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Updated: 15 min 37 sec ago

Girls benefit from doing sports

6 hours 50 min ago

Girls – but not boys – who participate actively in school sports activities in middle childhood show improved behaviour and attentiveness in early adolescence, suggests a new Canadian study published in Preventative Medicine.

“Girls who do regular extracurricular sports between ages 6 and 10 show fewer symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at age 12, compared to girls who seldom do,” said Linda Pagani, a professor at Université de Montréal’s School of Psychoeducation.

“Surprisingly, however, boys do not appear to gain any behavioural benefit from sustained involvement in sports during middle childhood,” said Pagani, who led the study co-authored by her students Marie-Josée Harbec and Geneviève Fortin and McGill University associate medical professor Tracie Barnett.

As the team prepared their research, “it was unclear to what extent organised physical activity is beneficial for children with ADHD symptoms,” recalled Pagani.

“Past studies have varied widely in quality, thus blurring the true association between sport and behavioural development.” She added: “On top of that, “past research has not acknowledged that boys and girls are different in how they present ADHD symptoms.”

A chance to get organised

ADHD harms children’s ability to process information and learn at school, Pagani explained. Sport helps young people develop life skills and supportive relationships with their peers and adults. It offers a chance to get organized under some form of adult influence or supervision.

“Thus, from a public-health perspective, extracurricular sport has the potential to be a positive, non-stigmatising and engaging approach to promote psychological well-being and could thus be viewed as behaviour therapy for youth with ADHD,” Pagani said.

“Sports are especially beneficial if they begin in early childhood. And so, since using concentration and interpersonal skills are essential elements of sport, in our study we undertook to examine whether it would result in reductions in ADHD symptoms over the long term.”

Pagani and her team came to their conclusions after examining data from a Quebec cohort of children born in 1997 and 1998, part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development coordinated by the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

Parents of the 991 girls and 1,006 boys in the study reported on whether their sons and daughters were in an extracurricular physical activity that required a coach or instructor between ages 6 and 10. At age 12 years, teachers rated the children’s behaviour compared to their classmates. Pagani’s team then analysed the data to identify any significant link between sustained participation and later ADHD symptoms, discarding many possible confounding factors.

“Our goal was to eliminate any pre-existing conditions of the children or families that could throw a different light on our results,” said Pagani.

‘Boys more impulsive’

Why do girls with ADHD benefit from sports, but not boys?

“In childhood, boys with ADHD are more impulsive and more motor-skilled than girls — as a result, boys are more likely to receive medication for their ADHD, so faster diagnosis and treatment for boys in middle childhood could diminish the detectable benefits of sport,” Pagani said. “They might be there; they’re just harder to tease out.”

“In girls, on the other hand, ADHD is more likely to go undetected — and girls’ difficulties may be even more tolerated at home and in school. Parents of boys, by contrast, might be more inclined to enroll them in sports and other physical activities to help them.”

She added: “We know that sporting activities have other numerous benefits for mental health of all children. However, for reducing ADHD symptoms, middle childhood sports in elementary school seem more noteworthy for girls.”

That’s why structured extracurricular activities that demand physical skill and effort under the supervision of a coach or instructor could be valuable to any official policy aimed at promoting behavioral development, the UdeM researchers maintain.

Concluded Pagani: “Sports activities in early childhood can help girls develop essential social skills that will be useful later and ultimately play a key role in their personal, financial and economic success.”


About this study

“Childhood exercise as medicine: extracurricular sport diminishes subsequent ADHD symptoms,” by Linda Pagani et al, with the help of Frédéric Nault-Brière, was published September 29, 2020 in Preventive Medicine.

The work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanties Research Council of Canada and other funders, including the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon.

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Questioning History

7 hours 11 min ago

What to do with year 9 when KS3 was compressed into two years? We tried teaching GCSE for examination in year 10 for a few years and, whilst our results were good and the C/D borderline gap did close, we felt the most able were not achieving their full potential by a grade. We could have chosen to go back and continue to teach the KS3 programme of study but four years ago I decided to introduce the project qualification. This would give the students an opportunity to build on their historical skills and for their only time in their historical learning choose what history they wanted to study. At the end of Year 9, they would have a qualification. As GCSE history is open to all students that are interested in history, whatever their ability, we offer Level 1 (G-D) and Level 2 (C-A*).

Students must choose an area to study and create an enquiry question and complete a project proposal form outlining their objectives, give a timeline of activities and resources they will need. Then they research their enquiry question; write up their findings giving supporting arguments and alternative viewpoints or interpretations. They also must use a range of different sources and at Level 2 evaluate the reliability of their sources and draw their own conclusions based on their research. Throughout the project, they have to keep an activity log recording what they have been doing, including problems encountered and how they have overcome them. Finally, they must share their work with an outside audience and then write an evaluation of their own learning and how they have tackled it. Really, it’s like a mini dissertation and we try to ensure the academic rigour for history is driving their project forward.

 We start by showing students Ron Berger’s ‘the story of Austin’s butterfly’ and we discuss that is okay to get things wrong and the importance and value of hard work and redrafting in order to produce a piece of work that they can be genuinely proud of. Getting them to create a really good historical enquiry question is the next step. Riley has discussed the importance of history teachers creating enquiry questions that will provide “purposeful learning” and “rigorous historical thinking”.  This can be problematic for teachers, so getting students to do it would be a challenge.   We list some possible topics they might be interested in researching.  Most chose topics that they knew something about and had studied at primary school or at KS3.  We provided stacks of history magazines to get them to find topics they knew nothing about and to pique their interest in something new.  Their first attempts at enquiry questions were pretty dreadful e.g. what was fashion like in 1900? Or was Henry a good king?  As they need to give alternative viewpoints or interpretations we gave them some sentence starters to get them thinking e.g. How significant was …, how important were the consequences of …, how have interpretations of ….changed?

Over the last four years students have created some fantastic questions, such as Did Catherine of Aragon fail to have any male heirs because she was anorexic?  This was based around an article the student had read by Tremlett (2010).  The student had seen Tremlett’s article in a Sunday Magazine, bought and read his book and did a huge amount of research, both historical and around the science of pregnancy and anorexia – no mean feat for a 14 year old.  She got an A*.  Other examples ranged from “did Richard III kill the princes in the tower?”, “Should Derek Bentley have been hung for his part in the murder of PC Sidney Miles?” (Level 1 student) to “who made the biggest impact in the medical industry during the 1800s?”

The first year was difficult as we struggled with the concept of 30 students studying 30 different topics.  However, we learned from experience.  Once the students are up and running with their research they work independently and the teachers have individual learning conversations with them.  Students must set their own learning objective for each lesson and assess whether or not they have met it at the end.  This is recorded in their activity log.  We intersperse this with whole-class teaching on subjects such as evaluating the reliability of sources, how to write a bibliography or how to write a good conclusion.

This qualification has been a success in our department. Apart from the good results (approx 90% pass rate over the last 3 years), the students have gained a great deal. They have learned historical content and skills. Their literacy improves and they learn independence and resilience. Perhaps not least of all, they have increased enjoyment as they have made their own choice of study.

Click here to read the article in the August 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine


Riley, M. (2000) ‘Into the Key Stage 3 history garden: choosing and planting your enquiry questions’ Teaching History, 99

Tremlett, G. (2000) ‘Was Henry VIII first wife anorexic?  Catherine of Aragon’s secret problem’  Mail on Line

Lesley Munro is Head of History at Homewood School & Sixth Form Centre in Tenterden, Kent. Find her on Twitter at @LesleyMunro4.

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Busy pictures hinder reading ability in children

Mon, 28/09/2020 - 16:34

Reading is the gateway for learning, but one-third of elementary school students in the United States do not read at grade level. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are exploring how the design of reading materials affects literacy development. They find that an overly busy page with extraneous images can draw the reader’s attention away from the text, resulting in a lower understanding of content.

The results of the study are available in the September issue of the journal npj Science of Learning.

“Learning to read is hard work for many kids,” said Anna Fisher, associate professor of psychology and senior author on the paper.

The typical design of books for beginning readers often include engaging and colourful illustrations to help define the characters and setting of the story, offer context for the text and motivate young readers. Fisher and Cassondra Eng, a doctoral candidate in CMU’s Department of Psychology and first author on the paper, hypothesized that the extraneous images may draw the reader’s eyes away from the text and disrupt the focus necessary to understand the story.

The researchers sought to understand how to support young readers and optimize their experience as they become more fluent readers. In the study, 60 first- and second-grade students from the greater Pittsburgh area were asked to read from a commercially available book designed for reading practice in this age group. Half of the book consisted of the published design and the other half was streamlined, having removed the extraneous images. Each child read from the same book. The team used a portable eye-tracker to monitor the number of times the child’s gaze shifted away from the text to images on the page.

To develop the streamlined version of the book, the researchers had a group of adults identify relevant images to the text. To differentiate, extraneous images were defined as entertaining, but nonessential pictures to understand the story. For the streamlined version, the researchers kept the images that 90% of the adult participants agreed were relevant illustrations. All other illustrations were removed.

