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Teaching and Learning Blog

By James Collins, Deputy Headteacher

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  • April Blog 2024

    Published 30/04/24, by James Collins

    When I delivered training on adaptive teaching back in October, we used research from the EEF on what it could look like for teachers in the classroom. At the time though, it was felt that adaptive teaching was just a new term to replace differentiation. However, having persisted and done further research and also having attended a very good seminar at the ASCL conference in March this year, I can now see how adaptation and differentiation are actually quite different, and I just want to explore this a bit with you in this teaching and learning blog.

    If you look at Appendix 1 attached to this blog- you will see the document, we issued on the October training day as a clear guide to what adaptive teaching looks like. The points on this document absolutely stand true as an excellent guide with one tiny alteration to the third bullet point right at the top of the document, where previously it had said ‘targeted support for students who are struggling’, it now says ‘to ensure the active engagement of all learners in the classroom’.

    The reason for this slight tweak is for the following reason. If you look below, you will see that I have created a graphic to try and explain visibly the difference between adaptation and differentiation. Adaptation is where you adapt the learning for all the learners in your class. Differentiation is where you have to have specific strategies in place to support those who might be progress outliers in your class, either because of cognitive barriers or because of attendance or behavioural issues.  The bowling alley analogy, sums this up very well.

    Difference between Differentiation and Adaptive teaching

    Adaptive= is adapting the curriculum or the lesson resources for the whole class (can be where you adjust a teaching resource to fit with how your class learns best, can be revisiting certain areas of information to allow for strong recall, can be dropping some tasks out or adding some tasks in.)

    Differentiation= targeted support in the classroom (can be the order in which you live mark, can be a coaching table, can be how the TA supports in the classroom, can be a different level of depth to what other students in the class might be reaching, can be different resources or different exercises)

    Specialist= interventions and higher-level support offered through the SEND team.


    So, when you look at the Adaptive Teaching guide all the points remain valid as they focus on key strategies and teaching pedagogy you would deploy to ensure the engagement of the various students that make up your class.

    To understand how to provide differentiation in your class for progress outliers which will require further thought and intervention, I have now created a separate guide which is Appendix 2.

    Also connected to differentiation is the role of the TA in your classroom. If you have a TA supporting you with a class this provides a great opportunity for differentiation to be taken to a different level. To help with this, I have attached as Appendix 3 the Vision for the Effective Deployment of TA’s that you contributed to in the Spring term of 23. In this vision, within the teacher section it clearly outlines that the teacher should be actively working to support the lowest attainers in the classroom (differentiation), along with live marking to give dynamic feedback to these same students (differentiation). The TA is deployed to support and assist the learning, by checking on the progress of other students in the classroom and feeding back to the teacher where there might be gaps in understanding, thereby enabling the teacher to adapt the lesson (adaptation) to ensure the correct reteach of material that has not been properly understood in depth by the class.

    Take your time to look at all the points on the vision document for TA deployment and try and assess how confident you are, that this vision is being put into action in your classroom, with the TA’s you work with. Likewise, TA’s, think about how confident you feel with the vision of your role and what areas you think you might need support with.

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  • March Blog 2024

    Published 11/03/24, by James Collins

    Challenging the More and Most able

    In reading around the topic of More and Most Able (MMA) the theme of challenge recurs often. 

    More able pupils in general welcome challenge and often like to take a lead in shaping their own learning”. (Cullen, Cullen, Dytham et al, 2018).

    This document will look at how challenge can be provided for MMA students through different forms of scaffolding regarding key ideas on:

    • Task design and differentiation
    • Live Marking and Feedback

    Task Design and Differentiation

    One useful and popular form of scaffolding is a written resource: e.g. writing frames, sentence starters, single paragraph outline structures, checklists, vocabulary lists, and glossaries.  

    Single Paragraph Outline

    Here is an excellent example of how an SPO can be differentiated for more and most able students.

    The questions and prompts are challenging and probing, asking the student to provide and explain their evidence, including using key vocabulary and quotes.  The subject-specific vocabulary is used confidently and is extensive.  The SPO then acts as a checklist for content.

    The feedback also ensures the students include key points in their plan, which allows for a well written final answer.

    Writing Frames

    This next example from Geography shows how a task has been scaffolded with a writing frame to support an SEN student in assessing the hypothesis.

    The open format of the MMA student’s work has challenged them to write the hypothesis review in full, together with using full sentences and subject specific vocabulary, thereby allowing them to consolidate these skills.   The differentiation is clear.


    Vocabulary is key to comprehending and following a lesson.  It should be introduced carefully to ensure understanding.  It is also vital in expressing ideas and thoughts.  Research has shown that explicitly teaching vocabulary increases the understanding and use of that vocabulary by students. 

    In addition to the Tier 2 vocabulary highlighted by Katy in her blog, it is important to teach subject-specific vocabulary.   Explicit teaching may include the use of word lists and glossaries.  It should also include students reading and analysing “The Big Question” and all keywords within it.

    Students must understand the meaning of keywords, as well as examples of context.  The MMA students should be given words that challenge them and allow them to express their knowledge in increasingly sophisticated ways.


    This work is an example from an MMA student in a KS3 RS lesson.  The student was given extension work; to summarise key information from a short piece of text. 

    Research has shown that summarising information is an effective and simple way to add challenge in the classroom, requiring a range of cognitive processes from selecting, organising, and integrating information.

    Live marking and Feedback

    Live marking allows for immediate feedback and identification of misconceptions which can be addressed within the lesson. It allows us to identify students who require more support and also those who have understood the main content and require stretch and challenge.

    An excellent example from Maths shows how live feedback has been used to support a SEN student and challenge a MMA student.

    Feedback is one of the most powerful techniques regarding students' outcomes and can be differentiated to support or challenge students. Below is an example of feedback from a piece of work in history given to a Year 7 SEN and MMA student where feedback questions have been carefully considered, allowing for greater depth and response for the MMA student.


    An example from an English lesson shows how the question of ‘why’ can be used to stretch students. As well as the probing question why, which demands a considered response; the student must elaborate and therefore make connections with prior learning.  This helps embed the knowledge and encourages critical thinking.

    In this blog we have highlighted many different ways to construct and adapt planning or feedback to stretch the high attainers. We must get the level of challenge right for them, especially in our mixed-attaining classrooms.

