Mock Examination feedback card

I just put this feedback card together to improve the quality of feedback to students who are doing mock exams. I give each student a completed card with their exam script so they get both organised writted feedback as well as their marks.

Evaluation of Year 11 Mock Performance card

More Secondary Starters and Plenaries by Mike Gershon – a review

This book is a follow-up to Kate Brown’s Secondary Starters and Plenaries which is now republished and rebranded to fit in with a developing series of books by Bloomsbury on Starters and Plenaries. Brown’s book was very good with plenty of ideas and strategies to help invigorate lessons – although one or two ideas would take a significant amount of time to prepare and certainly fitted in with Jim Smith’s principle of ‘firework learning’ – a task which would take hours to prepare and would take moments within a lesson.

Mike Gershon has rightly developed a large following in education for his resources through his profile in the TES Resources website and, in particular, his resources, such as The Starter Generator, has been used in many contexts and CPD sessions. This makes him the right man to pick up the baton in this series and this book builds upon the great work he has shared on TES Resources and contains the best ideas that he has shared on the web. However, the book delves deeper and offers for each of the 50 strategies a detailed overview, teacher tips and extensions building upon the original idea. The book is very comprehensive and is more detailed in its coverage for each activity than most books. Many ideas are easy to implement, although some may need some preparation time. However, once you have created the framework for the activity you then can easily adapt it for other lessons.

If I was to offer a criticism of this book, I think some of the activities can be easily used as main lesson activities rather than starters or plenaries and this is underplayed in the book. For example, the Defend Your Statement task – where you offer a number of statements which students have to find evidence and make an argument to support a particular statement can be used very effectively in a lesson for an exam class. I used this as the main lesson activity and this provided excellent opportunities for students to practice a wide range of exam-related skills. This perhaps could not have been the case if this was restricted to a starter or plenary.

This is a little gem of a book bursting with great ideas and creative suggestions on how they can be applied in lesson for all subjects. Very detailed bursting with creative suggestions which would enhance any lesson which needed greater creativity with an active approach.

Gladiator Top Trumps cards

This resource is for my Year 7 groups. We are about to start studying gladiators and I am going to use the top trumps cards methods for them to think about the key strengths and weaknesses of different gladiators and be able to compare them. The resource below contains frameworks for six cards – five have the names of different gladiators on them while one is left blank so students can research one independently. Students also have to decide upon what categories they are going to use to measure the strengths and weaknesses. Alongside this I am going to use to resources for students to use as research – Rotten Romans from the Horrible Histories series and other is a great book called Gladiator – The Roman Fighter’s Manual by Philip Matyszak.

Gladiators Top Trumps

100 ideas for Secondary Teachers – Outstanding Lessons – a review

The 100 ideas series has undergone a revamp and it could not have begun with such an excellent practioner as Ross Morrison-McGill otherwise known as @TeacherToolkit on Twitter and the TES. Previously, I had found the 100 ideas series uneven and, sometimes, dull. However, this series has been rejuvenated and the books have now been restructured to include not only the core ideas but also how to take the ideas further and tips on how to implement the new strategy. This makes the book more flexible and gives the content more depth.

The ideas themselves are a mix of traditional tips and thoughts, such as drinking coffeee in lessons – a no-no according to McGill and something I fully agree with, and more cutting edge ideas, such as the 5 minute lesson plan – which before the book was publsihed it made an online appearance and almost went viral via Twitter and the TES. Some ideas are not new but remind us of our core purpose while other like the 5 minute lesson plan are genuinely innovative and can be easily implemented with a significant impact. The coverage of the book is wide ranging from planning and marking to homework setting and is written in a catchy and accessible style. Also, you can dip in and out of the book always picking up a new idea or something that plants an idea which you can modify for your own teaching style.

But for me, the real highlight of the book is how it is linked with Twitter. Twitter is perhaps the most important CPD tool for teachers so far in the 21st century and I believe that this book is the first to latch on to this and link it to the teacher forum on Twitter. The book itself has a hashtag – #100ideas – and each idea is given a hashtag therefore encouraging readers to share thoughts and how they implemented each particular idea. I have done this [particularly with the One Off Homework idea or #OOH] and found that sharing this significantly enhances the value of the book. This new way of using social media alongside a teaching book is groundbreaking and something that others, will I am sure, follow.

This new volume is a great improvement from the old 100 ideas series and, I hope, there will be more to follwo from the @TeacherToolkit – a most impressive publishing debut.