While the time each child spent on a page was similar, the researchers found that nearly all children reading the streamlined version had lower gaze shifts away from text and higher reading comprehension scores compared to the text in the commercially designed version of the book. In particular, children who are more prone to look away from text benefited the most from the streamlined version of the book.

“During these primary school years, children are in a transition period in which they are increasingly expected to read independently, but even more so in the wake of stay-at-home orders as children are using technology with less in-person guidance from teachers,” said Eng. “This is exciting because we can design materials grounded in learning theories that can be most helpful to children and enrich their experiences with technology.”

Crucially, Fisher notes one limitation to this study was that her team only evaluated reading using a single book.

According to Fisher, these findings highlight ways to improve the design of educational materials, especially for beginning readers. By simply limiting extraneous illustrations, children can have an easier time focusing and better reading comprehension as a result.

“This is not a silver bullet and will not solve all challenges in learning to read,” said Fisher. “But if we can take steps to make practicing reading a little bit easier and reduce some of the barriers, we [can help children] engage with the printed material and derive enjoyment from this activity.”


Fisher and Eng were joined by Karrie Godwin at the University of Maryland Baltimore Country in the project titled, “Keep It Simple: Streamlining Book Illustrations Improves Attention and Comprehension in Beginning Readers.” The project received funding from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.

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See It Like a Poet: @BloomsburyEd Children’s Poetry Showcase

Mon, 28/09/2020 - 10:07

To celebrate poetry and National Poetry Day, Bloomsbury is delighted to celebrate with a week of poetry activity on its Bloomsbury Education Facebook channel.

See It Like a Poet – Bloomsbury Children’s Poetry Showcase will be running every day at 11am and 2pm from 28th September – 2nd October, encompassing National Poetry Day on 1st October.

Bloomsbury will be hosting a wide range of free video workshops, activities, challenges and book extracts on different themes, including food, family and relationships, school life, magic and poetry itself, to support National Poetry Day and encourage children’s interest and enjoyment of poetry.

Poets providing videos and video workshops include A.F. Harrold, Paul Cookson, Matt Goodfellow, Joshua Seigal and Matt Abbott, whilst the week will also feature a host of magical poetical challenges from poets included in the new anthology Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, including Valerie Bloom, Liz Brownlee and Stewart Henderson.

Bloomsbury is thrilled to have had all four of its latest poetry books included on National Poetry Day’s Recommend Books for Children:

  • Bright Bursts of Colour by Matt Goodfellow, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff
  • Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, Magical Poems chosen by Paul Cookson and illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon
  • The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Mini Grey
  • Welcome to My Crazy Life, by Joshua Seigal, illustrated by Chris Piascik

See it Like a Poet: Bloomsbury Children’s Poetry Showcase will take place Monday 28th September – Friday 2nd October on Bloomsbury Education Facebook.

For information head to the event Facebook link here.

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Should we abandon “Reading for Pleasure”?

Mon, 28/09/2020 - 08:08

Let’s be clear about this from the start.

I have nothing against reading –

I am a massive supporter of reading. It can have a very positive impact on many aspects of people’s lives, especially young people. Nor have I anything against pleasure! My concern is that yoking the two together doesn’t do reading any favours.

  1. It sounds like special pleading. “Yes, honestly folks, you will enjoy this!”
    We wouldn’t use this approach with sports or arts, both of which many people find pleasurable, so why do we with reading?
  2. It encourages a range of negative responses. “Who says it is pleasurable? I don’t enjoy it and I’m not going to do it. You can’t force me to enjoy it!”

Alternative approaches
1. Find as many different ways of encouraging all members of the school community to read in as wide a range of circumstances as possible.
2. Provide comfortable reading spaces all over school.
3. Encourage the circumstances that lead to flow and students getting really engrossed in a book. Read my post on reading and flow here.
4. Demand that learners read in just the same way that we demand that they do maths.
5. Take it seriously with parents.
6. Publicise the advantages of reading widely using the “Rooted in Reading” 15 principles.
7. Insist that learners record details of their reading.
8. Get copies of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and ensure that staff read and discuss them.
9. Make it clear that reading is for all, not just geeks.

Many schools’ approaches to reading have been far too insipid. Not enough demands have been made of learners in this area. This is selling reading short. It is also selling learners short. If they are going to achieve their potential they’ve got to read widely. No ifs, no buts. Get on with it! We’ll be checking, but also rewarding and encouraging.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by SteveWillshaw and published with kind permission.

Steve Willshaw is based in and creator of Rooted in Reading – passionate about reading. Education Officer and TIFF provider working with leaders to improve effectiveness.

The original post can be found here.

Image Source: “Birds on a Wire” by sunsurfr via Flickr under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Why Teachers are Flocking to Twitter

Sun, 27/09/2020 - 06:40
  • Initial findings of our extensive research on how teachers are interacting with twitter for means of professional development.
  • First published in the October 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine.
  • In this updated 2020 version, Colin Hill also explores the changing nature of professional development, and how social media continues to support individual educators.

Rightly or wrongly, social media took a hammering during its early conception into the minds of the mainstream cognisance. Mainly due to ignorance and hyperbolic news reporting, many blamed the start and co-ordination of the London (and UK) riots in 2011, following the police shooting of an unarmed man. People were imprisoned for Facebook, Twitter or Blackberry Messenger (BBM) messages which threatened to riot, looting or any hint of social disorder – and so, the foundations were established in the minds of the population that Social Media sites were evil.

That may still be true to various groups of people, who buy into the stories which distract from the overall and potential good that social networking has to offer. One group of individuals, across the globe, that have taken this networking to a new and sustained level are educators who, according to the Twitter Account Executive Brett Baker, account for 4.2 million tweets from half a billion tweets posted each day. Hashtag conversations, such as #UKEdChat, have sustained continued popularity among the education community, with many other country, subject or regional specific chats continually popping up on timelines.

However, not all teachers who engage on Twitter participate in hashtag conversations. Indeed, many admit to quietly lurk – watching their Twitter feed come up with educational resources, ideas and conversations, which provoke individuals to change an element of their practice within their own classroom.

We are very aware of an engaged, generous and innovative group of educators on Twitter who are desperately keen to share and develop resources and classroom ideas. Whilst many teachers had chance to reflect and relax during the summer, we conceived a research project to explore some of the behaviours of teachers primarily using Twitter as a means of professional development.

As many schools across the globe are seeing their funding and training provisions being cut for their staff, it became clear that individual teachers were personalising their own professional development needs, with their Twitter network central to that requirement.

Five key questions were asked, with over 450 responses received within a two week period. We were not focused on the demographics of one particular group of teachers, so the responses represent teachers across the globe.

Click here to explore the certified online professional development courses offered on our UKEd Academy site.

Question – What are the main benefits of using Twitter for Professional Development?

Ideas, ideas, ideas! What is clear to see, from the findings, is that the teachers who responded are always wanting to evolve and develop their practice, not wanting to teach the same way year on year. Being stuck within the confines of a classroom and working with the same colleagues each day can be stifling, so gaining perspectives from those outside can be liberating.

One secondary school teacher declared that she could keep, “updated with up-to-the-minute developments, wider ideas, and an exploration of pedagogy” for her own practice. This networking featured regularly in responses, with many enjoying the global element of their networks (lovingly referred to as “Personal Learning Networks” or “PLNs”). Indeed, a Primary School teacher from England asserted, “It’s like having a personalised, very specific and accurate Google search permanently on hand – when there is no budget for going on a course and so all CPD is in house, Twitter provides the crucial missing networking”.

Question – How does Professional Development gained via Twitter compare to traditional means of training that you have received?

The flexibility, lack of cost or time implications, and the high standard of Professional Development gained through Twitter were regular themes with this question. One teacher commented, “My Twitter colleagues seem much more switched on and inspiring than my staffroom colleagues”, although the potentially superficial nature of this was also recognised by a few. Beyond this, the accessibility and relevance are valued, “It’s more to the point – you don’t have to sit through the waffle or parts that are irrelevant to you”, claimed a primary school teacher.

Another teacher responded, “I went on a training course the other day, and I knew everything that they were telling me, due to following the relevant people on Twitter. I’m up-to-date and ahead of the game”. Following relevant people is key, with many people quickly coming and going on Twitter as they don’t know who to follow, so therefore give up. As a starting point, you may wish to advocate the list of UK based educators in the September 2014 issue of UKED Magazine, and get colleagues to build from there.

Disadvantages of Twitter for Professional Development

Don’t get us wrong – everything is not all a bed of roses on Twitter, with plenty of thorns which the survey revealed. One teacher in the USA was concerned about the quantity of information which Twitter can throw out, “There can be too much information (even with hashtags). I feel like I’m always missing something good”. Other declarations of feeling intimidated or overwhelmed were shared, as well as fear of public comments, which can be taken out of context by paranoid school leaders. This was an issue to a few people who declared that this means of professional development was not acknowledged by their school leaders, who dismiss this learning as non-authentic.

“Establishing a PLN is vital,” a USA elementary teacher told us, “Teachers need to know which hashtags are best for them to follow”. There are tweeters who are prominent self-promoters, and this annoys as their comments can go unchecked and loaded with prejudices or stand-points which rally for an argument.

