Monthly Archives: June 2013

June #blogsync – My Best Classroom Explanations

The always excellent Laura McInnerney sharing three great, and very different, examples of how to explain. The overall message is powerful. We should be less assertive that a single method of explanation is the best and instead focus on what working out what works best for our own students at a particular time in their learning. The key is having lots of strong strategies and knowing when to use them.

Laura McInerney

This month’s #blogsync asked education bloggers to describe “an example of a great classroom explanation”. The theme is inspired by an Alex Quigley blog on “Top Tips for Explanation”, itself inspired by Joe Kirby’s “What Makes Great Teaching?” It’s an important issue because all teachers know that the way we explain things matters for how successful student learning is.

Problem is, I’m not really sure what counts as an explanation.

So below are three different types of explanation that successfully helped my students learn something and which might give you some ideas for explanations in your own classroom and also might show why debates about ‘teacher’ vs ‘student-led’ learning are often a bit odd. Alternatively, maybe you won’t think one (or any) of them, is really an explanation. That’s okay, but let me know why in the comments so I can ponder the distinction…

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T & L activity of the week – verbal feedback

Students are often more receptive to verbal feedback because it is specific to them, they can ask questions about it and have learning conversations with their teachers.

  • Give students verbal feedback.
  • Then ask students to write down what you said.
  • This will help students to process your comments more deeply, and act upon them.

verbal feedback

Developing writing skills

A very nice short post from Durrington High School in West Sussex and their excellent blog. Note the similarities in the writing frameworks used here with our ‘Thinking Wall@ templates which encourage a similar approach. Great stuff.

Class Teaching

The fifteen minute forum was led tonight by Harriet Schuler – our Deputy Leader in Science.

Our science department have been developing  ways in which they can support students with their extended writing – particularly in response to the new style exam questions.  They have had some excellent support from Karen Parks (@betterscience1) who must also be credited for some of the resources and ideas here.

Step 1 – Understanding command words

mugs-12Show students an image like the one to the left. Ask them to then do the following to the mugs, one at a time:

1. Describe the mugs

2. Explain the differences in the mugs

3. Compare the similarities and differences between the mugs

4. Evaluate the mugs

Once they have done this, unpick how what they did for each of the command words e.g. how did they compare the mugs?  How did they evaluate them? etc.  Then go on to…

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Working with data – the narrative in the numbers

A fantastic post on how class teachers and SLTs can use data effectively.

Teaching: Leading Learning

It is a constant source of amusement and bafflement to my colleagues how much I love working with data. As an English specialist I’m not supposed to enjoy the spreadsheets and pie charts quite as much as I do. However, it’s my firm belief that data helps me to be a better teacher, and that my work with data as a member of SLT helps my school become a better school.

The principles of working with data

When I first started blogging one of the first posts I read was Kev Bartle‘s excellent ‘Doing’ Data as a member of SLT. In this post, Kev lays out some excellent principles for the use of data. If you haven’t read it – read it now, then come back. Finished? Good.

I don’t disagree with any of what Kev says in his post, as I’m sure you will see. But here…

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Wellington Education Festival

Yassamin and Pete attended the second day of this year’s Sunday Times’ Festival of Educationheld at Wellington College on Friday and Saturday.

The speaker list is a veritable who’s who of contemporary UK education debate, and the educational bloggersphere has been abuzz this weekend with commentary on many of the sessions.

The best summaries I could find are from the blog High Dive teaching by Sally Thorne. She has compiled excellent accounts of many of the keynote sessions – including E.D Hirsch on the Knowledge vs. skills debate, Michael Wilshaw, Michael Gove, and a much re-tweeted passionate defence of traditional subjects/high aspirations for the most disadvantaged from the journalist Lindsay Johns.

Hope you find the summaries stimulating, there’s loads of great stuff.

Great Lessons at the Wellington Festival

Pete Jones attended Tom Sherrington’s session at the Wellington Education Festival this weekend. This post links to his fantastic series on the features of great lessons. We’ll be featuring more on this soon.


It was a real thrill to take part in the Wellington Education Festival this year.  I was overwhelmed by the level of interest, with people packed into every corner and many more who couldn’t get in at all. Guess what? People at an Education Festival want to talk about lessons! That’s hugely encouraging.

My slides included some images from lessons at my school, showing that learning takes many forms… with traditional ‘heads down’ essay writing integrated with group work, on-line resources, student-led instruction, peer support, tightly focused drills and more open-ended explorations…

However, the idea of a ‘great lesson’ is that it is characterised more by the habits of the teacher, the things they do routinely every day, rather than the specific strategies and structures they employ.  For me, Great lessons are all about habits.

I then went through the Great Lessons Series 1 -10, one idea at time… from…

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