Butterfly #18: How do we know?

It’s all about being a Detective – bumbling around and getting sort-of-there, or nailing the lesson with hard evidence that shows all learners learning and making great progress. How do we know, and how can we get proof of learning for all?


Columbo did it ego-free. Solving the case, through finding the most robust and hardest evidence, and as teachers that is our role. Seeing and showing the learning with clear evidence, through questioning and assessing the students. Planning and implementing this is vital if the learning of our students is to be questioned, tested and evaluated.

There are many strategies here, and the session this week looked at a few.

Our own comprehension of the lesson direction, and the imparting of this, and this allows the planning and delivery of our questioning and assessment which is key here. Hitting the ability of the students in our questioning is something that can be planned for, as well as reacting to circumstances during the lessons:

1) Blooms the question style

—-Knowledge – Level 3 ; F grade

What is the purpose of a bridge?

—-Comprehension – Level 4 ; Grade E

Describe 2 ways to strengthen a frame structure

-Application – Level 4+ ; Grade E/D

Can you combine 2 different materials to construct a tower?

—-Analysis – Level 5 ; Grade C

What evidence is there to suggest that a pyramid s a stable shape?

—-Synthesis – Level 5/6 ; Grade B+

How would you improve  your bridge design to make it stronger?

—-Evaluation – Level 6/7 ; Grade B/A

How effective was your design when testing weight distribution?

2) On their toes!

Keep students focussed and ready to be assessed with randomw questioning around the class:


-Lolly sticks

-Random names (in your head). Put the name 1st – so studnets know it is just for them!

-Ball to students


3) Review stage, check whole-class understanding before moving on. Integrate this with the Learning objectives:

-—Mini white boards

-—Thumbs up

—-Traffic lights


-—Pair / share


-—5 relevant Qs: 1 lower ability, 3 general Qs, 1 higher ability

4) Get the hard evidence of students learning and progress. Assess through:

-—Class surveys

—-Listening around the classroom as you circulate during an activity


—-1to1 conversations

—-Learner presentations

—-Be hard to fool – get the hard evidence. Students apply & recreate what they have learned through application activities:

—Put into own words;

—Explain with a diagram;

—Deliver a presentation.

Knowing the learning and showing the evidence is vital. From this lessons and students can move forwards and the momentum is established. Being able to address any tricky areas is equally vital, and this must be done through our questioning and assessment, for this provides the proof of learning, and allows us to reflect on our own practice and delivery.

Butterfly #17: What are we learning today?

So far expectations, destination and student starting points have been established as fundamental starting points for lesson preparation and delivery.

This sets the scene, starts the journey and establishes the mind set. So what next?


This week Emma looked at objectives, outcomes and success criteria, and how this is imparted to the students and sets up and clarifies the lesson direction. If we use our cycle of Input, Activity, Review, they can be revisited and students assessed as the lesson progresses.


Ensuring we as teachers are confident and clear in our minds of the destination is the 1st stage, and this allows for a clear student explanation at the start, and throughout the lesson. From this point the lesson should be broken down into clear, manageable steps and stages



The objectives, outcomes and success criteria should lay this out, as this example from English shows:

Learning objective: We are learning to describe the characteristics of a detective.

Learning outcomes: By the end of today’s lesson you will be able to

  • Construct a list of successful vocabulary to describe your detective using the thesaurus. (l2/3)
  • Identify common characteristics that a detective might have (bubble/spider diagram) (l3/4)
  • Create a trump card displaying key information about your detective. (l4/5)

Success Criteria:

Remember to…

Look up words that describe your detective-think about looks and personality (tall, black hair, cunning, clever)

Think about detectives you know (Sherlock Holmes) in order to create a successful spider diagram

In this example, the Objectives lay out the journey, the Outcomes the stages, and the Success criteria the specifics of what is being sought of the students.

Outcomes lay out the manageable steps and stages for the students, and the Wheel below can be used to build challenge through the Blooms words (and align with grades and levels)


Success Criteria give that extra clarity to what it is that we as  teacher want:

“too often children know the learning intention, but not how the teacher is going to judge the performance.” (Shirley Clarke, 2006, p.22).


A basic checklist should include:

  • Do your classes know their target grade?
  • Is it written on the front of their books?
  • Do you include the learning objective after each review?
  • How do you measure the progress made against the objective and outcomes?
  • Can the pupils explain how they are at that grade/ level?
  • Do the pupils know how to be successful?

Time spent clarifying the lesson destination firstly for ourselves, then to the students is hugely important.

The outcomes and criteria will then unpick the journey for the students, and when revisited as reviews, will mark the progress of and for the students.