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  • February Blog 2024

    Published 29/01/24, by James Collins

     How to support students with revision

    As part of our professional reading, James and I have recently revisited “The Revision Revolution” by Helen Howell and Ross Morrison McGill.   The book discusses how students should be taught explicit study skills from Year 7, how to make revision enjoyable, and how to embed learning to help students grow into knowledgeable and informed young adults.  This is precisely the aim of our developing blended learners programme (DBLP).   The book provides a comprehensive guide on how to start and sustain a revision revolution in your school, building a culture of effective study that flows through all aspects of school life.  

    The key points of the revision revolution … 

    The study skills that we have taken from the book (and other sources such as and built into the DBLP are: 

    1. Active recall: This technique involves recalling information from memory without the aid of notes or textbooks. It helps students to identify gaps in their knowledge and improve their retention of information.  This technique is based on the idea that the more you practice recalling information, the better you will be at remembering it. 
    • To use active recall, students can create flashcards with questions on one side and answers on the other. They can then test themselves by trying to recall the answer before flipping the card over.  
    • Another way to use active recall is to write out what you know about a topic from memory, and then compare it to your notes or textbook to see where you need to improve. 
    • By practicing recalling information, students are able to identify gaps in their knowledge and improve their retention of information. 
    1. Mind mapping is a study technique that can help students to organise their thoughts and ideas in a visual way.
    • Mind mapping involves creating a diagram that connects different ideas or concepts together using branches and sub-branches. Mind maps can be used to summarise information or plan essays. 
    • To create a mind map, start by writing the main idea or topic in the centre of the page and drawing a circle around it. Then, draw branches radiating out from the centre circle, each representing a sub-topic or idea related to the main topic. You can then add further sub-branches to each branch, creating a hierarchical structure that connects all the ideas. Mind maps can be created using pen and paper r using software such as Microsoft Word or online tools like Get Revising. Using different colours for each key concept can help organise your thinking and keep your ideas on track. 

     ACTION: As a tutor, encouraging students to do either of these techniques in their 10-minute chunks. Have some blank cue cards/mindmap templates ready for them to use. As a teacher, think about what homework could be based around this.

    1. Spaced repetition is a study technique that involves revisiting information at increasing intervals over time. It can be explained by the ‘forgetting curve’, which is an idea that has been around in psychology literature for over one hundred years. 
    • The forgetting curve was first introduced by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885 and shows that the rate of forgetting is highest immediately after learning and then levels off over time.
    • To use spaced repetition, teachers should plan to revisit key topics at certain points through activities such as ‘Blast from the past’ (Science) or retrieval quizzes.
    • By revisiting information at increasing intervals over time, students can retain information in their long-term memory. 

    ACTION: When have you planned for this in your MTP’s and lessons? Have you considered what should be retrieved and when?

    1. Interleaving: This technique involves mixing up different topics or subjects during revision.  

    • To use interleaving, students can mix up different topics or subjects during revision. For example, instead of revising all the topics in a single subject at once, students can revise different topics from different subjects in a single revision session. 

    These techniques are particularly pertinent to year 11 as we move towards their final few months.   I know a lot of you have planned a week-by-week schedule up to these mock exams and will be developing your final schedule based on the misconceptions shown through your marking.   Please consider how the points above best suit your subjects.    

    • When is it best to make a mind map, and when should cue cards be used?     
    • How do I structure the week-by-week and class work to allow for spaced repetition? 
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  • January Blog 2024

    Published 09/01/24, by James Collins

    How to run a successful Parents evening appointment.

    I have never done a blog on parents’ evening before, and with the next one rapidly approaching, I thought that this was a good time to share some useful advice for these evenings. When I was training to become a teacher (yes, that was a while ago now...) we were never trained for these evenings and it was literally a case of sink or swim. There is far more research out there now and I have investigated the National College for teaching to support this Blog. I hope it helps and if you have any questions, please feel free to come and speak to me or your HOS.

    I have often thought that communication is what we do best and is probably a reason why we became teachers in the first place. We hopefully deliver clear explanations, impart knowledge, simplify complex concepts, give effective feedback and build positive relationships with those around us. We use our voice to manage behaviour and control situations, as well as to inspire and motivate.

    However, for many of us, especially those new to the profession, the thought of holding conversations and giving feedback to parents/carers about their children and young people can feel particularly daunting, especially when we know that some of that feedback might be hard to hear. If this sounds familiar, this is the blog for you!

    Firstly, you are not alone in feeling like this, as every teacher at one time in their career has had to face a parents’ evening for the first time, and most of us (if we’re honest) will remember feeling slightly intimidated by it. Secondly, feeling a bit anxious about a parents’ evening means that you care; you see its importance and you want to do a good job! The good news is there are lots of things you can do to ensure the experience is successful, purposeful and even enjoyable. It is an unpredictable night, but one we can plan for to support with the more challenging moments.

    The benefits of a parents’ evening

    A parents’ evening is a great opportunity to give positive feedback to parents/carers about their child and to give them an insight into their child’s life in school. Parents/carers ultimately want to know that their child is safe, happy and learning, and this is the opportunity to reassure them and to feedback what their child does well. There are always positives! This is your chance to show parents how much you value teaching their child. Watching parents light up with pride is such a rewarding part of our job.

    We encourage students to accompany their parents/carers, so students get to hear the positive praise you are communicating. This can really boost students’ motivation and sense of pride which means they will continue to strive harder in class. Parents’ evening will also allow you to get to know your students even better, as you often find out things you might not have known.

    Parents are often keen to tell you what their child is like at home or what their outside interests are, and this can really help you to build positive relationships with your students in class.

    Obviously, one of the main purposes of parents’ evening is to feedback on students’ progress and what they are learning about. Make this conversation effective and purposeful by thinking about the key messages for each child. This is your opportunity to communicate what could be improved on.

    Use this conversation to get parents onside and to get their support with their child’s learning or behaviour targets. You can even make suggestions about how they can support their child. Most parents/carers will receive constructive advice well if framed in a conversation which shows that, like them, you want the best for their child. (More about that later.)

    How to prepare for parents’ evening

    • Make sure the assessment record is up to date and be prepared to show the parents all the assessment and homework marks the student has received this year. Make sure the parent knows how to access this on ItsLearning and how to check what homework has been set.
    • Know your students! I know this sounds silly, but go through your class list/s in advance of the day. Have ClassCharts up and what rewards and sanctions have been awarded in your subject area. Start with the positives or any improvements seen.
    • Check the student books in advance, as you will want to share these with parents if possible. What can you show the parent on what the child is doing well, and where they can improve? Make sure the marking is up to date.
    • Go armed with short notes about each student. Your conversations need to focus on student progress and targets, as well as their attitude to learning. Think carefully about how you will give difficult messages in a kind way.
    • If you are a new teacher, practice and role play with your mentor some different scenarios. Practice how to conduct the appointment and iron out any issues.