Perfect ICT Every Lesson by Mark Anderson – a review

Including an element of ICT can be a daunting prospect for some teachers. Mention the term ‘ICT’ and it can conjure up images of students being let loose in an ICT suite, the dangers of students going off task and finding a cheeky game instead of focus on the carefully prepared task you have spent hours on. That is not even mentioning what can be unwittingly thrown up on a search engine. I never forget a story from my old Deputy Head who had a lesson which demanded students to design a poster for a pantomime [well, it was Christmas] and one student went on Google and looked up ‘Puss in Boots’ ……. what came up made my Deputy Head never to venture into the ICT suite again. Challenges can be more practical, certainly for me trying to book a slot into any ICT suite is a major difficulty.

However, Mark Anderson – or as he is known by his Twitter legend @ICTEvangelist – tackles many of the issues of including elements of ICT in his first book in a skillful and approachable fashion. Like the other volumes in Independent Thinking Perfect series, this is a short but valuable guide on an important issue in education which you can easily pick up and dip into or read cover to cover quickly but always ensuring that you pick up a little gem which you can drop into your teaching with minimal effort.


The book and approach is most definitely forward looking which some schools may find a challenge. For example, it gives a balanced assessment of using mobile technology in lessons which certainly gives food for thought. I particularly liked the methodology on how ICT can enhance literacy skills and this books offers alternative approaches with using ICT as a support to help students make progress in their literacy skills – a big focus in the current Ofsted framework. I also enjoyed how he saw the use of word clouds in lesson – a particular personal interest of mine.

The book is structured thematically and is comprehensive in the issues it touches upon from social media to e-safety. Each chapter gives reference to outstanding practice in a wide range of schools and has useful top tips section as a summary at the end. This is most handy when you are looking for an idea or theme. I particularly liked the attention given to Twitter as a tool to develop CPD. @ICTEvangelist guides an excellent easy to follow guide on how to set up a Twitter account either for a school or for an individual and gives a good overview on how it can useful to teachers. Twitter is a growing tool for many teachers interested in developing themselves in the days of cuts to CPD budgets in schools.

A very much recommended book and a worthy addition to my personal CPD library.

Reflections on Beaumont TeachMeet – 8th November 2013

With increasing budget cuts for schools in recent years, this has had the knock on effect of limiting CPD opportunities, such as being allowed to go on expensive one day courses in a luxury hotel in Central London. Therefore, teachers have had to look for alternative, and perhaps more creative, opportunities to grow and develop their own teaching practice. From this, there has been over the last couple of years a boom in teaching literature from experienced practitioners, such as Jim Smith and David Didau as well as blogging on a variety of levels. However, perhaps the most exciting development has been the trend for schools to hold ‘TeachMeets’ – informal meetings for teachers to network, share good practice and ideas.

For the first time ever, Beaumont School in St. Albans grasped the initiative and held the first TeachMeet by a state school in Hertfordshire, and I volunteered as quick as possible to participate. I was so glad I did despite the fact it has held on a dark, wet Friday evening when most of my mates were warm and comfortable in a local hostelry. Beaumont School has developed an enthusiastic and forward looking group of teachers who have formed the Beaumont School Teaching and Learning Team and it was they who led the TeachMeet which was overseen by Joanna Cavanagh – @JoCav. For further information on this group’s work as well as a detailed overview of the event, do visit their website – – which is a developing area of sharing great practice and good ideas which are always credited with the original source so you can find out more.

Without doubt, the TeachMeet was a success with 70 teachers from a range of Hertfordshire Schools sharing good practice in a warm and encouraging atmosphere. Highlights included –

Gemma Harvey’s [@GemmaHarvey73] presentation on the value of Twitter as a CPD tool.
Simon Warburton’s [@Simon_Warburton] presentation on the application of Google Form’s as an aid to teaching and administration.
Caroline Creaby’s {@CarolineCreaby] presentation of a passport to check progress and learning.

There was so much more and all these presentations can be found at – But the real value of the meeting was to meet with teachers from other schools who were like minded in wanting to find new ideas and improve their practice. This generous and positive atmosphere was fostered by the Beaumont School’s Teaching and Learning Team, who deserved a full measure of credit for the success for this event. I look forward to attending their next event!

Learning Grids presentation at Beaumont TeachMeet

I had the pleasure to attend Beaumont School’s TeachMeet on 8th November and made a short presentation on the wonders on Learning Grids. Big thanks to all the organisers of such a fantastic event – the first in a Hertfordshire state school, i believe. Here is a copy of the presentation. Feel free to steal.

Learning grids – linking to learn – Beaumont TeachMeet