was never something that was too much of an issue on my PGCE. The situation you find yourself is so different from being an NQT – you meet a class midway through the term, where rules and expectations have already been established for you. The task on placement is simply to be consistent and stick to the same expectations as the usual class teacher. I didn’t realise how much of a task establishing my own expectations in the classroom actually was until NQT.

I was very worried about behaviour in my first couple of weeks, and it is something I still worry about to an extent now. Students talking over me, shouting out and being disruptive during lessons was common in my classes to begin with, but it’s steadily getting better.

After getting advice from other teachers, I have found it’s not necessarily the individual strategies I use, but the consistency with which I use them that has really made a difference. Here are three that I’m glad I’ve stuck to:

Count down and wait for quiet

Counting down from 5 to 1 and waiting for silence has been really effective at getting the attention of the class when I want to give instructions or get feedback. I have found that as time has passed, I will sometimes have the class’s attention before I reach ‘1’ – on reflection, this must mean that they have learnt what I expect when I start the countdown.

Using a random number selector for feedback

I have used this with some classes and am planning on using it with all my classes. This has been excellent at preventing shouting out when getting feedback. Now the students expect I will use the selector and won’t shout answers out.

The ‘SAS’ approach to low-level disruption

This came from a great INSET with Nicola Morgan from NSMTC – she describes it as “get in quietly, deal with it quickly, don’t look back” and after learning about this I gave it a go in my classes. When a student is off task or messing around, it’s been a great way of quickly dealing with behaviour issues without getting into an argument with a student.

The plan is to keep my expectations high for behaviour and carry on upholding them until they become the norm. I hope that continuing to use these strategies rather than being distracted by the ‘next good thing’ that comes along,  will help improve behaviour in classes, but I’d welcome any other strategies or ideas that can help tackle disruption in lessons – post a comment below if you’ve got an idea to share!

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September Bright Spots

It’s been my pleasure over the past fortnight to visit as many classroom as possible at Wellacre on the lookout for some teaching & learning bright spots for the start of the new academic year. For those unfamiliar with the term, we borrowed the idea from Shaun Allison at Durrington High School (their excellent blog is here), who in turn borrowed it from the inspirational authors Chip & Dan Heath. Put very simply, to continue developing we need to identify what we’re already doing well and ‘grow the bright spots’ in order to make our best practice even better. Here goes:

The most common theme across lessons I visited was a real sense that the bar has been raised for our students, and they’re working as hard as ever to meet it. There were loads of examples of really solid routines being developed – by some of our newest colleagues in particular, and the highest expectations being reinforced. In Katie McDonough‘s Y11 drama lesson, students starting to prepare for their written controlled assessment were comparing their work to criteria from the highest mark band. It didn’t matter that they’d just started, the message was clear: we’ll draft, improve and redraft until yours is as good as this.

The Geography department have recently moved into new classrooms, and have taken the opportunity to develop some really strong routines. I particularly liked Gill Perry‘s table monitor cards and key word bookmarks, which are already proving effective in improving students’ independence.FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (3)

As a T&L focus across the school this term, we’re all working on using Cold-Call as our main questioning routine (If you want to learn more, see this recent post from Doug Lemov), so after only two weeks it’s really encouraging to see the impact it’s having on our students. In Lisa Fallon’s Y11 photography class, it was almost possible to see the boys’ mental gears turning as they realised that any one of them could be chosen to respond. Lisa doesn’t let them get away with surface-level answers either, often combining Cold-Call with Stretch It to push students towards deeper thinking. New maths teacher Chris Hume uses cold-calling as a time-efficient way of reviewing his Do Now, while over in MFL Celine Cesbron has made the technique her own by adding a routine for students to fold their hands on their desks – reinforces a ‘no hands up’ culture and makes it really easy to see at a glance who’s on task.

I always love to see teaching colleagues taking risks in their lessons. It often leads to amazing and memorable learning experiences, and even where things don’t quite go to plan then reflecting on the reasons why can be a powerful way of developing our own practice. It was really exciting then to be part of two such ‘risky’ lessons so close to the beginning of term – in fact one was the very first Y7 technology lesson of the year. Julia Brunning‘s Great British Concrete Bake-off was a fantastic way to engage students at the very beginning of their secondary experience while laying a firm foundation (pun definitely intended) of the stages of the iterative design process. Did your concrete match the brief? If not, better get mixing to a different recipe!

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender (1)

The second, and an early contender for risky lesson of the year, was a Y10 art lesson from Claire Niebel, and again a magnificent example of how to hook students in right at the beginning of their GCSE course. Claire’s own description, and a piece of student work produced as a result, are below:

After our trip to the Tate fell through, I wanted to recreate the Tate exhibition in my classroom. I set up a screen for year 10 , and gave them only the name of the artists and the title. Students were then subjected to artwork whilst other senses were stimulated, for example: In Francis Bacon’s work students looked at the portrait called ‘figure in a landscape’. They were immersed in industrial sounds and then given some salt to taste. Following this students were asked to pick up the bowl of crushed charcoal and smell it. They were then given a piece of chilli chocolate and finally I sprayed the room with cranberry and asked them to focus on the blue part of the picture.

Students then wrote what the image meant to them. Connor’s responses to all four paintings completely blew me away!

Figure in a Landscape 1945 Francis Bacon 1909-1992 Purchased 1950 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05941

Figure in a Landscape 1945 Francis Bacon 1909-1992 Purchased 1950 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05941

“This image made me thing of the world war as the salt made me have a dry throat as if you are front line. the burning smell of the charcoal is like the men shooting on the front line and the chocolate is in the bittersweet victory”

It’s worth saying that this lesson didn’t necessarily impress me because of how complex or ‘showy’ it was, but simply because of the deep understanding and quality of student work that it led to. For me, this is the ultimate measure of how ‘good’ any lesson is, and otherwise Claire might have put a lot of effort into arranging the lesson for little payback in terms of learning, but thankfully this risk paid off!

Finally, down in maths, I overheard some great student feedback for one of our newest maths teachers: “He makes us do harder work, but it’s like we don’t realise we’re working harder and actually it’s better that way”.

And, simply: “I like maths again now”.

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