Butterfly #6: Teaching the 6th form


Mature , independent young people, or fresh out of Year 11? Our 6th formers are a bit of both, so a flexible, personalised approach is needed, but above all they need developing as independent learners. How this independence and personal responsibility is cultivated is vital – both in and outside the classroom.


Nadia, Jeremy and Jack spoke on Tuesday about the needs of and for our 6th formers, in particular how they

  • are taught how to work by themselves, for themselves
  • take ownership and responsibility for their learning

Spec and syllabus information and consistent monitoring through a variety of tests and assessments will keep them focused and knowledgeable in the right, relevant areas. This will also target that sharpness that they often fall down on.

Independent study is vital – for course coverage as well as developing their own accountability and responsibility. Facilitating this is vital – book lists, syllabus specs and past papers, as well as a course breakdown will support and scaffold their learning, which can be brought literally into the lesson.

We are in many ways in an interim stage with our 6th formers – supporting their development as independent workers, and that cord of support has to fluctuate in stretching and tightening across the 2 years they are with us.


Not a pleasant image, but just what students need to engage them and develop their thinking and participation in lessons where we really need their involvement. How we present the information matters – colours, font and subject matter all make a difference when students need to be drawn into the lesson. Marry this with their prior research and independent study and lessons can take off and developed thinking set in.


Next week is VAK strategies with Seamus and Katie, then a new programme for after half term. Get your preferences to me next week.


Butterfly #5: Staff well-being and minding ourselves


Live from the Emerald Isle, the focus today was on strategies to help us take care of ourselves, enjoy work and retain a balance in our lives. Jen Egan and Paula Creber both spoke of personal strategies and modes of existence that worked for them.

Enjoying Westfield:

Top tips…

  1. Most of us chose to teach a particular subject because its what we loved to do at one point. We may not always love our subject in the classroom, but find an opportunity to do what you love outside the classroom… try a sport, join in with the musical etc. This gives you something to look forward to but also means you get to know the students in a different way and they get to know you as someone who wants to join in etc. This is what makes school enjoyable for the kids so why not for you too?
  2. Speak to people! No man is an island like the old saying goes so don’t hide away in your office or classroom. Talk to people, especially from outside your department. Its easy to find yourself talking shop at every lunch and break. Chatting to people teaching different types of subject may  help you to figure out a new approach to a particular group.
  3. Think of yourself. Not everyone has the choice or want to work at home but maybe try marking in your pjs on your sofa rather than in you classroom.
  4. If you do decide to stay in school to mark etc do it with a friend. Put on some music and stick the kettle on.
  5. Play music between lessons/at break etc.
  6. We spend our days around the kids so treat yourself as a child once in a while – have some sweets!
  7. Chat to people (adults and students) while on duty. It makes the time go faster and can change your relationship with students.
  8. Reward yourself! We are encouraged to reward the students at every opportunity don’t forget to reward yourself. Try to leave school on time at least every two weeks with no plans for work in the evening. Make sure you have a life!
  9. Share the funny bits not just the horrible bits.
  10. Leave it in school when you can. Try to not carry stress with you… its only a job! (It’s a very important one but the bottom line is that it is only a job)

So what can we do to look after ourselves?

Teacher Toolkit has a 5 minute well-being plan with suggested processes and support strategies – well-worth a look. Paula spoke about  utilising our support network – friends and family, as well as having a cut-off point for when the school bag gets shut.


Alongside this, we owe it to ourselves to mind ourselves, and taking care of body and mind with our intakes of food, drink and exercise.


Pay it forward as well, by helping others for that feel-good factor that we all can get by doing good:

‘When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad I feel bad. And that’s my religion.’ Abraham Lincoln.

Before we became an Academy we were a Community school for many years, and that community ethos is still here – for staff and students, so tap into that as well if you need a helping hand. It will fill your glass…

full glass


Butterfly #4: Asking the right Questions

Today we looked at questioning strategies that challenge, engage and inform both students and staff. These areas really make a difference in creating an environment where students can give and receive effective feedback, and can clarify  how to improve. These Magic 6 areas are at the heart of learning.

