Showing progress before someone walks into your lesson


Progress. Progress. Progress.

We’ve been told we need to show progress at least every 20 mins. Fair enough, students should be making progress but when you teach students once a fortnight (imagine what happens when your class hits a bank holiday…) it is so difficult to keep momentum in learning.

So I’ve thought a lot about how I can prove progress from before someone comes in to watch my lesson so they can see that overall the class IS making progress and how what they see in class contributes TO that progress.

Here is one technique for GCSE. EVERY lesson students complete a keyword test at the start of the lesson. They have set keywords, 12 to be precise, worth 2 marks each (total out of 24) they must know for the exam. Their homework is to learn them, my follow up is to test them. Boring? Unimaginative? However they seem to like it! Why? Because they can instantly show progress from last lesson, within 10 minutes. They just have to get one more correct than they did last time. Simple but it is PROGRESS. In some cases students really jump. I can only assume they spent more time on them.

So how to prove this to someone coming in? With this…


Every time they do the test I record what they get. There’s one rule. They HAVE to beat what they got last time I.e they MUST make progress.

They peer mark using the exam mark scheme for this type of question.

Green = more than last time
Orange = same as last time
Red = less than last time = time with me at a break time in which I support them to learn . As you can see, ALL my intervention has been successful as any red student has never been red again!

When they tell me their score, I make a comment to every single student. Positive or else!

So not only does it prove progress in the first 10 minutes of a lesson but it also proves that they’re doing their homework. It also provides differentiated, targeted homework for next week. They can then write their homework in their planner/homework diary, by noting the keywords they got wrong this lesson.
It also means they’ve completed an exam question (or 12!) in the first 10 mins.
They’ve also shown knowledge of the mark scheme, by marking each others work.
It proves my intervention with ‘red ‘ works.
And finally, I have spoken to every single student in the room within the first 15 mins.

If you have an activity that does at least the same as this, please let me know!

I’ve started to see the benefits in their mock exams. Fingers crossed this will do them well in the real thing.

So when you’re being observed, just pass this over with a brief explanation on a post-it. Your class has already started to make progress before they’ve even put pen to paper.


Students:The good, the bad and the unteachable. Part 1


I generally don’t have behaviour problems in my classroom when I teach. I’ve worked in some tough schools and once students realised hat this is the way things happen, 99.9% of the time they start to behave.

So the question is what do I do to make this happen?

The Good

In the corridor

It’s best to start positive. My motto is ‘My first encounter with a student should always be positive’. To make sure that is the case when I’m out and about in school I say ‘hello’, I smile, I comment on something positive about a child and in some cases I tease them. I think they would call it ‘banter’. I call it ‘laying foundations’. If a child knows you can be friendly and positive, they then know that when you have to ‘tell them off’ it’s because of the situation, not because you’re a teacher who continuously tells students off.

Popping in classes

Whenever I pop into a class, for any reason, I smile at them. Depending on the situation I might comment on something. When going into MFL I try out my French with the teacher. Again, students find out that Miss Cox is generally easy going. This means I am establishing relationships with students I don’t even teach. Very important.


I chat with the students. About everything and anything. First lesson back after a holiday I ask ‘Who has something exciting to tell me?’ Often no-one tells me anything but it doesn’t matter. It means they know I’m interested in them and not everything is subject orientated.


Try this out. Set a class off on a piece of work. Do nothing other than walk around and say out loud nice things. Try ‘lovely handwriting’, ‘well done’, ‘great start’ etc You will ‘feel’ the room lift. Everyone likes being praised. Even grumpy Year 11.

The Bad


As a teacher you have to make instant initial assessment of what behaviours a child is displaying and then run through all the possibilities that could be the cause. Then choose the appropriate tactic to use to deal with the behaviour. All this in 2 seconds! I believe this is where people who are good at behaviour management have key skills. And most of these people do it naturally so wouldn’t be able to explain it to you. They can do this instantly.

If you’re struggling with behaviour management you are probably under developed in one of these elements.

To summarise:
* look at behaviour being displayed
* think of all possible cause/s
* if you know the student, use your knowledge to help decipher the cause
* select a tactic or technique that fits with the cause/s you’ve diagnosed

Traditionally behaviour management training focuses on the last point. Try following through the list when considering a particular child you teach.

So here are some techniques…..

