A few more than just 3 teachers . . .

This post is inspired by  Michael Tidd’s post Just 3 teachers. I’m thanking more than 3 people – please bear with me.

I have written before about the teachers that inspired me – here – but especially my Biology teacher Mr Ekins who inspired a lifelong love of Biology; Mr Ward my Geography teacher who showed me the kind of teacher that I would like to be and Mr Kelly who never taught me but his kindness towards my family in a time of need  showed me that being a teacher is more than just being in the classroom.

The end of term is always a time for reflection. As I was thinking about the past term and planning for my classes in the New Year, I was struck by the words of the Shelter Christmas advert.

In the advert they talked about how many children would be homeless at Christmas and some of the things that these children may experience because of this. This particular advert hit home because just over 30 years ago I was one of those children. It wasn’t until an assembly a couple of years ago at school that I realised this though – naively I hadn’t put us in that category because we weren’t on the street. My Dad lost his job in the 1980s and when my parents couldn’t pay the mortgage our house was repossessed and we were placed into temporary accommodation. Surprisingly I don’t remember an awful lot about it all. The first night in a strange house with boarded up windows; at some points living with strangers; how cold it was –but not much else.

Why am I writing this? I realise that it’s hugely self-indulgent – but also cathartic. I didn’t tell my friends at the time and it’s not something that I’ve discussed with friends as an adult either. Not out of embarrassment, maybe its fear that once I start talking more of those memories will come back and actually I am quite comfortable for them to be buried.

I’m writing this to say thank you to all the teachers who taught me through that time and beyond.  Not everything about home was awful – I had a loving and supporting family – but the environment itself was not something that I’d like to experience again. Throughout that time school was something that was safe, consistent and familiar. I am not sure if all of my teachers were aware of what was going on outside of school, but I’d like to thank them for keeping things ‘normal’.

Amjad regularly posts this:



For me at that time this was definitely true. Thank you all.

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Reflections on PedagooLondon15

I am quite shy and meeting new people is something that I find difficult. I was excited about coming to Pedagoo London but as I sat in a nearby park before it started I did have a moment of panic wondering what on earth I was doing. As I browsed twitter I saw a post from @aknill with a picture of his current view – I realised that we were in the same park and tweeted back. Within a few minutes he had found me and we walked to the IOE together – thanks Andy, it made things a lot less scary to not go in on my own.

Thanks also to @hgaldinoshea for organising the event. It was lovely to finally meet @KDWScience and @rondelle10_b – both of whom I’ve shared many ideas with over the last year or so. It was also good to make connections with other people. I am glad that I attended.

Phil Stock @joeybagstock kicked things off by asking if we were ”Mugs, martyrs or idealistic fools” to be doing CPD at the weekend. When I’ve told friends and sometimes colleagues about what I was doing at the weekend they have usually responded with ‘why’? For me it isn’t because I think that the CPD I’ve had at school wasn’t right (some of it was very good) but the reason I came to Pedagoo London is because I’m interested in teaching and learning and I wanted to meet some of the people that I connect with regularly via twitter.  A member of my SLT asked me if I’d gone to the event because I was after a new job – it’s not that either!

The first session that I attended was by Dawn Cox @MissDCox looking at life without levels. This is something that is being developed at school at the moment and so it seemed like a sensible choice. Dawn shared the model that she has developed for RE and talked about being aware of what we were trying to assess- are we trying to measure things that can’t be measured? Dawn had identified the key skills that were needed and how these would be developed – something that I have been thinking about for my own subject. I also liked the idea of using no stakes multiple choice questions where one of the options is ‘I don’t know’.

Next I went to Looking for Literacy by @KDWScience. I found myself nodding in agreement as Karen talked about the problems that students have with literacy. One of the important things that I took away from this session is that literacy isn’t just about writing. Sometimes when I am thinking about ways to improve the literacy of my students I think only about writing and how I can support them to do this better. Karen talked about speaking, listening, understanding, reading AND writing – and this is something that I need to think about more when I am planning for my classes.

Karen spoke about targeting ‘Sloppy speech’ and the importance of getting students to not only use the right terminology but to speak in full sentences etc.