Celestine Heaton-Armstrong and Jyoti Atwal delivered complementary strategies that can really drive questioning  in the classroom


To encourage Q&A:

  • Basic behaviour for learning rules in place and regularly emphasised – listen when someone is talking, only one voice at a time, “track the speaker”
  • Devote time to questioning – not a rush through
  • Reward good questions and answers
  • Use questions to motivate and challenge
  • Seem interested in answers – repeat back
  • Correct incorrect answers
  • Involve as many students as possible
  • Place it at different key stages throughout the lesson – aim to have a set of questions or a questioning period during each stage of the lesson e.g. during input to clarify an activity or during review to for A4L
  • Don’t give up!

Styling questioning:

  • Plan your questions
  • No hands up
  • Think – pair – share
  • Ask one, clear question at a time
  • Layer questions so everyone can access them
  • Use Blooms as a scaffolding tool
  • Adapt questions to pace of lesson e.g. open/closed
  • Use answers to develop the lesson, so they become an integral part of the lesson plan
  • Ask question before picking student
  • Allow thinking time
  • All hands up
  • Pose, pause, pounce, bounce
  • Question students on answers given
  • Get students to ask the questions
  • Test their answer/test their knowledge
  • Avoid vague questions
  • Rephrase the question if no one answers

For older students, Jyoti emphasised the importance of our own knowledge and learning, and how we tap into this in our questioning of students:


  • Syllabus & Spec knowledge
  • Exam questions and structures of answers
  • Mark schemes
  • The abilities of individual learners

Additionally, with our Syllabus knowledge, to utilise our awareness of the classes and individuals we are teaching:

  • Blooms levels and stages – knowledge to comprehension to analysis to synthesis to evaluation, and tailoring this to our students – remember Context sheets!
  • Probing and redirecting the question to more able studnets to expand and improve answers
  • Whole class answers.

Waiting is key:

  • 7-10 second rule
  • Additional time – phone a friend?
  • Student accountability and taking responsibility – stay aware of where the lesson is at by demanding their attention
  • Clues & hints
  • Multiple choice hints

Never an end in themselves – questioning is AFL – allowing monitoring for further progress and guidance for future planning. All in  all, questioning is pretty useful then and worth some of our planning time!

For further ideas and resources, have a look @TeacherToolkit. Also Ross Morrison McGill is great for ideas for Outstanding Lessons – for questions to ask yourself see his ShowOff strategies.



Butterfly #3: Providing appropriately for our pupils

Great strategies again today from Jeremy Linton, Emma McGroarty and Naomi Jones, all looking at how we can plan and deliver engaging, appropriate and pitched lessons to the variety of learners that we have at Westfield.

  • PEE paragraphs, and their cousins PEELC, PEELSC and no doubt PEELING as well will support learners without spoon-feeding, both at higher levels and for those in need of structural support in their writing. Colour-coding will aid visual understanding, as well as breaking up the paragraphs.






  • Syllabus and content awareness is vital for all, but is an especially hot area for allowing students to act upon areas for improvement and provide well rounded coverage for the top grades. Jeremy Linton looked at pushing the top end, highlighting how exam practice, and a consideration of how similar topics can be worded differently are all vital for securing the highest grades. Alongside this, confidence will be boosted when students are clear that they have everything under their control, with a raised awareness of questions and content, and practice, practice and practice!
  • Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic, and different learning styles have been a hot topic for years. Offering variety will ensure coverage of all our learners, and also aid the development of more dormant styles. Apart from that, lessons are fun and engaging. The ukelele is ubiquitous at the moment, and Naomi Jones showed us why – eyes, ears and hands all played a part in learning ‘Stand by me’ in 5 minutes flat. Eat your heart out Percy Sledge!


Once again, the commitment to learning by staff has been brilliant. These strategies and mind sets are simple and we hope easy to implement in all classroom contexts. If in doubt, ask, adapt and give it a go. Our students really benefit and appreciate the engagement provided by these Butterflies.