    Practical tips for the evening itself

    • Look the part. You are the public face of the College on parents’ evening, so it’s a good idea to represent it as professionally as possible.
    • Arrive ahead of time. Rushing into the hall to find a queue of parents does not give the best impression, so aim to dismiss students/students swiftly that day so you arrive before parents.
    • Bring a drink and ensure you have eaten.
    • Ensure you have a name sign on your desk, so you can be found. (This is usually organised by the support team.) You will need at least two chairs but be aware that some parents bring other family members and the student/s themselves. (Don’t be afraid to send the student away to sit in the waiting area if you wish to address the parents in private, though.)
    • Have School Cloud open with the appointments but bring notes and data as well as paper and a pen to note down actions resulting from your conversations.
    • Keep an eye on the time. If things look like it won’t be resolved, explain that you will call them the following week to speak about this further. Note this down on your pad!

    Dos and Don'ts of an effective conversation


    • Do stand to greet the parents/carers. Shake hands, smile and thank them for coming, then invite them to sit down. They may be nervous too, so make small talk about things such as the weather or if they managed to find you okay. Help them relax. Make sure you have the right parents in front of you in case someone has not shown up. Most parents/carers offer the name of their child in the first instance.
    • Do take a moment to read your notes and look at the student’s data before you start talking.
    • Do start with a positive and a strength, even if the student is not making the progress they could: “His attendance is excellent, uniform impeccable and he is always on time.” “She wants to achieve and is keen to learn.” This part of the meeting is key, as it is here you show the parent that you care and want the best for their child. Parents will accept more constructive advice more readily if they know you are on their side.
    • Do describe succinctly what the student has covered in terms of content but focus more on their progress. Use words like “steady progress”, “good progress”, “very good progress”, “excellent progress”. Give examples of what they have done well. Identify strengths where you can.
    • Do describe what they need to do in terms of improvement, and that includes attitude to learning and things they need to work on more. Be specific! For example: “If he is going to achieve a grade 7, he needs to use a range of different tenses in his written and spoken work. He needs to do some independent learning on verb formation in French so that it sticks.” “She always starts off the lesson being really interested, but she has difficulty maintaining focus. We have started using a sand timer and a checklist to help her concentrate. It would be good if she used these at home too, when doing homework.”
    • Do take time to listen to parents/carers and their concerns. This is a two-way conversation. Make notes of actions to take forward. This will mean they see you are taking their comments on board.
    • Do be truthful. Do be kind.


    • Don’t be overly negative or use negative language, e.g. “lazy”, “apathetic”, “rude” or “weak”.
    • Don’t be excessively positive unless it’s true.
    • Don’t comment on things that can’t be changed, such as a child’s personality. What is the point of telling a parent that their child is “quiet” or “talkative”? Being quiet doesn’t mean you aren’t learning and being talkative doesn’t either.
    • Don’t be vague. Avoid, for example: “They need to work harder.”, “They need to add more detail.”, “They need to keep going.” Rather, be specific about actions which can help the student/student progress: “They need to be spending and hour each night using the revision techniques we have been using in class.”
    • Don’t be afraid to get support if you need it. You can refer parents/carers to other colleagues if you need their expertise. SB and I are in the foyer in the Performing Arts if needed, and please direct any parents who are not happy to us.

    Dealing with negative feedback or bigger issues

    It’s worth remembering that the majority of parents/carers are enormously grateful to teachers and often admire us for the job we are doing. Parents/carers will often feed this back and thank us for our support, which makes parents’ evening a really enjoyable and affirming experience.

    On occasion, parents may use parents’ evening as a forum to voice their concerns. This is fine, but if a situation or concern is serious or complicated and can’t be resolved during this 5-minute meeting, don’t be frightened to communicate this.

    • Firstly, listen carefully to the parents’ or carers’ concerns. Give eye contact and nod. Make notes so the parent/carer knows you’re taking their concerns on board.
    • Express your concern: “I am sorry to hear that.”
    • Ask what the parent would like to happen to resolve the situation (whilst not promising that you will follow their suggestions). If you can deal with their concerns in this meeting by suggesting some actions you could take, then do so. For example: “Okay, let’s try moving her to a different seat, so they are sitting apart. That just might resolve the problem.” However, if the issue is greater than that, explain that tonight’s meeting is only a five-minute slot for feedback on their child’s progress, so an additional meeting will need to be booked which might involve other colleagues, such as the Head of House.
    • Try to get the meeting back on track by updating them about their child’s progress and wellbeing in College.

    Don’t hesitate to seek help from colleagues if parents become hostile or personal. This is very rare. If you expect this may happen in advance of the parents’ evening, ask that another colleague is present with you when the meeting takes place such as your HOS or SLT.

    Difficult questions

    You may come up against some tricky questions. However, if you plan and prepare well, you can anticipate them and be ready with an answer. Remember, being tactful and diplomatic is key, whilst remaining honest and truthful.

    Top tips for dealing with difficult questions

    • Anticipate the difficult questions that could come up and plan your responses to them.
    • Seek advice from experienced staff about experiences they’ve had, and how they would answer tricky questions.
    • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to a question. Simply make a note of it and promise to get back to them with an answer.
    • If a parent/carer asks directly about how their child or young person is performing in relation to the rest of the class or year group, you need to be truthful but tactful. You could refer to age-related expectations too. If a child is below expectations, you can still communicate this in a positive way. For example: “They are not quite where they need to be, but I am confident with the support we have in place, they will continue to make progress.”

    After parents’ evening

    Reflect on the evening and dwell on the highlights first. There will definitely be some. Think about what you handled well and embrace the areas you are going to work on further. Seek advice from others and share your experiences with your colleagues on what went well, what was tough and what you learnt.

    Remember to follow up on those actions you promised you’d do, so parents know you are true to your word.

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  • December Blog 2023

    Published 11/12/23, by James Collins

    As we approach the end of another long winter term, it is a good time to reflect on the successes within our classrooms during 2023 and consider what we need to do as a staff to improve as we dive into 2024. We all know this will be an inspection year, but that is something teachers do not need to worry about, as we know our high standards will shine through for any team that visits us. A couple of Heads of Subject have asked me to write down some key things we would expect to see in every lesson, and what the expectations are of our teachers, so everyone is on the same page. Below is a summary of all our policies in a handy guide.