”If you can speak it, you can write it. ”

How many times have students said that they know what the question is about, they just don’t know how to write it. By getting students to verbalise their answers, they will be better prepared to write them down. This is definitely something that I could do more of. As an undergraduate student I clearly remember one of my lecturers telling us that he had banned the use of ”woolly words” in our essays (stuff, lots, non specific language) and I do model this with students – asking them (or others) to clarify what they mean using relevant terminology – but perhaps I could do this more often to help students to develop their writing. Definitely something to work on.

The thing that struck me most about ‘A recipe for deep learning’ by @cristahazell and @candidagould  was the passion with which they talked about learning. Listening to someone who clearly loves what they do reminds me of what I love about my job and why I want to do it better. They talked about preparing our students for life beyond our classroom and apart from the sweets (that went down well) we were able to take away some resources too and suggestions for further reading – very helpful. The session was an active one and we were encouraged to discuss factors affecting deep learning with the people that we were sat with and also to reflect on what we do well and what we can do better.

Michael Smyth @tlamjs took us on a whirlwind tour of some simple but effective ideas to improve teaching and learning. I found this session really helpful and came away with loads of ideas that I can use in my classroom. The concept behind the session was about making small changes that can have a big impact. I really liked the ‘Randomness’ – I’ve used a random generator to pick students before but we were shown other examples – keywords, command words, exam questions – possibilities are endless. Another idea I really liked was ‘Patience’ – not just waiting for an answer but also waiting once they have answered as they might elaborate on their answer if  you don’t respond straight away. I look forward to trying out some of the ideas. One thing I have been trying (and failing) to forget about this session was the image of the jaffa cake man!

@mike_gunn started his session with thumb wars! I don’t think I’ve ever done this before but it was great fun. Mike talked about why we should flip learning, the challenges and issues and also shared some resources. Students at my school are not allowed to use their phones in school but I still found the session useful as there were ideas that I could use to help with setting homework. Lots for me to think about and explore.

Summer Turner @ragazza_inglese summed up the day and talked about positive activism – how we have the power to make changes happen in our classroom and in our schools and that we should be brave.

There were also some lovely reflections at the #teacher5aday exhibition set up by @MartynReah. A lovely day, I left feeling inspired to try new ideas and it was lovely to put faces to twitter names and to make new connections.

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Thank you.

“Thanks for not giving up on me even when I gave up on myself”.

This time of year is a time for reflection; looking back at at what has gone well and thinking about what could be better next time. It’s also a time for saying goodbyes. A few weeks ago our year 11 students went on study leave. During their leavers assembly each student is given a sheet with messages from members of staff. They then have an opportunity to write about their time at our school – what they have enjoyed, what they will miss etc. Many students thank individual staff and this year as I sat reading the messages it was lovely to see how many students thanked not just teachers but TA’s, people in the office and in the canteen.

The quote at the top isn’t from the leavers messages – but it was a thank you written to me by one of my students in the book that I have on my desk.  The student who wrote this has frequently challenged me this year and of all the messages that were left by students this is the one that has made me reflect the most. Whilst I’m pleased that they know that I didn’t give up, part of me wonders what else I could have done – how could I have reached them in class? How would things have been different if I had? I know that they would never have read the revision material I’d printed out if I’d handed them over – so I passed them on via another member of staff – and then smiled to myself when the student turned up with a friend during study leave to ask a series of questions about things they weren’t sure of. I really wish that they believed me when I told them that they were capable of more than they thought – I hope I’ll be proved right in August.

While students have been thanking me it has made me think about the teachers that helped me. I know that I thanked them at the time, but since I became a teacher I have appreciated their efforts even more. Recently there was #Thankateacher which I did take part in – but 140 characters isn’t enough, so I thought I’d elaborate here.

