Einsteins in the making: CPD Stretch and challenge


This week our whole staff CPD session looked at how we use strategies in the classroom to promote stretch and challenge; ensuring each pupil is able to make the most progress within their ability range.

We kicked off the session with a little challenge for the staff. We asked them to fold a plain piece of A4 paper into 8 squares/ They then had to write down everything they knew about the poet Robert Burns.


As you can see from the picture, staff were extremely challenged (and panicked at times too!) This is where pupils need to be, at certain times in their learning. They need to be brave and independent and feel enthusiastic about the challenge they face.  They need to be taught how to grow a growth-mindset and accept and appreciate being stretched.

We then made staff repeat the process after they had read an extract about Robert Burns. Staff found this less of a challenge, however it still stretched their memory skills and enabled them to visual the progress they had made and allowed them to see where thy needed to continue revising their knowledge.

How can it be used in lessons? Pimp their progress: Magic 8 Technique

magic 8.png

1.Can be used as a / starter/ mini plenary/hook/ Consolidation

2.Also can be used as a main activity

3.Great way to assess progress at beginning/ middle and end.

4.Also a great revision technique for end of topics.

We provided staff with this A2 postcard to remind them of how to establish the right mindset within their classroom.



Chris Black, our Gifted and Talented lead led an excellent part of the session on how we can use our new resource site NACE. The National Association for Able Children in Education http://www.nace.co.uk/

What does NACE do?

NACE specialises in working with schools and teachers to improve learning for able learners.
Founded in 1983, NACE is recognised nationally and internationally as the UK’s leading independent education organisation in the field of education for able learners.
Through its valuable network of members NACE provides high quality guidance, support and training, enabling teachers to attain the best from able learners in the everyday classroom, whilst enabling all learners to flourish and achieve.

NACE Values

High Ability can be manifested in numerous ways.
NACE is concerned with supporting schools in getting the very best for their able children.  The evidence is now strongly pointing towards the fact that if schools meet the needs of the more able it benefits all.

NACE believes:

  • Defining ability is complex and evolving.
  • High ability includes all domains of human achievement
  • Many children are capable of high achievement given the right opportunities
  • There should be no ceiling on how many children in a school are defined as highly able
  • Every school should and can provide opportunities for their highly able to flourish and achieve

The NACE Community provides teachers with:

  • a content-rich website supporting the daily work of teachers
  • unique school login and password, giving all staff access to support from the NACE website.
  • free access to ‘New to AG&T’ packed with vital information for both experienced and new colleagues
  • specialist advice with practical tried and tested resources
  • subject specific resources for teachers to challenge their more able learners in curriculum aligned subject groups
  • NACE insight, a termly newsletter packed with case studies
  • an award winning monthly e-bulletin providing regular updates and sources of inspiration
  • discounts on professional development, conferences and seminars
  • free ‘Ask the Expert’ advice from professionals and key NACE advisers.
  • 10% discount on Rising Stars publications

Once the staff got their head around the fantastic resource and how to use it for their planing, we got stuck into some more really simple strategies to get the pupils’ brains ticking:

1st up: Crocodile crossing 

crocodile crossing.pngcrocodile crossing 1.png

This is a game that Chris re-worked for his literacy lessons. Chris believes in incorporating games and active learning; you can easily visualise which students are leaps ahead, and who requires extra support.Challenging our staff to compete against each other in literacy- really was a laughing point and the staff body were able to visualise what stretch and challenge physically means and how it feels.

2nd up: PPPB with a twist.

For A level Chris has used PPPB with a twist. He got his pupils to compile a list of questions, based on the poem they were currently studying for their course. He then got the pupils to question each other, and then to finalise and stretch  and unpick their answers, he got them to consider what choices they had made and more importantly, why.

pose pause pounce reviewspppb review 1

And lastly: Flipped Learning

What is flipped learning?

A pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.

flipped learning 1

advantages of flipped learning

Having tried and tested this with my top set year 11, I can vouch that this method works. I would highly recommend trying this method of learning out- especially at the end of  topics and a revision method.

For example: last week my year 11s had begun to revise their poetry anthology in preparation for their exams. I was bored standing at the from re-hashing techniques and could see a class full of glazed eyes and a genuine lack of enthusiasm. So, the next day, I set them a flipped learning homework. I asked them to revise and annotate the next poem for homework. The following lesson would be a discussion lesson. Immediately, within the first 5 minutes of the next lesson, we had delved into themes, structure and style points, and more importantly- their knowledge was leading the lesson-not mine.