    1. Feedback and marking

    HOS would expect to see the students given feedback every two weeks in core lessons, and 3 weeks in foundation lessons. This would be at least one piece of student work marked, with formative feedback to help the student improve that piece of work. This could be done either on itslearning or in books. We would then expect the student to respond and the teacher to check this. No need to mark that response, just acknowledge with tick or como’s. In the books, the teacher marks in green and students respond in red. There is a need to mark for literacy when you do this, so please refer to Katy King’s emails on this- I got my TA to help me with this, which works well.

    We are pushing the idea of ‘live marking’, where you will give students instant feedback in class, and they do their response at that time. Plan approximately 15 minutes of independent time where students can work without you, and you go around and mark some books and get them to respond straight away. This means that you don’t have to take any books home with you! The books or itslearning plans should have a clear footprint in of teacher feedback and how this has led to progress. No need to stamp ‘verbal feedback’ in books, we know you do that all the time!!

    1. Planning

    We expect all planning to be done on itslearning and plans to be made live for the students to access. We would expect teachers to show the plans to the students during the lesson and teach from itslearning, bringing up any documents needed. This will build up good habits for teachers and students in the consolidation of Blended learning. All departments have their plans now on itslearning, which are sequenced and built around MTP’s and then components of learning. All components should be based around a ‘Big Question’, which students should be checked on at the end. Teachers should have considered the key knowledge and skills needed and what vocab is vital to teach to the students to help with their understanding. Activities should be planned out to support all learners, with consideration on how to extend and support where needed. Homework should be planned in at regular intervals and checked/rewarded and teachers should reflect on their learning at regular intervals (Progress partner meetings as a minimum). We should plan regular assessments to check on learning, and then consider how our plans should reflect this in future. We would expect at least one homework and one assessment in each half-term to be reflected in the assessment record on itslearning. I know many of you do far more as this really helps build up a picture of how that student is making progress.

    1. Teaching 

    We have the ‘Excellence as standard in the Crookhorn classroom’ guide, which is our absolute bible when it comes to what pedagogy is expected in the classroom. Here are the biggest vitals as a quick reminder;

    • Welcome at door-check uniform and make sure the start of lesson is ordered. Have the ‘Do Now’ task ready for them, whilst you take the register. This could be a quick retrieval activity from previous learning. It should be an independent task to keep them quiet. Great to do on Mini whiteboards (MWB) so you can see what they are doing.
    • Go through Big Question for this component of learning- and how they will develop their knowledge to answer this over a learning period. Explain how their learning will be checked at end of lesson. Consider things such as exit tickets or a task to show they have worked towards this outcome.
    • Get as much data as possible from students when it comes to checking what they have learnt. If they are asking questions, or checking they have understood something, there is no point going to hands up and then checking one person’s understanding. Again, things like MWB will give you the whole classes understanding quickly, or live marking will give you a greater understanding whilst they are working on a small task.  There is no need for students to be shouting out at you so make sure this is not tolerated.
    • Consider using ‘Think, Pair, Share’ when it comes to checking understanding. Get students to write one or two bullet points on MWB, then share with their partner and discuss who has a stronger answer, then get them to hold up boards, so you can see which partners have answers you want the whole class to hear and discuss.
    • Use of the visualiser is really powerful, and a great way for you to model. Also, a great way to share students work, and get them to consider ways to improve etc. The ‘I do, we do, you do’ model should be standard practice.
    • Encourage discussion where possible, following the Crookhorn rules for discussion.
    • Move around the room as much as possible, place yourself where needed and be full of positive praise for students when you can be.
    • Have your green pen in your hand when moving, get into the habit of giving live feedback with students in the moment.
    • Consider live differentiation in every lesson- and how this can be done. Start with CFU, and plan how to differentiate from there. If certain students don’t get a task, consider moving them onto a table and then working with them whilst others are working on a greater depth task. If this is not possible to move students, then choose these students for live marking immediately, and give them extra pointers to help them. Extra support such as them using BYOT to check their itslearning plans, use of exercise books and resources on itslearning or access textbooks/help sheets that you have pre-planned will help.

    I hope this ‘quick guide’ helps remind you of the key expectations of what high quality teaching looks like at Crookhorn, but if you have any questions please do ask your HOS, coach or myself.

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  • November Blog 2023

    Published 28/11/23, by James Collins
    I know many of you have been eagerly anticipating the next T+L blog, and here it is! Over the last couple of months I thought I would let the excitement grow, ready for this edition beautifully written by Katy King and Libby Osbourne. These two ladie
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  • May Blog 2023

    Published 09/05/23, by James Collins

    The importance of literacy in maths

    “Strong literacy skills give students a greater opportunity to improve their fluency of content.  This then enables students to build their knowledge and understanding within the content and problem solve to a much deeper and greater level both in your subject and make cross curriculum connections.” Mark Kyrillou (2023) (James always like research in these blogs!)

    In Maths, you would think Literacy has a minor part to play and the only letters we use are “x’s” and “y’s” in algebra.  People don’t realise, but Literacy in Maths is equally as important as getting the sum correct because without knowing what they are answering or why they are answering a question, we can’t expect them to be able to get the answer correct.

    “Without the input of deep, contextual learning at the beginning of every learning episode, students only learn the content on a low superficial level.  Without Literacy being taught well, the content has no meaning and students do not understand or appreciate why this learning episode has its place.  The understanding of keywords and context of the literacy give the foundations and building blocks for students to understand the content.”  Failed footballer and male model Mark Kyrillou (2023).

    So what do we do in the classrooms to promote literacy, and what can every teacher consider?

    Teacher prompts

    • We are considering how to get students to meet the complex demands of unpacking worded problems in Mathematics through discussion.
    • We have really considered the use of the ‘group discussion rules’ introduced to the College. Since we moved to tables it has helped us get the students to talk about their mathematical thinking and literacy demands of the subject. This needs to be planned, and we have found it so important to give them time to do this. Our next step is to consider how we structure these discussions, and we are looking into talking frames in the future.
    • We encourage students to debate possible solutions to problems in Mathematics and ask them to work together in groups to come up with different answers.

    Strategies used

    Without meaning to patronise anyone here, I know many of you use these strategies, but I thought I would share some of the strategies you can use:

    Word searches – all the keywords they could use with this component of learning can be put in a word search. This helps with spelling. We then have a class conversation with students finding out the definitions of the keywords.

    Scrabble block – you get students to give you 10 letters at random, and you write them on the board.  They then have to come up with as many words as possible linked to your topic and explain how that word is linked to the topic.