Mr Ekins, Mr Smith and Mr Sheehan

I was very lucky to have wonderful science teachers – I’d like to say thank you to them for igniting a life-long love of science. I hadn’t done science at primary school and so this was a whole new world. In year 9 they suggested that during my half term I attend a Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) course. I loved it and I came back knowing that my future would be in science. My teachers were hugely supportive and really pushed me. I think of them often when I am teaching – the funny stories that they told (and awful jokes) – but most of all it was obvious that they loved science and I hope that my students have the same impression of me. Their support didn’t just end when I left school either. As a PhD student I struggled with public speaking – Mr Ekins let me come back to school and talk to his students about university and about my research so that I could build my confidence. Mr Smith helped me arrange to come back to school to do an observation placement as preparation for my PGCE and I learned a lot from him and Mr Sheehan as I spent a week in their classrooms. Mr Smith told me to choose my NQT school very carefully and these were wise words! At the end of my course I had no job, but I did have an interview. While I was at the interview though I just didn’t feel as though I belonged at that school – I eventually withdrew and at the time wondered if this was the right decision. It was, 2 weeks later I interviewed at another school that I knew was the right place for me as soon as I walked through the door.

Mrs Brewster.

My GCSE maths teacher. She had far more faith in my ability than I ever did. I remember her asking me if I wanted to do Further Maths at A-level – I said I couldn’t. We made a deal – if I got an A in my Maths GCSE then I’d do it. She was right. Although I ended up dropping to an AS level halfway through the course I’m thankful for her persistency and for her belief in me. I am certain that I wouldn’t have my current job if it wasn’t for her – the job that I took involved teaching KS3 maths as well as science and I’m sure that my AS Further Maths helped convince them I could do it. I’m sure she’d be surprised to learn that for the last 3 years I’ve taught maths alongside Science – but I hope that she’d be proud of what I’ve achieved.

Mr Ward

My geography teacher. If you had to describe him in one word then it would be ‘legend’. He is an amazing teacher. “So what” was the most common phrase used in lessons and I find myself repeating this when trying to get students to elaborate their answers – “if you can say so what then you haven’t explained it”. Good advice. He also used loads of exam style questions in lessons so that we wouldn’t be phased by the exam – something that I’ve used myself with my KS4 classes over the last 2 years.

Mr Kelly

Mr Kelly never taught me – he was the boys PE teacher – but he made more of a difference to my life than he’ll ever know. I’d actually left school and was in the 3rd year of my PhD when this happened. On Friday 27th November 1998 I recieved a phone call that changed my life. My Dad was dead, he’d had a heart attack. The next few days were a blur but on Monday morning Mr Kelly knocked on our front door, came in and then helped my mum to sort the funeral. On the day of the funeral lots of my teachers from school (primary and secondary) were there – I stood at the front to do the reading and looked out at all the people and the coffin and I couldn’t get the words out. Mr Kelly came and stood beside me, hand on my shoulder , and I gave the reading. I’m hugely grateful to him for the support that he gave to my family. Even though my brother and I had left the school 5 years previously, we were still part of the community and for that I am truly thankful.  12 years later I went back to my old school to do an observation placement before starting my PGCE. Although I’m sure I thanked him at the time, I was able to tell him again just how grateful I was for everything that he’d done.

Teaching isn’t just about the classroom.

Thank you – to all of the teachers that have taught me – from primary all the way through to my PGCE and to the students past and present that help me to keep learning and keep reflecting.

Update: The student that I referred to at the beginning of the post did get her C 🙂

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#Twitterati challenge

Over the last few days lots of #TwitteratiChallenge posts have popped up in my feed and I have enjoyed reading them. I never expected to see my name mentioned in one, so I was flattered and humbled when @KDWScience named me in hers.

As one of the rules is that you can’t list someone who has already been mentioned I need to get a move on as some of the people that I would have named have already been nominated -including @hrogerson and @KDWScience – both of whom are ‘must follows’ for science teachers and they have both been extremely generous with their advice, encouragement and resources.

In no particular order:


Janet is a Head of Science and incredibly generous with her time, advice and resources. She was one of the tweachers that I turned to for help when I was applying for second in department – she read through my application and helped with possible interview questions and her suggestions were invaluable. As we both teach the same exam specification Janet has also shared many of her resources with me which has saved me a lot of time over the last few years.


