Collaboration, Diagnostic Teaching, Group work, Marking and Feedback, Multimodal Learning, Oracy

Feedback: Written, Verbal and Peer

Emily Watson – Lead Practitioner of PE and Well-Being – @ejwatson89

Feedback can be extremely powerful when delivered effectively; not only for students but teachers too. I am sure you can all reflect upon a piece of feedback that you have received that has been hugely influential, but have you ever stopped to reflect upon why that piece of feedback was so effective?

The purpose of feedback is to allow students to act upon it and make progress, inform teachers future planning and allow students to learn to value the quality of the work that they produce. This feedback is much more effective when it is delivered in a timely fashion. It is important that the students are able to understand the feedback and the purpose of it, before allowing them time to act upon it.

I find a clear success criteria linked to the feedback allows students to strive to close the gap and consolidate the learning. Students appreciate constructive feedback with both strengths and areas for improvement highlighted. This allows students to continue with the positive aspects and develop other areas until they too become strengths, allowing them to see their learning journey. Focusing on the learning, when giving feedback as opposed to a grade encourages students to identify how they can develop and refine their work, rather than comparing their status with others. As a PE teacher I use a lot of verbal feedback. I like to create a dialogue between myself and the students, I encourage them to give me feedback, to show them that we are all forever learning and that we can all always improve. Throughout this blog post I will share tried and tested feedback strategies, focusing on three main areas of feedback: written, verbal and peer – please see the relevant images below:

Written Feedback Strategies:

painting and drawing tools set
Photo by Pixabay on


Verbal Feedback Strategies:

music sound communication audio
Photo by Pixabay on



Peer Feedback Strategies:

school supplies office pens
Photo by Tim Gouw on


I would like to thank Nick Bentley – @NBentleyTweets – and Kiera McDonnell, for their contributions, ideas and support with this blog post.

Assemblies, Multimodal Learning, Student Leadership

Five Elements of Effective Assemblies

Nick Bentley – Lead Practitioner, Transition Group Teacher and Drama Teacher – @NBentleyTweets

Assemblies can be a hugely powerful element of the school day. An opportunity for large groups of students, or entire schools, to listen, engage and reflect; a chance for key themes, messages and ideas to be understood; a possibility for student leadership and delivery. At Sarah Bonnell School we hold a host of assemblies and always try to link them closely to PSHCE themes. Delivering assemblies has always been really enjoyable and an important part of my job, so what follows is a list of ways I have sought to create and approach this:


Student Leadership

By far the most meaningful element of assemblies is having students partake in their delivery. This helps to foster a sense of ownership and engagement. Students watching the assembly have expressed a real sense of enjoyment at seeing their peers present and lead.


Videos can provide wonderful engagement in assemblies. Educational organisations and charities have often provided a real range of fascinating, eye catching and mesmerising resources which can provide a meaningful counter-balance to the sharing of key facts and information.



Role-play is a wonderfully valuable tool as a means to dramatise the events, themes and issues explored in assembly. This can help serve as a mean to make the abstract seem more concrete, to foster empathy amongst young people, and of course to provide an important sense of fun and excitement!


Students can participate in activities during the assembly itself and this can be a joyful way to raise engagement. Examples of this can include Q&As, paired discussions, and even competitive quizzes using technology. Often this can create a wonderfully lively atmosphere!


Having a Clear Message

When you have a large group of students in front of you a good assembly will keep them all engaged and leave them reflecting on a key message. A theme or a key point to the assembly should challenge the students to think about something or think differently about something. You should ensure that the message is clear – this can often be supported by a key word or a narrative that brings the message to life. If you are able to use a case study or a story that links to your key message or theme then it enables to students to take big things, for example, ‘resilience’ and bring them to life in a context they can understand with a clear outcome.

I would like to thank Ricky Archer for his contributions, ideas and support with this blog post.

