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Teaching and Learning Blog

By James Collins, Deputy Headteacher

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  • May 2021 BLOG

    Published 18/05/21, by James Collins
    How do we engage students successfully back into learning in the classroom? A good place to start is the first chapter of Boys Don’t Try, which many of you have borrowed from the staff library as part of your professional development. One of th
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  • April 2021 BLOG

    Published 19/04/21, by James Collins

    It was in February 2020 when we last had a teaching and learning blog about behaviour management, when Chris Watson shared with us some useful tips from staff about the setting of routines and dealing with behaviour situations that are common to us all. Dave and I thought it would be a good time to return to this as we approach a new term and to continue to make sure we are all playing our part to make sure standards in the classroom remain at a very high level.

    Tom Bennett recently said that if we get behaviour right, everything else is possible. He stated that behaviour is the beginning of safety, equity, dignity, curriculum, opportunity and learning, not an afterthought or something that only matters when students misbehave. We also know as professionals that when our teaching is of the very highest quality, this helps our students remain on track and enjoy being in the classroom.

    Since the students have returned to us full time before Easter, it was clear that some students have partially or entirely lost the learning and behaviour habits that we had instilled in them whilst at College previously. It was also clear that students with less privileged backgrounds struggled from going from few or no boundaries to the structure and routine of being back in the classroom. This proved a challenge for some students who pushed boundaries with staff at times.

    There are some points that Chris mentioned in his blog that Dave and I believe support all teachers and ultimately help the students in the classroom to become better learners. If all teachers consider these at the start of term and we, as staff remain consistent with these principles, this will lead to a successful term for us all.

    1. Planning

    Chris talked about the importance of planning and strongly recommended us to read page 57 of PLAN, MARK, TEACH. This is vitally important when dealing with challenging groups. Chris described how important a ‘Do Now’ task was for the students, to settle them down straight away. The pace of the lesson is crucial, and the differentiation to make sure all students are challenged in the right way will keep students on track. Really consider your planning, have you supported the students who need guidance so they don’t feel disengaged or disheartened and can make progress? Is there challenge and rigour for the more and most able students so they can stretch themselves with their learning? As professionals, we understand that when this level of planning is absent, this can often lead to the most challenging of behaviours.

     2. Bring it back to learning

    Whenever I ask students why they come to Crookhorn and what the point of turning up everyday is, they generally always say ‘to learn’. We drum this into them during transition and in SLT and pastoral assemblies. Refer the students to our OPEN MIND and Cornerstones philosophies, this is really important. Are they showing respect for their teachers and classmates, are they taking responsibility for their own learning, how can they prove they are committed to the learning and ultimately, are the achieving their potential? Use these terms with them, remind them what it takes to be a Crookhorn learner.

    3. Define what you mean by good behaviour

    There is an opportunity here at the start of term for you in your classroom to re-evaluate what you want behaviour to look like. We as teachers should define what behaviour is ideal in our classrooms, be concrete with your rules. Vagueness is the enemy here. If you are vague, you’ll barely be aware of when behaviour goes wrong; and students will not grasp what is expected of them. What does fantastic behaviour actually look like in an assessment or when students are coming into your classroom?

    4. Good behaviour must be taught, not told

    The best teachers actively teach the behaviour they want to see, as if it were a curriculum. Do you want students to be kind, or work hard, or listen hard in assemblies if you are their tutor? Teach them to do so, don’t just tell them. Set the example, highlight when students have done something well and share. Chris mentioned in his blog about praising students when you notice good behaviour, so other students know what this looks like.

