Butterfly #4: Asking the right Questions

Today we looked at questioning strategies that challenge, engage and inform both students and staff. These areas really make a difference in creating an environment where students can give and receive effective feedback, and can clarify  how to improve. These Magic 6 areas are at the heart of learning.

Celestine Heaton-Armstrong and Jyoti Atwal delivered complementary strategies that can really drive questioning  in the classroom


To encourage Q&A:

  • Basic behaviour for learning rules in place and regularly emphasised – listen when someone is talking, only one voice at a time, “track the speaker”
  • Devote time to questioning – not a rush through
  • Reward good questions and answers
  • Use questions to motivate and challenge
  • Seem interested in answers – repeat back
  • Correct incorrect answers
  • Involve as many students as possible
  • Place it at different key stages throughout the lesson – aim to have a set of questions or a questioning period during each stage of the lesson e.g. during input to clarify an activity or during review to for A4L
  • Don’t give up!

Styling questioning:

  • Plan your questions
  • No hands up
  • Think – pair – share
  • Ask one, clear question at a time
  • Layer questions so everyone can access them
  • Use Blooms as a scaffolding tool
  • Adapt questions to pace of lesson e.g. open/closed
  • Use answers to develop the lesson, so they become an integral part of the lesson plan
  • Ask question before picking student
  • Allow thinking time
  • All hands up
  • Pose, pause, pounce, bounce
  • Question students on answers given
  • Get students to ask the questions
  • Test their answer/test their knowledge
  • Avoid vague questions
  • Rephrase the question if no one answers

For older students, Jyoti emphasised the importance of our own knowledge and learning, and how we tap into this in our questioning of students:


  • Syllabus & Spec knowledge
  • Exam questions and structures of answers
  • Mark schemes
  • The abilities of individual learners

Additionally, with our Syllabus knowledge, to utilise our awareness of the classes and individuals we are teaching:

  • Blooms levels and stages – knowledge to comprehension to analysis to synthesis to evaluation, and tailoring this to our students – remember Context sheets!
  • Probing and redirecting the question to more able studnets to expand and improve answers
  • Whole class answers.

Waiting is key:

  • 7-10 second rule
  • Additional time – phone a friend?
  • Student accountability and taking responsibility – stay aware of where the lesson is at by demanding their attention
  • Clues & hints
  • Multiple choice hints

Never an end in themselves – questioning is AFL – allowing monitoring for further progress and guidance for future planning. All in  all, questioning is pretty useful then and worth some of our planning time!

For further ideas and resources, have a look @TeacherToolkit. Also Ross Morrison McGill is great for ideas for Outstanding Lessons – for questions to ask yourself see his ShowOff strategies.



Butterfly #3: Providing appropriately for our pupils

Great strategies again today from Jeremy Linton, Emma McGroarty and Naomi Jones, all looking at how we can plan and deliver engaging, appropriate and pitched lessons to the variety of learners that we have at Westfield.

  • PEE paragraphs, and their cousins PEELC, PEELSC and no doubt PEELING as well will support learners without spoon-feeding, both at higher levels and for those in need of structural support in their writing. Colour-coding will aid visual understanding, as well as breaking up the paragraphs.






  • Syllabus and content awareness is vital for all, but is an especially hot area for allowing students to act upon areas for improvement and provide well rounded coverage for the top grades. Jeremy Linton looked at pushing the top end, highlighting how exam practice, and a consideration of how similar topics can be worded differently are all vital for securing the highest grades. Alongside this, confidence will be boosted when students are clear that they have everything under their control, with a raised awareness of questions and content, and practice, practice and practice!
  • Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic, and different learning styles have been a hot topic for years. Offering variety will ensure coverage of all our learners, and also aid the development of more dormant styles. Apart from that, lessons are fun and engaging. The ukelele is ubiquitous at the moment, and Naomi Jones showed us why – eyes, ears and hands all played a part in learning ‘Stand by me’ in 5 minutes flat. Eat your heart out Percy Sledge!


Once again, the commitment to learning by staff has been brilliant. These strategies and mind sets are simple and we hope easy to implement in all classroom contexts. If in doubt, ask, adapt and give it a go. Our students really benefit and appreciate the engagement provided by these Butterflies.


Butterfly #2: Making Marking Work

Today we looked at something that impacts on all of us – how can we assess where students are at, provide feedback and targets for improvement and establish opportunities for reflection for both us and the students? In other words, decent marking whilst we keep our sanity and energies up.

The session was led by colleagues from diverse Curriculum areas: Paul Smith in Business and IT, Leah Bastienne in Art, and Chris Black in English, and they spoke of what worked for them in terms of feedback and assessment, alongside effective use of their time.


    • Business use the Blue stickers as a formative aid to dialogue and how to improve, mixing both self, peer and teacher assessment. Units are broken down into pieces to aid this formative process, so that students can get feedback as they work through each unit. This staged marking builds towards the Summative assessments at the end of the units, designed to save teacher time and drive student progress and learning.
    • Art have empowered their students at GCSE with a booklet for all their assessments, integrating this with the Syllabus requirements. Students self-evaluate using the criteria, alongside teacher marking, with  each unit of work is marked on strengths, areas to improve and finishes with a learner response. And all in 1 booklet for the course!