Even though it is 2014, a few declared their frustrations with school network firewalls, which deny access to Twitter whilst on site (although with greater mobile technology availability on internet-enabled mobile devices, one does have to question the relevance of such firewalls).


Fed by paranoia, or due to issues of power and control, we asked teachers if they were aware that their interactions of Twitter are monitored by leaders at their school, or by administrators. Those who declared that their comments are being monitored by ‘leaders’ commented, “Things can easily be misinterpreted online”. Being aware of this Big Brother behaviour can stop some people truly engaging in conversations. One teacher told us, “I have a personal account with no reference to school and don’t follow school. However, retweeted a comical clip from an account with a rude word and the Headteacher came to speak to me about it. I agree that handle [Twitter username] isn’t great but the clip was of footballer slipping. Fair? Right?” Worryingly, another respondent revealed, “I have been told (in a cryptic way) by SLT that they monitor all my social media accounts”! Is there a claim here of online stalking? Debates in this regard need to be openly developed at all levels.

Specific examples of how Twitter has helped develop classroom practice

Collaboration and connecting with classes in other countries which were once inaccessible were some of the specific examples shared, but ideas, strategies and inspiration from other teachers have been implemented in classrooms across the land. Examples include: Developing practice in fixed and growth mindsets; quadblogging; wider range of independent tasks, exit tickets and peer/self-assessment; displays; behaviour management techniques; SOLO taxonomy ideas, all just a few of the list received. One teacher told us, “Whole class guided reading – stemmed from a brief chat online and has completely revolutionised my practice (and impacted hugely on the pupils’ end of year levels).” All these idea and strategies all inspired from teachers on Twitter.

Click here to view ’25 Pedagogy Ideas that Teachers found on Twitter’ drawn from this research

And this is where the conflict lies. Used sensibly and responsibly, Twitter can be a valuable source of inspiration supporting teachers to develop and improve their own classroom practice. But the surveillance and negative viewpoints of online social networking remain a concern. Some leadership teams are completely trusting and respect the private lives of their staff, whereas others are living in a strange world where they feel so concerned about the behaviour of their staff and how online behaviours could reflect badly on the school itself – perhaps this says more about the management than the staff. Our online UKEd Academy course offers advice, policy ideas and resources for schools and teachers interacting with social media. Click here to explore.

If you are concerned about the leadership team cynically watching over your online activity, there are steps you can take to minimise any come-back:

1. Do not reveal your true name/school within your Twitter profile or tweets without clear permission from your school management.

2. Explore the option to protect your account, only allowing for those you give permission to access to your tweets.

3. If you do reveal your identity, have a conversation with your leadership team encouraging them to contribute in conversations.

4. Maintain your integrity, professionalism and respect (Refraining from mixing tweets with alcohol!).

5. Common sense is fundamental, but this cuts both ways. Just be aware if your school leadership team lacks any common sense.

There are many positive aspects for teachers to use Twitter as a means of professional development and these can outweigh the negatives pointed out in this survey. 

2020 Update

As time has developed, more social media options became available, and there are very active groups on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram who actively share resources, classroom pictures and ideas. As teachers globally share their resources, more sites that commercialise resources-as-products have come online, feeding the need for teachers to purchase activities for their classrooms. Questions remain about the quality and value, so considered research (and an exploration of reviews) is necessary to prevent throwing good money for bad.

Interacting with Twitter has changed since the initial research findings were published. Many polarising views became more prominent, as well as API and algorithm changes that seemed to change the way people interacted. Views got shouted down. Silos developed. Egos developed. Divisions were created. Everything became commercialised. Twitter became a victim of its own success, but only reflects the societies of which it serves.

I still maintain that it is still possible to use social media (including Twitter) to support professional development in teaching and school leadership, but you just need to sort through the noise of political polarisation, click-bait and those who shout the loudest. Exploring others viewpoints is interesting, otherwise we enter our very own echo chamber, but if your sole intention is to develop your classroom practice, explore resources and ideas, then be selective who you follow, who you interact with, and who you want to share your own ideas with. At the end of the day, with careful consideration, what you get out of social media will all depend on what you put into it.

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Updated guidance on relationships, sex and health curriculum issued for England schools

Sat, 26/09/2020 - 13:59
  • New guidance issued for England schools supporting the teaching of relationships, sex and health curriculum.
  • All pupils should receive teaching on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) relationships during their school years.
  • Secondary schools should include LGBT content in their teaching.
  • Primary schools are strongly encouraged, and enabled, when teaching about different types of family, to include families with same-sex parents.
  • The guidance includes support on building a school policy, required for inspection purposes.

New statutory guidance issued by the Department for Education this week has outlined updated requirements for the teaching of a relationship, sex and health curriculum for schools in England.

Schools will be required to teach:

  • relationships education (all primary aged pupils)
  • relationships and sex education (RSE) (all secondary aged pupils)
  • health education (all pupils in state-funded schools only)

Once inspections return, Ofsted will evaluate the provision for relationships education, relationships and sex education and health education in line with Ofsted’s school inspection handbook and in the context of the updated guidance.

Independent schools are required to teach personal, social, health and economic (PHSE) education.

Sex education at primary school is not compulsory but can be taught if a school decides that it is appropriate to do so.

All pupils should receive teaching on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) relationships during their school years. Secondary schools should include LGBT content in their teaching. Primary schools are strongly encouraged, and enabled, when teaching about different types of family, to include families with same-sex parents.

The guidance includes information to create an inclusive classroom, taking into account, “what it is like for a diverse range of pupils to be taught about these topics and how individual pupils may relate to particular topics, including complex and sensitive subjects that might personally affect them.”

For primary schools, the guidance advises,

Primary schools are not required to teach sex education but must teach relationships education and have regard to the statutory guidance in full.

DFE, 2020

Schools are also required to produce School Policies covering what is being taught, with consideration to safeguarding, the curriculum and dealing with sensitive issues.

For more information and to read through the guidance, visit the UK government website by clicking here.

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Improving revision with effective techniques

Sat, 26/09/2020 - 10:35

As we approach exam seasons, many students (and teachers) enter their favourite purveyor of stationery goods to arm themselves with all the tools that one could need to prepare for an exam: cue cards, revision books and, of course, highlighters.

As we start to approach the exam session again, many students (and teachers) will be entering their favourite purveyor of stationary goods to arm themselves with all the tools that one could need to prepare for an exam: cue cards, revision books and, of course, highlighters. I have seen many students think that revisiting their notes armed with a handful of multicoloured highlighters is an effective way to get ready for the big day — well at least there is something visible to show for their efforts.

In this post, I will suggest a new evidenced-based revision strategy called ‘Spaced Learning’. I provide some resources that I use in class at the bottom of the post to get you started too.

A recent study (Dunlosky, 2013) considered the relative benefits of a variety of revision and learning strategies and reflected on the impact they have on both learning and retention. Some of the findings should not come as a surprise to you (highlighting and rereading are not effective) but there is probably more to be gained by focusing on the top-performing techniques that both teachers and students should be using.

Elements that seem to be key to improving retention are techniques that encourage the learner to think about what they are reviewing and distributing their efforts over time. The full article is quite a read at over 50 pages but it is possible to drop into it and review each of the ten techniques individually or just read the discussion of the article.

The Spaced Revision Technique

From this the idea of ‘Spaced Revision’ has evolved – an evidence based revision strategy that empowers students to use the techniques that work best for them within a set of scaffolding to support them. It has four stages that repeat over the course of a set period of time. This could be a revision period, over the course of a module, or ongoing over the course of the year.

Each spaced learning topic spans two days with two stages on the first day and the second two on the following day. A variety of different techniques are used for each topic you are reviewing (interleaved practice).

Stage 1: Review a topic – for the first 20 minutes utilise any technique you are comfortable with to review the topic. This could be highlighting, making notes, creating flashcards or using post-its. Often, you might stop after this and think ‘my revision is done!’. But no, this is just the start of an effective learning technique.

Stage 2: Transformation task – this is building on the elaborative learning tasks discussed above. Here you need to transform the notes or highlighting that you have from Stage 1 into something different. This could be a mindmap, a drawing, a song, a poem. By doing this you will have to be thinking ‘how’ am I going to show this content in a different form and ‘why’ does each piece belong. It can be fun too.

That is the end of the first session. When you return to your revision in the next day or two (distributed practice) you complete Stages 3 and 4 on the first topic and then start again with Stages 1 and 2 of a new topic.

Stage 3: Practice testing – with a friend, family member or one of the many websites online that have relevant psychology quizzes – test yourself on the area that you have reviewed.

Stage 4: Exam questions – finally, complete an exam question or questions on the area you have reviewed and mark this yourself using a mark scheme or ask your teacher to mark it (practice testing). Importantly, when you are composing your answer use elaborative interrogation and think ‘why am I writing this?’

The aim of Spaced Learning to to allow students to use techniques that they enjoy and help them revise while giving them a supportive scaffold to keep them going (or get them started).

Give it a go and let me know how you find the technique by tweeting @jamiedavies.