    5. Build routines, habits and norms

    When dealing with students you should consider these questions:

    1. What behaviour do you want them to think is normal? Then, tell them what it is and teach them what normal means in many circumstances. Challenge them when it is not met. Show them how to do it. Correct them every time they can’t or won’t do it. Never let it slide. Define the new normal by bringing it to life.
    2.  What habits do you want them to develop? If you want them to be punctual, clarify what punctuality means. Insist upon it. The more a behaviour is demanded, and challenged by its absence, the more practice students get performing it, until it starts to feel habitual. We seek, ultimately, to change their behaviour habits, not just their behaviour. 
    3. What routines do they need to learn in order to succeed as learners and human beings? This is crucial. In order for it to be as easy as possible to behave, students should be taught the specific sequences of behaviour they are expected to demonstrate.
    4. Build the habit of phoning home, and not just when things are difficult. We know the positive phone call when a student has done well is so important when building a relationship with parents, so when things aren’t going so well you have a relationship in place and parents are more likely to support.

    6. Make boundaries meaningful. 

    Students need to know that deliberately misbehaving will result in consequences. When behaviour is poor, or fails to meet the standard, it must be challenged. Students need to know a line has been crossed. These lines can be managed by many means. Sanctions can act as a deterrent but only if consistently and fairly applied, and when there is a high expectation that they will occur. Rewards too can have a small, short-term motivating effect. Both sanctions and rewards are an essential part of our system- please use them consistently.

    We know that a well-planned out lesson delivered by an enthusiastic and motivating teacher in a classroom is the best way students learn, of this there is no doubt after what we have been through. I honestly believe the vast majority of our students believe this too now (which is a silver lining in these difficult times!). I have attached Chris’ blog again if you want to refer back to the top tips.

     If you would like any further support within this area, please contact myself, Dave or Chris and we will be delighted to help.

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  • February 2021 BLOG

    Published 22/02/21, by James Collins
    In this month’s teaching and learning blog, we are going to focus on the world of differentiation and how we can use blended learning tools to assist in preparing resources to use inside and outside of the classroom to support all learners. Ada
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  • January 2021 BLOG

    Published 20/01/21, by James Collins
    ‘My journey on itslearning’ In hindsight, the lockdown in March made me realise that although I had been using itslearning for the past 6 months, I was still a complete rookie and had no idea how to use the online format to its full po
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  • December 2020 BLOG

    Published 16/12/20, by James Collins
    ‘My journey on itslearning’ In hindsight, the lockdown in March made me realise that although I had been using itslearning for the past 6 months, I was still a complete rookie and had no idea how to use the online format to its full po
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  • November 2020 BLOG

    Published 02/12/20, by James Collins
    Teaching from home into the classroom Teaching from home into the classroom is a daunting thought. Even the most experienced classroom practitioners may struggle when pulled out of their comfort zone and thrust into the world of talking to a webca
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  • October 2020 BLOG

    Published 06/11/20, by James Collins
    Tweaking for a better Blend As we move forward in the coming weeks, through the dark cold months of November and December, I very quickly wanted to reflect on the journey we have been on with our blended learning policy at Crookhorn before I pass
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  • September 2020 BLOG

    Published 01/10/20, by James Collins
    In the first of our teaching and learning blogs of the new academic year, I thought it was important for us to reflect on how we are all trying to adapt to the different situation we find ourselves in and how our pedagogy must adapt for the foreseeab
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  • February 2020 BLOG

    Published 02/03/20, by James Collins

    Long story short… during a recent review with James, I mentioned that it has been a while since we had any direct training/advice on classroom management techniques that deal with LLD or poor behaviour in the classroom.  By the time the meeting had finished I had been tasked with writing February’s blog (note to self, keep mouth shut).

    As with any homework, I scrolled the internet first, to copy someone else’s, and gathered some information.  I then emailed a bunch of staff for their thoughts and ideas on the classroom techniques that they use to keep LLD to a minimum and keeping those students with a reputation for poor behaviour, on task.  Below is a list of my findings.  What I found most interesting was that many experienced staff had similar thoughts and ideas (most of which, have been around for a while, but are certainly worth revisiting!).


    1. Planning – If you haven’t done so already, read page 57 of PLAN, MARK, TEACH.  I promise you that you will read further!

    One re-occurring theme has been the importance of a well-planned lesson. This is vitally important when dealing with challenging groups.