We must ensure we establish the correct environment and instil a positive attitude to the practise of stretch and challenge, within our lessons.




Cooking up a storm! (A guide to successful practical lessons)

Tuesday morning, 7:30am. The staffing body of Westfield Academy make their way into the building tired and weary-eyed… However- it is Butterfly morning and crepes are on the menu!!

This week Trevor and Ben taught the staffing academy of Westfield how to make practical lesson engaging. They taught us the skills necessary for any subject to partake in practical tasks such as drama, English, food Tech, DT, Art etc. and how to ensure that the lessons remain purposeful and progressive.

As a science teacher, Ben looked at a range of strategies he uses on a daily basis, which help keep a successful pace and guide the pupils on their road to challenge and improvement within a lesson.


Strategies for engaging pupils in practical lessons

Define the objectives.

Knowing That They Know What They Need to Know

At the beginning of the year, lay out clear objectives, rules, and expectations of students so that there is no confusion and students have goals to work towards.

Task by task get students to explain back what you have explained to them



Give Students a Sense of Control

While guidance from a teacher is important to keeping kids on task and motivated, allowing students to have some choice and control over what happens in the classroom is actually one of the best ways to keep them engaged. For example, allowing students to choose the type of assignment they do or which problems to work on can give them a sense of control that may just motivate them to do more.control


Giving Students Responsibility

Experimental roles: makes pupils feel valued and part of the team-

  • Experiment Manager
  • Equipment Consultant
  • Quality Controlteam
  • Behavioural Specialist



Most students will see classroom jobs as a privilege rather than a burden and will work hard to ensure that they, and other students, are meeting expectations.


Positive competition

Games, challenges and speed task promote motivation and self-confidence.

challanegeCompetition in the classroom isn’t always a bad thing, and in some cases can motivate students to try harder and work to excel. Work to foster a friendly spirit of competition in your classroom, perhaps through group games related to the material or other opportunities for students to show off their knowledge.

Allow Students to Work Together

working together

Teacher promotes balance through differentiation

While not all students will jump at the chance to work in groups, many will find it fun to try to solve problems, do experiments, and work on projects with other students. The social interaction can get them excited about things in the classroom and students can motivate one another to reach a goal. Teachers need to ensure that groups are balanced and fair, however, so that some students aren’t doing more work than others.

Track Progress

track porgress

It can be hard for students to see just how far they’ve come, especially with subjects that are difficult for them. Tracking can come in handy in the classroom, not only for teachers but also for students. Teachers can use this as a way to motivate students, allowing them to see visually just how much they are learning and improving as the year goes on.


There is no other form of motivation that works quite as well as encouragement. Even as adults we crave recognition and praise, and students at any age are no exception. Teachers can give students a bounty of motivation by rewarding success publicly, giving praise for a job well done, and sharing exemplary work.



Take note of student interest

mutual interest

Knowing your students also has some other benefits, namely that it allows you to relate classroom material to things that students are interested in or have experienced. Teachers can use these interests to make things more interesting and relatable to students, keeping students motivated for longer.


Those Mini Breaks

Helps keep students focused.

mini breaks.jpg

Students, even the best ones, can become frustrated and demotivated when they feel like they’re struggling or not getting the recognition that other students are. Make sure that all students get a chance to play to their strengths and feel included and valued. It can make a world of difference in their motivation.

Trev looked at what stratyegeis- visual and auditory he uses to help a practical lesson get started on time and make rpgress throughout…

Visual displays!

  • Swap your blazer for an apron.
  • Tie your hair back.
  • Put your planners and homework books away.
  • Bags into the cloakroom
  • The first person back to
  • their work station, should shout safety will receive a positive.

to put us to the test on how well we could follow instructions- we had a ten minute challenge!

Ready steady CREPE!!

In groups staff had only 10 mins to make French crepes using a Gifted and talented method sheet!


Trevor also demonstrated how the instructions and method he will use with the pupils , solely depends on the class or individual;s within the class.

This is a method sheet for a lower ability group- look at the difference in instructions. With this teaching strategy Trevor is able to differentiate down for the weaker students, but still enable an option for pupils to stretch and challenge their ability- and reaching higher levels independently!

lower ability method.png


Now did they turn out like the above?