    Recap (Starter) questions – include definitions or contextual question at the beginning of your lesson which gives students the opportunity to either recap or explore information.


    Examples I use in my learning episodes:

    1. Where are decimals used in real life? Where have they used decimals or percentages in real life?
    2. Give 2 definitions of the word “mean”?  (Mean is the average in Maths but also used as a description of me!)
    3. Give an example of how a Scattergraph is used in Geography.  (I would have already taught them that Scattergraphs shows the relationship between two variables)
    4. Define the word ‘multiple’ or give an example?
    5. What measurements and units are used in Catering?  Or can you put these measurements used in Catering in order from biggest to smallest?
    6. Where are percentages (or figures/graphs/tables whatever I am teaching) used in Sports data?

    Diagrams with no questions - I’ll put a diagram of a triangle or graph on the board and students have to come up with 5 questions they could ask about that particular diagram – they are then having to think of the keywords themselves.

    Match up the keywords with the definitions - Literacy is treated with as equal importance as any question they are answering from the task given. At the start of the lesson and before I explain how to solve any question, a few minutes are spent defining the keywords – students write these with me with the same expectation of learning as the Maths content.  Planning this into our retrieval thinking means we know this will be recapped on in future learning.

    I am really keen to develop cross curricular links between subjects and if anyone has any suggestions or strategies they use, I am always looking to develop my teaching and work with the T+L team here to support colleagues.  Please feel free to share your ideas with me no matter how unnecessary or basic you think your idea is.

    Mark Kyrillou

    Failed footballer/model/genius but happy teaching Maths!

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  • April Blog 2023

    Published 20/04/23, by James Collins

    During this holiday, the Senior Leadership Team are reading a book called ‘Reaching the unseen children’ by Jean Gross. It looks at practical strategies for closing the stubborn disadvantaged attainment gap, with particular focus on underachieving boys (and we can all think of students like this in our classroom!). Gross references research heavily, and in particular, the EEF teaching and learning toolkit. I want to draw your attention to some of the strategies that are highlighted and what we should be doing in our classroom to implement these effectively.

    The following screenshots of this research, which I am sure many of you have seen before, highlight the importance of intervention. The Toolkit looks at each of the key interventions that schools use, how much they would generally cost (£) and then the strength of the research behind this (Padlock). The number in the circle at the end is the months of progress an average child will make compared to a child who does not receive that intervention. The link below will allow you to go onto the website and have a more detailed look if you would like.

    Let’s take a look at some of the strategies mentioned at the top of the league for promoting progress and what we should be doing in the Crookhorn classrooms.

    Feedback: "Feedback is information given about the learner’s performance relative to learning goals. It should aim towards (and be capable of producing) improvement in students’ learning. Feedback redirects or refocuses the learner’s actions to achieve a goal, by aligning effort and activity with an outcome. It can be about the learning activity itself, about the process of activity, about the student’s management of their learning or self-regulation or (the least effective) about them as individuals. This feedback can be verbal, written, or can be given through tests or via digital technology. It can come from a teacher or someone taking a teaching role, or from peers."

    Crookhorn: We promote many different ways of providing feedback, including through exercise books and ItsLearning. I believe that live feedback is best; the student is in the process of learning and any corrections or adjustments to their learning at that point should have most effect. We also have done some training with our TAs, and if you are working with a TA and have given them support with this, they could also help with live marking. Many teachers are now using ItsLearning to provide feedback, with audio and video feedback being used to help with teacher workload. If you need any support with this, please see your coach.

    Homework: "Homework refers to tasks given to pupils by their teachers to be completed outside of usual lessons. Common homework activities may be reading or preparing for work to be done in class, or practising and completing tasks or activities already taught or started in lessons, but it may include more extended activities to develop inquiry skills or more directed and focused work such as revision for exams."

    Crookhorn: We believe that homework should be set consistently across the 5-year groups. If students are not consistently set homework for your classes in KS3, they will not be in good habits as they move into KS4. Homework should be planned into your components of learning and should be set through ItsLearning. The use of SENECA or ItsLearning self-marking tests should be used, to make sure teacher workload is not increased. Prepare students for upcoming assessments in KS3 by getting them to study for this using the revision techniques we promote, as again, this will promote good habits for them when it comes to GCSEs.

    Reading: "Reading comprehension approaches to improving reading focus on learners’ understanding of the text. They teach a range of techniques that enable pupils to comprehend the meaning of what is written, such as inferring the meaning from context, summarising or identifying key points, using graphic or semantic organisers, developing questioning strategies, and monitoring their own comprehension and identifying difficulties themselves (see also Meta-cognition and self-regulation)."

    Crookhorn: We all have a responsibility to improve the reading comprehension of the students in our class. It can’t be seen solely as the task of an English teacher, or Cheryl, Sarah Woods or Ellie McBride with their specific interventions and mentoring. We are moving DEAR time from after Roll Call over to the morning which will be linked in with tutor time to increase the profile of reading and its importance with students and staff. Teachers should think about their planning and consider where there are opportunities to enable students to read, the potential barriers they may face and then develop student understanding of what has been written. We have asked HOS to choose words from out Tier 2 vocabulary lists that teachers will be promoting, to develop further students’ understanding of key words, to support them with their reading. 

    Collaborative learning and oracy: "Collaborative or cooperative learning can be defined as learning tasks or activities where students work together in a group small enough for everyone to participate on a collective task that has been clearly assigned. This can be either a joint task where group members do different aspects of the task but contribute to a common overall outcome, or a shared task where group members work together throughout the activity. Some collaborative learning approaches also get mixed ability teams or groups to work in competition with each other, in order to drive more effective collaboration.”

    Crookhorn: By getting students to work together, and talk to each other about their learning, we will see progress made. As a College, we have followed the research and introduced mixed attaining teaching in many of our classrooms (see below), and the classroom layout you have in your classrooms should facilitate students to be able to easily discuss learning. Plan for this, and don’t forget the ground rules we have in place to make sure that the students discuss learning in the right way. We want to develop skills that students will need for the rest of their lives, not just to pass their GCSEs! Working together in a team, presenting ideas, looking at two or more points of view and realising that others have a different take to you are all strategies we want our children to have.

    We have an amazing group of teachers at Crookhorn, and our students are very lucky to have such a hard-working, determined, and self-reflective collective of staff to support them. When you have your next coaching session, please use this blog to reflect on where you stand with each of the strands I have highlighted, and what you could do to improve your practice in the coming months. Have a great summer term, and if you have any questions or reflections on this blog, please do not hesitate to ask.