  • During Stage 2, the transformation tasks that are used can make or break your whole revision strategy. Don’t just do the same task over-and-over again. This is a handout I give to my students that contains loads of different tasks you can use linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • You need to plan your revision well and make sure that you stick to the plan. If you ever miss a session, you need to double up. It is all too easy to fall behind and then just give up with the process. With that in mind make an achievable plan and stick to it – and here is a sheet to help you do that.
  • If you want an example of what your revision plan should look like – this is an example of a spaced revision plan for an AS Psychology module.
  • Most exam boards put past exam papers that are more than 12 months old online 0r you could use sites like Resourcd to find them too.

Jamie Davies is: Head of Quality Systems & Psychology Teacher | Lecturer @GlyndwrPsych | Data Scientist | Writer @psychblog | Educationalist. Follow on twitter via @JamieDavies.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Jamie Davies and published with kind permission.

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Book: Happy School 365 by @ActionJackson via @BloomsburyEd

Fri, 25/09/2020 - 11:20

Supported by Bloomsbury Education

  • Happy School 365 is packed with 21 easy-to-implement ideas to motivate young people to achieve academic and personal success.
  • Jackson sets out a vision for what his method can achieve.
  • This is the must-have guide for all teachers looking to play their part in developing a generation that is happy, healthy and successful.
  • Click here to explore book on Amazon UK.

Building motivation with students can be a difficult task when you are faced with a challenging curriculum, or when there are external issues that are causing barriers to learning. Helping our students understand that opening themselves to learn can lead to rewarding academic achievement and success is an important role for the profession. Everyone within our setting is not going to be happy all of the time, but by developing a positive, supporting and caring culture within your classroom environment, you allow the opportunity for students to flourish.

Every child is a different kind of flower and all together make this world a beautiful garden.

The quote above is the opening contribution by Jackson Ogunyemi in his new book (created under his ActionJackson stage name), ‘Happy School 365 Action Jackson’s guide to motivating learners’. The aims of the book are to support educators to give their students a sense of identity and purpose, along with developing focus and positive self-discipline.

Through the five chapters in the book, Jackson shares 21 easy-to-implement ideas to motivate young people, but also to inspire educators to encourage confidence building. Each idea is supported by a clear commentary of the reasoning behind the activity, accompanied by motivation tips aimed at guiding educators on how to successfully implement each activity.

At the heart of the book, each chapter is divided into a five-stage approach – the manifesto, the mission, the mindset, the method and the miracle – Jackson sets out a vision for what this method can achieve: well-rounded individuals who are agents of change for humanity.

The book is primarily aimed at secondary schools helping young people navigate some of the difficult challenges they face as they grow into young adults, and is to be applauded for the compassion, positivity and beliefs that can help our students can achieve given the right encouragement by people who care about their success.

*Price correct at time of publication

About @ActionJackson

Action Jackson is an inspirational keynote speaker and the founder of Fix Up Seminars, a company that works with primary and secondary schools to motivate students to help them develop the tools and skills for success. Over the past 20 years, Jackson and his team have worked with thousands of students and teachers to enable them to achieve their goals. He also gives regular keynotes, talks and workshops at events and conferences for young people and educators. Follow Jackson on Twitter: @ActionJackson.

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Developing STEM Across the Curriculum

Thu, 24/09/2020 - 11:18
  • #UKEdChat session 522.
  • A greater knowledge of STEM can help one understand and make decisions about the wider world.
  • Develop an understanding of STEM across the curriculum without extra workload.
  • Click here to view the tweet archive.

#UKEdChat session 522 – STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, form the basis of our modern world. There is a shortest of people which STEM skills in the workforce of most countries and a lack of adequate scientific knowledge to make decisions about the world in which we live.

In schools, there is a natural crossover of the arts/humanities into other subject areas, with sketching being used in the STEM subjects, and English (other mother tongues are available) is the medium in which the subject is taught and assessed. Just like you don’t see iambic pentameters alongside experimental parameters in science classes, the idea isn’t to include complex STEM concepts in, say, your art classes, but some of the basics can find a way to support the subject and make real-world connections as they do in the world outside of the classroom. But how can STEM ideas be re-enforced organically across the curriculum without causing extra workload for all?

In this #UKEdChat discussion on Thursday 24th September 2020 at 8pm (UK) we discussed how all subjects can benefit from including elements of STEM, how can this best be achieved, and what training is needed to ensure this happens successfully.


  1. How confident are you with science ideas? STEM specialists: how confident do you feel the average teacher in your school is?
  2. What are the benefits of embedding STEM across the curriculum?
  3. What are the barriers to embedding STEM across the curriculum?
  4. What further training would you need to embed STEM in your subject area/phase? STEM specialists: What training support could you offer?
  5. How can technology be used to help embedded STEM across the curriculum?
  6. How can senior managers support STEM across the curriculum?
  7. What suggestions do you have for STEM activities/projects in non-STEM subject areas?
  8. How will a population with a greater understanding of STEM benefit society?

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Department for Education launches new online resources to inspire children to get active

Wed, 23/09/2020 - 14:25

A new online platform featuring inspiring videos and resources for schools in England will launch today (Wednesday 23 September) to mark National Fitness Day, helping pupils stay active and healthy during the school day.

With 99.9% of state-funded schools open to pupils as of 17 September, lessons having resumed and children being reunited with their friends and teachers, the Department for Education’s new online video collection will support young people’s mental and physical health.

Now live, schools will be able to access videos on YouTube which will provide creative and entertaining content that helps staff to safely offer 30 active minutes in a COVID-secure environment. This includes videos from schools and young leaders across the country sharing best practice on how to incorporate being active into lessons, break-times and travel times, content from Sport England featuring their Daily Activators doing the ‘Daily Mile’, inclusive activities for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and content to encourage more girls to get involved in physical activity.

The Wellbeing for Education Return programme is supporting staff working in schools and colleges to respond to the additional pressures some children and young people may be feeling as a direct result of the pandemic, as well as to any emotional response they or their teachers may still be experiencing from bereavement, stress, trauma or anxiety over the past months.

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Using Phonics with KS3

Wed, 23/09/2020 - 08:02

Primary schools seem like another world in comparison to the manic, bustling corridors of an 11 to 18 Academy. I have been fortunate enough over the past few years to visit and work with a number of Primary schools and there are many lessons we can learn as Secondary teachers, especially concerning helping our students with lower levels of literacy. I have a few ideas on how we can use good practice from KS2 with our low ability KS3 students, particularly those working at level 3 and low level 4.

Many primary schools use a programme created by Ruth Miskin called ‘Read, Write, Inc’ which develops the students understanding of the different sounds in reading and then applies them in texts that test both their reading ability and their understanding of what they have read.

To many parents out there, the working of the Ruth Miskin system and the teaching of phonics is deeply embedded into your brains, however for those who don’t know here is a brief rundown:

Essentially there are 42 sounds in the English language and there are 140 ways that these sounds can be spelt. The students look at the sounds in a grid where the different spellings of the same sound are grouped together. They are identified in the system with symbols: . represents a short sound and __ is used for longer sounds. There are assessments that can be applied that identify which sounds students are confident with, and which they are not.

The learning process that the programme applies is that students are given a text which will develop or consolidate their understanding of certain sounds and then there is a sequence to learn, revise and assess this.

The learning sequence is:

  1. Reading the sounds that are in the text
  2. Reading the green, red and challenge words (Green – can sound out, Red – can’t sound out, challenge – complex multi-sound words)
  3. Listen to the text being read
  4. Discuss the text
  5. Read the text
  6. Re-read and discuss the questions
  7. Re-read with fluency and expression
  8. Answer the questions
  9. Practice speed words (complex words from the text to consolidate understanding)

In KS3 there are possibilities of adapting this process to ensure that our weak readers are able to make progress.
Possible application of this could be that during intervention sessions students are assessed on their understanding of the different sounds and the different ways that they can be spelt. They can also have the phonics grid in their books.

We could then use the symbols to identify where the different sounds start and end within the words of a text.

Possible learning sequence could be:

  1. Students are given a list of green, red and challenge words to read with the sounds identified using symbols ( . __ )
  2. Students listen to the text
  3. Discuss the text
  4. Active Reading – students are given the questions and go through underlining or highlighting section they feel may help them answer the questions. Different sounds identified in the text using symbols
  5. Students re-read with fluency and expression
  6. Students complete the task

This will initially mean more preparation for lessons with low ability sets, but as we develop our bank of resources this will ease to a degree. As it will be far simpler to identify the sounds using symbols by hand, we could then scan the texts and upload them onto our shared network drives.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by John Coleman, and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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The ABCs of Supporting EAL

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 09:15

Over the years I have learned various ways of saying ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’ in various languages, as well as trying to help students get to grips with speaking, reading and writing English.

My most recent venture, The International Club, came from a need for some of my most recent foreign students to be able to develop confidence in speaking English in a non-threatening way. I set up a group, that is now in its second year, whereby they could come at lunchtime, three days a week and chat informally. I laid on different activities, including discussions on pop artists, favourite food, cultural celebrations and football discussions; all fairly accessible and relaxed. I bought biscuits; they brought with them homework, worksheets and other items that needed deciphering or translating. The fact transpired that all these students from different countries had different levels of English and needed slightly different levels of support.

