Butterfly #20: Closing the Gap

So far, several connected ingredients have been looked at in our sessions this term.

Expectations, vision and destination, clarity and engagament all combine to provide successful opportunites for great learning in the lesson, allied with our really knowing our students. So with this in place, how do we let students know where they are at, and what they need to do to really nail the lessons’ learning?

10 I feedback on their textual understandiong so far

This is through the feedback we give, alowing the closing of the learning gap for the students. Katy presented this week on a key strategy that can be used to let this happen.

Peer assessment


Peer assessment is a really easy way to make sure that students know the mark scheme and can apply it to a piece of work. Additionally, this enhances understanding through more independent work, challenging students to develop their understanding.

Through peer assessment,

-Deep learning can develop

-A clearer grasp of assessment criteria, and exam success can be instilled

-Feedback can be built into the lesson, from peers as well as teachers

-Reduced workload, without reducing progress.

So how can this be done?

Blue stickers and assessment sheets

blue sticker

-Set out a scaffolded sheet that supports the dialogue between students

-Plan for these opportunities during the lesson, and develop routines and learning environments that allow this to happen


-Provide structures and clear success criteria that take the students along the path of peer assessment. They can do it, but will need support along the way.

Success Criteria to Help Others Improve
Instructions Criteria
1.Below you will see a list of what needs to be in this piece of work2.Fill this sheet in while reading the other piece of work

3.Afterwards, you will have a chance to feedback to the other person

4.Both people should decide upon the improvements to make next time

The criteria are as follows. Depending on the amount of “yes” boxes ticked below.6 ticks = 6c                                 1 tick = 4b

5 ticks = 5a                                 0 ticks = /

4 ticks = 5b

3 ticks = 5c

2 ticks = 4a

Does the work have the following? Yes No How could it be improved?
Multiple characters
Let us know which character is speakingE.g. Ben: Hello
Use stage directions (using italics or brackets for stage directions gets an extra tick)E.g. She doesn’t reply
Use “new speaker, new line”?
Have a beginning and an ending?
Learner response:


-Routines are vital. Don’t spring this type of assessment on studnets, but build their confidence steadily.

Teacher feedback is another way of doing it…

Variety is key here, and we need to remember that we are the experts to impart the knowledge and understanding, and support the closing of the gap.

1 to 1 questioning and feedback
Whole class questioning. Someone’s enjoying it!

This can be done through our questioning, conversations around the classroom, and our marking.

 Closing the gap is the final ingredient for the lesson, and the obvious aim – have students made progress during their time in the lesson, and how have we planned and provided opportunities for this to happen?

Feedback to let students know where they are and how they can move on is key to this gap closing.
Routines are vital , but so is the timeliness of when and how we do this feedback, and how we do it.


Teaching Backwards writes about how our Driving Instructors teach us, particularly the dreaded hill start. Timely, specific and kind advice gets us through this, from an expert. A friend in the back offering peer assessment is probably not the best form of assessment at this point (You didn’t want to do that!)

Choosing the best form of assessment at the right time is down to our professional expertise, our planning, as well as how we know our students and our classrooms.

So feedback is the final ingredient. This week we will review all the ingredients and see how we can implement them for Great Westfield teaching.

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!

Butterfly #18: How do we know?

It’s all about being a Detective – bumbling around and getting sort-of-there, or nailing the lesson with hard evidence that shows all learners learning and making great progress. How do we know, and how can we get proof of learning for all?


Columbo did it ego-free. Solving the case, through finding the most robust and hardest evidence, and as teachers that is our role. Seeing and showing the learning with clear evidence, through questioning and assessing the students. Planning and implementing this is vital if the learning of our students is to be questioned, tested and evaluated.

There are many strategies here, and the session this week looked at a few.

Our own comprehension of the lesson direction, and the imparting of this, and this allows the planning and delivery of our questioning and assessment which is key here. Hitting the ability of the students in our questioning is something that can be planned for, as well as reacting to circumstances during the lessons:

1) Blooms the question style

—-Knowledge – Level 3 ; F grade

What is the purpose of a bridge?

—-Comprehension – Level 4 ; Grade E

Describe 2 ways to strengthen a frame structure

-Application – Level 4+ ; Grade E/D

Can you combine 2 different materials to construct a tower?