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  • February Blog 2023

    Published 21/02/23, by James Collins

    Please enter an introduction for your blog post here.

    For this month's blog, we have decided that we are going to mix it up a bit and do a video blog, which Katy King has very kindly offered to do. This month the focus is on Tier 2 vocabulary and how to teach these words in a classroom.  In the video you will see students gaining confidence with the meanings of two key words implicit and explicit and how they use the Frayer grid to check their understanding and then apply this to the text they are reading to reinforce the learning. After this, they are then expected to use their understanding of these two words to help them write from the point of view of the character showing implicitly and explicitly what the character feels.
    Key points:
    • clear definitions, examples and non-examples with Frayer
    • thinking time and pair share for retrieval (thinking time can be up to two minutes and if mini whiteboards are available, they are a great way for students to organise their thoughts)
    • quick low stake CFU activity and instant feedback
    • extended writing using the key words (opportunity to differentiate with live marking and extending the high attaining students with prompts to upgrade their vocabulary)
    Katy shows us how we can introduce the key words that have been allocated to each department. You then need to consider the quick retrieval activities that can be used throughout the half term to reinforce the understanding of these key words. After Easter we will be 2 new Tier 2 key words, so please use this guidance on how to plan for the introduction of these words. Any questions please do ask either Katy or myself.
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  • January Blog 2023

    Published 31/01/23, by James Collins

    What is the Big Question?

    The ‘Big Question’ is an innovative pedagogical tool, where instead of implementing a learning objective, a question is posed at the start of each component of learning. It is important that we share this question with the students, through our itslearning plans, so our students can get a full understanding of what they need to be able to answer by the end of this particular learning journey. There are many different research references to support this thinking which I have highlighted at the end.

    Good practice indicates that we should get the students to read and consider all key words within the question. After allowing time to think, students have the opportunity to discuss their initial thoughts with their peers. Once they have consolidated their ideas, they are asked to share what they think are the important words and what these mean to them. This can act as a quick and easy form of ‘Check for understanding’ (Assessment Reform Group, 2002), where the teacher can make initial amendments to the component of learning to address any misconceptions that had not been predicted.

    This dissection and analysis of the ‘Big Question’ helps to place responsibility on the students, allowing them to take ownership of this learning journey (Holligan, 2013).

    How is a big question different from an objective?

    The ‘Big Question’ allows the children to understand the success criteria. If they can answer the question at the end of the learning journey, they have been successful.  The children have the ability to take ownership of their learning journey as they work through the components as they build up to the fuller understanding of the ‘Big Question’.

    Let’s think back to our worked example in History- ‘Why did William win the battle of Hastings’. If we shared that question with the students at the start, and they discussed possible explanations, this should gain their interest and then start breaking down what they will be learning over the coming weeks. We then can then break this down into smaller components of learning based on what we need them to understand to get that fuller picture. The assessment at the end is based on the initial ‘Big Question’, so we can check learning at the end of the journey. Below is the link to the thinking template History used.

    When using a learning objective, teachers must generate their own questions within the lesson to support higher-order thinking. Research suggests that open-ended questions support higher-order thinking skills, but teachers tend to ask closed questions. Teachers can plan ahead using the ‘Big Question’, considering what further questions might arise as a result. Use of the ‘Big Question’ can facilitate teachers’ questioning skills, where an open-ended question can be used at the beginning of a component to initiate deeper understanding. We have encouraged this use of ‘hinge-questions’ to support our CFU points throughout a learning journey.

    How is the Big Question formed, and how does this lead to components of learning?

    There are several steps to planning the ‘Big Question’:

    Step 1: Consider the initial learning objective. What should be learned, and what is needed for this to happen successfully?

    Step 2: Identify knowledge children already hold which will allow them to be successful with this new component. An effective ‘Big Question’ will enable the teacher to make it clear to the children what prior knowledge they need to draw upon.

    Step 3: Establish the components children will learn and understand, building on the prior knowledge to introduce new concepts or content. For those of you who were here in March 2020, we talked about the idea of schema, and how to break up learning into components. The example below comes from a ‘Big Question’ – what is a bird? We would need to break this down into the components of a bird and how all these parts make up a bird. We can use this concept with any big question we are teaching.

    Once all these things are considered, a list of keywords (Tier 2 and 3) can be made and these form the structure of your ‘Big Question’ for that specific session.

    An effective ‘Big Question’ will allow the students to interpret what they will be doing within that session and how they can show progression from one session to another. Therefore, it is essential that the ‘Big Question’ incorporates all the key concepts and vocabulary that will be used throughout the component.

    The benefits of using the Big Question

    This use of the ‘Big Question’ will improve the use of dialogic within the classroom (Alexander, 2008). This produces a positive impact across the entire curriculum where talk is an essential tool for developing and articulating understanding across a range of attainment levels.

    Implications for future practice

     The ‘Big Question’ promotes ‘outstanding’ teaching and learning in accordance with Ofsted (2015). To name a few criteria suggested by Ofsted, outstanding teachers should use questioning highly effectively, identify common misconceptions, check pupils’ understanding and plan lessons very effectively. The ‘Big Question’ promotes and endorses all of these criteria, allowing for constant questioning that checks for understanding and misconceptions. This innovative pedagogical choice provides us with confidence that we are giving the students the best learning experience possible and that we are supporting them in developing key skills that they will need throughout the whole curriculum and later on in life. Having seen it in practice and having witnessed its impact on both the students and the teachers within College, we believe using the big question as the basis of planning is in the best interests of the students.


    Alexandra R (2008) Towards dialogic teaching: rethinking classroom talk. 4th edn. York: Dialogos.

    Assessment Reform Group (2002) Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles [online]. London: Nuffield Foundation. Available at: www. Assessment-for-Learning-10-principles.pdf

    Crossland, J. (2015) Thinking about metacognition. Primary Science, 138, 14–16.

    Dawes, L., Mercer, N. and Wegerif, R. (2004) Thinking together. 2nd edn. Birmingham: Imaginative Minds.

    Holligan, B. (2013) Giving children ownership of their science investigations is easier than you might think. Primary Science, 128, 5–8.

    Office for Standards in Education (2015) School inspection handbook [online]. Manchester: Ofsted. Available at: www.

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  • November Blog 2022

    Published 01/12/22, by James Collins

     Retrieval Practice

    Retrieval practice is not a new concept in education.   Teachers over many years have been working with the technique of getting their students to remember knowledge from past lessons.   Here at Crookhorn, we are now looking at best practice and how we can develop our retrieval skills - both as teachers in lessons and students studying independently.

