Friday Gem #43 – teacher/student collaborative experimentation

Teaching and learning Gem #43 –  teacher and student collaborative experimentation – promoting student instinct, braveness and wider philosophical questions

Phoebe in the Art Department shares an activity in which students and teacher are all involved in a process of collaboration, making and responding. The activity makes teacher and student part of the same process, a democratising process and one which explores a fundamental philosophical question: what is the role of the artist, teacher and pupil. Who is the artist?

How it works:

  • Phoebe instigated a process of making and responding with the instruction ‘Respond to this piece. You have 5 minutes. When you are finished, give your response and a new canvas to the next person with these instructions’. 
  • Phoebe provided the rules and parameters to stimulate production, yet each individual had the autonomy to intervene, influence and change the ‘chain of making’.
  • Phoebe’s own responses started and finished the process.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine

  • Encourage students to trust their gut instinct – a good explanation is key as you might get nervousness from students who might want to be perfectionists.

Benefits – Phoebe explains that:

  • The students found that the time limit forced them to work without thinking too much about it, allowing them to trust their instincts and be braver than if they had time to plan.
  • This was really beneficial at the start of year 12 where experimentation is vital for their development as artists.
  • It was also rewarding for them to see how their work could inspire each other.
  • Through group collaboration, we are exploring the role of the artist, the role of the teacher and the role of the pupil, raising the question: Who is the artist?
  • I want to repeat this activity in the coming weeks and see how much their work as grown and compare them with their initial responses. 

Friday Gem #41 – ‘Reflect’ check-in app in Teams

Teaching and Learning Gem #41 – ‘Reflect’ check-in app in Microsoft Teams

Helen, Misha and Suzy trialled the new ‘Reflect’ app in Microsoft Teams with some of their classes this week. It allows teachers to ‘check-in’ easily with how students are feeling. We used it for academic purposes to encourage students to reflect on how they feel about their progress. Watch this video to find out more about it.

How it works

  • Once you have installed the app in Teams, you click on the ‘Reflect’ icon when you start a new conversation in the general channel.
  • You select a question from the drop-down list i.e. ‘How are you feeling about the material we covered today?’  or ‘How do you feel about your progress in this class?’ or ‘How do you feel about your last assignment.’ There are lots of options.
  • Students then select an emoji to represent their feeling.
  • They can further select from some adjectives i.e. ‘motivated’, ‘confident’, ‘ambitious’, ‘creative’, ‘happy’ etc.
  • You can set it so that only the teacher can see the responses (see below some screenshots from Helen for what the teacher sees):


  • It is super quick and easy to use for both teachers and students.
  • The student is encouraged to reflect.
  • It makes every student’s feelings visible to the teacher.
  • The teacher can monitor the whole class spread of feelings, as well as dig down into individuals.
  • The teacher can review the responses using Insights to see patterns across the class and to track students attitudes over time.
  • The teacher can then adapt teaching if necessary or arrange one-to-one meetings with any student of concern.
  • It can be an opportunity for students almost to give feedback to the teacher.


  • You can’t write your own question – you have to use one from the list (although the consistency in question does allow for tracking over time).
  • Students can’t add any further comments themselves (again, this keeps it quick and not onerous, but could be perceived as a drawback).
  • It is fairly broad-brush and definitely requires teachers to be proactive in digging into why a student might feel a certain way. It could be a good springboard into that discussion, though.

Friday Gem #40 – Quiz Quiz Trade

Teaching and learning Gem #40 –  Quiz Quiz Trade

This comes from Jess in our Geography department, who shared the idea in a WHS TeachMeet last year. It’s great for getting students out of their seats and learning from each other. Now that restrictions have been lifted, embrace the freedom and see if this idea could be adapted for your subject.

Jess writes:

What is Quiz Quiz Trade?

  • The teacher gives each student a question and the pupil writes the answer on the other side. Alternatively, the pupil can write their own question.
  • Once this has been completed the students pair up and they then ask each other their question (Quiz Quiz).
  • Once the questions have been answered correctly, the pupils then swap questions (Trade), find a new partner to repeat the process.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine

1. Allow and encourage a pause before students answer…this is not about speed!

2. This sort of activity might be trickier for autistic students. Allow students to hold up/show the question rather than ask it, and allow answers to be written on mini whiteboards. Alternatively they might prefer to sit this out and answer the questions on paper individually.

