Butterfly #35: Dig like an archaeologist

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein.
Last year the Sutton Trust published their report  What makes Great Teaching? and amidst the research-led no-nos, it highlighted 2 areas that did contribute to strong student outcomes: Content Knowledge, of both teachers and students, and Quality of Instruction, including effective questioning and the use of assessment by teachers.
So, this week we looked at questioning, and in particular how we can make our students think hard and with breadth, depth and accuracy.
There’s no escape. I have all of you in my sights!
Shaun Allison’s new book: Making every lesson count gives a whole chapter to the importance of questioning. He writes of it as a tool to be used consistently throughout the lesson – ‘ubiquitous and fluid’ , in different forms during all parts of the lesson cycle.
Walking the school shows this in our daily practice – the myriad types and styles of questioning as used by colleagues throughout the school.
 Chloe demonstrated some random questioning with her Year 9s, with some Socratic probing thrown in:
So what Questioning Strategies can we use?
Katy and Sarah-Kate delivered a fantastic session on what strategies we can use on a daily basis, to ensure that breadth, depth and accuracy we all strive for.
Pose and pounce all in one
First off they talked to us about what makes questioning successful and why at times it might fail, or not work the way we had envisaged:
So why does our questioning sometimes fail?

1.Questioning techniques are inappropriate for the material.

2.There may be an unconscious gender bias.

3.There may be an unconscious bias towards most able or more demanding students.

4.Levels of questions might be targeted to different abilities inappropriately.

5.Students don’t have enough thinking time.

6.Learners don’t have any idea as to whether they are the only ones to get it wrong/right.

7.Learners fear being seen by their peers to be wrong.

8.Questions are too difficult.

9.Questions are too easy.

Be inspired to create your own teaching success stories!
Be inspired to create your own teaching success stories!

So what does it look like when questioning works successfully? 

1.All learners get a chance to answer.

2.Learners can see how others are thinking.

3.Teachers gain information about thinking and learning.

4.Learners have time to consider their answers.

5.Learners have time to discuss and follow up on their answers.

6.The answers are not always clear-cut.

7.learners feel safe to answer.

8.Questions stimulate more questions.

9.Questions stimulate thinking.

So  I hear you ask-‘what strategies can we use that are quick, effective and deliver results?’

If you use these strategies as everyday routines, it will become second nature to you and your pupils
If you use these strategies as everyday routines, it will become second nature to you and your pupils
 The first strategy that Katy and Sarah-kate loved was ‘Spin a question’
spin a questionThis is a fun way to introduce questioning during small group instruction. Reproduce the spinner below on cardstock and laminate. Attach a paper clip spinner. After reading a section of text, have a student spin the spinner, formulate a question using that question word, and select a classmate to answer the question. This can also be used as a partner activity.
Pose Pause Pounce Bounce your way around that room!
PPPB (Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce) is a simple, yet sophisticated, AfL (Assessment for Learning) questioning technique to help teachers move from good-to-outstanding. It also helps address differentiation in the classroom and encourages teachers to slow down, take risks and tease out understanding…
  • pose pounce bounceThis technique is used to develop an awareness of the new Ofsted criteria.
  • This strategy encourages teachers to take risks and tease out the “learning” in class.
  • It also a useful focus for differentiating objectives and learning experiences by varying our questioning techniques.
  • NO more closed questions in our classrooms!

There are endless strategies that cane be effectively employed in our everyday practice that will ensure great results, a few others that you might consider trying:

Question Starters

Introduce students to the language of questioning. Most students are familiar with the question words who, what, where, when, why, and how. Once these are mastered, try extending these to question phrases to help students begin to formulate higher level questions. Examples include:


  • What caused…?
  • What are the characteristics of…?
  • What if…?
  • What does the author mean when…?
  • Would you agree that…?
  • Would it be better if…?

Traffic light your questions- Be a warden for success!

Students use the red, amber and green pages in their planners as a visual display for the teacher to see if a question has been asked. All students start on the red page and when the teacher asks them a question, provided a successful answer is given, they move to amber. At this stage, they can still be asked another question and if they are then they move to green to show that they have answered 2 successful questions that lesson.  This is a good visual way for the teacher to see who they have asked questions to and ensures that every student is asked at least one question in the lesson as anyone who is still on red would have to answer a question successful before leaving the room.