    As part of the Developing Blended Learners Programme, we have considered both retrieval and revision and how we can upskill our students to get the most out of their working time.   Through discussions, we realised that staff have varied definitions of retrieval and revision, and this was a potential point of confusion for students and parents.   We have therefore come up with the following definitions:


    Going back over taught and learnt content, using previous and new resources, to ensure a secure understanding. 

    Revision materials:

    Concise and accurate documents that contain a clear summary of previously taught content.

    Retrieval Practice…

    “refers to the act of recalling learned information from memory (with no or little support) and every time that information is retrieved, or an answer generated, it changes that original memory to make it stronger. 

    The retrieval process cements the information in the long-term memory, which should enable that information to become easier to retrieve in the future.”  Kate Jones

    • is intended to be low (or no) stakes work
    • needs to have appropriate ease and challenge to allow to a high success rate (80%+)
    • can be used to close the vocabulary gap and support vocabulary instruction

    It is a common misconception that retrieval practice is just about learning facts.  Although it is easy to see why this is the case, the process of recalling information regularly supports the development of links within the long-term memory.  In turn, this allows students to be able to use this knowledge more effectively when working on new concepts.

    We need retrieval to be frequent and ongoing, not just part of revision towards assessments.   We need to build retrieval into every lesson as well as independent work.   An activity doesn’t need to be long, but the sequence of the activity needs to be carefully planned.  

    When in class, we need to be explicit with the students that this is a retrieval task.   We need to explain to the students the process they are going through and how they can use the same process as part of their independent work.

    For the past year, science have been using their ‘Blast from the Past’ sheets which have questions from various time scales in the past. 

    With this example, the class teacher should be explaining to the students the reasons for revisiting work from a year ago and not just focussing on the last lesson.

    The Developing Blended Learners Programme will be working with students to get them to consider their independent learning and revision process, but the more we can support this this in every lesson, the better working practice our students will have.

    Seneca is a great way for students to be given short sharp retrieval activities as homework.   Taking on board the idea of revisiting over time, a Seneca assignment can be built up of short sections from multiple areas of the Seneca ‘course’.  There is no need to complete all of once section of the ‘course’ in one sitting.  Careful planning and analysis of the results can ensure coverage of the whole curriculum across time and address weaker areas of knowledge.

    The retrieval practice definition shared earlier comes from Kate Jones’ book ‘Retrieval practice: Research and Resources for every classroom’.  This, along with book two, is available in the staff library and is an easy read, summarising the work of many practitioners – including Rosenshein and Sherrington on the Principles of instruction.  Jones has collected several retrieval techniques and I share a few with you here:

    Generic retrieval questions

      • State 3 facts from last lesson.
      • What keywords did you use or learn last lesson?
      • Ask your partner 3 questions based on the content covered this term.
      • Explain a key concept or idea from last week in your own words.
      • Discuss with your partner what we were studying in the lesson last week.

    Brain dumps

    Simply refers to dumping as much information from the brain about a specific topic

    Cops and Robbers

    A build on from brain dumps.   Once the initial brain dump has been completed, student read other students work and ‘steal’ other information

    Retrieval relay race

      • One question on a page, 4 empty boxes
      • Student 1 writes as much as possible in the 1st box
      • Paper is passed to student 2 who needs to add ‘more’ information to box 2 – this requires student 2 to read students 1s work before writing their own information
      • Pass on to student 3 and 4 accordingly
      • Can be done with all students on the same question or a variety of questions in the class

    Flashback Friday

    As an end of lesson task, students create a list of 10 questions based on the current content (with answers separately if you want).   They will return and answer these questions in a future lesson – answering their own questions or a peer’s questions as you see fit.

    Retrieval grids

    There are many different forms of retrieval grids – this one appealed to me the most.

      • Create a 3 x 3 grid (or whatever size you want)
      • Add a question / fact / keyword etc in each box
      • In lesson 1, student complete 1 box of their choice – they will opt for the one they know the best
      • Lesson 2 a second box is completed and so on.

    ‘Apart from the initial lesson, the students will know what they will need to retrieve next lesson, and they may decide in advance which they wish to focus on for the next lesson.  The fact that they were deciding to act on that in advance to be prepared in the lesson is brilliant and exactly what they should be doing.  Kate Jones

    Retrieval at Crookhorn


    Following the memory pedagogy training at the start of November, Sean has been working on a couple of ideas, one of which he shares here:

    Thinking inside the box!

    Make as many links as you can on your white board between these images.

    The purpose of these activities are twofold

    a) retrieval opportunity

    b) allow students to form their own dual coding - Also allowing you to see when they are unable to do this and therefore address any misconceptions.



    Having considered the Retrieval Grids idea from Kate Jones, Barbara has amended the process of her GYM sheets.  

    Geography now complete these more often as their Do Now task, one box at a time. 

    Hopefully the students will begin to consider a little revision between lessons as they know what they need to work on in the next lesson.

    We’ll be able to share the update on the developed use of these sheets in due course. 

    We know there is good practice going on around the College and we would like to showcase more.  Please can you email AJB with examples from your teaching by the end of term.

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  • October Blog 2022

    Published 31/10/22, by James Collins

    I wanted to start this blog by thanking all teachers that Tor Flynn and I visited on the Friday before half term for our learning walk. We saw some excellent practice and I was delighted that we witnessed far more student discussion and engagement with student learning through talk than we had seen previously. From all the detailed and valuable research that has been carried out on the value of oracy recently, I keep coming back to the simple, yet quite old (I remember reading about this at university so it must be old!) learning pyramid about how best we all learn.

    It demonstrates that discussion, practising doing, and teaching others is by far the best way to learn something, and this is what we are seeing more in the classrooms.

    I wanted to share with you all some general feedback that Tor and I discussed, and what she has seen commonly across the county on all her learning walks. I also want to share with you what a student panel thought as well.

    1. With ‘Think, Pair, Share’ (TPS), we often rush the process. We need to slow down and let the students think. As practitioners, we don’t think the pace is quick enough if we just stop and let them think, so often speed it up and talk over the students whilst they are thinking.
    2. When it comes to the thinking stage, let them jot down their thoughts on whiteboards or in their books. You will be able to tell when the right time is to move on by just watching them. Have the mini whiteboards on the desk so they are easy to grab for the students. Tim has offered to send out a video of him leading a ‘TPS’ session this half term which I think will really help us.
    3. When using the whiteboards for a CFU, ask them to show the boards at the same time. If they are holding up their boards at different times, it can often be the case that students check what others have put up and then quickly copy them. It is also much easier to check that everyone has put up their boards and answer when they all raise their boards at the same time.
    4. What happens after your CFU? There are some times when we see some excellent ways teachers check for understanding but then nothing really happens due to it. The teacher ‘ploughs on’ with their plan. I have spoken before about the values of flexible teaching, or adaptive teaching, which I believe is even easier with our new classroom layouts. An example of flexible teaching could be the following.

