Monthly Archives: January 2014

Y9 Science Co-construction Continues with Space and Pressure


Following the last post on my Year 9 co-construction activities, we have been enjoying learning about Space and Pressure.  The Space Team has had a lot of interesting ideas and, between us, we have planned and delivered some interesting lessons.

The lessons on scale of distance and size in the universe and solar system were fascinating.   One of the students found this interesting conversion table on the internet and we used that as a checking mechanism after students had been asked to create a scale model in their books.

We enjoyed creating a scale model of the Solar System on the school field.

We then looked at a range of everyday phenomena, asking students to account for them in terms of the Earth’s rotation.  This included seasonal variations in day length, temperature and Sun trajectory in the sky,  the Sun rising in the East, different day lengths on planets. …

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Core Maths – the what, why, how and when

...but is it on the test?

Having been involved in discussions about the new Core Maths qualification, this is what I know…

apple core

What is it?

“‘Core Maths’ policy focuses on the 40 per cent of students each year who do achieve a grade C or above at GCSE but who do not continue with any form of more advanced maths after age 16 – over 200,000 each year in total.”
While the figure of 200,000 immediately begs the question, ‘ where are the teachers going to come from?’ It should be noted that the qualification will not be compulsory (at least not yet)!
And for those who do not achieve a C…
 “Students who have not achieved at least a GCSE grade C (36 per cent of the cohort in 2010) will in the future continue studying towards the qualification as part of their 16 to 19 education (this will be a condition of…

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Effective use of video in the classroom

Great practical tips for using video clips in your lessons

Class Teaching


The 15 minute forum tonight was led by history teacher Jack Tyler.  Jack started by dispelling some common myths about using video in lessons:

  • It will get you into trouble – not if it has a clear purpose.  Have the confidence to know why you are using it.
  • The kids will learn nothing – simply not true!  As adults we can probably all remember things we watched at school, and what we learned from it.
  • It’s the mark of a lazy teacher – again, not true.  If it is going to be used effectively, like any resource, it requires planning and thought.
  • It should only be done at the end of term – this is a bad idea.  It creates the wrong impression with students about the usefullness of video as a learning resource.

Jack then went on to share some ideas about how he uses video in his…

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Cheat codes to intelligence: touchpaper#7

Joe Kirby's blog

I’ve asked before why students don’t remember what they’ve learned: how we design instruction, the curriculum and assessment plays a large part.

On first discovering cognitive science, Kris Boulton said it was “like being given the cheat codes to intelligence”. The models of memory and the mind in seminal texts like Dan Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School, the models of how we learn and the insights for instruction: this research has a lot to offer teachers.


Touchpaper problem #7 is about retaining content in long-term memory. If cognitive scientists are correct, that ‘if nothing has been retained in long-term memory, nothing has been learned,’ this is a key issue for teachers.

Our team (Helene, Mark, Tim, Ben, Lucy, Jackie and I) tried in the touchpaper working party to turn what we know from cognitive science into what teachers can…

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What Happened at the TouchPaper Problem Party?

The Touchpaper problems party took place last weekend, starring our very own Clare Darley!

Laura McInerney

Saturday was the scene of the first ever TouchPaper Problem Party, and it was amazing. It was, quite literally, a super fun nerdy education party!

The story of its genesis is remarkably simple. A few months after I gave a talk at the ResearchEd conference in which I laid out 7 questions that I thought were important for education, Dr Becky Allen contacted me with a tantalising idea: What if we put a bunch of up-for-it people in a room who wanted to answer these questions, and then gave them access to research, wifi, and some coffee?  What do you think wouldhappen?

I had no idea. But it sounded like a lot of fun to find out. 

Skip forward five months and we found ourselves stood in a room at the Institute of Education, on a rainy Saturday surrounded by 43 people geared up and ready to THINK. Having…

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What can teachers really learn from doctors? Atul Gawande’s Better as a model for improving teaching

Great stuff from Harry Fletcher-Wood! We used Atul Gawande’s ‘Better’ in whole-school INSET some time ago – Here’s a blog that sets out the book’s main ideas in greater detail and brilliantly highlights their relevance for teaching and learning.

Improving Teaching

The book which best expresses how I aspire to improve my teaching has nothing to do with teaching.  It’s Better, by Atul Gawande – a surgeon writing about how he and his profession can improve their performance.  In my brief blogging career, I have eschewed comparisons between medicine and education; too many seem hackneyed, simplistic or rhetorical.  This book is so good, its message so apposite for teachers, that I shall now break this rule.

Gawande’s meditations on medical practice span time and space and range from the general to the personal in their search for insight.  In examining hand washing, for example, he begins with Semmelweiss’s pioneering attempts to convince his peers that this simple measure worked, then proceeds to consider the travails of his colleagues today, whose job is to ensure medical staff implement Semmelweiss’s nineteenth-century findings.  He explains the occasions when he and his peers breach these…

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Trivium 21st C: Could this be the answer?


I’ve just finished reading this wonderful book and, as I said on twitter, it’s the best education book I’ve read by far.  There are lots of teacher-tips books and plenty of academic system-reform or leadership books – but Trivium 21st C occupies different ground altogether.  Martin Robinson has produced a manifesto for reforming and revitalising our educational practice, our discourse and our system based on a set of core principles; ideas about who we are as people: individuals, communities and societies.

The book uses an exploration of the Trivium as it once was – a set of principles for learning that evolved from Plato to the middle ages – as a template for considering a range of contemporary educational problems and debates.  Martin uses the story of his daughter as she embarks on her school-based education as a focus point. Through his hopes and dreams for her education, he is…

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