Use the traffic light system to monitor who has contributed in the lesson.
Monitor student understanding and progress with the traffic light system

So, develop and maintain the culture of questioning in the classroom, and keep your options open with different strategies.


And to finish, a nice quote from Shaun Allison – our questioning can help ‘lift the centre of gravity’ of our classrooms.

Butterfly #34: Differentiating the walking stick

The walking stick: How to differentiate your lessons effectively

We looked this week at how we can support our students of all abilities to get the very best outcomes. Differentiation offers that personalised approach to working with our students – the walking stick is the support we offer.  And to mix metaphors, the stick can also serve as the bar that we raise to expect the very best of our students!

This is a quick go-to-guide for ideas on how to spice up your lessons and encourage you to differentiate in a variety of ways; so that all learners can access the material and make sustained progress.

sourced from teacherpocketbooks.co.uk
sourced from teacherpocketbooks.co.uk

Differentiating Content

Content is comprised of the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students need to learn based on the curriculum. Differentiating content includes using various delivery formats such as video, readings, images or audio. How you deliver this content may vary between classes. So you might decide to use images to present an idea or content to a higher ability class, but you decide to use a video and a visual aid with a lower ability group.

For example, in a lesson on fractions, you could teach it in a series of ways:

  1. Watch an overview video
  2. Complete a Frayer Modelfor academic vocabulary, such as denominator and numerator.
  3. Watch and discuss a demonstration of fractions via cutting a cake
  4. Eat the cake

The Frayer Model


This graphic organiser was designed by Dorothy Frayer and her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin to provide for a thorough understanding of new words.

Students are asked to provide a Definition of the word, Facts or Characteristics of the word, Examples, and Non-examples. This graphic organiser will lead students to a deeper understanding of a word and its relationship to their own lives.

Emma Mellon worked with her Yr 7 class on forgiveness

Frayer in action

Pasidu and Harry Lock unpick the word ‘Justice’

026 025

How about these other strategies?

Differentiating the product.

In order for your pupils to understand the lesson content and reach the objective they must be able to access the material.

1. Adapt resources with appropriate levelled- information- lower ability use a range of text boxes/ bullet points and diagrams whereas, a higher level may have a more conventional paragraph structure

2. Adapt the wording of resources- for lower level students ensure the vocabulary is ability appropriate- use simpler synonyms to help aid understanding

3. Provide word banks and definitions on the resource. This allows stretch and challenge with new vocabulary and their confidence to use them appropriately

4. If you know a pupil is a slow writer- provide them with the printed information or make it into a close activity (fill in the gaps) or provide a tiered table where it varies according to higher/ middle or lower ability

5. Use model paragraphs to model individual target grades- print these off and provide them to similar levelled pupils


6. Translate work sheets or sections of information for EAL leaners-make it accessible.

7. Sentence starters-printed or on the board

8. Colour coded (discreet/ or not) questions- independent choice-can enable students to gauge their level of comfort and understanding, but also stretch and challenge

9. For group tasks, sit pupils of a similar level together and tier resources and the amount of instructions/complexity.

10. Pupil friendly assessment sheets- so pupils know what they have to do in order to succeed and how

11. Extension activities- laminated thunk/what if questions, past paper questions, design your own questions- no pupil should ever have ‘no work’ to do.

Expectations, the Growth Mindset and the ‘Pygmalion effect’


School and education is based around the belief that intelligence is not fixed, and consequently every child has the potential to flourish. If we don’t believe this we may as well stay home. Carol Dweck put forward the Growth Mindset through her research in the 1960s – our expectations will influence where are students gravitate in terms of their classroom performance and success. Consistent high expectations for all the abilities at Westfield are vital – our students thrive with this consistentcy of expectations. These high expectations will also develop through how we establish the social capital in Westfield – co-operation, trust and reciprocity will allow further student development and growth.