—-Analysis – Level 5 ; Grade C

What evidence is there to suggest that a pyramid s a stable shape?

—-Synthesis – Level 5/6 ; Grade B+

How would you improve  your bridge design to make it stronger?

—-Evaluation – Level 6/7 ; Grade B/A

How effective was your design when testing weight distribution?

2) On their toes!

Keep students focussed and ready to be assessed with randomw questioning around the class:


-Lolly sticks

-Random names (in your head). Put the name 1st – so studnets know it is just for them!

-Ball to students


3) Review stage, check whole-class understanding before moving on. Integrate this with the Learning objectives:

-—Mini white boards

-—Thumbs up

—-Traffic lights


-—Pair / share


-—5 relevant Qs: 1 lower ability, 3 general Qs, 1 higher ability

4) Get the hard evidence of students learning and progress. Assess through:

-—Class surveys

—-Listening around the classroom as you circulate during an activity


—-1to1 conversations

—-Learner presentations

—-Be hard to fool – get the hard evidence. Students apply & recreate what they have learned through application activities:

—Put into own words;

—Explain with a diagram;

—Deliver a presentation.

Knowing the learning and showing the evidence is vital. From this lessons and students can move forwards and the momentum is established. Being able to address any tricky areas is equally vital, and this must be done through our questioning and assessment, for this provides the proof of learning, and allows us to reflect on our own practice and delivery.

Butterfly #17: What are we learning today?

So far expectations, destination and student starting points have been established as fundamental starting points for lesson preparation and delivery.

This sets the scene, starts the journey and establishes the mind set. So what next?


This week Emma looked at objectives, outcomes and success criteria, and how this is imparted to the students and sets up and clarifies the lesson direction. If we use our cycle of Input, Activity, Review, they can be revisited and students assessed as the lesson progresses.


Ensuring we as teachers are confident and clear in our minds of the destination is the 1st stage, and this allows for a clear student explanation at the start, and throughout the lesson. From this point the lesson should be broken down into clear, manageable steps and stages



The objectives, outcomes and success criteria should lay this out, as this example from English shows:

Learning objective: We are learning to describe the characteristics of a detective.

Learning outcomes: By the end of today’s lesson you will be able to

  • Construct a list of successful vocabulary to describe your detective using the thesaurus. (l2/3)
  • Identify common characteristics that a detective might have (bubble/spider diagram) (l3/4)
  • Create a trump card displaying key information about your detective. (l4/5)

Success Criteria:

Remember to…

Look up words that describe your detective-think about looks and personality (tall, black hair, cunning, clever)

Think about detectives you know (Sherlock Holmes) in order to create a successful spider diagram

In this example, the Objectives lay out the journey, the Outcomes the stages, and the Success criteria the specifics of what is being sought of the students.

Outcomes lay out the manageable steps and stages for the students, and the Wheel below can be used to build challenge through the Blooms words (and align with grades and levels)


Success Criteria give that extra clarity to what it is that we as  teacher want:

“too often children know the learning intention, but not how the teacher is going to judge the performance.” (Shirley Clarke, 2006, p.22).


A basic checklist should include:

  • Do your classes know their target grade?
  • Is it written on the front of their books?
  • Do you include the learning objective after each review?
  • How do you measure the progress made against the objective and outcomes?
  • Can the pupils explain how they are at that grade/ level?
  • Do the pupils know how to be successful?

Time spent clarifying the lesson destination firstly for ourselves, then to the students is hugely important.

The outcomes and criteria will then unpick the journey for the students, and when revisited as reviews, will mark the progress of and for the students.

Butterfly #16: True Starting Points

The sessions this term are very much a journey, with last week establishing the primary importance of the learning destination and its’ communication to the students, alongside the establishment of high expectations. These expectations can be continually be reinforced with strategies to engage and drive students (remember the Hobnobs!).

So the destination is made clear. But what about where we start from? If we don’t know this it makes progress and its’ assessment unclear. To use the  ‘Teaching Backwards’ example its like the Sat Nav in our car. Unless it knows where we want to go and where we’re starting from, it won’t be able to calculate the quickest and most effective route. So we don’t reach the destination! Every lesson!