    1. Give the group a bite-sized, do now task, the moment they walk in through the door (plan this carefully).  Don’t give them a second to be a distraction/distract others.  The first 5 minutes is when you set the tone!! (no wiggle room)
    2. Greet the students upon entry, “Welcome, your task is on the board, you have 2 minutes to get out your equipment, including your planners, and begin” (some teachers find this most effective to do at the door).
    3. Be enthusiastic!  Passionate teachers often get the best results.  Sweep students up in a wave of enthusiasm, take them on a journey, they will learn without realising it…and hopefully never forget it!
    4. Catch students doing the right thing.  “Thank you for putting your jacket on the back of the chair and getting out your equipment”.  This can sometimes be more effective when done privately… “I noted how you came in calmly and sat down today, thank you/well done Darren” (naughty boys were always called Darren – fact!)
    5. The importance of consistency cannot be underestimated (one could write a book on this) in every area of our profession.  Have the same procedures every lesson!  This creates boundaries and students will soon realise what is expected of them.  Follow through…If you say it, make sure that you do it (Never say anything that you can’t follow through with).
    6. Use non-verbal signals – a nod, a smile, a stare, a frown, a raised eyebrow, or a gesture is often all that is needed.  Similarly, moving into closer proximately to a student who is showing signs of distraction can be a non-intrusive deterrent.
    7. Walkabout your class - don’t always deliver your lesson from the same spot (certainly, don’t sit or stand behind your desk).  If you have something on the board, walk to the back of the class to explain it.  Students will not only know if you are watching them or not, it will also give you a student’s eye view of your classroom/lesson.

      These are all well and good, but… I am struggling to be an authority in the classroom. I don’t’ get the respect from the students that I need for them ALL to make progress. I spend far too much time dealing with behaviour issues and not enough time teaching/paying attention to the students that deserve it the most... I hear you cry!!

      OK, it’s hard! What will work for some students, will not work for all students. Just when you thought you were winning, they blow it all back in your face, treat you like…It also takes time, years in some cases. It is no coincidence that some of the better “classroom managers” have had over 20 years in the profession (oh and they still get it wrong from time to time!!).

    The following may help you increase your dominance and assertiveness

    1. Own your classroom!!  Set rules/procedures and stick by them. 
    2. Put a seating plan in place.  Put the most challenging student right at the front.  If your tables are grouped, try to get them working with well-behaved students
    3. Be authoritative in your speech and body language
    4. “Fake it until you make it” Be absolutely confident and in control, even though you don’t feel like it.
    5. Wait for absolute silence!  I sometimes look at my watch, or I hold eye contact with the student/s that are still talking.
    6. If someone starts talking when you are…stop (this is most effective halfway through a sentence) It takes practice, but don’t worry about losing your train of thought…apologise to the class “I’m sorry, I got distracted and have lost where I was”.  Remain silent and still, maintain eye contact until you get the response you want
    7. Pose questions rather than telling a pupil off “Why have you not started your work?”
    8. Use their names, especially when complimenting them.
    9. Problem solve together, ask questions as if you don’t know the answer…work things out together.
    10. Avoid sarcasm, what you might think is light “bants” will harm student-teacher relationships
    11. Use reminders and warnings about rules before you start an activity
    12. Make positive phone calls home.  Pleasantly surprise their parents.  Ask them to congratulate their son/daughter/name of student in their care!


    The following are some golden nuggets from staff…and students (I asked a few year 11s for a hand…some of their insights were fascinating!)