The Pygmalion effect is part of this; the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform. However, we cannot just expect. High expectations need that personalised support that differentiation provides, showing students how their learning can be overcome:

‘world-class performance comes by striving for a target just out of reach, but with a vivid awareness of how the gap might be breached. Over time, through constant repetition and deep concentration, the gap will disappear, only for a new target to be created, just out of reach again.’   Matthew Syed: Bounce: the Myth of talent and the power of practice.

Focused engagement is critical, with effort rather than ability praised. This is where our High expectations come in – with these an established part of the school, they allow our differentiation strategies to support and challenge students to keep on developing.

Differentiating and supporting the closing of the gap is not a lowering of standards and expectations. We need to expect the very best, and that this is not fixed for our students.


In Pygmalion, the play by George Bernard Shaw, the Professor has a fixed expectation of  Eliza – she will always remain a flower girl. We cannot do this, our expectations matter, because students respond to them – if we really believe something will happen then we increase the probability that it will!

So its High expectations + Differentiation to breach any gaps



Butterfly #32: Preventative Behaviour Management

This is not as sinister as it sounds – no barbed wire, watch towers or snarling Alsatians, just a range of strategies utilised by staff that head off potential issues and problems, and keep the lesson and learning moving.


Alongside this, these strategies re-establish our expectations of behaviour and students’ attitudes to learning. In all this, we are seeking impeccable behaviour.

imp beh

As Head of Business and IT, Paul Smith has supported his team by providing training on a number of strategies designed to do this – keeping the flow of lessons whilst instilling the right behaviour ethos amongst students and following our own code of conduct and management processes from C1 onwards.

We have spent some time this term preparing for 2015-16 with our new set of expectations, so to support this Paul led the session this week, looking at how we can combat some of the behaviours that can obstruct learning in the classroom.


We divided into groups, choosing behaviours that we faced in the classroom, and discussing solutions and preventative management:


Prevention is better than cure…

Jyoti demonstrates the non-verbal mode

The first challenge we addressed as a staff body was the dreaded- Refusal to work.

We know all too well what this can look like in our classrooms; poor attitude to learning, disengaged, low-level disruption and not to forget the dreaded slouching and miserable faces.

how we all hate to see this face
How we all hate to see this face

So, what could be the causes/ reasons for this behaviour? We have all racked our brains for this answer, and we have come up with a few reasons of our own:

  • Work can be too difficult
  • Work can be too easy, and pupil is not stretched
  • Social/Peer factors or influences
  • Seating plans
  • Attention seeking

Can we eliminate these patterns?

Yes!  With a few easy  and effective strategies, which will work when applied consistently, fairly and in a calm manner. Here are some tried and tested strategies:

Praise, praise, praise!!
Praise, praise, praise!!
  1. Tactical ignoring and praise pupils working hard
  2. Physical proximity to disengaged learner- tap table/book
  3. Quiet words of encouragement-try to understand what’s wrong.
  4. Go over the method/ input again if finding the activity too difficult
  5. Model good answers to support work
  6. Give extension tasks or scaffold if necessary
  7. Encourage the Book/Buddy/Boss method to help independent learning
  8. Continue to praise the attempts they have made
Everyday life.
Everyday life.

Do you ever wonder what you like after that one pupil continually interrupts you and asks you pointless question after pointless question? The second question I am sure you ask yourself,  is always whyy??

One of the defining factors of interrupting is definitely the element of attention seeking.

look at meWhether the pupil is  calling out, making silly noises, asking pointless questions, or simply doing anything in their power to get your attention- it can be massively disruptive to the class’ learning and progress ( and more importantly your sanity).

Here is what the staff came up with to help regain the control and deflect that negative attention:

  1. Set out clear classroom rules and expectations from the start of the year; but more importantly stick with them
  2. Turn the interruption into something positive
  3. Assign jobs and tasks throughout the lesson to keep them occupied with a helpful task ( handing out books or cleaning the board etc.)
  4. Question the interruption in a calm and effective manner
  5. Remind the pupil of your rules
  6. Try using non-verbal reminders

The big one: How do we stop disrespect and defiance in our lessons?

