Friday Gem #14 – YOUR ideas bout return to the classroom

Teaching and Learning Gem #14 –  Return to the classroom. Building Community; Finding Gaps; Knowing your students and giving voice to all

This is an ‘uber’ Friday Gem which collates and shares all your ideas from your breakout discussions. The level of thought and the deep exploration of our priorities for the classroom was humbling.

Please open and peruse the attached booklet of YOUR ideas.


Training: If you would like training on any of the digital tools discussed yesterday, please complete this form and we will set up some twilight.

A big thank you to our group facilitators: James Courtenay Clack, Dan Addis, Helen Sinclair, Alys Lloyd, Steph Harel, Lucinda Gilchrist and Claire Baty

A big thank you to the scribes: Holly Beckwith, Rebecca Brown and Jane Fawcett

Friday Gem #9 – Rubrics for effective and efficient marking

Teaching and Learning Gem #9 – use of rubrics in Teams Assignments for effective and efficient marking

Another top tip from Nicola Higgs and the Geography department, who have been using the full functionality of Teams Assignments to collect in and mark the work from her Year 7 assessment projects. The use of ‘rubrics’ allows for the marking criteria, assessment objectives and bands to be applied easily and clearly to student work.

She has made an awesome 5 minute video explaining how her department have used rubrics in Teams Assignments, and why they are beneficial. Do take a look! Watch here.

In short:

  • You can create and reuse marking criteria which you can then apply at a click of a button to a student’s work
  • It makes it clear to the student what skills/knowledge they have shown.
  • This is a super time saving tool for teachers while at the same time helping students understand how to succeed in the assignment.
  • There is also a box to add a short, personalised comment, so you can recognise the effort/progress of the individual

What can Literature teach us about Teaching and Learning? – 12/10/18

Having recently changed roles from Head of English to Assistant Head Teaching and Learning, Suzy Pett decided to turn to Literature to think about a couple of pedagogical ideas.

“A chapter having been read through twice, the books were closed and the girls examined.  The lesson comprised part of the reign of Charles I, and there were sundry questions about tonnage, and poundage, and ship-money…Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë (1847)

From the caricatures of Gradgrind (Hard Times) to Thwakum (Tom Jones), Victorian literature is brimming with parodies of the education system. Here, we can see Brontë’s wry nod to the testing of seemingly meaningless facts at Lowood School.

Whilst education today is mercifully a far cry from that of the 19th century, the learning and testing of facts is still a hot topic. With the power of Google and Wikipedia at their fingertips, do pupils of the 21st century need to memorise information? Surely, without this encumbrance, we can focus on developing skills, interpretation, application and creativity?

Well, actually, long-term knowledge committed to memory is necessary to free up the working brain to process new information. Our brain is made up of about one billion neurons, each forming about 1000 connections to other neurons. With this capacity for deep memory, we can be more agile in our skills of problem solving: the more knowledge we have, the more flexible we can be in our thinking. Our working memory can only hold three to seven pieces of information at once, so relying on our long-term memory is important.

We can all agree with Brontë, that learning facts in isolation is pointless. However, our pupils continually use their deep learnt information to reflect more broadly and creatively about the bigger picture; about how they might apply these facts to be proactive, probing and provocative thinkers for the radically changing world of the 21st century. Thus, we can debunk that dichotomy of facts and skills: they are not separate pedagogical approaches. A rich curriculum does both together.

“ “But you must know that story?”

“No,” she said, screwing up her eyes as if she referred to the files of memory. “Tell me.”

And he told her the story.

The Years, Virginia Woolf (1937)

As humans, we are programmed to love a good story. Additionally, we are inherently wired to construct narratives from what we hear and see. Educational blogger Tom Sherrington recently likened the curriculum to a story and gave the following examples of learning-as-narrative:

  • How climate change flows from excessive carbon emissions
  • How humans came to exist on a planet orbiting a star
  • How poets convey the realities of war through imagery and emotions conveyed in the language and structure of their poems
  • How fossils of sea creatures can be found half way up a mountain
  • How we can derive and use equations that can tell us how objects will move in the future
  • How in 1854 John Snow came to understand that cholera was water-borne


Just like stories, curriculum teaching requires careful ordering of ideas. We want to instil in our pupils a sense of direction like an overarching plot narrative; there are subplots, twists and turns making a topic more complicated; we require a narrator (i.e. a teacher) who grips the interests of individuals; and a reader (i.e. a pupil) who is invested, intrigued and wants to metaphorically turn the page.

As teachers, it is our job to bring to life a topic/idea/concept and to decide when and how we build on pupil understanding; how we capture pupils’ innate curiosity for ‘what happens next’; what cliff-hangers we build into learning to ignite pupils’ independent thinking to hypothesise beyond the classroom.

‘Knowledge organisers’ have been called “the most powerful tool in the arsenal of the curriculum designer” (Joe Kirby, educational blogger): they sequence facts, concepts and definitions, creating a clear narrative of learning. They provide that overarching plot as well as the intricate detail. They allow us to ‘foreshadow’ later knowledge (to steal a literary term) so that further down the line pupils are ready to make a cognitive leap or to approach a ‘bigger’ more complex topic.

As teachers, we are crafting and delivering ‘bestsellers’ – with an author’s skill we ignite our pupils’ passion so they keep turning the metaphorical pages.

So, thank you, Brontë and Woolf, for whetting both my literary and pedagogical appetite.

The importance of reading and the library – 12/10/18

Isabelle, Year 8, argues how critical reading is as a pastime whilst also discussing how libraries provide a great space to read and a wonderful source of information.

“Reading is a window to the world.”

Whilst the word ‘power’ has for a long time been associated with muscular strength, the word ‘knowledge’ has always been connected with the mind. The two words do not seem to have any connection whatsoever. However, today the world power has undergone a tremendous transformation. Today it is commonly recognised that the pen is mightier than the sword.

We are now living in a time where there are many information sources, such as the Internet leading to some older information sources now becoming increasingly extinct. However, books will always be alive; nothing can beat how you are able to immerse yourself into the story, nothing can replace the comfortable feeling of books. As J.K Rowling said: “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book”.

Reading is a useful pastime because people can learn a lot. We can learn many important and useful facts and improve our understanding of English language too. We can cultivate the habit by reading small books at first and after that we can read bigger and more advanced books. In addition to books we can also read newspapers. Books are a way that we can easily communicate our ideas and keep them safe. If people read, they will also get new ideas and then they can use these to develop the world.

I remember receiving my first library card: the power granted – the exhilaration as the red light of the checkout scanner christened the book – my book. It is great that we have a student library as I, like many others, think libraries are essential. One reason is because they offer educational resources to everyone. Anyone can use libraries to succeed and have the answers to curious minds. Secondly, they preserve history and truth and the preservation of truth is important, now more than ever. Libraries, which house centuries of learning, information and history are important while we fight against fake news.

Imagine a place where all of us feel welcome and encouraged to grow and learn. That space is the school library. School libraries provide more than just books, computers and other technology, databases of accurate information, e-books, plus fun and educational activities. School libraries provide a safe haven for all of us to think, create, share, and grow. School libraries can be the hub of learning and the favourite spot for many students.