Staff CPD: Stretch and Challenge

Our 1st session of the year, and we looked at how various ingredients go into creating the growth mindsets and stretch and challenge for all our lessons.

Our role is essential, not surprisingly, and it is the right combination of the circles below that gets the challenge right.

There be challenge – right bang in the middle!


How we communicate is so important, as this will contribute to the establishment of the right ethos and mindset – growth as opposed to fixed.


We start with resilience, and the old straw-through-potato trick. Spit, grit and a whole lot of duct tape was used by some, with varying success, and it was agreed by all that if we are to drive stretch and challenge, a resilient attitude amongst all learners was vital.

This connects with our growth mindset – do we practise and preach this as well? Jodie was a true believer on this…

The areas that we considered really crucial to improving the learning ethos stemmed from  a few key concepts:

“Challenge in education is the provision of difficult work that causes students to think deeply and engage in healthy struggle. If we get this right, all else will follow.”

  • It is not just about the ‘most able’.
  • It is high expectations for all.
  • It is good for students to struggle just outside of their comfort zone – that is when they are likely to learn most.


The next step in the jigsaw was looking at the pedagogy behind Establishing the right ethos: As a group we looked at The Learning Zone Model (Senninger, 2000)

learning zone.png

Comfort Zone Struggle Zone Panic Zone
Low challenge

Low stress

Limited thinking

Limited learning

High challenge

Low stress

Thinking required

Effective learning

Very high challenge

High stress

Cognitive overload

Limited learning

Together we watched this amazing discussion about the difference between a Fixed and Growth mindset. It is important that we, as teacher’s reflect the same positive ethos in our classroom and model high expectations and trust. This video created lots of exciting discussion around our pupils at Westfield and how we can diminish fixed mindsets amongst the most challenging pupils. We very much look forward to putting our ideas into practice.


The next stepping stone on our whole staff CPD session was to get the staff talking about what they key ingredients are; to establish this growth mindset ethos in their lessons. So , of course, we played a game of Pictionary. Special thanks go out to our amazing Art teachers Sam and Leah, who designed our wonderful playing cards.


After a long and healthy discussion and a lot of different diamond nines, we were able to identify the key ingredients necessary in enabling stretch and challenge. It created several debates- but that is good- because every single element is vital:

  1. Working with your LSA
  2. Contact with parents
  3. Listening
  4. Promoting resilience
  5. Clarity of the learning direction
  6. Having strong subject knowledge
  7. Using your class context sheets as a daily guide to planning
  8. Having high expectations of all students
  9. Having good relationships
  10. Creating a safe and inspiring learning environment
  11. Being a strong presence in the classroom, and running the show.

Knowing the students, knowing the subject, knowing what they find difficult

If high expectations are in place, with the bar set high, we can differentiate downwards with the most suitable strategy to hoist each individual child up.

After a fantastic and engaged session, we left our teachers with a few tasks for the upcoming week:

1.Context sheets- know the students you are teaching

2.Read your SEN Booklets

3.Raise the bar for the learning direction of the lesson

4.Stretch their capabilities- put them in the learning zone-not the comfort zone.

5.Settle for nothing but their best-inspire & support them in their learning, every lesson.


ts elliot


Stretch and Challenge

Our Joint Professional Development training this year has focused so far on our Westfield Way expectations, as well as the questioning and assessment strategies that we use in the classroom.

The ethos and foundation for both of these is the drive we give to all that we do, so our focus this term will be the stretch and challenge we bring to the classroom, and the variety of strategies that allow this to happen. When we 1st looked at the Westfield way expectations we discussed the raising of the bar, and this is very much a part of that, with stretch and challenge being the provision of difficult work that causes students to think deeply and engage in healthy struggle (Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby: Making every lesson count). If we get this right, all else will follow.


As I said on the Inset day, my Tate visit over the holidays furnished a nice metaphor for what we do at Westfield.

Growth in the middle plot, but we can’t be sure!

The Empty Plots by Abraham Cruzvillegas are the opposite of what we try to do. The ‘unpredictability and hope’ of just filling a raised bed and leaving growth to chance is just not an option, so bring on the stretch and challenge! The 1st session will look at the ethos, strategies and mindset that we can put in place to help this happen.

Our students back this up!

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” TS Eliot.