You can use Quiz Quiz Trade at any point in a lesson:

For example:

  1. Before introducing new material to tap into prior knowledge
  2. After a unit to review terms/case study material/languages vocab/maths symbols and equations
  3. Before pupils begin a written task, such as an essay to gather ideas or understand processes

Quiz Quiz Trade is good in the classroom because:

  1. It is brilliant for retrieval practice, strengthening memory by recalling information from long term memory and putting it in their working memory.
  2. Students are working with peers and building confidence: It encourages co-operative learning and engagement.
  3. It is based on low stakes quizzing, allowing students to get things wrong and get immediate feedback from their peers in a non-threatening way.

Examples of how Jess used this activity:

When I did it, I used it as revision for case study material. This then fed into some case study exam questions to consolidate their learning. Exampled below.

Friday Gem #38 – The Rosenshine Edit – Reflections from Clare Duncan and Sarah Chittenden.

Teaching and Learning Gem #38 – The Rosenshine Edit and Reflections from Clare Duncan and Sarah Chittenden.

From Clare Duncan: Last week Sarah Chittenden and I had the privilege of jointly seeing lessons in both the Junior and Senior School. Following on from the recent Friday Gems, we focused on a number of Rosenshine’s Principles.

Clare and Sarah’s thoughts

The Year 3 Science lesson with Alex Farrer demonstrated the principle to ‘Provide models: Providing students with models and worked examples can help them learn to solve problems faster’ in spades! The lively class delighted in the recreation of erosion, sedimentation, compaction, and cementation through crumbling up cookies into water to model the formation of sandstone. It was highly impressive observing their collaboration during the investigative process and hearing their explanations within which they used a wide range of scientific vocabulary. All had dutifully crumbled that cookie however tempted they were to do otherwise! See the attached picture for a glimpse of the students in action.

From there we ventured to Year 5 Maths with Alistair Smith. Here the pupils were developing their understanding of the properties of angles and applying them to questions of increasing levels of difficulty. There was clear use of Rosenshine’s principle to ‘Check for student understanding: Checking for student understanding at each point can help students learn the material with fewer errors’. ​It was through Alistair’s questioning and individual support​ ​that progression was so evident and the girls were more than keen to explain their working and to share their prowess of angles.

Moving across to the Senior School, Anna Field was giving a Year 7 History lesson in which the students were discussing Thomas Becket: Sinner or Saint? We joined at the point where the girls were looking at sources and drawing their own conclusions, entering a lively debate which was both inspiring and engaging. Anna had developed an excellent framework whereby the principle to ‘Require and monitor independent practice: Students need extensive, successful, independent practice in order for skills and knowledge to become automatic’ was clearly evident.

 Our whistle-stop tour ended with Year 8 Maths with Rebecca Brown. As with the Year 5 Maths, there was clear evidence of the principle to ‘Check for student understanding: Checking for student understanding at each point can help students learn the material with fewer errors’. Rebecca had developing a crossword puzzle where the students applied their skills and knowledge of decimals, fractions and percentages in a fun, accessible way. All were engaged and keen to progress.

Friday Gem #37 – The Rosenshine Edit and Reflections from Claire Boyd

Teaching and Learning Gem #37 – The Rosenshine Edit and Reflections from Claire Boyd

This week comes directly from EYFS and I think you’ll love the Junior focus.

Rosenshine’s Principle: Independent Practice

  • Rosenshine says that students need extensive, successful, independent practice in order for skills and knowledge to become automatic.
  • He calls this ‘overlearning’ – it allows students to become fluent in a skills, or to recall knowledge automatically without it taking up the working memory.