Paula and Tony highlighted how we can know these starting points, and what we can do with them in our teaching

Postcodes required

sen handbook

In our Twilights last year, the Provision development group produced the SEND handbook, with detail on  all our SEN students, with needs, strategies and specialist input outlined where appropriate. This booklet is the foundation for where we’re starting from for our most vulnerable learners. The postcodes are set out so that all teaching staff can plan appropriateky from their true starting points, and with the most apposite strategies. This is now allied with the CATs data for our Year 7 students, again with information on how best to reach the learners within their specific profiles (all in Write Staff).

This data covers a significant minority of our students, and should be part of our assessment procedures that gives us consistent awareness of all our students, both formatively and summatively (updating the Sat Nav?). Again, this is how we know our students and plan and teach based on this knowledge.

Using the Starting points

This data is obviously used in our planning for all our lessons, and should be referenced in context sheets for all classes. The Staff Planner can store this , and the data can be found in GO4Schools. Tony went through a simple guide for accessing this information, and putting it into a usable format for each class.

It cannot be overstated, knowing the starting points allows us to map out the course of our lesson, and from this, close the gaps that all our learners have and allow the lesson / unit / year/ course destination to be reached. Showing evidence of this knowledge and how we use it is a basic expectation in our preparation, planning and teaching.

Finally, again from ‘Teaching Backwards’ knowing and acting on the starting points, and in particular assessing our students, is a must:

-Saving Time

-Identifying both our own and our students’misconceptions

-Building belief

-Engaging and Challenging

-Measuring the real impact of our teaching


Butterfly #15: Setting and selling the Vision

New term, new year, and the aim of the sessions this half term is to set out in a linear fashion the key ingredients for successful learning for our students. ‘Teaching Backwards’, the new book by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns, has been a real eye-opener in terms of these essentials, and the 1st session this week has borrowed a lot from their opening chapter on Setting High Expectations.


Setting and selling the Vision is all about establishing 2 key essentials from the very start with our students:

  • —Is my Learning Vision & Destination clear to students (and myself)?
  • —How do I generate & maintain my High Expectations?

January is a good time for this, with a new unit, new students or just a new start – have I made clear to the students what exactly our destination is? Is it clear for me as well?

This might be a model piece of work, a key unit from a syllabus, a set of statistics – 100% Merit / A*-C in a module or assessment, or a combination of this. Is the end-point explicit to the students?


The second element to these foundations of successful learning is the setting (and maintaining) of High Expectations.


Teachers are salespeople; how we establish these expectations can be a combination of strategies, all designed with an end in mind – successful learning for all. Andy Griffith writes of Peter Kay and his admiration for the resilience and openness to a challenge of the Hobnob biscuit, as compared to the one-dip failings of Rich Tea.

How do we generate Hobnob-qualities with our learners?

This Hobnob-effect is effectively the development of a Growth Mindset, with 4 features that will all contribute to learning:

1.Learner resilience

2.Reflect & acting on Feedback

3.Pride in work


Generating Hobnobs

-The Pit

Students learn and appreciate that it’s OK to get stuck, it’s part of the process of learning.

-—Support & scaffold

In place when and where necessary.


We’ve all been there, teachers and other examples


If I’m stuck, what do I do next?

Alongside this, establish training and modelling for quality work…

*—Practice & drafts

Based on a model, draft out tasks and allow mistakes to happen


Clarifying expectations with new groups (or re-establish)

*—Signing off work

I completed this work to the best of my ability. Signed:_________

—*Models of expected standards

‘I take pride in my work’


‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’

—*Hazard boards

Watch out! Common mistakes that the class as a team can contribute to

—*Praise the actions

What they have done well and why: Effort, Strategies, Improvement, Resilience

—*Personal Bests

Can I better my last piece of work?

*Model the attitudes & expectations that I expect

Walk the walk

—*Learning Environment

Is it conducive to successful learning?

—*Books & Tests

Is presentation and effect up to scratch, if not – do it again!

This is the ethos of teaching backwards. What do we need in place at the start and before we start?

-The clarity and communication of our desired destination

-Ownership and communication of our high expectations

-Strategies at our disposal for raising students own expectations.

Butterfly #13: Teaching strategies for male and female students

This is a knotty one, are there different strategies for the gender gap, or is great teaching great teaching? Neil and Sophia presented on strategies that they use with great effect to different genders at School. These strategies really do work in the classroom, and nothing can be more important than closing the gap, be it gender, ethnicity or FSM. Underlying it is the primacy of building relationships – with all our classes, knowing them and setting our end goals in place for each lesson.