Bukky is another science teacher who always has a lot of time for other people. She was another one of the tweachers that I went to for help and her encouragement and comments were much appreciated – she really made me think about what it was that I wanted to do and how I would do it. We have also shared resources with each other and she has lots of great ideas that she is always willing to share. I have enjoyed the ‘chats’ that we have had, even though we have never met in real life.


I also teach maths and as a non-specialist that is sometimes hard work. Jo’s website is brilliant. It’s full of great resources and the blog has really helpful discussions about topics, which means that I have been able to make sure that I am aware of misconceptions and there are plenty of suggestions for ways in which to approach a topic. The homework website here is also brilliant and I have used several of the activities in class or for homework. I am very grateful for all her hard work and her willingness to share with others.


Daria is one of the most creative teachers around and has produced some amazing resources, take a look at her website here.  I am incredibly grateful that she is so willing to share her work – she is an inspiration!


Hayley has shared some fantastic ideas via her blog  and on twitter. I have found her post on effective marking especially helpful and used many of her ideas in my own classroom. Again I am incredibly grateful for the generosity of others.

So to the rules:

@teachertoolkit ‘s rules are: 

  1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life
  2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge
  3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the rules and what to do) information into your own blog post

What to do?

  • Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regularly go-to for support and challenge. They have now been challenged and must act and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge
  • If you’ve been nominated, please write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @staffrm
  • The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top 5 go-to educators are. However, as I am a rebel, I nominate everyone. You are not the last to be picked in PE again
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Revision activities with my KS3 classes.

Too often I have been told by KS4 students that they don’t know how to revise, I decided that this was something that needed to be addressed much earlier. I’m not saying that I haven’t revised with KS3 classes before – I have, but this year I wanted to discuss revision with students from year 7 and get them thinking about strategies that work for them and that they can use in other subject too, not just mine.

This year I have reflected on the activities that I have used with my classes and have spent time talking with students about how to revise effectively and what they have found helpful. I have used a range of activities in class and as homework. Below are some thoughts about things I have used in my lessons.

Find someone who.

I first found one of these activities on TES resources and I use these often. I find that at the start of the year they are very good for helping students to communicate with other members of the class, perhaps those that they wouldn’t normally speak to. Our school has a huge number of feeder schools and often students are the only one from their primary school, this is a good way to encourage them to talk to others. I have found, that for me, this activity works as students are talking about the topic and explaining their ideas, they also suggest people in the class that have given good answers to particular questions. It takes some of the pressure of students if they are unsure of answers as they don’t need to answer questions themselves.

One problem that I have encountered with this activity is some students who just give their sheet to other people and tell them to answer questions – so not listening to answers and writing them down themselves. I have had to make sure that expectations are explained clearly at the start.

find someone who

Knowledge vomit.

I saw this activity on twitter – I can’t remember who shared it though – any ideas?

Sometimes I have used this before doing other activities – such as ‘find someone who’ so that pupils have a chance to share knowledge before undertaking a task. If they get stuck when they are completing work later on they have something that they can refer back to. Students have responded well to this activity. Again, it is an opportunity for students to communicate with each other and discuss the topic that we have been working on. They usually start with recall of keywords and then start to expand them by adding definitions and diagrams. Some groups add links between keywords and explain how they have decided on that link.

knowledge vomitIMG_5760

Flashcard keyrings.

I used this with both of my Year 7 classes this year. I made the keyrings (I purchased the split rings from amazon) and then I asked them to make revision cards for different parts of a topic. The first time that I divided the topic into small chunks and asked them to create a card for each one. The example shows some examples from work on the particle model. I had asked students to create separate cards for solids, liquids and gases. Some students drew diagrams* that they annotated, others wrote about properties and some created questions/answers. Students said that they found the activity helpful and one suggested that we could do make a card at the end of a lesson that they could add so that they were building up notes as they went along.

*I did discuss the diagram of the spaced out particles in a liquid with the student who had drawn it.


Takeaway homework.

