Butterfly #19: Challenge and Motivation

This half term has looked at the key ingredients of successful learning in lessons:

  • High expectations & Vision
  • Student starting points
  • Clarity of lesson destinations and how this will be reached
  • Proving learning through our questioning and assessment.

This leads to the pitch of the lesson – how we challenge and motivate all learners to achieve. To do this successfully, all the above ingredients need to be in place. I saw a fantastic example of this least week with 9 Stephenson. They have been studying the Build up to the War, and were looking at Appeasement, the rights, wrongs and opinions with regards how to deal with Hitlers’ aggression. On entering the class I was assaulted with questions – Who was right – Chamberlain or Churchill? What would I have done? What about Czechoslovakia?

Chamberlain reads out some of 9St’s work
Chamberlain and Churchill impressions included

The class were motivated, stretched and achieving. The pitch was spot-on – reachable, but challenging, and the speeches the students were writing as Chamberlain and Churchill had obviously motivated, engaged and allowed learning to take place. They were desperate to share their ideas, brandishing them to be read, with a piece of paper in their hands (historical joke).

All the above ingredients had been put in place by Jamie and Harry to allow this to happen.

This week Naomi and Zane invited us to the Music department to further challenge us by learning the Blues. Not quite the 12 bar Blues, but still the Blues.


We were given choices of instruments (Ukelele, keyboard or shaker) based on our prior achievement, and scaffolding via chord progression on the IWB. Naomi explained the task in stages, and Zane modelled it with his guitar. All the ingredients were in place, and we were definitely challenged and motivated to achieve. What could go wrong?

Playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order

In true Input, Activity, Review style, we were given time to practise and Naomi and Zane checked our progress. Further modelling followed, then a whole-group recital. Not quite Chicago Blues, but a decent Watford version:


By integrating the the right blend of challenge (based on knowledge of our prior abilities) and motivating us with an engaging set of activities, we had all achieved beyond our own expectations. And the nub of it has to be that learning takes centre stage.

In Teaching Backwards, the authors write of challenge as the essential 5th ingredient (see above).

‘Without challenge, learners won’t have the opportunity to stretch their potential or get excited about developing their knowledge, understanding and skills to reach their learning destinations.’ (Griffith & Burns, p223)

By monitoring the activity, the teacher can then see any learning gaps learners may have. Naomi and Zane certainly did!