A case in point was the time, just before Christmas, when I brought in a box of wrapped chocolates and asked the students to pick a colour. One boy struggled until I asked him what was wrong. He looked at me and finally said that all the time he had been learning English he realised he had got the colours orange and purple muddled up. It impressed on me that he admitted this in front of the group. I was pleased that it was solved by a box of Roses chocolates!

We all work together, the more linguistically able helping the newer arrivals so that by the end of the first year, several of the students had made progress in their subjects, just because they felt that they had an ‘English’ voice to be able to share their ideas. I also invited English speaking students to act as language mentors. They helped drive any discussion and were a point of contact when I was unavailable.

As part of this, I set up a mini project where I took the students out to local landmarks, for example the library and museum as well as a trip on the local canal to help them gain an awareness of where they were living. We also used online maps for them to talk about where they have came from and to compare the cultural differences between here and where they have come from. This helped them form a stronger bond with the place they had moved to.

The club is a drop in, I don’t insist on attendance but the students who have started to come since September have made it part of their weekly routine and I have already seen improvement; a young girl who seemed very quiet, chats to me non stop about her latest history class, formulating her sentences and correcting herself as she thinks things through in a more relaxed setting. I am able to keep a register and give informal feedback to staff, if they need it, to help them gauge how well a student attending my club is able to understand and comprehend what they are being told in class.

The other side of this has been that I have developed and found online glossaries and phrase sheets to help staff ensure students settle in quickly. I work with the students to help differentiate the work they are given so they can access it and from time to time staff ask me to go through homework with the students to ensure they know what to do. I know that there is a school of thought to say immersion in the target language is useful, but to help these students as quickly as possible I found a bilingual dictionary to be useful and effective in avoiding initial frustration.

One thing I have observed – just because a student is newly arrived and speaks limited English doesn’t necessarily mean they need to go into an SEN group. If you are able to workout the students level of literacy in their home language then you can judge how quickly they will make the transition to English and from that predict their level of progress. I now have students who have been learning English for two years in my Set 2 class who are performing above their target grade, just because they were able to develop their ideas and vocabulary in line with their natural literacy skills, supported by suitably differentiated work.

My work continues and with each new arrival I pick up more and more ideas about how to help them achieve. I have also started reading and researching the known wisdom on students with EAL and sharing that with whoever wants to listen!

Click Here to read the full article freely in the November 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine

Charlotte Harding is an English teacher at Castle High school, Dudley. In her 20 years experience she has developed an interest in various aspects of whole school life, including poetry and EAL. In her spare time she is a GCSE examiner and team leader. Find her on Twitter @charlieferrett.

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I tricked my students into writing poetry

Mon, 21/09/2020 - 07:45

I’m so proud of myself. Excuse me for gloating, but I had a masterful stoke of teaching this week. I tricked my students into loving poetry. How? I told them I’m not going to make them write poems.

I hated writing poetry when I was at school. I know only too well that look of anguish on a boys face when a teacher mentions poetry. And so, when I handed out Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven as the class text for the week, I saw the rolling eyes; I heard the assumptions about what’s coming next, and tried hard to conceal my smirk as the shoulders around the room slumped.

Image by Ingrid Taylar via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

‘Don’t worry,’ I told them, ‘I’m not making you write poems.’

I read the poem to them; did my best James Earl Jones rendition. Then, I simply gushed about how much I loved it. The imagery of ‘each dying ember wroughting it’s ghost upon the floor,’ and the glorious pause before – ‘darkness there and nothing more.’ This is epic storytelling; every word carefully chosen for meaning and tempo and rhythm and the lost Lenore.

We talked about the context from when this was written; before T.V., movies, video games. We discussed poetry as entertainment – about going and listening to poetry being performed like seeing a band or watching a movie.

And I left it that – with one little comment, ‘You know, you really should think about reading a little poetry, I’m sure if you looked you’d find something you like.’

It only took one student.

‘Who’s your favourite poet, Mr Wise?’

Within minutes, the class was quoting Caged Bird by Maya Angelou and laughing at their own Andy Griffith limericks.

I haven’t asked them write anything yet. I don’t think I will.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Chris Wise and published with kind permission.

Click here to view other articles by Chris

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Troubleshooting in Philosophy for Children

Sun, 20/09/2020 - 08:41

A ‘Community of Enquiry’

Professor Matthew Lipman (1922-2010) believed that children were just as capable of engaging in philosophy as adults and despaired at the scarcity of philosophical thinking in classrooms. He founded Philosophy for Children, now used as an unpatented umbrella term for a model of learning used in over 60 countries worldwide. P4C aims to make children more critical, curious, creative and reflective.

Lipman’s vision is represented in the classroom through an activity known as a ‘Community of Enquiry’, whereby learners work together to increase their understanding of the world. Let’s imagine you are watching a History lesson, with a class experienced with such an approach. The pupils are watching a depiction of the murder of Thomas Becket. The teacher then asks them to pick out key themes from the story. Brief pair-work leads to ‘faith’, ‘tragedy’, ‘death’ and ‘defiance’, among many others. ‘Okay’, says the teacher. ‘Now let’s make some questions from these themes. Interesting questions. Questions that will prompt discussion.’ Within minutes, pupils come up with a range, and vote on which one will be discussed. The chosen question: ‘Is it worth dying for your faith?’ The teacher allows pupils to discuss in small groups before facilitating class dialogue. Before long, pupils realise they need to address another question first: ‘What is faith?’So, within fifteen minutes of reading the story of Becket’s murder, the pupils are exploring a concept that has been a pillar of people’s lives for millennia. As a Community of Enquiry.

P4C can be timetabled as an independent subject. Many teachers employ enquiries into existing lessons, too. There is a great deal of literature on its benefits, but I have found some of the most noticeable:

  • It immediately adds an ‘organic’ element. Pupils drive the discussion by forming and voting for questions.
  • It provides a platform for pupils to confidently explore fundamental concepts they would not normally question.
  • It empowers the children to express and clarify their opinion and develops their resilience when it is examined by others.
  • It encourages teamwork and requires pupils to work together. This builds their empathy, sensitivity and co-operation.
  • It allows them to reflect upon their progress in relation to several higher-order thinking skills.

Overcoming Problems

As interesting as discussions may be, engagement can be an issue. Communities of Enquiry generally lack the staples that subliminally keep pupils focussed: desks, seating plans, books, pens, grades and exams, to name a few. If you do have P4C timetabled as a lesson, or use it regularly within existing lessons, how can you keep over two-dozen pupils engaged? Here are a few tips:

  • Provide a basic structure – Have set routines for the start of the enquiry, perhaps by using a timer. Present a ‘Big Picture’ laying out the chronology of enquiries you plan to facilitate this term. Give each pupil a folder in which to store any sheets of self-assessment or written answers.
  • Communicate aims – Don’t start an enquiry without a key skill for the group to work on, or at least provide time for each pupil to choose one. Make sure pupils expect to be held accountable to these at the end.
  • Nuture intrinsic motivation by linking the use of P4V to their wider education. I believe Philosophy lessons will make pupils better learners and I communicate this in the first lesson. This is reinforced when we outline the qualities of a great learner and tick them off when demonstrated.
  • Differentiate – One barrier to engagement in P4C is confusion. Generate flow by providing worked examples of themes / philosophical questions.
  • Limit the group discussion – An inescapable problem with a group discussion is that only one pupil can speak at a time. Attention can drift. Every now and then, let the current question be discussed in partners for a minute, before opening up the floor again.

I believe we are all familiar with ending a class discussion with hands still raised. The sheer numbers in most classes mean every pupil cannot say everything they wanted to. How can you get around this?

  • Create a display with the week’s enquiry question in the middle, and provide paper / post-its / pens / whiteboards for pupils to write their answers (and interrogate the answers of others!).
  • Post-key questions on a VLE form – we use Edmodo, for example. Pupils can then continue the discussion on line.

Pupils will often with to see / hear / read more of the stimulus. By its very nature, it will be interesting. Generally, it will also be short. You may wish to post a full version of it to the VLE.

A Community of Enquiry is unparalleled in its ability to engage pupils in deep collaborative thinking. It is not without some problems, especially with full classes. I hope these solutions helps.

See more of this article (free) by clicking here to access within the UKEd Magazine.

Tom Bigglestone is a Head of RE and teacher of Philosophy at a North London girls school. He is on Twitter @the_tank.

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Secondary to Primary: Taking the leap!

Sat, 19/09/2020 - 09:15

When I did my PGCE to train as a secondary teacher, I had to spend 2 weeks in a primary school as part of my course. At the time, this scared me far more than any formal observations, even more than Ofsted!

I turned up on my first day, looked down and already I had about 10 children attached to me! I was in my early 20s, enthusiastic and passionate about a teaching career, but maternal I was not, so I was not comfortable with these small people invading my space!