Butterfly #2: Making Marking Work

Today we looked at something that impacts on all of us – how can we assess where students are at, provide feedback and targets for improvement and establish opportunities for reflection for both us and the students? In other words, decent marking whilst we keep our sanity and energies up.

The session was led by colleagues from diverse Curriculum areas: Paul Smith in Business and IT, Leah Bastienne in Art, and Chris Black in English, and they spoke of what worked for them in terms of feedback and assessment, alongside effective use of their time.


    • Business use the Blue stickers as a formative aid to dialogue and how to improve, mixing both self, peer and teacher assessment. Units are broken down into pieces to aid this formative process, so that students can get feedback as they work through each unit. This staged marking builds towards the Summative assessments at the end of the units, designed to save teacher time and drive student progress and learning.
    • Art have empowered their students at GCSE with a booklet for all their assessments, integrating this with the Syllabus requirements. Students self-evaluate using the criteria, alongside teacher marking, with  each unit of work is marked on strengths, areas to improve and finishes with a learner response. And all in 1 booklet for the course!


    • Chris Black in English has devised his own system for highlighting to students areas for them to work on – acronyms, double ticks and post-its are all used to make a set of 30 books easier to manage, whilst maintaining a dialogue with students where they can reflect on how to improve. Giving time for reflection following marking keeps the cycle going, so that students can progress from knowing where they are at to considering how they can improve.

For further ideas see:

Marking in Perspective, Selective, Formative, Effective, Reflective:


There was another great turn out from staff – thank you for your time. Marking is vital, all students tell us they want it!

The next session, #3, looks at Providing appropriately for our pupils, led by Emma McGroaty on Tuesday 23/9.

Butterfly#1: Setting up the Learning Environment

Our 1st Butterfly session was held yesterday, with the remit of:

How we as teachers establish the right atmosphere and ethos in our classrooms that both drives and supports learning and progress.’

Emma Mellon and Mike Wilce led the session, attended by 40 staff – a brilliant start!



The following ideas and strategies were looked at as enabling us to find the right mix of support, challenge & expectations:

* Know your class– Context sheets, speak to form tutors/DOLs or teachers who also teach them.

Seating plan– Try to set this according to the needs of the student, how they work best etc.

* Meet and greet– make sure you are on time and ready for them to enter your space.

* Calm entrance and exit– lining up outside or standing behind seats before you tell them to sit down.

* Consistency– be fair and reasonable in your lessons. Don’t forget to follow through on what you have said. If you said they are to be in a break detention – try to collect them if you are free or chase it up- call home and be sure that issues are resolved to allow you to move forward.

* Positive praise throughout the lesson to create a supportive atmosphere where the students feel ok about making mistakes and where aspirations are high- positives for completing extension tasks.

* Regular feedback either verbally or through marking- students feel appreciated and that their work and effort is worthwhile.

* Classroom environment- says a lot about you. Show casing students work can give them a sense of pride, being organised can model what we expect of the students.

* Follow the systems in place and speak to NC/NST if these are unclear.

* Take the time to get to know your students– do not base your impression on others opinion

* Engage with students on matters outside of the curriculum (sport)

* Have a sense of humour

* Consistency– even with difficult students

* Leave previous disputes, start each lesson afresh.

Next session is Tuesday 16/9: Making Marking Work – all welcome!

The Passionate Teacher

“Of some of our teachers, we remember the foibles and mannerisms, of others, their kindness and encouragement, or their fierce devotion to standards of work that we probably didn’t share at the time. And of those we remember most, we remember what they cared about and that they cared about us and the person we might become. It is this quality of caring about ideas and values, this fascination with the potential for growth within people, this depth and fervour about doing things well and striving for excellence, that comes closest to what I mean in describing ‘passionate teaching’”. (Robert Fried, from ‘The Passionate Teacher’)

I found this quote in the London Challenge programme that used the Butterflies approach to school development. Seeking, as the authors write, ‘high leverage both in the important things in school life and in reinforcing how the important things are done, we believe that small interventions can have a disproportionate effect.’

The programme has loads of suggestions for school improvement, lots of the 1% marginal gains, but the above quote about passionate teaching and teachers seems the key to me. From this can come so much.