Supporting and Motivating challenging students

Our guest Blogger this week is Dan Finill.

Dan presented on his work as Inclusion Manager this week, working with our most challenging students, and has set out his strategies.

Working with young people can be a challenge and the question we always ask ourselves is, “How can we get them to behave and engage?” Its fair to say that we have a diverse cohort who have varying behavioural, social and emotional needs but I strongly believe that no young person wants to be naughty.

With such varying needs, it’s important that we always look for strategies that suit the individual but at the same time always ensure that students are consistently following the school code of conduct. We believe that in order to change or modify a student’s behaviour to be successful within a mainstream environment, we need to keep them within the mainstream environment. Rather than weeks of withdrawal or isolation, we deploy our resources to them within the classroom.

Mr Meale (Inclusion Mentor) – supporting a Yr 9 Pupil

Our focus for this week’s Butterfly sessions was around supporting and motivating challenging students and how we as professionals can adapt our practice. All too often as professionals and teachers, we focus on behaviour rather than learning. Students who find learning challenging often have little motivation and self-esteem and as professionals we hold the match that creates the spark for them to want to achieve more.

Simple observations based on their work helps build confidence and that will to want to please again. Things like…

“That’s a beautiful piece of work you’ve created today”

“That’s an interesting point, I hadn’t thought about that”

“I’m really impressed with your effort today”

“What you’ve written is spot on”
This doesn’t have to be over the top, just a passing comment whilst you’re walking down a row is just as valuable.

Whilst talking with our students, the key thing that they said they look for in a teacher is personality and the desire to form positive relationships. That ability to connect and understand their needs and from time to time having a bit of “banter” (appropriate within the expectations of a classroom of course)


Improving individual relationships is important to creating a harmonious and purposeful learning environment. The key to that is how we communicate with that young person and those that support them. Simple things like a quick positive phone call to a parent help create the start of a good relationship with students. But when it comes to behaviour management, we also have to be mindful of our approach as this is where relationships can be damaged. Naturally, challenging students will not be perfect all of the time. By ensuring a staged approach is followed (use of a warning system) remain calm and allowing opportunities for the student to modify their behaviour, helps you to de-personalise their behaviour towards you. When things do go wrong, it’s important that there is a resolution. By allowing an opportunity for students to sit and put their side across after the event or for you to let them know how you felt in that situation is really powerful. This is something that when I am coaching students, I make sure that they take ownership of the resolution and they are proactive at seeking out the member of staff to apologise and create closure.


Building positive relationships with pupils is not an overnight thing. In fact it might take months before you actually feel that you are getting somewhere. However that persistence, setting aside time from individuals, listening and coaching are just some of the key ingredients to creating a successful partnership.


Personalising our CPD

This term we are starting a new CPD programme with a personalised approach for all teachers.

Our next 3 sessions will be in groups, with all staff identifying an area for development in their own classroom practice. All are under-pinned by the centrality of improving student outcomes.

In a nutshell:


More Able Learners: Chris
Do you want support supporting more able learners? And do you want to share your ideas on how to do so? Join our juggling act! In our sessions on More Able we will address strategies for balancing questioning and planning, balancing planning in advance with reacting in lesson, and balancing teacher and student feedback.
AFL: Sam 
Do you want to gain skills in Planning the journey of GCSE grades from start to finish? Do you want to know how good strategies in Yr 11 can inform successful assessment and planning in younger years? Well then this is the group for you! Come and get an opportunity to develop some great AFL strategies and integrate them into your planning.
Planning: Jodie & Clara
20151117_075606 Snapchat-4165769073171275821
‘Three’s a crowd? Not this time! Learn three different ways to improve your lesson planning in three themed sessions; engagement, challenge and feedback.’
Differentiation: Chloe 
Is differentiation the group for you? The 3 ‘Differentiation’ CPD sessions will explore how staff can adapt their teaching style to get the best from pupils in top, bottom and middle sets.
Google Forms have been sent out – please select 1st and 2nd choices, and the sessions start this Wednesday!

The Final Countdown: Revision tips and strategies for year 11s

The final countdown…


Since around January this is a phrase I have come to use again and again with our Year 11s, a phrase which induces pangs of stress and panic to us staff, but unfortunately does not extend to each of our 138 Year 11 students.