15 years later I spend the majority of my teaching time in primary schools. I love it to bits but as I fell into my current post almost by accident I’ve had to do a lot of learning on the job and have made (and continue to make) many mistakes along the way. I feel like I’ve had a total career change some days so I thought I’d share 10 things I wish I’d known before I took that leap…!

1. You are your main resource! As a secondary school teacher, I used lots of PowerPoint and visual resources in addition to the obvious auditory resources as a music teacher. Most primary school children are still learning how to read and write and as a secondary teacher I took these vital skills for granted. Even in Key Stage 2 many are still learning these skills. Don’t get me wrong, I still use other resources, but I don’t rely on them like I used to.

2. The children are capable of far more than you think they will be. When I was the Lead Teacher for my subject across the County, the pace and challenge in my lessons was often praised. Since working in a primary school however, I’ve started to question whether there was actually enough challenge in what I was doing. I frequently get wowed by the work the children can produce and by the creativity of their little minds. I have on occasions given children extension activities that I would have given to Key Stage 3 children and they usually rise to the challenge.

3. Hormones have a lot to answer for! This links in with the previous point really. Inihibitions are not something we are born with, rather something that we learn. Sadly, by the time children move up to secondary school they are already ingrained. Add to that mix the inevitable hormones and suddenly creativity and flair, two buzz words that feature in the highest levels of attainment in many subject areas become a very rare commodity. This is quite possibly the thing I love best about working with younger children – it’s cool to be clever and they will feed off your every word embracing new ideas with enthusiasm, eager to please!

4. You will always know how you really look. Just this morning I walked into school and a Year 1 child commented to her friend “Ooh, Miss has got a new bag!” However this was preferable to a class I was teaching last year whilst I had some eye problems resulting in severe eczema around my eyes – the second I walked in I was greeted by a unison “What’s happened to your face, Miss?!” If you wear the same outfit 2 days in a row it’ll be noted. If you spill anything down yourself it’ll be announced to everyone and if you make a fashion faux pas you’ll be told. Don’t ask your partner what they think, just take your class shopping with you (could you imagine?)!

5. Never bank on your teaching space remaining exclusively yours. You know how annoying it is when you’re in the middle of a lesson and a member of your class is called out to go and do something else? That’s nothing! Don’t think that just because you’ve been told to take a lesson in a particular room with a particular set of children that this stands for the whole lesson. If you’re in the middle of recording a song, don’t be alarmed if another class come in and decide to make pancakes around you. Be prepared to react to anything as if it’s a little unusual, it might be a first for the little faces in front of you – embrace it!

6. Children have far better memories than you will ever have. This one speaks for itself. Children remember everything. EVERYTHING. On the plus side, you never need to worry if you’ve forgotten something about the last time you saw the class because you’ll be the only one who has!

7. You won’t share the same sense of humour. Banter is one thing I really miss about being in secondary schools full time. You get to know your classes as individuals and have running jokes. I’m getting there but subtle jokes are completely lost and that’s my natural default when it comes to humour. It’ll only work if it is literally spelt out but then you are the funniest person ever!

8. Never underestimate the power of stickers! I have so many to choose from now. Stickers give you power, especially if they are unique to you. I was doing so well with stickers, until last week when I colleague of mine brought in smelly stickers! Now I’ve been gazumped, even my own children have ditched me for scented sticker lady!

9. Think very carefully before you ask if anyone has any questions! This is clearly tongue in cheek, but I try really hard to preempt any potentially genuine questions because you would not believe the questions that children can come up with. Last week I was teaching Samba to a group of children and the first question I got asked was “Why is your daughter 8?!” Luckily I had another enthusiastic member of the class who quickly answered for me: “Because she used to be 7!”

10. Never wear sparkly shoes! My sparkly shoes are great! They’re flat, slipper like inside and so versatile. Perfect for a job where you’re on your feet every day. Unless you have Reception at which point they seem to switch on magnetic qualities –  suddenly I have children at my feet. Some just want a feel, but most want those sparkles. They want them so badly that they will go to any length to detach them from my shoes! It’s just not worth it – go and buy a new pair of shoes – that’ll get noticed just as much!

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Off the Classroom Wall and published with kind permission.

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Who did you TWEET?

Fri, 18/09/2020 - 08:30

One skill that teachers can learn from their students is the art of networking in the 21st century. Since the creation of social media, you can send a Tweet to anyone and anywhere. No matter the person’s title or professional position, you can have access to their resources and them to yours. This sharing of information seems to have led to a dissemination of what may have once been known as the organisational hierarchy.

The structure of information sharing is changing significantly within organisations both in the public and private sector. Some of our students, also known as generation Y or the millennial babies, have learned the freedom to reach out and network beyond their organisational familiarity. Moreover, networking is a great way to collaborate, learn and mentor with others. In the past, this would have never been possible. Today our environment no longer enables the acquisition of knowledge.

“It is important to engage with all levels of the organization,” said John Howitt, Superintendent of education and information technology with the Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, Canada. “There is a significant change in the structure of information. The chain of command and information sharing is flattening to a linear model as opposed to a traditional model.”

This form of networking can be coined as LINEAR. In other words, there is a network however no real hierarchy is observed in that network and people of all backgrounds are sharing their knowledge amongst each other. Students can Instagram their teacher, who can send a Tweet to a parent, who can email the senior leadership – and the web grows from there. No one has asked to contact. They just can. Social media brings the freedom to do so. The usual rules of protocol are not observed.

Generation Y has been setting a precedence as a generation that wants to network linearly as collaborators of a community that transfer knowledge from one to another. The idea that they need permission to contact a superior before contacting another and another… is quickly becoming obsolete, because they can reach out to anyone through social media. Therefore, why bother asking! It can be said that Generation Y were raised with the notion that they have access to everyone, from teachers after school hours, to celebrities, to the CEO of companies.

“In a traditional model of networking you would go through your immediate supervisor to obtain information,” said Howitt. “However, we are seeing many examples of skipping those traditional steps in the chain of command and creating a linear network of information sharing.”

In their article, Contradictory or compatible? Reconsidering the “trade-off” between brokerage and closure on knowledge sharing (, Bill Mc Evily and Ray Reagans, both professors of Management, write that knowledge sharing is a fundamental source of competitive advantage. They continue to explain that social networks are thought to play an important role in knowledge sharing, but are presumed to create a trade-off, such that a network can be optimised to promote either knowledge seeking or a knowledge transfer.

Generation Y is setting a precedence that could change the way we reach out to superiors in a position of power and the transfer of knowledge that a person – whether student, employee or superior bring to any organisation.

Perhaps society at large will become aware that they no longer need to reach through multiple layers to attain information – they can go directly to the source. These new circumstances may forever alter the way future generations view hierarchy and how they acquire information – taking control of the way they communicate, their success, and knowledge acquisition. Simply networking linearly – sans protocol. There was a time when all of these advantages did not exist. Now students can teach something to the teacher.

Click here to continue reading the remainder of this article freely in the October 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine

Natasha E. Feghali @NEFeghali is an artistic French/English Second Language Specialist teacher, DELF/DALF formatrice and AIM educator in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Feghali has been teaching for 7 years at the primary and junior level. Feghali has been creating alternative ways of learning a second language by the use of art, culture and more. She is also an award winning free-lance journalist for the last 12 years with experience in arts, lifestyle and fashion journalism and most recently educational pedagogy.

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Behaviour For Learning

Thu, 17/09/2020 - 09:44
  • #UKEdChat session 521.
  • Shifting the focus to ease of learning can subtly change behaviour management
  • Develop an engaging learning environment conducive to learning
  • Click here to view the tweet archive.

#UKEdChat session 521 – We are all familiar with the idea of behaviour for teaching. A quiet class which allow the teacher to monologue at the front of the classroom until the student is giving permission to speak or do. So far, so Victorian.

The idea of behaviour for learning is a little more subtle, with the idea that behaviour strategies maximise learning. In many cases this will be the same, with respectful listening and turn taking at its heart when in a group, and maintaining a productive, but engaging learning environment in which to discover and explore. Yet the focus is shifted from making the teacher’s life easier, to making the student’s learning easier. There is an expectation that learners will be active in their learning and ask questions, and the behaviour strategies are in place to ensure this doesn’t descend into chaos.

In this #UKEdChat discussion on Thursday 17th September 2020 at 8pm (UK) we discussed what behaviour for learning means, how it can be deployed and sharing best practice.


  1. What is your understanding of behaviour for learning?
  2. What does behaviour for learning look like in your classroom?
  3. What role do the learners have in a classroom deploying behaviour for learning strategies?
  4. What does a behaviour for learning whole school approach look like?
  5. What is the role of technology in a classroom deploying behaviour for learning strategies?
  6. What does a teacher’s behaviour for learning look like?
  7. What are your top behaviour for learning tips?
  8. How would you like to further develop your behaviour strategies in your our classroom?

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Damn it, you’ve got to be kind!

Wed, 16/09/2020 - 13:12

If I could go back in time, what behaviour management advice would I give to my NQT self?