Thoughts from Claire

It is a real privilege to be able to contribute a Junior School – and specifically an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – perspective to this week’s Friday Gem. The EYFS is the first experience our children get of statutory education and culminates in assessment against 17 Early Learning Goals, defined as the essential building blocks a learner must acquire before commencing the National Curriculum. From giving “their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity” to answering “how and why questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events”, the goals are ambitious in both scope and reach. In order to confidently reach these important milestones, practitioners must be assiduous in the learning experiences they create for their pupils. When considered alongside Rosenshine’s principles of instruction, the multi-modal approaches that characterise EYFS practice come into sharp focus. The craft of the EYFS teacher is built around looking for meaningful environments to create space in which four and five year olds, not only acquire new skills and understanding but apply them independently in a range of contexts.

Take yesterday morning in one of our Junior School Reception; I arrived in a room abuzz with chatter, laughter and activity. 24 four and five year olds were spread out across all corners of the classroom and outdoor area. Ally (Reception Teacher & Assistant Head Lower Junior School) and Marketa (Teaching Assistant) were each engaged with a couple of the girls, giving feedback and posing open questions to probe the leaning from the earlier carpet session. Meanwhile, the rest of the class were happily doing their own thing; no teacher intervention, direction or instruction yet high levels of engagement and ‘flow’. To the untrained eye, what might at first glance look like an assortment of farm-themed play (it’s farmyard week in Reception this week), closer inspection reveals the overlearning needed to become fluent and automatic in a skill. Earlier teacher modelling and scaffolding of retelling stories and applying phonological awareness to writing new vocabulary was being practised independently; dealing with the same topics originally themes albeit with a slight variation. The attached photos capture magic of independent practice and serves as a pertinent reminder of how autonomous effective learning can be right from the very start of schooling.

Teaching and Learning Gem #36 – The Rosenshine Edit and Reflections from Fionnuala.

Welcome to a new sub-series of Friday Gems. I’m calling these the Rosenshine Edit.

Each week until the end of the term we will present one or two of Rosenshine’s Principles, followed by thoughts and reflections from a colleague about how we use this principle in our T&L at WHS. To help the colleague get some ideas, they might go on an informal and friendly learning walk during the week before.

Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction come from three sources: (a) research in cognitive science, (b) research on master teachers, and (c) research on cognitive supports. His 10 principles will feel nothing new to us at WHS: they are a really solid guide to impactful teaching. Apart from a reminder of each principle, what we really want to do here is celebrate how we see the principles in action in our WHS classrooms. As you know, Fionnuala did a learning walk this week, and so she is kicking this off for us.

Rosenshine’s Principle: Check for Student Understanding

Rosenshine says that:

  • Most effective teachers frequently check student understanding to allow students to process new ideas and put them in their long term memory. They might:
  • Ask students to elaborate on ideas to augment connections in their schema;
  • Ask students to summarise ideas they have learnt;
  • Ask students to agree/disagree with each other’s points;
  • Ask students to think aloud as they work, solve problems, write their answers (metacognition).
  • Less effective teachers:
  • Assume that learning has happened by asking, “Are there any questions?” or “Have you understood?”. Asking students to self-report in this way will not allow the teacher to judge what has and hasn’t been learnt, and will not make the student retrieve information or make connections in their schema.

Fionnuala’s Thoughts

This week I had the pleasure of whipping around the school on a very informal learning walk and it struck me that the unifying theme of what I saw were the skilful, playful and varied ways in which teachers were checking understanding. In Suzy’s Y12 Woolf class, the opportunity for students to expand and build on each other’s points as well as to try to verbalise difficult ideas, feeling their way as they went whilst expressing uncertainty, were abundant. In Y12 Biology with Silke, students were grouped first into twos and threes to discuss ideas around examples of natural selection and fed back from those small groups, encouraging confidence in their thinking and allowing more reticent students to have a voice. In Y9 Latin with Hattie, girls voluntarily translated from the board, openly expressing when they were unsure, but being willing to have a go anyway – and others were keen to jump in to help them out as needed. (I even got to answer a question – ‘diu’ still means ‘for a long time’, it seems…excellent news). In Y10 Art with Alice, there was an elasticity of connection between teacher and student, where the focus in the room was crackly and intense, and Alice gave them space to work on their ideas independently and encouraged them to explain their thinking to me, whilst quietly waiting in the wings to support them as and when required. In Y10 English with James the students dug into the character of Sir Andrew, sharing their views on why he is chosen as the stooge (by Sir Toby and by Shakespeare) – views they had developed independently through their own reading and interpretation prior to the lesson. And last but absolutely not least, Y12 in Drama with Fiona had to become something beginning with a letter, using their physicality to express their idea, but also had to be something no one else has chosen, so they were challenged to be original and independent in their thinking. Cue much hilarity when not one but two became a quail’s egg for the letter Q; as Alice O’Meara so succinctly put it: ‘could you get any more Wimbledon High…’.

