Butterfly #31: Hooking the Students

Following last weeks’ Meet and Greet, we looked this week at how we start the learning process through our Hooks and Starters.

butterfly session
How can we give our pupils wings to fly?

So how do we sustain the perfect meet and greet and continue to embed these high standards throughout our lesson? The impact we make at the beginning of our lesson, sets the tone for the entire learning period. We all want to create a great impression, don’t we? What are your expectations? You want the pupils to sit down, be prepared and confident that they are about to learn purposeful content and make rapid and sustained progress; which meets their learning objective.learning objectivesWe want all of our pupils to be entitled to this in every lesson and feel inspired to work hard and learn new skills. By ensuring you have a purposeful starter, you are helping deliver consistency across our school.


Seamus using a work sheet with a video in today's starter activity
Seamus using a work sheet with a video in today’s starter activity
Elon filling in his starter activity whilst watching the introductory video
Elon filling in his starter activity whilst watching the introductory video

So pedagogically speaking-What is the purpose of a starter?

There are three key elements which all good starters share: they focus on learning; they make students think; and they hook them in to the lesson.

time to lrearnStudents should walk into your room and automatically expect to do something- this should be a goal you are currently striving towards. If an (Ofsted) inspector observed this practice they will know this is a daily routine; showing high expectations and how pupils are demonstrating keenness and commitment to succeed in their subject. I introduced the importance of a starter and how it would slot into the lesson…. images

How to Hook our learners

  1. Focussing starters on the subject and the topic helps students recognise why they are in the lesson: to learn about that particular discipline.
  2. Starters Increase their skill-levels as they come to understand how the activities work.
  3. One way in which to ensure all students are thinking – and that no one can play the “I don’t know” get out card – is to make sure your starter is open-ended and can be answered with no more material than what you provide.

traffic lights

Traffic Light Cards

Teresa from our Science Department was the first to demonstrate some great ways you can use Traffic light cards for easy and effective starter tasks. This simple starter is a fantastic way to get the energy alive in your classroom. Teresa discussed the different ways we could utilise these cards in our everyday practice:

  1. Have tiered and colour-coded questions on the board and assign pupils an appropriate card based on their ability. This is a great way to differentiate and stretch all in one simple and discreet step.

    Year 11s using the traffic light cards as a revision tool today
    Year 11s using the traffic light cards as a revision tool today
  2. Add post-it notes to the cards with different challenges, enabling pupils to choose their tasks independently.
  3. Place statements on the board which relate to the previous lesson and get pupils to rate their knowledge and understanding before progressing with the next topic.


Picture Clues

Jamie from our Humanities department demonstrated a fun and enthusiastic way to engage pupils with picture clues. Jamie discussed the difficulty of getting pupils engaged, taking the register and handing out books- all in a very short period of time. Having tried this on the staff body on Tuesday morning- I can certainly vouch Jamie kept us all quiet and got our brains ticking away! It proved a very successful starter and one I will most definitely be trying out!

pic cl

pic clu 2

pic clu

Word Searches

Want an instant, hassle-free starter? Seamus from our science department looked at how we can use word searches as a quick and easy starter activity; which entail very little planning before hand. Seamus talked about the importance of having the word searches on the desk, as the pupils enter the room.

A simple and effective starter.
A simple and effective starter.

This compliments our meet and greet procedure and allows pupils to get straight onto their task. Seamus discussed the importance of differentiating the starters, highlighting how they are the starting point of a pupil engaging with the topic and the path towards making progress. If a starter is too difficult, or taxing, then a pupil will become instantly disengaged and lost before they have begun. Here is a handy little link to make your very own word search. http://worksheets.theteacherscorner.net/make-your-own/word-search/

Remember, a fun and engaging starter will give your lesson the ‘x’ factor and will change the way our pupils think and the skills they use on a daily basis.

Has your lesson got the X Factor?
Has your lesson got the X Factor?

Our pupils will become more independent and will become great problem solvers; preparing them, not only for learning new subject knowledge, but preparing them for all aspects of 21st century life.

***Thank You***

If you have any tried and tested starters please let us know- we can’t wait to hear from you and start trying out new ideas!   Guest Blogger: Emma McGroarty ITT Lead   emg@westfield.herts.sch.uk 

Butterfly #30: Consistency of expectations

As part of our drive on standards, we have been looking at establishing consistent expectations in the classroom for 2015-16.