Behaviour management, to me, is the thing that sets the school teacher apart from all the many and various other imparters of information. The rest – tutors, lecturers, instructors and so on – do not, or rarely, experience the same combination of circumstantial factors that the school teacher does. To be significantly outnumbered by students who have not been given the choice as to whether they’d like to be there or not (although one would hope, they had since been persuaded to fully opt into their education!) and, what’s more, they’re children… it could seem like the odds are stacked against you! I’m confident that the perceived ‘main thing’ that teachers do is, well… teach! In reality, no teaching will be effective until that behaviour is being managed. I don’t even mean the management of bad behaviour. Just the management of human behaviour… of human children behaviour! Effective behaviour management is crucial. And it would be much more straight forward, especially for those just starting out in the profession, if there was an acknowledged and 100% effective way of doing it… but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I have blogged about behaviour management before (click here). About the importance of the behaviour management policy in ensuring social inclusion for the most vulnerable learners… and I stand by that; it’s important. However, with little notable difference between the policies of schools rated good/outstanding for behaviour by Ofsted and those rated inadequate/RI, and pockets of exceptional behaviour management in failing schools and examples of ineffective behaviour management – or, at least, a practice that is open to debate – in those deemed to be successful; clearly, it is neither the behaviour management policy nor the judgement of Ofsted that is the be-all and end-all of effectively managing behaviour.

Things are about to get personal.

Because it is personal. Perhaps more so than any other aspect of being a teacher – pedagogy, management and teamwork, pastoral – none are affected by personality so much as behaviour management. Because, yeah; a strong behaviour management policy and an overall effective (according to Ofsted… not necessarily my favourite measure of success!) school are an essential basis, but there will always be diversity and disparity in how staff approach that. This isn’t, in my opinion, a problem. Surely the students deserve and benefit from having a varied experience across their school day. And, just like neither the Ofsted outcome nor the policy is, in isolation, the ‘answer’, neither is the homogeneity of approach; the students will move on to live in a diverse and complex society. Any school will have their share of the “don’t smile ‘til Christmas” crew, the matey and jovial types, and everything in between… does effective behaviour management exist at one point on that spectrum and nowhere else? I don’t believe it does. So, are the issues and complexities of behaviour management (if we assume a strong behaviour management policy and a set of shared values) actually the issues and complexities of trying to strike a balance between expectation and your own personality, personal values and interpretation of that expectation? A delicate balancing act between consistency and individuality? Between parity and variety? Finding this balance – your own personal behaviour management sweet spot – in which learning can take place is, to me, the great skill of being a school teacher. The thing that sets it apart from other, similar, roles. But it’s also the thing that makes it really, really hard.

Which brings me back to my original question: if I could go back in time, what behaviour management advice would I give to my NQT self?

Somewhere in the overlapping space between the context, the shared values of society and my own personality exists my behaviour management style. This isn’t about a piece of policy or an idea in a head… this is about managing behaviour when faced with the stark reality of the job; the room full of children. It is how I meet expectation whilst staying true to my own identity and values. It’s how I strive to strike a balance between consistency and variety for the students I teach. It’s what I wish I could tell my NQT self because it’s what I tell myself now, every day. Because I don’t necessarily think I’m achieving it… on a good day, I hope I get close! But, generally, this list represents my aspiration as a manager of the behaviour of children. It’s the rule book I’ve given myself for setting the scene for learning in my classroom and it’s the self-administered mental admonishment I give myself when I get it wrong. These are the guidelines that exist in the space between expectation and my personality… it isn’t going to be the same for everyone but everyone, I think, will have their own version (and I’d love to hear them!). Not ‘behaviour management in the black box’, but ‘behaviour management in my black box’… here it is; my advice to my NQT and current behaviour manager self:

My Behaviour Management Top Ten

BE CLEAR          –          BE CONSISTENT          –          BE IN CONTROL          –          BE KIND

  1. Be crystal clear

Lead with their name. Ensure that you’ve got their attention before you start imparting your wisdom or giving your instruction. Don’t use sarcasm, idiom, rhetoric or so on… say what you mean. Don’t use ‘please’ unless it’s a plea; use ‘thank you’ for expectations. Say why you’re doing something. If you can’t think of a reason why then don’t do it.

2. Draw your line and stick to it.

Children make mistakes in the grey area between the line you have drawn and the line you enforce. Once you’ve said something is going to happen it has to happen… so be careful what you say! No idle, excessive, unrealistic or non-intended ‘threats’…. Give clear, fair, REAL, causes and effects. If you say ‘no talking’ and then allow a bit of whispering as long as they’re getting on with it, and then on another day say ‘no talking’ and actually want them not to talk at all… how are they supposed to know the difference? If they talk in the second instance then that error is yours, not theirs. If they’re allowed to talk a bit, say so! If they’re not, enforce it. If you create a grey area between the instruction and the reality of the situation they will make mistakes within that uncertain space. And it will be your fault. And, what’s more, you’ve made yourself unreliable.

3. Know when to not stick to it.

I’m reminded of a kid I used to teach, he was in year 8 at the time, who was the archetypal ‘class clown’, nothing bothered him, right old pain in the neck. Without the support of a strong behaviour management superstructure within that school… I had exhausted everything in my repertoire. I kept him back at the end of the lesson. He was not bothered. I gave detentions. He was not bothered. And then I informed him that I would ring home and speak to his dad. In an instant, the tone of the situation had changed. He was crying, he was on his knees with hands clasped, imploring me – voice catching on each sob – not to ring his father. He’d behave himself. He was sorry. I didn’t know what his father might do if caught in the wrong mood. In that instant every interaction I’d ever had with that child flashed across my mind: the cocky swagger as he showed off a black eye or bruised lip and claimed that we should see the state of the other boy; that nothing could bother or hurt him – he was untouchable – he was devoid of remorse or self-care; that, despite all this, he had the most amazing attendance… he never missed an opportunity to be in school, no matter how bad it seemed to be going.
I had drawn my line.
I did not stick to it.

4. Don’t get into a dialogue.

If the student has some say in what is happening then yes; have a conversation about it. If they don’t – if you, as the adult, have decided that things need to happen a certain way (silence in a test, safety in the classroom, non-optional tasks/homework, treatment of the other student’s et cetera)… then allowing a dialogue is giving them the false impression that they have some control. It’s undermining your own position of authority and it’s creating a grey area in which mistakes can be made. That isn’t fair.

5. Never back a child into a corner.

The get-out clause. No matter what’s happened, or how far a situation has escalated, there should always be a ‘way out’ for the child; there should always be the opportunity of a positive choice they can make in order to take back control and move on from the situation. This doesn’t mean that they ‘get away with it’… this means that they learn from it. Tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable and that the resultant sanction isn’t going to go anywhere. But also tell them what their options are for moving forward in a positive way. And, what’s more, once the sanction has been completed the slate is wiped clean.

6. Give them a range of options (all of which you are happy with).

Being in control isn’t the same as being controlling. You’ve got to be in control; they’re young, there’s loads of them, and you’re responsible for their safety and well-being. But, within this, they also need to learn to be autonomous, independent and self-regulating. They can still have choice… genuine choice… just make sure all the options are acceptable to you!

7. Winning an argument with an angry and upset child is NOT winning.

In spite of best endeavours you will sometimes end up in a heated confrontation with a student; they’re only human and you’re only human. It will – hopefully rarely – happen. Remind yourself; who in this situation has the power and control? Who is the most vulnerable? Who is feeling the most distress and fear? Approaching this situation with kindness and compassion, putting whatever the issue is to one side for the moment, is not backing down and it isn’t giving in – the best outcome is the one where the child has learnt something valuable that’s going to serve them well as they grow into adults… and not that people will dominate and control them but that people will help and guide them to the right outcome. In a high-intensity situation, the rational thought processes are by-passed in favour of a more primal ‘fight or flight’ mechanism – no one is in the right frame of mind to learn at that point. De-escalate the situation. Be the reassuring, safe, trustworthy adult. Deal with the problematic behaviour when your message might actually go in. And when it does – and you still have the trust and respect of that child – then you have won.

8. They can only be as trustworthy as you trust them to be.

Children learn in the gap between what they can already do and the opportunities they have to try something new. So take risks; the bigger the risk, the bigger the learning opportunity… and sometimes it will go wrong, but that in itself is part of the learning process (for you as well as the student!). Send the naughty kid on an errand, give the least able a position of responsibility, give the notorious bully a caring role. And then be there when they’ve proven that they’re better than anyone, even themselves, ever thought they could be… or to dust them down and set them off again if needs are.

9. Remember; you’re pretending.

The moment you lose your temper is the moment you lose control and, for their safety and your own sanity, you must be in control (not controlling!). Give the response that teaches them how their actions can make those around them feel; are you angry? Or are you disappointed? Annoyed? Inconvenienced? Emotionally hurt?

10. THE GOLDEN RULE: Unconditional Positive Regard.

When they’re problematic, make mistakes, don’t know something or don’t approach something in the way that they should, you… YOU… are the person that is there to pull them through. You’re the adult. You chose to be there. You work for them. On that basis, is there… should there be… anything they can do that changes that? If you aren’t there for them… why are you there? Show them how you want them to behave. Be their champion!