    • Chris Black in English has devised his own system for highlighting to students areas for them to work on – acronyms, double ticks and post-its are all used to make a set of 30 books easier to manage, whilst maintaining a dialogue with students where they can reflect on how to improve. Giving time for reflection following marking keeps the cycle going, so that students can progress from knowing where they are at to considering how they can improve.

For further ideas see:

Marking in Perspective, Selective, Formative, Effective, Reflective:


There was another great turn out from staff – thank you for your time. Marking is vital, all students tell us they want it!

The next session, #3, looks at Providing appropriately for our pupils, led by Emma McGroaty on Tuesday 23/9.

Butterfly#1: Setting up the Learning Environment

Our 1st Butterfly session was held yesterday, with the remit of:

How we as teachers establish the right atmosphere and ethos in our classrooms that both drives and supports learning and progress.’

Emma Mellon and Mike Wilce led the session, attended by 40 staff – a brilliant start!



The following ideas and strategies were looked at as enabling us to find the right mix of support, challenge & expectations:

* Know your class– Context sheets, speak to form tutors/DOLs or teachers who also teach them.

Seating plan– Try to set this according to the needs of the student, how they work best etc.

* Meet and greet– make sure you are on time and ready for them to enter your space.

* Calm entrance and exit– lining up outside or standing behind seats before you tell them to sit down.

* Consistency– be fair and reasonable in your lessons. Don’t forget to follow through on what you have said. If you said they are to be in a break detention – try to collect them if you are free or chase it up- call home and be sure that issues are resolved to allow you to move forward.

* Positive praise throughout the lesson to create a supportive atmosphere where the students feel ok about making mistakes and where aspirations are high- positives for completing extension tasks.

* Regular feedback either verbally or through marking- students feel appreciated and that their work and effort is worthwhile.

* Classroom environment- says a lot about you. Show casing students work can give them a sense of pride, being organised can model what we expect of the students.

* Follow the systems in place and speak to NC/NST if these are unclear.

* Take the time to get to know your students– do not base your impression on others opinion

* Engage with students on matters outside of the curriculum (sport)

* Have a sense of humour

* Consistency– even with difficult students

* Leave previous disputes, start each lesson afresh.

Next session is Tuesday 16/9: Making Marking Work – all welcome!

The Passionate Teacher

“Of some of our teachers, we remember the foibles and mannerisms, of others, their kindness and encouragement, or their fierce devotion to standards of work that we probably didn’t share at the time. And of those we remember most, we remember what they cared about and that they cared about us and the person we might become. It is this quality of caring about ideas and values, this fascination with the potential for growth within people, this depth and fervour about doing things well and striving for excellence, that comes closest to what I mean in describing ‘passionate teaching’”. (Robert Fried, from ‘The Passionate Teacher’)

I found this quote in the London Challenge programme that used the Butterflies approach to school development. Seeking, as the authors write, ‘high leverage both in the important things in school life and in reinforcing how the important things are done, we believe that small interventions can have a disproportionate effect.’

The programme has loads of suggestions for school improvement, lots of the 1% marginal gains, but the above quote about passionate teaching and teachers seems the key to me. From this can come so much.

Marginal gains in the classroom: small changes, big effect!


Holidays over, results published and students said goodbye to, we are back in to start 2014-15.
Teaching and Learning standards in the classroom as a priority for this year is a no-brainer really, but it really is vital, and refreshing that this will be such a focus. With this in mind we wanted to highlight this, as well as get all colleagues thinking about areas that they might target as a marginal gain, and also what they already do fantastically well.
Marginal gains, the 1%, are key this year. We are a good teaching school – to raise classroom standards even more, we can look at the small changes that can have a large effect. This is the Butterfly effect – a mind-bender of an idea that:
‘If sufficient butterflies were to beat their wings in the Amazonian forest they could trigger a hurricane thousands of miles away…’

There’s a brilliant Sci-Fi story about this that we used to read in English. The Butterfly idea is great – everything we do matters – we flap our small, individual wings through planning, innovation, tweaking and supporting in the classroom, and the combined effect in Westfield can be HUGE!

We started looking at our values as teachers, and how these were shaped to a certain extent by our own inspirational teachers:

Mrs Townsend was tough with high expectations. Consistently marking my work in incredible depth and explaining content in a way that made it really easy to understand gave me confidence in my ability to do well. Despite her hard exterior, she was incredibly caring and approachable; giving me personalised steps in order to achieve the A grade. ‘

‘Dr Bell, my Latin teacher, inspired me to love and excel in Latin. If it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be teaching it now! He was the most learned teacher in the school and always made me feel confident in my own abilities. I loved visiting his house, filled with lovely Classics books, to revise and chat about life with him and my classmates. We are still in touch now and I hope will be for many years to come.’


The common denominator was always the belief that teachers gave us, and the extra mile they put in, and encouraged us to put in as well. This has indeed shaped us as the teachers that we are. Sometimes we need to re-connect with our values just to remind us of the importance of our job. Today, with all the students in, looking smart and sharp in their ties, it feels like it’s going to be a brilliant year!