The silent treatment

There is so much a teacher can do that deals with poor behaviour without saying a word. My favourites are…

* The Miss Cox ‘death stare’ or ‘The Look’- A child once joked that when I give a certain look, it is like my eyes burning into them. I particularly use this in assemblies when I don’t want to speak but I want the student to know that I am not impressed by them and I know what they’re up to. Without looking in the mirror I think it involves raised eyebrows and maybe a tilt of the head. Either way, it means’ pack that in’ and they know it!

* The hand gesture – Pointing at whatever it is that needs to be the focus in a direct manner. If a student isn’t focussing on a DVD it involves pointing to my eyes and then pointing to the screen. In assembly I point towards the front speaker etc

Tactical ignoring

It is difficult to explain to a trainee/NQT how this works. It’s not my favourite but in some cases it is necessary and can be effective. I think it should only be used where you have a volatile student where it is ‘touch and go’ whether they will last the lesson. Or it is effective with the student that is deliberately saying/doing things to attract your attention.

So how does it work? Well you ignore their attention seeking behaviour (as long as it doesn’t cause any H&S issues). If they are blatantly breaking school rules then they shouldnt be ignored i.e if a child starts to make a phone call!. However, smaller things can be ignored. A recent example is a student was using bad language deliberately to get my attention. Without looking at or naming the student I said out loud ‘mind the language please’. She knew it was for her. She then carried on swearing for a bit and I ignored it. She then got bored and stopped doing it.

The Unteachable

So out of the thousands of young people I’ve met in my career I think I’ve met a handful that are ‘unteachable’. Their past and their present is too much for them to overcome. Their upbringing to date means they probably won’t ever be able to engage fully in society.

Finally don’t ever think that children don’t want structure, rules and punishments. They DO. Some of the poorest behaved students I’ve taught have gone straight into the Army when they’re old enough. Why? They’re desperate for structure, rules and punishments in their lives. Keep strong and you will have well behaved students.

This blog was inspired from the #ukedchat on 18/4/2103.

7 Characteristics of highly creative people – how to lead and manage these people?


1. Associative orientation: Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.

2. Need for originality: Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude because of a need to do things no one else does.

3. Motivation: Have a need to perform, goal oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues.

4. Ambition: Have a need to be influential, attract attention and recognition.

5. Flexibility: Have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optimal solutions.

6. Low emotional stability: Have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state, failing self-confidence.

7. Low sociability: Have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and flaws in ideas and people.

Norwegian researchers find the 7 characteristics of highly creative people.

What are the best ways to manage and lead these people?
How can you get the best from them?

Detentions: Not worth the hassle or an effective deterrent?


I’ve been thinking about ‘punishment’ systems in the schools I’ve worked in and visited, in particular the use of detentions. So I thought I’d find out from people their thoughts and current practices to see how detentions work in your school and if they are effective.

If you can think of a question that I should add, please let me know.

What is the secret formula for a successful school?


I am lucky enough to be on the SSAT leadership course ‘Leading Outstanding Schools’. We basically visit four ‘Outstanding schools’ and see how they run things. I’ve been to two so far and they’ve been fantastic opportunities to analyse what makes success.

Surely there must be something that connects all successful schools?

What is it?

Here are my thoughts…..

1.Strong leadership – ‘My way or the Highway’?

Not just strong leadership. I mean really strong leadership. Someone who knows HOW to lead and HOW to manage. Not just someone with great ideas. We all have great ideas but many lack the skill to manage, develop and support staff. In my career so far I could count on one hand those who’ve done this well. I really admire and respect those people. You’ve got to be an incredibly strong person. But it’s not just ‘my way or the highway’, it’s more than that. ‘My way’ needs to be an effective and workable way.

2. A balanced team

It takes a strong person to create a leadership team that covers all the skills needed to run a school including those that are your weaknesses. I guess few Head teachers have the opportunity to start from scratch. Do enough Head teachers strategically appoint in their team or do they just fill a vacancy?

3. Trust

In the schools I visited the Heads very clearly told us about how they trust their staff to get on with their jobs. It was clear they did. It doesn’t mean leaving them to go alone but also it doesn’t mean micromanaging. They expected their team to ‘perform’ but it wasn’t prescriptive. I’ve heard a Head say ‘I don’t care how we make progress but I expect us to make it!’. This allows for innovation, collaboration and development but with independence and morale boosting trust.