I’m sure you can glean from all of this that nowhere was there any assumption that learning had happened, but instead a wide and impressive variety of ways to test engagement, understanding and connection. Thank you to all who welcomed me into their classrooms; it is the best way I can think of to spend 90 minutes.

Teaching and learning Gem #35 – Ted and the Peppercorns (or telling a story)

This idea comes from Suzanne East, who I saw teach a great Year 12 Biology lesson this week. She told the story of when her son, Ted, dropped an entire box of peppercorns. To add extra impact, she proceeded to enact this with a large box of beads. Needless to say, they spread everywhere, much to the shock of the students. Of course, my summary of this lacks the real humour and panache with which this unfolded. However, this story was the starting point of much debate about whether or not this story acted as a reasonable model for the process of diffusion, or not. Their discussion was filled with scientific terminology and deep thought.

Suzanne’s anecdote about Ted used the principle that learning about complex ideas is itself a bit like understanding a story. Stories are not just for literary narratives but can be used to illustrate even the most complex and abstract concepts (e.g., math and science).

I really liked the process of Suzanne’s storytelling, because apart from being memorable, personal and fun, as a teaching and learning technique storytelling can:

  • Organise information, developing a student’s schema and clear network of ideas;
  • Incorporate cause and effect, helping students to consider causal links and thus aid memory;
  • Have impact and therefore facilitate remembering;
  • Enhance discussion and debate;
  • Promote problem posing and problem solving.

Here is a screenshot from Tom Sherrington’s blog ‘Great Teaching. The Power of Stories’ about this:

Tom Sherrington goes on to link to a video by Brian Cox, who is a master storyteller when he is explaining the workings of the universe. He weaves narratives, rather than starting with facts… just like Suzanne at the start of her lesson.

What stories could you tell?

Friday Gem #33 – What’s My (nuanced) Mistake? Promoting self-awareness and resilience through metacognition

Spring Focus: Metacognition

Teaching and learning Gem #33 – What’s My (nuanced) Mistake? Promoting self-awareness and resilience through metacognition

This idea comes Priscilla, who shared it at our TeachMeet this half term and has written up the process below:


‘What’s my mistake?’ is a light-hearted but highly effective strategy which encourages a mindset promoting self-awareness and resilience through metacognition. By using this strategy, pupils can become more independent learners allowing them to self-regulate when faced with mistakes. It replaces their negative inner voice helping them to accept that making mistakes is part of the learning process and to find ways to manage challenges.


The idea can be used in a variety of contexts such as:

  • after an assessment to consolidate learning or
  • as a method to revise key terms and concepts at the end of a unit of work or
  • as a tool to critically think about misconceptions.

At WHS, I have used this strategy with Key Stage 5 pupils as part of an end of unit assessment.

How does it work? 

Following feedback on a key terms and diagrams test, pupils are set a homework task to prepare 5 questions and their respective answers, but with the proviso that each answer must include at least one mistakeThe more nuanced the mistake, the better. These mistakes can be a combination of ones made by the pupil in the test and on potential misconceptions highlighted in lessons.

During the lesson, pupils work in pairs to find mistakes in each other’s work as ‘mistake detectives’. They then choose some questions with the ‘best’ mistakes to share with the whole class on the collaboration space in OneNote for all pupils to solve.

Why is it useful? 

  • It gives pupils confidence in, first of all, accepting that making mistakes is part of the learning process. Personal reflection enables pupils to critically analyse their performance in relation to the task and to consider that when they make a mistake, they can learn from it and, most importantly, fix it.
  • By explaining their thinking and mistakes out loud helps pupils to focus and monitor their cognitive processing and to develop a deeper understanding of their own thinking processes.
  • Through sharing and discussing their mistakes it promotes metacognitive regulation that is what can pupils do to further their own learning. They may decide to try a different strategy if a particular one is not achieving the results they want.
  • It encourages pupils to actively monitor their own learning and make changes to their own learning behaviours and strategies which enables them to develop from tacit learners to become aware, strategic and reflective learners.