Diversity, Student Leadership, Student voice

Why Learning to Lead Matters

Kaydee Neale-Kenwright

In ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses the impact of the narratives children consume. When the world around us tells a limited or negative story about us, it takes a breadth of experiences and a certain confidence to rise above the cynicism around how you should be acting and the role you should be playing in the eyes of society, your community and your peers. We must also strive to listen to the stories that are told, and amplify those that are lesser heard. Our students live across multiple intersections, with so many perspectives to be heard; their stories cannot stay with them or us. If we want to see a change in the world, we have to enable them to use their experiences, perspectives and ideas to shape the world around us. Only 32% of MPs are women; fewer are Muslim women, black and Asian women, and LGBT women. While many of our students may not make it to parliament, they should all have the sense that not only can they make decisions, but that they should make decisions where they can.


Where does the SB Award fit with this? In short, the single-story told about the students we work with is often not the same one we watch play out. How did you last see Muslims portrayed in the media? Female MPs of colour? Economic migrants? Then imagine your identity at the centre of that narrative. That doesn’t tell the story of trilingual 12-year-olds who translate for their parents, students studying the Aleemah course alongside striving for 12 GCSEs or students working with local businesses and police to tackle youth violence and create safer streets in Stratford. So our students are already leaders, in their own lives and the lives of others. The SB Award recognises and rewards the collaboration, communication and organisation skills as well as initiative, innovation and ingenuity that is shown through engagement in school and beyond. The recognition and celebration of taking and making opportunities tells students that we recognise them for their talents, ideas and attitudes. It says that what you think and do matters, not just in the classroom, but in making a stamp on the world around us. 


If our students see themselves as stakeholders and capable of making change now, their continued resilience and perseverance in later life is bolstered. 80% of pupil premium students drop out of university in the first year, and only 18% of Russell Group university students are BAME. Studies show it’s not the lack of aspiration; it’s the overwhelming sense of imposter syndrome. Students who are secure in their ability to navigate different modes of being in different contexts have a far greater chance of defying self-fulfilling prophecy. If we teach students to make themselves heard, listen to others and see the value in working to achieve goals and create the change they want to see in themselves, others and the world around them, they will have the skills to face the hurdles they will inevitably meet with grit and determination.  


Our students experience and navigate living in a world shaped predominantly by cis white men. We need to show them that their stories are worth sharing, and they too should create a world that speaks to and reflects them. We celebrate the achievements, attainment and attendance of students; why not celebrate them being bold and curious, having perseverance and determination too? In the not too distant future, they will be voters, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, business people and policymakers. We need them to be active citizens, not passive passengers. 

Literacy, Writing

“Where do I begin?” 10 Strategies to Help Students Start Writing

Nick Bentley – Lead Practitioner

Follow him on Twitter: @NBentleyTweets

Writing an be a key element of lessons across the curriculum, and practitioners working in all sectors often seek to encourage their students to develop confidence when starting writing. What follows, then, are ten practical suggestions for ways we as professionals can encourage young people in their written work.

black ball point pen with brown spiral notebook
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on


1) Mini Whiteboards

Trying out ideas on a whiteboard before students commit pen to paper can be hugely meaningful – whether through a thought-shower to get ideas down, or planning sentences first.

2) Hot seating

Asking students to respond in-role to key questions can be enjoyable and can inspire all manner of thoughts and ideas about writing. They could do this by role-playing as a writer, mathematician, historical character, or indeed any figure linked into the learning material.

3) Live Marking

Not only can live marking – sitting with students to give them instantaneous feedback – support students to challenge themselves or extend writing that might have taken place, it can also be a quick and workload-friendly way of providing helpful and meaningful feedback for students on their writing.

4) Technology

This can support students if writing on a page can seem daunting. Assistive technology can support students with their writing, whether on a computer, laptop, or other text-capturing device.

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5) Modelling

Modelling can allow students to visually see an effective way of writing before they complete it more independently. A prepared model or examples of successfully completed student work can be shared and unpacked with students, live modelling can demonstrate the process of completing writing, and shared modelling can allow students to involve themselves in the process of writing alongside the teacher before conducting it independently.