4. Know your audience

In both the schools it was very clear that the senior team knew their students, parents and catchment and the school had systems and rules that worked for these children. At one of the schools all delegates were quite shocked about the systems and couldn’t see them working back in our own schools but it worked for these children. It provided them with what they needed to succeed. This is very much a case of ‘one size’ doesn’t fit all.

5. Recruitment

One of the Heads told us that at interview if a candidate does not teach a lesson that is at least ‘Good’ they don’t go through to interview. He also said that he told candidates from the outset what the expectations are at his school and if they’re not prepared to meet these then they should withdraw. Extreme? Actually probably not. So why don’t all Heads do this? because they would end up without a full complement of staff. We struggle to get certain subject teachers even to come to interview. And then lessons are not often anything spectacular. It’s a risky strategy.

The other school has a less risky strategy. ‘Grow your own’. Several staff had been to the school themselves, gone away to study and come back to teach there. Who else knows a school as much as a student who has been there?! So, pushing this model further, is it worth investing in students at Key Stage 5 who could be your possible teachers of the future? It’s a long term strategy but it could well work.

So they are my first 5 thoughts. I’m due at school number 3 after the holiday so I think I will add further thoughts then.

Why I am a teacher


Sometimes on courses we’re asked why we became teachers. Interestingly I don’t think I’ve ever been asked why I became a teacher other than from someone ‘in’ education (students sometimes ask).

In year 6 I had the most inspirational teacher. During a time where things were tough at home, he provided a safe, challenging, exciting environment which I thrived in. I was above average yet he differentiated so I wasn’t bored. I remember him inspiring my love of Maths. Above all we had a relationship with him that meant that school wasn’t boring or run of the mill, but fun and character building. He is still a Head locally and I’m sure he’s gone on to inspire many many local people.

So then I arrived at High school. Hungry to learn and desperate to be challenged. (I used to do my sisters homework for her who was 4 academic years ahead!) Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. I remember a maths lesson in year 7. We basically followed through a set of levelled maths books. It was boring and I finished them extremely quickly. What did the teacher do? Gave me more of the same. I was experiencing the classic year 7 ‘dip’ that is widely thought to happen between KS2 and KS3 through lack of AfL and diagnosis of prior attainment.

I remember more of the same in English and in History. In fact other than the ‘new’ subjects that we did at KS3 I.e MFL I was unchallenged. Looking back, teachers clearly didn’t know how to differentiate.

I thrived socially but was bored academically. It wasn’t until year 9 that the school put an ‘express’ Maths set together. We sat the GCSE in year 10. I achieved an A (no A* back then!).

I don’t blame individuals but I recall lessons that were completely unstructured, unchallenging and now I’m a teacher, I know would be inadequate. Why? Because we were ‘good’ kids in a village school. There weren’t behaviour problems. We sat at our desks and did as we were told. So the teachers could ‘get away’ with it. Did the terms ‘progress’ ‘afL’ and ‘differentiation’ exist in the early 90’s?

I did however have an inspiring form tutor. She was kind and it felt as though she treated us as adults. She was like a second mum for me. We all loved her.

My GCSE results were very good but I should have left that school with ALL A*s. I could easily have got them if I’d been shown ‘how’.

Sadly the story continued in the same vein at Sixth Form. Teaching was dull and uninspiring. I wasn’t supported in the ‘jump’ from GCSE to A level. We were talked ‘at’. I can recall many lessons which would now be inadequate.

So how does this all come together?

I thought I couldn’t do much worse than some of these and would be incredibly proud if I could be half as good as my year 6 teacher and year 11 tutor. So I did a PGCE. Not in Maths or English which I really loved but in RE. A different kind of passion.

I am now a teacher because I love it. I love my job. I love seeing students develop and find out things they’ve never known before. I know what makes students ‘tick’ because I was one. I know how it feels to be bored and uninspired. I don’t want to be one of the teachers who didn’t differentiate. I want all students to achieve no matter what.

My teaching style means I support students to pass exams (all subjects I teach are 100% exam) but to hopefully enjoy the journey on the way. It’s one big game. A game they need to succeed at. But whilst learning the rules they should flourish, feel valued, learn how to work with others, all the things that all teachers should be ensuring we develop in the children we teach.

So, I teach now because I enjoy it. I’m lucky. Not only do I enjoy it but my employer values this and supports me as an AST. I don’t think all teachers do enjoy it.

I can’t really see myself doing anything else.

note: these are my views only. Not those of the schools I’ve been to or worked in, or any other employer of mine.