Butterfly #11: Exam Classes

Today Paul and Jen took us through their strategies with exam classes, central to this being the consistent immersion in the processes, content and questioning for the courses our students take.

These strategies align with other innovative approaches to give variety to lessons, but underpinning this is the consistency of preparation, and building the habit of reflection on exam processes.

Exam skills and questions

It’s all about the preparation, so starting early with the skills is an aid to success.

  • Baby steps at KS3 – mark schemes, terminology and exam-style questions and exam-appropriate language

At KS4…

  • Exam question practice and revision books

001   004

  • Simple mark schemes that describe what is needed to achieve a certain mark
  • Student version of the mark scheme – they make their own, and/or we provide them
  • Sentence-starter practice kits: Aiming for a C for borderline students &  Aiming for A* with stronger students. Get all students to compare requirements to move students on above their targets


  • Practise , Practise, Practise


  • Assessment cover sheet for every essay, outlining key criteria, and where the students got to in their work


  • Immerse them some more with exam question Hooks and Homeworks.
  • Teach with grade boundaries and question styles, so students are constantly engaging with how they will be assessed in the real thing.
  • Regularity – homework can be a real back-up for exam practice, and use the tricky timetabled lesson (after lunch anyone?) for exam-question-time. Make this a regular thing, as well as end of unit assessments.

exam 1

  • Log it all on Go4schools and get students and parents engaged with this.

In discussing all these strategies, what came through was…

Don’t leave anything to chance, teach the exam from Day 1.


Butterfly #10: Personalising learning for our students

We have a multicultural, mixed ability intake across 6 sets in each year. From Berners-Lee to Stephenson, this covers a huge variety of learners of different abilities.

Emma and Olivia spoke of the strategies that they use for 2 particular groups – Berners-Lee, our higher ability students, and Stephenson, learners that require more support.

High Ability strategies include



2)Thought provoking imagespics

3) Today’s killer question is… a focus for the lesson…

4) Speed dating – to add depth by sharing information and thoughts across the class

5) Silent debate – win an argument with the written word

6) Complex articles – for higher order understanding, answers and questions

7) Rewrite exam spec student versions to open up understanding

8) Sharing understanding and comparing findings


These startegies can be used with all students, but seem to suit BL particularly.


-The Environment – calm & blame-free, with routines, free from distractions and clear rules and expectations.

-Develop our questioning – voting boxes, post-its, desks as whiteboards, silent signals, 1st names for students, Chinese whispers.

-Reduce teacher-talk with students leading the intros and instructions, signals & signposts – Quite Area, Thinking Time…

-Use what support you can get – Neo-pads and 6th Formers are great!


-Traffic lighting – for understanding and also colour code your worksheets from Stretch and Challenge to Further Support

-Draw it with pictures, logos and annotation for notes that work for individuals




-Behaviour – tough love for expectations, and praise and support for all, ‘what I love about you…’

Challenge and Support the students. Always.

Take care of yourselves.


Butterfly #9: Establishing the learning environment and ethos, plus some awe and wonder!

Learning environments are what students first see in a class. All 5 senses can be either stimulated or assaulted, and this shapes the next hour, possibly 5 times a week. A sobering exercise can be sitting at a desk looking forward and around. Would we want to work here?


Whenever I go to the Art rooms, my eyes open, and so does my imagination and sense that I too could draw, apply colour and just be creative. Sadly, none of this ever happened for me, but for our students it does, thanks to the learning environment that they are presented in their Art lessons.


Sam and Leah gave us the tour of their rooms, but also emphasised the consistency that they have applied to the whole Art learning experience, from lining up onwards. This sets out the expectations for the students, and the work that cocoons them furthers this with both support and challenge.

Classroom Entry Procedure

1.Class lined up outside

2.Uniform check

3.Wait for silence

4.Students to enter room quietly (teacher greets at door)

5.To stand behind their chair, getting out their equipment and homework

6.Students will be invited to sit down once they are quiet again

This establishes the learning ethos, just as much as resourcing, planning and delivering.


Following this, the visual is emphasised, not just with displays, but also how activities are presented – colour, format and font all play a part. Context is in place with each Year groups’ syllabus and targets displayed. And all around the classroom, students see their work, their current and target grades, and aspirational art by their peers. The learning climate and ethos has been created.



The displays are not just the awe and wonder, but the recognition of effort, and the forum for feedback and how students can actually improve.


An environment is defined as constructed surroundings that provide the setting for human activity. If we construct it well, human activity will respond.

Butterfly #8: How do you like them Arrows?

Back after half term, properly rested we gathered again for Term 1.2 of Butterflies. Metaphors and analogies seem to be in the educational air, with our Butterfly effect, the chrysalis image of ACSL, and @HeadGuru’s sliver arrows. As teachers we are in the business of transforming, developing and targeting the students in our care, hence the images. Fair enough, so we looked at the 10 Silver arrows of HeadGuru for some external strategies to trial.

These comprise a variety of classroom strategies – ‘if you do just one thing, do this!’, so we did.

  • Signal, Pause, Insist for Behaviour
  • ‘In your pairs, discuss’ for Questioning
  • ‘Say it again, properly’ for Literacy
  • Close the Gap for Marking and Feedback
  • Objectives, Explain, Model Practice, Check for Straight Teaching
  • Set lots of tests – formatively for Assessment
  • Teach to the top for Most able
  • HW as Guided study for Homework
  • 10 Minutes silence for Hard Work
  • Respond in ANY FORMAT for Creative Opportunities


These strategies really match with our learners, so staff set about planning a favoured one for inclusion in lessons this week, and as an extra we looked at prospective Arrow no.11s:

007 008


I think ours count as Gold.

Walking down the corridor I saw this just now..



  • Respond in ANY FORMAT for Creative Opportunities

Looks like the arrows are already hitting home.