This is the advice I would give to my NQT self because it is the advice I give to myself now, every day. My personal behaviour management manifesto for fairness.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Nicole Dempsey and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

Read more from Nicole by clicking here

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Immersive Learning Experiences

Tue, 15/09/2020 - 07:57
  • Keeping pupils confined within the school environment has its merits, but expanding horizons to utilise what the local environment has to offer is of great benefit for children and their learning.
  • Visiting libraries, museums or exhibitions can really enhance learning, offering opportunities to be immersed in more concrete experiences which really stick in the mind.
  • This article was first published in the October 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine (Click here to view the full article).
  • Alex Fairlamb explores the credits of such immersive learning,
  • Advocating the opportunities to feel, see and to touch stories beyond our own and within differing contexts.

The study of History as a subject in school has encountered a renaissance in recent years with ministers redefining the place of this hitherto diminishing subject. Often criticised as a subject for its exclusive nature and inability to equip students with the skills and concepts to survive in the modern workplace in comparison to vocational subjects, the government have been keen to combat findings that the ‘average 13-year-old learns history for just one hour a week’ ( The All-Party Parliamentary Group on History and Archives attributes this decline in the study of History to “many schools regarding history as too tough for their weaker students and [so they] allow them to drop it after two years”. If we are to accept that History is too hard for many to engage with at Key Stage Three and Four, this could present schools with a challenge given the recent curriculum proposals in England set to be adopted 2014-2015 onwards. Is the past too much of a foreign place for some?

Given this greater emphasis on its importance, how might schools be able to contend with supporting their learners in engaging with this academically rigorous subject? A simplistic solution would be to increase the amount of hours this subject is studied. However, studies (Rosenzweig, R. (2000)) offer hints of an alternative, innovative solution to this. They found that learners felt disconnected to the past when they encountered it in books and in the classroom compared to a high connection in museums. Perhaps the answer to this potential problem lies outside the traditional classroom setting, in spaces such as museums, allowing for different practices deep rooted in often neglected realms of pedagogy.

Research already indicates that museum visits can enhance student attainment by 60% in comparative assessments including lower attaining students improving by a noticeable 71% ( A question I was keen to find out was, especially with lower attaining students, what more could we do if we considered the impact of immersive or experiential learning within these amazing spaces.

I focused on researching the impact of experiential learning and immersive learning experiences in different contexts in order to support student progression in schools. I had taken a year’s break from teaching History to work at a living history museum in the Education Team and I wanted to work with a school in an area of high deprivation to explore the impact of immersive learning and to tie this in with the First World War in order to encourage interest in the commemoration programme. David Kolb suggests that students must ‘involving themselves fully in new experiences (concrete experience), reflect on their experiences (reflective observation), create concepts to integrate into theories (abstract conceptualisation) and use these theories to make decisions (active experimentation)’. Active learning engages students, and teachers should create situations where there are authentic tasks of the historian where students are required to work with documents or artefacts to gain further understanding.

The notion of immersion as a pedagogic tool when blended with the role of an ‘expert’ in a decision making role could heighten learning by students actively taking on a first-person position in a different context. Museums such as Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse have already experienced positive outcomes of such innovative practice through first person pauper experiences, whereby students observe staff in role and can ask general questions about their life and daily actions. I wanted to take this further; what if the students were also in role as fully immersed characters? How might this impact upon their engagement and learning?

The benefits of immersion can be seen when observing existing living museum activities, which range from costumed first person full immersive role play as part of a Suffragette rally (KS3/KS4); partial immersive role play such as Mrs Scroggins Pit Cottage sessions (KS2) where students are charged with the task of carrying out Victorian pit cottage chores to emphasise on miner’s lives, although aware that they are modern school children; to an ‘expert’ role workshop where the students remain modern student, but are charged with the task of resolving an historical problem.At that point, I noticed there was an opportunity to blend similar experiences, but instead connect this to a story of the Great War. After researching local stories, the design of the outreach and workshops began.

At the non-living museum, the curatorial expert role was developed in order to enhance the core strengths of their existing exhibits. Four local soldiers’ stories (all of whom lived near to the students and within four streets of each other) were researched and relating ephemera, photographs, maps and objects were sourced. The experiential/immersive learning would commence with army drills. This would allow students to empathise with Western Front soldiers before being immersed into their expert curatorial roles. This workshop saw the pre-existing museum offer of an object handling session transform into a more immersive experience with students acting as a curator in residence, charged with piecing together the lives of the soldier from their area. Students could utilise ephemera and objects, with help from the staff, about what certain objects might mean or tell them before recreating maps of journey’s made and feeding back to the others about the fate of their fallen man.

The living museum used their living history experience to immerse the students into the roles of the Home Guard or V.A.D. They were asked to identify why a fifteen-year-old, Ferguson, who was from their local area, had enlisted as a soldier. After a drill immersion and exploration of clues, students collaboratively devised questions to ask villagers, including during a scorning by a white feather girl. A debate as to their final decision would allow for in-depth conversation and a conclusion as to would they have made the same decision as Ferguson. Students, set in the time and the role of 1914 families, then baked plum puddings and cross-stitched postcards with villagers to send to the soldiers on the front line. It was hoped that the tangibility of cross stitching and plum pudding making would help students to connect with life in 1914. All of these workshops and immersion would proceed outreach to support David Kolb’s notion that learning is experiential and ‘formed and reformed tested out in the experiences of the learner’.

What was the impact? The outcome of the immersive workshops showed that students had developed their historical understanding in tandem with their literacy and academic progression.

  • They had learned more. As part of the activities the students wrote in role as either a soldier on the front line or families waiting at home to their local newspaper. The newspapers showed improvement in academic achievement supported by teacher feedback that the experiences ‘deepened their knowledge with a remarkable average sublevel improvement per student’ with 99% of pupils stating it helped them to make progress. One comment stated ‘it helped me by a mile in my assessment’.
  • The learning was long term; it had ‘stuck’ with them. Questionnaires completed four months later indicated that 87% of students could recall why Ferguson had enlisted alongside 96% being able to explain the significance of the plum puddings and cross stitch, ‘to stop themselves feeling helpless’. This supported student feedback which suggested the students felt that they had ‘found out lots of new information and facts I didn’t know’
  • Behaviour and learning was heightened when studying the topic. The teacher noted that ‘student feedback was very positive throughout… engagement in lessons was enhanced at the time of the project’ and ‘their engagement was clear to see, they responded to the hands on work.’
  • They had enjoyed learning this way. Evaluation forms showed students had enjoyed this experience; Students stated that it was “challenging, but good”, while another said it was “good as it made you work how people in the war would have, showed I could do well on my own, I learned loads. I really enjoyed every minute of it, a once in a lifetime opportunity, we learned outside the classroom and it was better” and that it was “interesting, but educational at the same time” with 95% of respondents being able to recall facts about the soldier they had studied four months earlier.

What can be learned and what next? After returning to teaching, I began to consider how immersive learning can be constructed into a school’s curriculum. Museum visits are obviously linked to this mode of learning, but financial limitations and timetable constraints limit this. If immersive learning can create powerful experiences, how might we be able to exploit and utilise this in the classrooms?

  • Debates, plays and role play. Discover a story or students research a story. Create the arguments, the script, the props and the costumes. Re-enact and teach others. Learn the stories by being the stories. I hold Suffragette debates and have a costume box.
  • Research as experts. Be the curator and handle the objects in the classroom, asking questions and selecting what should be displayed in your classroom museum. Be the ‘Who do you think you are?’ researcher and trawl the internet for clues in IT. Be the archaeologist and piece together the pieces of pot from the sand.
  • Cross-curricular. Become the families on the Home Front creating a Princess Mary tin for their loved ones by baking goods or stitching postcards in DT. Become soldiers on the Western Front by carrying out army drills in PE or walking distances with heavy items. Be Elizabeth I’s royal portrait artist with feather quills and paints.
  • Outreach – Museums readily carry out workshops in schools, bringing objects and props with them. Universities also help organise archaeological digs in schools with students in role as real life ‘Tony Robinsons’.
  • Link up with your local museum. I am currently co-creating a Workhouse workshop with a living museum whereby the students experience life as a pauper. At the museum they complete the chores in costume and eat gruel! At school, we use costume to carry out pre and post visit activities and dramas based on the experiences and write about them.

Immersive learning is powerful. It allows us to feel, to see and to touch stories beyond our own and within differing contexts. It is liberating; we are free to imagine, to suppose and to question whilst safe in the mindset that this is not us asking the questions or sewing socks for our soldier son, but instead the person we are enacting or imagining at that time. We can think without restriction and therefore explore more, deepening our learning of and our connections with the topic.

Click here to read the full article in the October 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine

Alex Fairlamb has been teaching history for five years (three years at a state secondary in the North East, then a year out to work at a living history museum in the education team working on a WW1 Local history project and a project commemorating the centenary of Emily Davison’s death with the community of Morpeth/Longhorsley. She then returned to secondary teaching). She is on the teaching and learning team at school as a teaching and learning mentor. She is currently working on further research projects and would welcome opportunities to work with other peers nationally. Find her on Twitter at @lamb_heart_tea.

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