    1. Be honest, admit when you’re wrong
    2. Take the class you enjoy teaching the least and decide to make them your favourite.  Make a huge effort to plan their lessons perfectly.  Remind yourself to be super positive and energetic before they arrive.  If the students believe you love teaching them, it transforms them
    3. Don’t be their friend!  They will look to you for boundaries, guidance and compassion.  You can’t give students those things correctly if you are trying to be their friend (they will also walk all over you)
    4. Consistency – be firm and fair with every student, no favourites
    5. Have a sense of humour!
    6. Don’t winge (about marking, they have produced the work, now you’re moaning about it)
    7. Teach for understanding and not for grades
    8. Recognise and thank students that work hard, compliment them
    9. I tell the class that I am not strict, I am clear (they aren’t allowed to disagree)
    10. Expectations, expectations, expectations
    11. Challenge the behaviour that you don’t want to see… ”what you don’t condemn, you condone”
    12. Be consistent, follow up
    13. Engage. Respect works both ways. 
    14. Embody the cornerstones
    15. Know when to withdraw and observe
    16. Reflect, in the moment and thereafter
    17. “I have asked you once already, now I’m going to walk away for a couple of minutes to give you some time to think about “it” (behaviour/actions).  Please can you help me and yourself out and make a good decision”
    18. I have always approached behaviour management by going in incredibly firm, having supremely high expectations and then easing off once they are safe in their boundaries.  Go in hard and then back away softly, enabling the magic of working relationships to begin.
    19. Keep expectations high; students will soon learn what is expected of them!
    20. Be consistent, if you warn a student and they carry on, then sanction them…ALWAYS follow through.
    21. Show an interest in what students do outside of your lesson…students really respond well to you if they feel you really do care about them and their achievements/progress/interests
    22. It’s all about relationships; connect with them, but remember, they are not your mates.
    23. Learn names and use them for praise and criticism (work out quickly whether to do this privately or publicly depending on the individual)
    24. Use humour about yourself or the work, but not the kids
    25. Have a poster/quote/photo up that invites conversation or a comment/question, this helps them to see you as a person and not just a figure of authority to push against.
    26. Enforce a rule where students are not allowed to laugh at another student, even if they are laughing at themselves.  This really goes a long way to encourage students to make mistakes and feel ok being wrong.  This creates a much more caring and accepting classroom environment. (try not to get this confused with having a good sense of humour, which is important, just understand that “we don’t laugh when someone gets something wrong, or can’t explain something very well”).
    27. Put your hand up if you have a question or an answer.  I don’t tolerate calling out!!  I also make an effort to compliment a student who follows this…” thank you for being patient and putting your hand up”

      I do not wish to mention names, but I would like to thank all the staff that contributed to this blog…and students…and of course my good friend, the internet!
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    Published 03/02/20, by James Collins
    As many of you know, we have lots of staff here at Crookhorn who love to spend the very limited spare time they have outside of their normal working day doing further reading or research and gaining further qualifications. As is often mentioned, lear
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  • December 2019 Blog

    Published 06/01/20, by James Collins
    I bet your confused now, arent you? Lets face it: theres something wrong hear. Your already wondering how many of these errors their are. You our, arent you? Were not used to seeing this sort of thing in print though. You could cheat. You could cu
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  • November 2019 Blog

    Published 03/12/19, by James Collins


    The November Blog will take the concept of planning further and will focus on the importance of the drafting as well as the importance of the single paragraph outline, which looks at the power of the topic and concluding sentences as the main framework of a plan. There will also be some examples teachers have shared with me about how they have trialled this with their classes so you can ask questions or have a chat with colleagues who are giving this a go.

    Writing is a process, or at least it should be. It involves thinking, jotting down ideas, refining these ideas, thinking about the structure, linking ideas and much more. One problem is that writing is often neglected in the classroom – it’s seen as time-consuming and ends up being relegated to a homework task with little or no proper preparation. This is not going to help our students in these more rigorous, writing-based exams.

    If we want our students to become good writers, then we must spend more time in the classroom teaching them how to write. This doesn’t simply mean getting them to write more, as that isn’t teaching. Of course, practice is important, but you can only practice something if you have a clear idea of what your goal is and how to reach it. One of the key things to good writing is a willingness to go back over what you’ve written, edit, receive feedback, revise and rewrite. At first, it can be difficult and sometimes even painful (especially with our students), but, with practice, students will come to realise that what they are producing is improving by leaps and bounds. It’s not simply a matter of reading through a piece of writing looking for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors; it’s about reading through it to see how it can be made better. In a way, a piece of writing should never be finished – it should just be one step further on. 