I am sure we don’t all want reminded what this looks like, but here we go:

  • Ignoring
  • Talking back
  • Failure to follow instructions
  • Swearing/ being rude
  • Lack of manners

So how do we maintain a healthy balance of control and respect in our teaching?

  1. Have incentives that reward positive contributions
  2. Have a quiet word- try not to make a scene- this can sometimes add tension to the situation.
  3. Use time out cards, where necessary. This can help to calm the pupil down.

    Something to display?
    Something to display?
  4. When having discussions be aware of physical proximity- avoid being in their personal space.
  5. Plan your seating plan- put them next to well-behaved pupils who will role model good behaviour.
  6. Use the school behaviour system
  7. Use report cards to monitor behaviour over a period of time.

The perfect partnership

The  most important things to remember is to be firm but fair throughout your teaching. Set boundaries and have high expectations for your pupils every single day.  Talk to them, find out what they like/ dislike and show them you are more than just a robot who stands at the front of a room. This will lead to a mutual respect which has been earned and received by both parties, and will hopefully create a perfect partnership. If at first you don’t succeed try again- it can at times be a difficult journey, but a journey worth enduring.

We can all try and find some common ground
We can all try and find some common ground.

Guest Blogger: Emma McGroarty ITT Lead


Butterfly #33: A shoulder to the wheel

A common concern of the 21st Century is the breakdown of the community, as citizens veer towards individualism, living and working in their own sphere. Society, and schools, cannot exist like this; they need the collective and unity that binds people together. From this can come opportunities for change and support, allowing the Butterfly effect of small ripples moving outwards.

Shoulders to the wheel, literally

This week in London a horrific accident transformed into a community action as 100 bystanders combined to lift a double decker bus to release a cyclist caught underneath the wheel arch.


The BBC article emphasised the spontaneity of people’s action, and reaction, to the situation, and the impact of the collective will – a community working together, literally putting their shoulder to the wheel. Very little media attention came through, partially due to the fact that the ubiquitous camera phone footage was actively discouraged by those on-site.

Celebrating Impact

Working together or individually, with little fanfare – it all sounds a bit familiar as we just get on with our job, and in the session this week we looked at what we have done this year that we are proud of, and believe has made an impact. Of course, all this added up really does add up, and the power of the collective, the shoulders to the wheel, has an enormous impact on our young people. Sometimes this just needs to be written down and celebrated…


It was hard work getting colleagues to write these down, which again highlights our reticence in actually promoting ourselves.

Africa Trip

Chocks away
Pupils from the Africa Team
Pupils from the Africa Team

On Sunday a number of our staff and pupils travelled up to Cambridgeshire to complete a long-awaited skydive, to raise money for our Charity Trip to Tanzania in July. The community spirit continued outside of the classroom and school as each member of staff supported each other as they ascended 13000 ft into the air to jump into the unknown.

Not only did they support one another on the day, but the staff and the Africa team have worked tirelessly all year within school and the community to raise essential funds.

In one month’s time we go to Tanzania and hopefully make a difference to a new community, in a different continent.

Ramadan Celebration

Staff and pupils enjoying the celebrations
Staff and pupils enjoying the celebrations

Westfield Academy have been very busy within the community this week, and last night we had Miss Kazi organise the most wonderful Ramadan Celebration for parents and pupils.

Staff, parents and pupils were taught about the meaning of Ramadan, we sang songs and ate traditional celebratory foods. The pupils even came in their beautiful traditional dress. It was an educational evening for many – hopefully, increasing the power of the collective within our community for many years to come.

Power of the Collective

The older generation (that’s the 80’s) may remember the scene from ‘Witness’ where a community of Amish work together to build a barn in a day, much to the then modern-day shock of City policeman Harrison Ford.

Pulling together is possibly an old-fashioned concept, but modern schools rely on and need this. Education, and success for our students, is a hugely complex process, and requires this collective effort.

A simple exam day requires the input of home, bus drivers, duty staff, the canteen, invigilators, teachers and the students themselves. Just for one exam, and all in the right direction.

A successful school that aims for the very best for all its stakeholders has to do this every day for 7 years. That’s a lot of shoulders, and our aim at Westfield is to ensure that this collective effort is even more the case for the years ahead.