6) Debating

Not only can debating generate ideas and material before students proceed to complete their writing task, it can also allow students to take a specific positions on concepts or ideas.

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7) Word Tennis

Before students complete a writing task, they must generate as many words linked to it by playing “Word Tennis” – a physical version of a word association game. Students mime playing tennis, and each time they serve or return the ball they must call out another word linked to the theme of each game.

8) Talking

Having a discussion task with a pair or a small group before writing independently can be a fantastic way of generating ideas or material for students to write about.

9) Writing in-role

Taking on the persona of a character or other individual can provide a way-in to a piece of writing. Students could take on the role of a journalist, scientist, detective, or other individual to support them in having the sense of a “voice” in their writing.

10) Drawing

Sketching out a model, or diagram, or image, before proceeding to break it down or explain it using written language, can be a helpful way into writing.


5 Ways to Implement Numeracy into your Lessons

Grace Gowland – Numeracy Coordinator

As teachers we already have so much to think about when planning a lesson, so here are 5 easy ways to make sure you are having an impact on the development of every student’s numeracy, every day!

1) Play a game:

Have 5 mins free at the end of your lesson? Or maybe you are just looking for a super engaging starter. Then you really can’t go past Countdown! Students love to play along at home and they will love playing it in your lesson. Have students race against each other, or for a more collaborative approach, work in groups and race against the clock. You could use a clip from youtube, or use this fantastic generator. I’m sure you’ll find yourself wanting to play along too! 

Of course Bingo is another classic loved by all, and so versatile. Use it to close gaps in knowledge, check for understanding, or as a plenary to consolidate learning. Your Bingo doesn’t necessarily need to use numbers, since the skill here is about looking for patterns. If Bingo isn’t your thing, then how about a number puzzle or brain teaser – anything to get them to think  outside of the box and exercise their problem solving skills.

Photo by Buenosia Carol on

2) Use real world problems:

Numeracy is an essential skill needed to function in the everyday world. We use it every second of every day: to be on time, to schedule meetings and to make sure we don’t burn our dinner at night! Where possible give students the opportunity to interpret timetables, draw timelines or graph the tension in a scene. Ask students to estimate how long it will take them to complete a task, so they can set realistic expectations for themselves. 

3) Reward your students: 

If one of your students has a lovely little maths moment in your lesson then make a big deal out of it! Girls tend to have less positive attitudes towards numeracy when compared to boys. They have higher levels of maths anxiety and lower levels of confidence in their maths skills (Ganley, 2018). This tip is really about building their confidence and encouraging them to engage with numerical tasks. Students love stickers and stamps irrespective of their age, and better still, use the internal rewards system at your school. This year at Sarah Bonnell School, we are launching the Numeracy Achievement Point as a way of tracking and monitoring student engagement with numeracy. 

4) Challenge your students:

  • When they ask how long it is until the end of the lesson, rather than just telling them, give them a problem to solve. For example, it was 25 minutes until the end of the lesson 15 minutes ago!
  • When returning student work, give them a mark as a fraction and ask them to convert it to a percentage.
  • When students ask what day it is, tell them it is Thursday in three days.
  • And when they inevitably ask you what the date is tell them it has been a week since the 4th of September!

All of these are small ways you can engage the numerate mind and encourage mental fluency.

5) Set a target and use a timer:

I’m sure this is a quick win that many of us already use. As a class, decide how long you will need to complete the task. Involving students in this decision holds them accountable and gives them ownership of the activity. I have found that a real life egg timer is especially motivating for students who struggle to keep on task. You can pick them up on Amazon for next to nothing and pop it on their desk! Or go digital and use one of these engaging timers. They will love to watch the sand drain out, or the candle melt down, and be motivated to complete their task in time.

Student Leadership, Student voice

Student Perspectives: The Value of Being a Teaching and Learning Ambassador

Aliza Babar – Teaching and Learning Ambassador and Sarah Bonnell School Student

Working as a Teaching and Learning ambassador at Sarah Bonnell School has truly been an enriching experience. Being able to represent students and explore our experience of learning has been a fantastic opportunity to develop our understanding of what makes an effective lesson and how to incorporate the feedback we receive into all lessons.