Butterfly #16: True Starting Points

The sessions this term are very much a journey, with last week establishing the primary importance of the learning destination and its’ communication to the students, alongside the establishment of high expectations. These expectations can be continually be reinforced with strategies to engage and drive students (remember the Hobnobs!).

So the destination is made clear. But what about where we start from? If we don’t know this it makes progress and its’ assessment unclear. To use the  ‘Teaching Backwards’ example its like the Sat Nav in our car. Unless it knows where we want to go and where we’re starting from, it won’t be able to calculate the quickest and most effective route. So we don’t reach the destination! Every lesson!

Paula and Tony highlighted how we can know these starting points, and what we can do with them in our teaching

Postcodes required

sen handbook

In our Twilights last year, the Provision development group produced the SEND handbook, with detail on  all our SEN students, with needs, strategies and specialist input outlined where appropriate. This booklet is the foundation for where we’re starting from for our most vulnerable learners. The postcodes are set out so that all teaching staff can plan appropriateky from their true starting points, and with the most apposite strategies. This is now allied with the CATs data for our Year 7 students, again with information on how best to reach the learners within their specific profiles (all in Write Staff).

This data covers a significant minority of our students, and should be part of our assessment procedures that gives us consistent awareness of all our students, both formatively and summatively (updating the Sat Nav?). Again, this is how we know our students and plan and teach based on this knowledge.

Using the Starting points

This data is obviously used in our planning for all our lessons, and should be referenced in context sheets for all classes. The Staff Planner can store this , and the data can be found in GO4Schools. Tony went through a simple guide for accessing this information, and putting it into a usable format for each class.

It cannot be overstated, knowing the starting points allows us to map out the course of our lesson, and from this, close the gaps that all our learners have and allow the lesson / unit / year/ course destination to be reached. Showing evidence of this knowledge and how we use it is a basic expectation in our preparation, planning and teaching.

Finally, again from ‘Teaching Backwards’ knowing and acting on the starting points, and in particular assessing our students, is a must:

-Saving Time

-Identifying both our own and our students’misconceptions

-Building belief

-Engaging and Challenging

-Measuring the real impact of our teaching


Butterfly #15: Setting and selling the Vision

New term, new year, and the aim of the sessions this half term is to set out in a linear fashion the key ingredients for successful learning for our students. ‘Teaching Backwards’, the new book by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns, has been a real eye-opener in terms of these essentials, and the 1st session this week has borrowed a lot from their opening chapter on Setting High Expectations.


Setting and selling the Vision is all about establishing 2 key essentials from the very start with our students:

  • —Is my Learning Vision & Destination clear to students (and myself)?
  • —How do I generate & maintain my High Expectations?

January is a good time for this, with a new unit, new students or just a new start – have I made clear to the students what exactly our destination is? Is it clear for me as well?

This might be a model piece of work, a key unit from a syllabus, a set of statistics – 100% Merit / A*-C in a module or assessment, or a combination of this. Is the end-point explicit to the students?


The second element to these foundations of successful learning is the setting (and maintaining) of High Expectations.


Teachers are salespeople; how we establish these expectations can be a combination of strategies, all designed with an end in mind – successful learning for all. Andy Griffith writes of Peter Kay and his admiration for the resilience and openness to a challenge of the Hobnob biscuit, as compared to the one-dip failings of Rich Tea.

How do we generate Hobnob-qualities with our learners?

This Hobnob-effect is effectively the development of a Growth Mindset, with 4 features that will all contribute to learning:

1.Learner resilience

2.Reflect & acting on Feedback

3.Pride in work


Generating Hobnobs

-The Pit

Students learn and appreciate that it’s OK to get stuck, it’s part of the process of learning.

-—Support & scaffold

In place when and where necessary.


We’ve all been there, teachers and other examples


If I’m stuck, what do I do next?

Alongside this, establish training and modelling for quality work…

*—Practice & drafts

Based on a model, draft out tasks and allow mistakes to happen


Clarifying expectations with new groups (or re-establish)

*—Signing off work

I completed this work to the best of my ability. Signed:_________

—*Models of expected standards

‘I take pride in my work’


‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’

—*Hazard boards

Watch out! Common mistakes that the class as a team can contribute to

—*Praise the actions

What they have done well and why: Effort, Strategies, Improvement, Resilience

—*Personal Bests

Can I better my last piece of work?

*Model the attitudes & expectations that I expect

Walk the walk

—*Learning Environment

Is it conducive to successful learning?

—*Books & Tests

Is presentation and effect up to scratch, if not – do it again!

This is the ethos of teaching backwards. What do we need in place at the start and before we start?

-The clarity and communication of our desired destination

-Ownership and communication of our high expectations

-Strategies at our disposal for raising students own expectations.