Professional development

End of the year review- my top 3 Teaching and Learning tools.

 Ruthana Christofides-Lead Practitioner 

As we approach the end of the academic year, it’s an apt time to reflect. 

What were the great moments that provided you with solace post Trump’s election? What will one change to ensure an even better academic year 2017-2018?

In light of this reflection,  I’d like to share with you my top teaching and learning strategies from this school year.

3rd place- Pearltrees


In third place is the use of Pearltrees to create a bank of current and relevant TV clips which can be used as hooks for lessons.

Pearltrees is free to use and, it allows you to store web links and resources, which any individual with the link can access.

When I see something on the TV which I think I could use to introduce a particular concept, I add it to my Pearltrees (feel free to have a look here: .

When planning, I visit my Pearltrees to see what gems await me. As well as engaging students in learning, the hooks encourage them to think how scientific ideas link to the real world.

Here are some examples of how I have used these hooks:

  • Buzz Lightyear travelling through space to address misconceptions with sound and vacuums.
  • The ‘Friends’ episode where Joey proposes he should urinate on Monica’s leg to remove a jellyfish sting to introduce the concept of neutralisation reactions.
  • ‘My Sister’s Keeper’  to analyse treatments provided for leukaemia and the ethical considerations that surround these treatments.


2nd place-Feedback sheets

In second place is the use of feedback sheets, stickers and sticky tabs to encourage effective dialogue with students. When marking, I provide students with feedback on one assessed piece of work using a coloured feedback sheet. The feedback sheet lists the WWWs as statements and EBIs as questions; these are formulated using the success criteria. I highlight the appropriate WWW statements and EBI questions and students then respond with a brief reflection on the task and answers to their EBI questions. I revisit this to either state gap closed or provide further support.

In addition to this,  I probe students with one question in their book where knowledge needs developing, or misconceptions need addressing.

This page is identified using a sticky tab with students responding to this. I also provide students with an animal sticker (see below), besides which I draw a speech mark and praise the student for something they have done particularly well.

Only those who have gone above and beyond receive a sticker. Marking isn’t too time consuming, as writing is minimal.

Marking is effective, as pupils are clear on where responses are required and do so; they make progress as a result of this. Marking encourages students to go above and beyond, as they are motivated by the specific praise they are given.

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1st place – Google docs

google docs

In first place is the use of Google Docs and its ability to promote student-led and collaborative projects. I have used it for projects ranging from: creating an advisory website on muscular and skeletal injuries for athletes (feel free to have a look here:, to writing a blog in the life of a geneticist.

A few (of the many) reasons I have found it so useful have been that students can collaborate or work independently remotely without requiring Microsoft. As well as this, a student’s work can be monitored and provided with quick and easy feedback wherever the teacher may be. The challenge I am setting myself  for next year is to use Google Docs more for self-marking activities via the Google Forms feature.

Please feel free to contact me about any of these strategies using the ‘contact us’ form or using the comments box below. 

Happy reflection time!



You’re the one that I want…


Duncan Bowyer- Lead Practitioner 

…To teach with! 

The joys of team-teaching

The end of term is a time to reflect – to think about the WWW and EBI of the life of a teacher! As we say goodbye to this academic year, I also say goodbye to a two year secondment working as a University Lecturer training new teachers. This was the best of both worlds – being in school for three days a week and then working in schools across London (and sometimes the whole country) supporting English departments and the teachers of tomorrow. Perhaps some of the best CPD one could ask for!

As my secondment comes to an end, I thought I would reflect on my own experiences of working with new teachers and helping develop our practice through team teaching.

This was a concept that I had never really considered until I started working with a post-graduate student who was finding it difficult to command a presence in the classroom. Even though the lesson was planned and resourced well, the delivery needed some work.  

A very experienced University colleague suggested that I team teach to model best practice. I had been undertaking a range of research with my students into Fisher and Frays’ Gradual Release of Responsibility approach (GRR). Put simply: I Do It, We Do It, You Do It!

So it was decided – the ‘We Do it’ was the way to go!

The advice I was given was that for this to be effective we should keep the team teaching experience as structured as possible.

1)      Team Planning and setting the brief: Before the lesson it was important to meet and to work out what was the learning objective of the lesson. We realised it was crucial that this team teaching did not interfere with the SOL that was being taught. The team planning worked well as we could discuss exactly what skills we were trying to teach the students – it allowed us both to see how the planning could be developed. If there is a particular pedagogical approach that would beneficial, this is the time to introduce it.

2)      Practice in an empty classroom: This sounds really silly but believe me it works! Before the students arrive walk through the lesson with the teacher. Consider questions that will be asked: when is the right time to hand out the resources? How will the groupings work if there is student led learning? It also supports the teacher to feel more comfortable with the structure of the lesson so they can focus more on the learning. The learning drives and dictates the direction of the lesson – not necessarily the tasks!

3)      Assign the roles: Consider at what point you as the more experienced teacher will model best practice. It may be that you start the lesson modelling how we can set the tone for the learning. It may be taking the transitional phases within the lesson to demonstrate how AFL can be utilised or it may be demonstrating how questioning can be used to develop responses to foster stretch and challenge.

4)      Offer the support as and when: Sometimes a gentle nudge in the right direction is all that is needed. It may be as simple as explaining to your colleague ‘do you think they need more time here?’ or ‘they’ve got it! Do you feel ready to move onto the next phase?’  

For example, I remember in the team taught lesson, there was a group discussion task. I noticed that a group were going off task so quietly said to the new teacher ‘go and ask them if there are any other ways they could interpret that quote’.  This then led to a very engaging and informative discussion between the group and the teacher. Quite simply the teacher hadn’t quite noticed the passively disengaged behaviour (which takes experience to recognise) – but when this was identified they really stepped up!

5)      Reflect – this is crucial! At the end of the lesson both teachers take the time to sit and discuss the lesson. What worked well and, what pedagogy that you modelled was identified by your colleague?


This is a really enjoyable and informative approach to working with colleagues. I recently team taught with a very experienced wonderfully gifted teacher – in the reflections I realised that there is always a vast amount to learn in this profession! Just as students can learn from us, we can (and should) learn from each other.