Lining up outside

Previous Inset days and staff meetings have been spent discussing what kind of expectations, so today we role-played how the reality might actually look like in the classroom.

Jayna meet and greets

Colleagues divided into groups , with a teacher, Additional Adult and a variety of ‘students’ starting their lesson, with the new ‘Meet and Greet’ expectations:

    • We expect all Class teachers to meet students at the door. To greet them in a positive friendly manner and monitor their uniform and punctuality. The same procedures should be used in the prompt dismissal of a class.
    • Staff should model and mirror the same standards of professionalism in terms of punctuality and dress. This should also include the use of mobile phones in the school.
    • The lesson should start in an orderly fashion, with students stood behind their chairs and their equipment ready on their desks.  Staff should check student equipment as this is an expectation of all students.
Zane and his Year 7 class start the lesson

Following this, we SWOT’d our findings:


Calm, control, focus the students, High / clear expectations, challenging low-level behaviour & establish correct mind-set, a sense of order from the beginning


Old-fashioned, wastes time


Set the standard, routines & consistency, get a feel for the group & scan the room, long term improvement in movement around the school, check equipment, work with additional adult, a chance to say hello


Defiance, leading to time-wasting, delay progress in short-term, teacher in different class, pushing & shoving, no consistency of layout of corridors around the school.

****Metaphor Alert****


In 1968, Dick Fosbury put into practice his new high jump method and won Olympic Gold. His winning jump literally raised the bar in terms of what could be done in high-jump. This new technique is now the norm in the sport, with all future Olympic winners consistently adopting the method.

****Thank You****

In setting out our expectations for 2015-16, and discussing and developing them, we want a consensus of opinion that will consistently implement them. They are designed to raise the bar, with the aim of driving high standards and student progress for 2015-16. By meeting and greeting each lesson, the correct mindset and sense of order can be established consistently across the school.

Butterfly #29: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

As May arrives, every school must face the final push with their students. Facts, knowledge, question-answering and the  students’ own research and ideas must all be incorporated into the last lessons and revision sessions.

RE is a big-hitter, offering Westfield students a fantastic opportunity to use their own knowledge and experiences to gain a strong GCSE, and with this in mind, a 2-day revision programme has been planned by Ben, Olivia and Jack. Time is tight, with it being the 1st written exam on Monday 11th May, so 50 students have been targeted for these sessions.

Based on previous experience staff wanted to keep sessions fresh and varied, so developed a multi-dimensional set of inputs:


54 students, three teachers, two days.

Day 1: Unit 1 Religion and Citizenship
Period 1 – RE and relationships – Teacher-led powerpoint based tasks
Period 2 – RE and Sport – groups kinaesthetic-based tasks (matching slips etc.)

Period 3 – RE and Work – Complete revision grid, part pairwork, part teacher
Period 4 – RE and Multiculturalism – Exam practice discussion focusing on Multiculturalism info
Period 5 – Recap exam technique
                Show and discuss actual exam paper.
                mock exam 30 marks hardest qns across all 4 sections.
                Mark in class, review.

Day 2: Unit 2 Religion and Life issues
Period 1 – RE and Animal Rights – Teacher-led powerpoint based tasks
Period 2 – RE and Planet Earth – groups kinaesthetic-based tasks (matching slips etc.)

Period 3 – RE and Prejudice – Complete revision grid, part pairwork, part teacher

Period 4 – RE and Early Life- Exam practice discussion focusing on Early Life info
Period 5 – Recap exam technique
                Show and discuss actual exam paper.
                mock exam 30 marks hardest qns across all 4 section.

                Mark in class, review.


Aim is to ensure a variety of tasks and continued engagement by mixing things up.
Class to remain with the same teacher/room P1-4 to maintain momentum, change teaching approaches throughout the day rather than teachers.
Period 5 in a different room to highlight the fact that it is different– they will now be tested on what they learned in the other room.
3 Teachers, each with planning responsibility for different sessions according to comfort and strengths.  Planning then shared.

 What a day! The students were fantastically on task during these days, as they have been for all revision, and we are now in a position to start with confidence.

‘Having the 2 days has really concentrated my revision, and pulled all the lessons together. I will be ready for Monday!’