    Teacher CFU on mini whiteboards and sees some students have not quite got the concept. Teacher sets up next part of the lesson, which is extending the thinking of the students who do understand. The teacher brings the students who do not understand the first concept to a table and moves the students who do get it to the now free seats. The teacher works with these students, and if there is a TA they can work with the students who are working on the extension task.

    Tor Flynn did a really interesting student panel with a selection of our KS3 students. Much of what they said backs up our own thoughts and observations of our oracy strategies. Their key points are as follows:

    1. Give us time to think! We often only have 10-20 secs which is nothing. Check both partners are contributing when walking around.
    2. Give us some examples of sentence starters to help us start off as this helps some of us.
    3. Teachers check our answers, but don’t do anything with this apart from ‘well done ‘or ‘that’s not right, think again’.
    4. ‘They need to know what we don’t know.’ Quote from Y8!
    5. Live marking really helps us.
    6. The key words help, but sometimes the definitions used by teachers are too fancy, using words we don’t know! It’s better when they put it in a context that we will understand.
    7. Lots of talking over us when we are working which stops us thinking!
    8. We recognise we are not confident in speaking in front of the class, and need help getting better at this.
    9. Each teacher or subject should actually ask us what helps us, through student voice.
    10. Teachers are using cold calling less, and more TPS but cold calling is still good if done well. Sometimes it is just used to check the ‘naughty kids’

    I think there is a lot for us to consider, but we are on the right path, and we all need to get into the right habits of doing this more in the classroom. Following on from the last point the students made, Doug Lemov (Teach Like a Champion) has written a blog about how to develop our questioning, and then getting students to think and respond to it through cold calling. This ties in directly to the points made above.


    What makes a really good question? How do we ensure that we get as many students cognitively engaged as possible? And can subtle tweaks in the way you ask questions help your students feel more confident when they answer? Given that asking questions is the primary vehicle for Retrieval Practice, which continues to be one of the best bets for students learning, it is essential that we consider how to do it best. Lately, there has been a renewed interest amongst teachers for using a questioning method known as cold-calling, which is when a teacher solicits an answer from a student who hadn’t raised their hand to answer the question.

    This blog (and the downloadable graphic below) looks at three different approaches to using cold-calling, with each one tweaking the structure of your question and building on the last…


    There are certain situations where it would be beneficial to have students think of an answer to a question (instead of writing it down). These may include for younger students who haven’t developed their writing skills, for example. This type of questioning is known in the research as “covert Retrieval Practice”.

    However, it is worth noting that when we ask students to think of an answer, if we tell them at the start of the question who we want an answer from, we subconsciously give the rest of class permission to switch off, as they know they are not going to be asked for an answer. As a result, they don’t have to recall the information and so miss out of the benefit of Retrieval Practice. In fact, it is likely that only the student you ask gains anything from it.

    By contrast, if we use the student’s name at the end of the question, we increase the amount of time the rest of the class are being asked to recall the answer. Despite the fact that they are subsequently not chosen, more of them have still engaged in this Retrieval Practice. This means both the students you ask the question to and the majority of the class are reflecting on the task for longer.

    Some worry that cold-calling can increase students’ stress levels, as the thought of being put on the spot can make them feel uncomfortable. This may well be the case if

    · it is not done in a supportive and inclusive environment

    · it was a one-off event

    However, evidence does suggest that being part of a classroom that repeatedly uses cold-calling can actually help students feel more comfortable in participating. So, make sure to use cold-calling often to make it a norm in your classroom.


    Overt Retrieval Practice is where students write down their answer to a question. So, under the right specific conditions, why might having students write down their answer be a useful strategy? There are four different, but probably related answers...

    1. It helps ensure that all students are retrieving information – When students are asked to retrieve covertly (i.e., thinking of an answer), we cannot be 100% sure that they are in fact retrieving. For all we know, at any given time, students may be thinking about something else. 2. It helps the teacher asking the question to slow down and not rush their wait time – Given that there is some evidence that some wait-times are akin to the speed of an F1 pitstop, this could provide a very valuable strategy. Teacher self-discipline is a big factor in effective wait times, as it can be difficult not to jump in and solicit an answer too quickly. As it takes longer to write an answer than to say one, this helps slow down the whole process.

    3. Students can cover a broader range and larger depth of information – Due to the constraints of working memory, holding an answer in your head is always destined to be somewhat limited. Writing down their answer can help students mitigate this effect.

    4. Overt retrieval may potentially lead to a memory boost – If this was to be the case, it would be because of an increase in desirable difficulty, as well as utilisation of the Production Effect (which states that by producing something new with the information, students are more likely to remember it). However, it should be noted that the potential memory benefit to overt retrieval over covert retrieval is still relatively thin, with a clear consensus yet to be achieved. So, more studies are definitely needed (if you want to read some of the studies on this, you can do so here, and here).


    A formative prompt is a sentence that encourages students to start the conversation. It gets the ball rolling and inspires students to share their thoughts. It can help reduce the fear of failure as perfection is neither required nor expected. It essentially lowers the stakes for the student being asked, and as such can reduce their anxiety of having been cold-called.

    Formative prompts also have a secondary purpose. By phrasing the sentence as “Laura, let’s start with you” it also signals to the other students that they have to pay attention to Laura’s answer: this is just the start of the conversation, and they may be called upon to build on Laura’s answer. This ensures higher levels of concentration.

    Formative prompts work best for open-ended questions. This is because formative prompts rely on students to build on each other’s answer. This would be difficult to do for factual closed questions. Therefore, you need to carefully consider the nature and format of the question you’re asking.


    When asking questions in the classroom, getting your students to write down their answer, increasing wait times and using formative prompts are all strategies that, if done well, can increase student concentration, reach a sweet spot of desirable difficulty and facilitate richer classroom discussions. It definitely takes a bit longer to implement, but the learning rewards it offers make it a strategy all teachers would do well to have in their locker. This blog was co-written by Bradley Busch (InnerDrive) and Doug Lemov (Teach Like a Champion).

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