First up, here come the Girls.


Treat them as adults:

  • Be respectful and treat students as responsible, mature individuals. 
This seems a bit cliché, but it really works.
  • Assume that your students will cooperate and treat them according to this assumption. They will pick up on your view of them and will likely behave in accordance with it.
  • Use the phrase ‘young adults’ (even if they are only 11) to make them feel like they need to assume this role of responsibility and thus behave with maturity.
  • Similar to most adult women and men, these girls are dealing with:
  1. Insecurities
  2. Managing relationships
  3. Health
  4. Weight
  5. Reputation
  6. Body Image issues
  7. Puberty
  8. Learning to manage stress, family and friendships
  9. Social Media difficulties (life comparisons!)

But sometimes… treat them a children

  • These girls are still developing into emotionally mature women – so empathise with the dramas in a 13 year-old girls’ life!
  • Go to the level – roll your eyes at their drama, take the mick with them once you’ve built those positive relationships, remember what it felt like to be 14 in school focusing on “which friend is bitching about which and which horrid boy you were going out with who has hugged your best friend and sent an ‘xoxo’ text. THE CHEEK OF HIM!”


 Show your Human side

  • Relate your life experiences to theirs: “Ohmygosh, girls – I went through this exact situation when I was 13. It may feel intense and full of drama now, but it will pass! I promise! Why not try x, y or z?”
  • They might act badly to get your attention. Try to get to know them personally. Ask about their life and discuss yours!
  • Listen wholeheartedly
  • Really listen. Most girls will mask their true issues.
  • Tell them again and again you are there to listen, to hear and to be there for them. Eventually, the masks will come down and they will open up.
  • Have time for them. Whatever else you are doing, give them time, or suggest a time in the day they can come and discuss with you.

 Praise, praise, praise!

  • Praise every positive thing anyone demonstrates in the class.
  • Remember to praise any naughty girl for any good thing they do in front of all the other children. Try not to go overboard to avoid eye–rolling. After a few weeks they will crave your praise, so then feel free to use that. Make little ‘naughty-no-more’ kids your helpers. Let them distribute the worksheets.
  • Communicate the behaviour you are expecting rather than seeing: “Excellent, Chloe is opening up her book and getting her title, date and challenge question into her book” (Chloe wasn’t – but she is now!) ”Excellent, underlining Sharya!” (Sharya’s ruler was still in her pencil case!) Then smile knowingly and try to be positive and optimistic.
  • Non-verbal cues like extended eyebrow-raising helps remind a student when they are not doing what you expect. As soon as they do something positive (opened up book!) PRAISE!
  • List names as positives on the board as a visual reminder of how well they are doing.
  • Add double positives for a certain task/ behaviour you want to have communicated at the start of the lesson that you wish to see.


Be inventive to get their attention

  • Bring some fun into the classroom! Making yourself look silly and normal will ensure girls feel like you are not threatening, but instead real and relatable.
  • Make faces, use body language to gesticulate and to include histrionics into learning and use your voice for silly accents!
  • Don’t be afraid to be a clown.
  • Use humour – sarcasm works a treat!



Neil has worked with young men for many years now, both academically and pastorally, and shared some strategies as well.

  1. Lessons that end in a product – a specific task, with an end-point, such as a project. This should include addressing unsolved problems and working things out.
  2. Make it competitive in their learning, using single-gender groups in the classroom.
  3. Motor activity – move them around the classroom. this helps boys’ engagement, and give them brain breaks. Howvere, show them how, and your expectations of this – primary school do this very well, but they forget when they get to us.

Alongside this,


4. Show them how… be it homework, how to apologise, following instructions, and above all, how to succeed (simple creatures)

Further strategies can build support around them – talk and mentor relationships (the original Mentor looked after Odysseus’ son) that can address fear of failure.


70% of SEN students are boys, and 20% of boys are termed ‘sensitive boys’, so find strategies to support, nurture and build skills. It is not all rough and tumble games.


Who could sharpen the tools the best? It worked for them!

293  294


Could these strategies cross-over? I think so, as they are all part of great teaching, specifically building relationships and trust from which learning can come. It is up to us to develop an armoury to deploy with the students that we work with. And if a strategy works, that’s great!