As a Teaching and Learning Ambassador, our goal is to ensure all students are working to the best of their abilities and are working effectively when in the classroom. We achieve this through our learning walks, where Teaching and learning Ambassadors are able to observe learning for a brief period of time and have the opportunity to communicate and engage with the students, in order to investigate what environment and what resources they work with best. Importantly, these learning walks are highly confidential between the ambassadors and the teacher teaching the lesson. The entirety of the process is revolved around the students only and not the teacher teaching the lesson.


Every academic year, the newly selected Teaching and Learning Ambassadors undergo a series of training sessions to ensure they are confident with the process. The series of training sessions that I had participated in were held at Rokeby School, where students from Rokeby School, Lister Community School and Sarah Bonnell School had the exciting opportunity to collaborate and explore some of the key components to effective learning. The sessions were mainly student led, which allowed there to be a much more collaborative atmosphere. Throughout the sessions, we created a ‘learning record form’ which we use to collate our feedback during our learning walks. The experience was definitely helpful as a lot of the knowledge that I carry with me now is a result of those weekly training sessions.

Overall, being a Teaching and Learning Ambassador has helped develop my confidence and how I feel during lessons, and has given me an insight into the development of teaching and learning across the school. It has been a really positive experience for me.

Drama, Literacy, Multimodal Learning, Oracy, Writing

Four Creative Strategies to Support Students’ Communication Skills

Nick Bentley – Lead Practitioner and Nurture Group Teacher


Teachers are often really keen to develop young people’s communication skills; to support them in their writing, to improve the quality of their conversations, and to prepare them for the reading, writing, speaking and listening they will need to do in their broadest sense, as life skills. It is helpful, therefore, to consider how this can be done in an enjoyable and creative way. This blog post seeks to suggest four ways I have sought to employ create strategies to develop communication skills.

Collaborative Drawing


Image from Collaborative Drawing

An inclusive and often enjoyable way of encouraging students to record their ideas can be a collaborative drawing task. I have had students unfurl large sheets of wallpaper where they can draw ideas which help them to create visual worlds related to the content of what we have been studying. For instance, this could be an interesting setting from a historical period in Humanities, the surface of a planet in Science, or the opening scene from a play in Drama. Students are then challenged to use specific details and impressive vocabulary to describe their designs, using the image of what they had created as a model to ensure they are precise, specific and sophisticated in their writing.

The Value of Reading Aloud

Myra Barrs and Valerie Cork worked with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (Twitter handle @clpe1) in The Reader in the Writer to do some hugely meaningful work in relation to the connection between studying literature and students’ writing. One wonderfully helpful finding has been the relationship between teachers reading aloud and the writing students have been able to produce. This has really inspired me to indulge in creative storytelling, retellings of writings, and shared choral speech with young people, as means to break down pieces of text and encourage young people to develop their writing and responses.

In-role Tasks

Drama activities can be hugely meaningful as a means to support students to access challenging language beyond that which they might ordinarily be confident to draw upon. In English lessons, this might involve participating in a collaborative discussion as a journalist before writing a report. Students could role-play as geographers, scientists, or philosophers – indeed any groups of people who might be relevant – to stretch their vocabulary, before writing.


Image of a Resource from an In-role Task

Language Movement Games

Warm-up tasks where students move around a classroom space, before responding to key words can be an enjoyable way to introduce challenging adjectives and adverbs before young people use them in their writing and speech. As a teacher you can call out words which students must embody in their movement, e.g. “petrifying,” “ecstatic,” or “monstrous.” Alternatively, students can be given the task of calling out challenging words for each other.

These ideas have simply been suggestions for how young people might engage with language and communication as a means to approach the curriculum and develop key life skills. I have found them to be meaningful not only as a way to improve writing and speaking, but also an enjoyable set of activities to support students’ engagement in learning, and to foster a safe, secure and joyful learning environment.