I have used #takeawayhmk several times and have used a revision version with KS4 before. The idea of using this at KS3 was to get pupils to try out a range of different activities and decide for themselves which ones they found useful. Many students opted to write a reflective summary as their dessert option and it was interesting to read their responses about the tasks that they had chosen to complete – especially those that said that they had found something difficult but they were glad that they had stuck with it. Several students had opted for the vocab fondue which included asking a friend or relative to write a comment about how they had done. There were lots of positive comments from parents about how their children had worked on the tasks and how they had enjoyed finding out about what they were learning. I have set this a couple of times with various classes but even when it isn’t set, students are using some of the activities to help them revise.

There is always a chance that students will not choose a task that is challenging enough but this is not something that I have noticed so far with my classes. With students who struggle with making choices I usually start by suggesting activities that I think they should try.


Revision stations in class.

The layout of my room is well suited to this kind of activity. I usually have a range of tasks laid out on different octagons, these include tarsia puzzles, loop frames, reversewords, quizzes, wordwall, posters and making a dictionary of keywords. Students work their way around the stations (they don’t complete them all). I specify a certain amount of work that I expect them to complete so that they don’t spend too long doing one thing.

photo (79)

Exam technique.

Previously this was something that I only really did with KS4 students but is now something that I have discussed with my other classes too – especially after seeing that marks that they were losing in tests are not down to lack of knowledge, but are often down to not doing what the question asked (describe/explain) or not including enough information for all of the marks available.

The literacy wheel was adapted from a resource shared by @ASTsupportAAli here. I modified it to have the command words from our KS4 specification. I spent some time with my Y8 class recently talking about exam questions and identifying command words and what they mean. At the end of the lesson several students said that they had found this helpful and in their most recent assessment I did notice a difference with some students who have previously struggled with this. It was also pleasing to see that a couple of students had highlighted parts of the question to help them check that they had answered everything when they checked through their work. In future I will expand this to include some of the other tasks that I use at KS4, such as annotating questions without answering them.

literacy wheel

Football Revision.

This is adapted from something that I found on TES resources a few years ago – I don’t know who the original creator was as I can’t find the resource anymore.

Students answer exam questions – these ones are all taken from past SATs papers. Each questions ‘belongs’ to a particular football team. When they have answered the question they collect the mark scheme and mark it. Every mark they get is a goal to them, every one they lose is a goal to the opposition. Different teams were used to indicate the difficulty of the question, so Manchester City was harder than Leicester City.

I was suprised at how much my classes enjoyed this – they got very competitive! As they worked through I checked that they had understood why they had lost marks and what they could do next time. Of all the activities that we have done in class, this one is the one that they have asked if they could do again and have said that they found the most useful.

Personally, it was great to see students working so well together and discussing why they had/hadn’t got the marks for a particular question – I wasn’t quite so keen on how pleased they were when they told me that they had just thrashed Spurs 6-0 though.

Football revision

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More 5 a day revision resources . . .

C5 5 a day

These are all for OCR 21st century science but can be easily adapted. Students have responded positively to these and they have been used as homework tasks and during lessons. For some students I think that having a topic broken down into 5 questions has made revision seem more manageable. If you use them I would be interested in hearing whether you have found them useful or suggestions on how they can be improved.

5 a day C5

5 a day C6

5 a day B7

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Marking grids.

I saw this post by Fiona Old on twitter about marking grids and thought that it would be useful in science.

Recently I set my Y7 groups a takeaway homework on particles. I had some wonderful examples of work handed in : comic strips, 3D models, songs, posters and cake! I wanted to provide detailed feedback as the students had put in so much effort – but found myself wondering why I hadn’t thought about the marking when I set this homework to two classes in the same week.

photo 1 (13) photo 2 (12) photo 3 (11)

I decided to try using a marking grid. I looked through the homeworks to get an idea of comments that I would give and what pupils would need to do to improve. I also looked at some level ladders for the topic and the ‘I can’ objectives for the unit and came up with some statements for the grid. I think that some of the statements probably need to be modified but as a first attempt I think it was successful.

I highlighted 2 things that I thought that students had done well and I also highlighted something that they could do to improve their work. I then left them a question that they could answer related to the improvement in DIRT time.

I found that the grid made marking much quicker – but hopefully the quality of feedback for the students is not compromised. I will definitely use this again and I’ll be sharing it with my department this week.

photo 1 (12)

This is the grid that I used.

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