Leading up to the Easter holiday we were beginning to see ripples of success with our newly launched revision timetable with up to 75 students working until 4.30pm each afternoon. This extended into our Easter holiday with our amazing staff who gave up their own time to work with our target students and it is safe to say that the pictures speak for themselves. Students were engaged, focused and eager to maximise the time they had. They highlighted key words, competed coursework, wrote tirelessly completing exam questions.

revision Timetable

This week we thought it would be the perfect time to refocus ourselves on our Year 11s, as Mr Body put it, our number one priority. It is scary to think that there are a mere 4 weeks left for us to work our magic with them, but what is important is how we utilise these four weeks effectively to get the most out of them, to push, stimulate and engage.

teacher magic

The guidelines discussed by Ishrat and myself are not new to staff, they are things that so many of us embed in our lessons on a daily basis,  but are the key fundamental principles to ensuring that our lessons are focused with a clear direction on the end goal.

Planning structured lessons- At this point, Year 11  lessons need to maximise on the 60minutes with short bursts of exam linked activities which are student lead and put the onus on the students to do the work. Prioritising the difficult topics and revisiting them again and again is key- repetition with our students is a must! We also suggest making the countdown visible- how much content is left to cover? What is the date of the exam? How many lessons have they left to prepare?


Refocus with a new seating plan- Now that we are in April, this may seem strange as expectations are well established, as our your seating plans. However, mixing it up and moving the students around could just be what they need in order to get them away from friends, away from blind spots which allow them to hide and do minimal work. Make these moves non- negotiable, it is about placing them where they will work the most effectively- away from friends and preferably not in groups! We also want staff to use the systems, if a student is disrupting the learning for others, on call them. At this point in the year we do not have time for those who want to chat, mess around, disturb lessons and the learning of themselves and others.

seating plan

Model answers and exam practice- Link all of their written activities and work directly to their exam papers and give them the time to practice these in real timed conditions. Completing model answers with the class is an excellent way of demonstrating what they need to include for top mark answers but do ensure this is student lead. Using questioning such as PPPB is a fantastic tool for getting as many students as possible to contribute, developing the answer even further! Avoid simply presenting models already done, or simply reading out chunks of material, as we said before, the onus should now be on them! Comparing a top mark model with a low mark model is also really useful to identify gaps and help them to see what a great answer should look like!


Trigger their memory- A few weeks ago two motivational experts tried a number a memory games and techniques with our Year 11s to show them different methods of revision. The students were extremely engaged, stimulated and dare I say, had fun! Techniques such as mnemonics, loci, peg words, rhymes are all excellent tools which can inject some life into revision lessons. Helpful links to show other suggestions are and



Ultimately we are all a part of this process, getting them ready and where they need to be. You see these students on a daily basis and know their strengths and weaknesses. In order to ensure these next four weeks are well structured and purposeful it is vital that we work together and for this communcaition is key! If you are concerned with any student please share your concern with Ishrat, SLT, your HOF or myself. I will end with some wise words from Dr Suess which I think we have all said at some time or another at this point in the year ‘How did it get so late so soon?’ The final countdown is officially on…


Proof of the pudding… A few walks showed the variety of strategies students are encountering to help them get the very best outcomes in their exams. Can you match the pictures and the following strategies?

  1. Teaching Assistant 1to1
  2. Silent exam practice
  3. Teacher Q&A and exposition
  4. Student self-assessment and evaluation
  5. Paired support
  6. All together now – class learning
  7. Independent research
  8. Data and performance analysis with students
  9. Teacher advice
  10. Just getting on with it.



The variety of strategies on offer for our students has been phenomenal, and this mixing it up has really helped keep enthusiasm, energy and impact at a maximum. The blend of support and challenge is paying off – they are positive, driven and progressing!

I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” Kurt Vonnegut


TeachMeet: Accessible Learning

Westfield Academy are very proud to invite education colleagues to our 1st TeachMeet on Wednesday 25/5/16.

The focus will be on strategies for accessible learning, opening up learning for all students inside and outside the classroom.

TeachMeet 25-5-16

Contact details are on the flyer or through this Blog. Let us know if you want to join us, to present or just to come along.

Whole Staff CPD: Adolescents and Attachment part 2

Adolescents and Attachment part 2
Westfield Academy
30th March 2016
Dr Ruth Rogers and Dr Madelaine Smith
Educational Psychology Service

cold call questioing

Aims of the session: 

  • To understand the 4 styles of attachment
  • To understand the impact of attachment style on emotional regulation in teenagers
  • To explore and discuss long term and day to day strategies to support teenagers in school

The cycle of bonding and attachment: healthy attachments

secure attachment

Secure attachment established

  • Child develops trust- an expectation that the world will be safe, adults are caring and close relationships can be satisfying
  • Armed with this trust the child can move out from these close relationships to make other relationships, and to play and explore
  • Child develops an optimistic and positive internal working model

The cycle of bonding and attachment: unhealthy attachments

insecure attachment.png

Time to think?!

What sort of behaviours might you see in teenagers?