Friday Gem #32 – a method for ‘thinking out loud’

Spring Focus: Metacognition

Teaching and learning Gem #32 – a OneNote method for students to ‘think out loud’ and make their thought processes transparent

After so many brilliant Friday Gems from colleagues, this Friday Gem comes from me! It is an idea I tried for the first time with my Year 12s last half term. I wanted each student to ‘talk’ me through their thought processes at different points of their essay. The idea was for students to make clear to themselves (and me) the decisions they had made before I took it in for marking. In engaging with this sort of metacognitive activity, students were having to evaluate their methods and purposely think about their thinking.

  1. At the top of a OneNote page, I put a series of metacognition prompts about the essay writing process. I asked students to copy and paste them to the top of their essays:

2. Students chose three of these prompts and drag and dropped them to relevant parts of their essay. They wrote a response about their thought processes at that point. Here is a brilliant example from one of my Year 12s. As you can see, she is really mature and considered in her reflections:



3. When I marked the work, their comments formed the basis for my own feedback, allowing me to have a ‘dialogue’ with the student


This is effective because:

  • Students are being self-reflective and critical of their own thought processes, promoting self-awareness, self-questioning and self-monitoring.
  • It demystifies the essay writing process, making it clear to students how they are thinking at different stages in the process.  
  • It encourages students to take ownership of their own feedback, having to comment on their own work before I mark it.
  • It makes my feedback more focussed and purposeful.

Friday Gem #31 – metacognition, confidence and the pandemic

This Friday Gem comes from Richard Finch, who thinks about the academic and pastoral benefits to metacognition as part of the EPQ process. Metacognition gives students the flexibility to take control. This boosts confidence and reduces anxiety, vital in the time of a pandemic.

Metacognition is vital to the EPQ

The independent approach students must take to complete the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) is daunting for most. Students are guided by a supervisor who is there to act as a sounding board for ideas but the student must ultimately decide for themselves how to research, compile and produce a 5000 word report on an area of personal interest. Self-reflective thinking must be documented at these key milestones and forms an important part of the assessment. Developing new skills is also a key element of the qualification and again, girls are actively encouraged to reflect and document which are appropriate for their particular project.


Metacognitive Planning Tools are empowering and are a confidence boost

One student reflects here on a new tool she was encouraged to use to organise her time. “Another hurdle for me was planning out when to do my research, having heard that Gantt-chart was an indispensable tool and thinking therefore that I absolutely had to use it. I tried to use it for my initial title with limited success, and then thought I had improved and even mastered it for my second. However, I was eventually forced to admit that Gantt-chart was not for me, and that I was far better off sticking to a simple bullet point list of dates and deadlines. Therefore, I did not acquire the skill of using Gantt-chart, but I did learn that sometimes it is just much more effective to stick to what I know works and have confidence in my own methods, rather than thinking that because a resource worked for someone else it will work for me.” Effective self-reflection is empowering for EPQ students. Everyone learns differently and those, like the student quoted above, that can assess how effective a new method or skill will be for them better able to overcome challenges. The alternative is that students blindly follow a suggested method without questioning or adapting it to what works for them. Achieving more flexible thinking and skill in choosing how to apply the most appropriate method is a real confidence boost for many girls.


Metacognition to help face pandemic related challenges.

A student commented in their EPQ that “I have encountered numerous setbacks during my project which mostly related to the COVID-19 pandemic which severely curtailed my access to the hospital. I have learned not to lose heart when setbacks occur and to continually try to find ways around problems in order to complete tasks. I have appreciated that being flexible is critical to this.” She went on to document how she intends to adapt her research to complete the project. Documenting the change of approach reduced anxiety and motivated her to take practical steps to move towards completing her project.

Self-reflection is a skill that is overtly assessed on the EPQ. This motivates students to engage with the way they think about learning and assess their own meta-cognitive development. Documenting self-reflection and incorporating it into the assessment criteria is something that could be beneficial to learning practice at all levels.