    Even if students sit down with a blank piece of paper in front of them (or, more likely nowadays, a blank screen such as I had at the start of this!), they need to have some idea of what they want to write. For most writing, there needs to be a purpose and an idea of who the reader is going to be. This is all part of the planning stage. Often the planning will take longer than the actual writing, but if the result is a better piece of writing then there is nothing wrong with that at all. Planning can take all sorts of shapes and forms, such as brainstorming ideas; noting down important facts or pieces of information to be included or annotating a piece of text with important inferences that can then be ordered into a piece of critical and evaluative writing.

    When it comes to paragraphs and compositions, a quick outline can help students structure their ideas and understanding for larger essays. Outlines enable students to develop their writing as a cohesive whole and visualise a beginning, middle, and end in their writing. Outlines can also help students distinguish essential versus non-essential material and, importantly the sequencing information.


    An outline has the following benefits:

    1. Provides Structure
    2. Eliminates Repetition
    3. Improves Adherence to Topic
    4. Aids in sequencing

    Teachers should model a quick outline for the class before requiring students to complete outlines on their own.

    Before beginning outlines, you might give students a Topic Sense (TS) and Supporting Detail (SD) and have students identify which is the TS and which detail is SD. For example:

    __________ Mitosis is a process of cell division.

    __________ In the cell nucleus, chromosomes are separated into two identical sets.

    This might be a do now for a science class put on the whiteboard before the students come in. Once students can identify the topic sentence, the class might follow up with a conversation to articulate their reasoning.

    Another activity would be to give students four sentences and have students sequence the sentences for a paragraph. For example:

    _______ Harriet Tubman helped slaves to freedom.

    _______ John Brown led a small rebellion against slavery.

    _______ The anti-slavery movement began to grow in the 1850s.

    _______ Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election.

    A third strategy that can be used as a quick do now or exit ticket is to have students identify the topic sentence and eliminate irrelevant details by listing different information or giving students an entire paragraph of information.

    All of these activities help students to think about the elements of paragraph writing and building stamina and critical thinking for essay writing.

    The Hochman Method Quick Outline is, therefore, this simple formula:

     TS; 4 details from the t + CS.

    Note the dotted lines for the textual details. The dotted lines suggest to students that they do not have to write in complete sentences, rather include keywords and phrases. The TS and CS are solid lines that require a complete, specific, and detailed sentence.

    The Quick Outline template above is for a single paragraph.

    Additional lessons for outlining include:

    • Students are given details and must generate a topic sentence.
    • Generating a concluding sentence from a given topic sentence and details.
    • Given a paragraph and convert it into a quick outline by picking out the key details
    • Given a topic, generate a Quick SPO (Single Paragraph Outline) independently.


    Once students start writing, they need to understand that this is just the first draft – that finishing the writing is only the first step to getting a piece that is good enough. Drafting is a kind of practice exercise for a final draft. What you are asking them to produce in a draft is a rough version of how their final writing will look like.

    It is most unlikely that their first attempt will be outstanding, and so you should plan to get them to re-write the draft at least once. The process of making changes to a draft is called re-drafting. Before this, they must develop their understanding through feedback.

    It is vital to firstly check that students understand the feedback you have given them. If they do not understand, they will not make the necessary improvements needed. If you are giving feedback through live marking, then it is easy to check for understanding. If they are responding to feedback you have given them in your written marking, then make sure you target students who you know might need further support immediately as you circulate the room. Ask them to let you know if they do not understand their feedback which will help you know where to go first. Ask the students to identify the major problems which they need to work on. There might be many problems but try to get students to focus on the main problems through your feedback as that will help them make the greatest improvement to their work. They then redraft the writing or a section of the writing again.

    My thanks to Caroline Nailor and Katy King for providing some excellent examples of how they have started using this in their lessons which have been photocopied for you and come with this blog. If you would like to speak to them further about how they have introduced this, please do go and speak to them and gain their insight.

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