Teaching and Learning Gem #48 – Action Research: student attention span/focus

This is the third of our special Friday Gems reporting on recent Action Research. Today is Tyler’s Action Research about students’ ability to focus in lessons.

Tyler wanted to explore the impact of different sorts of breaks in double lessons. Would an ‘active break’ (e.g. chair yoga) in the middle of a double lesson enhance student focus in the final 5 minutes of the lesson?

To read more about his findings, please see Tyler’s write-up of his Action Research below:

Teaching and learning Gem #47 – Action Research: Pedagogies to Account for Racial Diversity in English

This is the second in of our special Friday Gems focussed on Action Research. Today’s is about Lucia’s brilliant Action Research over the last two terms, which links closely to our EDI priority.

Lucia was interested in exploring Year 9 students’ perceptions of the everyday language of the diverse speaker, and how we can change our teaching to redress any value judgements students might make. The expectations of exam boards for students to use ‘standard English’ means that judgements might unconsciously be perpetuated about the way individuals speak. By using pedagogies to allow students to be able to analyse AAV (African American Vernacular), she wanted to see whether our students were able to move beyond seeing ‘non-standard’ English as ‘slang’ or as ‘less rich’. In short, Lucia’s Action Research is all about anti-racist pedagogies.

To read more about her findings, please see attached Lucia’s brilliant write-up of her Action Research below:

Teaching and learning Gem #46 – Action Research: Chain of Reasoning as a Cross-Curricular approach to Analysis

This is a special Friday Gem reporting on Holly W’s brilliant Action Research over the last two terms.

Holly wanted to explore how to improve students’ understanding of analysis across subjects. After undertaking some initial wider reading and surveying staff about the issue, she worked with teachers from different departments to establish a shared way of speaking about and teaching the skills of analysis. This is the ‘Chain of Reasoning’ approach using common steps in any discipline:  ‘identify, infer, justify, connect, review’. Teachers used this verbally to work through the process of analysis in class discussion, and used it as a prompt for students to reflect on their work. Crucially, this is a tool for fundamental understandingcutting above subject-specific models of analysis, such as PEE.

To read more about her findings, please find Holly’s brilliant write-up of her Action Research below:

Friday Gem #45 – Conversation With Yourself (mirror function on Flipgrid)

This idea comes from Suzanne in the French department, who used her lesson observation with Claire to try out a new digital technique. In the lesson, she helped students to review all the vocabulary they had learnt so far. She then built their confidence in using the mirror function in Flipgrid to record a conversation using the vocabulary for homework, with the student both asking and answering their own questions.

  • Video instructions Suzanne made for her class of how to use the mirror function in Flipgrid

The application in MFL is apparent. However, the idea of verbally asking and answering your own questions could be used in lots of other subjects, from debating different ideas, to conducting a Q&A with yourself, to putting right misperceptions about something. The metacognition built into doing this sort of thing is brilliant and the mirror function in Flipgrid could be a fun way of encouraging students to develop this sort of thought process. How could your students use it in your subject?

Year 13 German Lesson


  • The students were creative in using the mirror function, using costumes, backgrounds etc.
  • It allowed students to verbalise ideas at home (really important for MFL, but important for all subjects).
  • It built confidence in a fun way: students were practising vocab and accuracy of pronunciation in a low stakes manner.
  • If used for students to debate with themselves, or to conduct a Q&A with themselves, then the metacognitive element is really beneficial.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine:

  • Be prepared to offer an alternative to students with social anxiety and autism.
  • Be prepared that for some students sharing publicly is very difficult.

Teaching and learning Gem #44 – post-it collaboration

This week, we have a post-it note activity that is all about collaboration between students. Morven’s Year 9 DT students considered the impact of physical disability on individuals’ lives using post-it notes to share ideas. Using post-it notes is quick in terms of teacher preparation time, but can be really impactful. Plus, the physical (rather than digital) nature of this makes the most of being back in the classroom together.

This is how Morven’s post-it collaboration worked:

  • Students were on their feet in groups of 4.
  • On different tables there were disability fact files.
  • Each group had 2 mins to read the disability fact file on their table. They then had to jot down ideas on post-it notes of activities that their user might struggle with.
  • At the end of the allocated time, they then moved onto the next table and repeated the activity.
  • Each group had a different colour of post-it note.
  • After groups had rotated round all tables, Morven chose one student from each team to give a brief overview of their fact file. Then as a group they evaluated all the post-it notes from across the groups and chose the three post-it notes which jumped out at them to share back to the class
  • Morven took photos of the post-it notes and put them on Teams.
  • Next lesson they will begin to design potential solutions for these scenarios.


  • Peer evaluation is built into the feedback process – students need to review other groups’ ideas and weigh them up.
  • The pace kept students focussed and on task.
  • The physical nature of the activity capitalises on being back in the physical classroom.
  • Students were thinking for themselves using stimulus information.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine

Be aware of sensory sensitivities:

  • Touch: Some students might find the close proximity of collaborating on the same sheet of paper difficult.
  • Noise: Some students might find the group talking section of this too loud.
  • Be aware that the time allocation may not suit students with different processing speeds, so ensure that thinking time is built in to make the pace manageable.
  • Please be aware that it is important to set boundaries for some students who might have hyper-activity tendencies.

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.