We came up with a list the length of your arm! the interesting ting to poit  out, was that unfortunately for teenagers, a lot of the descriptions were quite negative!

Examples included:

  1. needy
  2. moody
  3. hormonal
  4. vulnerable
  5. complex
  6. angry
  7. difficult
  8. stubborn… etc.

Possible classroom behaviour with a teenager who show signs of insecure attachment...

  • Disruptive behaviours
  • Uncontrolled explosions
  • Sulkiness with authority
  • Needing to be in control so resisting teacher instruction
  • Lying/stealing
  • Refusing comfort/reassurance from teacher
  • Rejecting praise
  • Attempts to create chaos
  • Incessant talking
  • Superficially charming but inappropriately familiar
  • Poor concentration
  • Refusal to accept help
  • Constantly turning around
  • Disorganisation
  • Separation anxiety, not managing transition times

Impact on teachers:

stressed teacher

  • Push you to the emotional limits – anger, tearful, fear
  • Attempt to shock or frighten you by trying to take control ( as they have always felt so out of control through abuse or loss)
  • They might turn on you to communicate how they feel about experiences in the past – you feel their anger, confusion, worthlessness
  • They may well find your vulnerabilities
  • They might make you feel as if they don’t need support and that they can get on with things alone
  • They might get you to behave out of character for example scream and yell at them
  • They make you question what you do as it doesn’t seem to be working! Make you feel de-skilled.
  • Impact on work performance – exhaustion, withdrawal, obsessiveness.
  • Persecutor/persecuted/rescuer roles start to emerge.  Can split staff.


Video clip –the strange situation

Secure, Insecure, Avoidant & Ambivalent Attachment in Mothers & Babies


Cautionary note… 

  • Labels only useful as a rough guide
  • Do not lose sight of individuality of child
  • Need background information to know whether to attribute behaviour issues with possible attachment issues…


Secure Attachment


  • Resilient
  • Confident
  • Self Esteem
  • Independent
  • Achieving

Insecure and Avoidant


  • Indifferent
  • Underachieving
  • Sensitive to Teacher proximity
  • Denial of the need for teacher support
  • Hostility toward the teacher is directed toward the task
  • Desire to be autonomous

Insecure and Ambivalent


  • Highly anxious
  • Underachieving
  • Attention seeking
  • Poor concentration
  • Dependent on teacher support
  • Fears separation
  • Hostile towards teacher if frustrated

Insecure and Disorganised


  • Controlling
  • Intense anxiety
  • Underachieving
  • Distrusting of authority
  • Likely to reject task or any educational challenge for fear of failing or not knowing

Intervention- SO what can we do to support these learners?

Long Term Support Strategies: A supportive school environment

a supportive school environment.png

The 6 Point Curriculum

1)Safety/containment and soothing

2)Sharing experiences, feeling connected

3)Trusting and building relationships

4)Managing oneself – regulating the body and impulse      recognising feelings        making choices/taking responsibility

5)Developing social awareness – recognising and predicting the feelings/actions of others and making choices based on this

6)Developing reflectivity ( building self esteem) and reciprocity (learning how life can be enjoyed together)

Aims of a key adult

key adult

  • To build relationship & trust through joining & co-modelling
  • To facilitate opportunities to introduce or practice developmental capacities
  • To learn the pupil’s language & provide translation
  • To support their learning – emotionally, socially and academically
  • To advocate for pupil at school
  • To be the link between home & school

Opportunities are needed to introduce    or practice the following:-

  • Relative dependency
  • Routine
  • Being kept in mind
  • Recognising an integrated sense of self
  • Expressing feelings safely

“Stick-ability!”Most important

never give up

Prepare for the long haul.

Your work may not have quick results but may have lasting consequences for adulthood.


Everyday Survival Strategies

Extensive Strategy help sheet attached!

Leaflet activity – behaviours and strategies answers

  Additional Resources

Louise Bomber (2007).  Inside I’m hurting?
– Louise Bomber (2011). What about me?
– Heather Geddes (2005). Attachment in the Classroom.
– Louise Bomber – Attachment Aware Schools:
– John Coleman (2014). Why won’t my teenager talk me?

Next steps…

s a leaving note think about the pupils, in your care, who you could give some extra support to. This is not about labels, or identifying ‘problems’ .

This session is about giving you another string to your bow, another tool in your tool kit and allowing you to look past complex and difficult behaviour and use strategies which will help and benefit every single learner in your classroom.

So, moving forward…In light of what we have discussed today…

1.What do you already do well?

2. What might you do differently?

a)What practical things will you do?

b)How might you respond differently?


Thanks for listening! 🙂