Change of pace

My last personal post was a few years ago when I changed from being a second in department to a ‘teacher.’ I hadn’t been in post long as a second but the school just didn’t feel right.

Here I am again making another ‘big’ change, as many would see it.

I took on a teacher post 3 and a half years ago, and within weeks I was offered a TLR for Accelerated Reader Co Ordinator. I took it as it was only temporary….this soon became a permanent role. A few weeks after that I was asked to be lead IV for speaking and listening. A year on, in addition to these roles I took  Head of Year 7.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of these roles and other responsibilities I have taken on over the past 3 and a half years.

I’ve loved setting up enrichment days for visiting authors/workshops, setting up a Patron of reading for the school, the numerous trips (David Walliams Live, London to the ‘Read for My School’ scheme, Gangsta Granny at Blackpool), changing students lives so that they are interested in reading, developing students social skills/getting more involved with parents and pastoral elements of the school, WBD dress up, Dahl Celebrations. The list goes on and on and on…

The school has now changed in structure, as it’s now an academy, and there isn’t a role there for me anymore. I feel like I’ve made some impact: improved the profile of reading and impacted the Y7s in a positive way and ensured that issues are dealt with promptly.

My new adventure?

Well, off to a school in Cumbria as of September. A school which is passionate about teaching and learning on all levels (teachers to SLT).

What role do I get?


Awesome teacher.

I want to be able to be a teacher and to develop some of the teaching methods I have started to use in the past year (Rosenshine Principles, see previous post)

My new adventure is to ensure that I focus on my teaching, not pastoral issues or trying to organise funds for visits. My lessons were often interrupted with pastoral issues and problems regarding an organised event, and many other things. All of this took away from my teaching. This isn’t to say I won’t take on a TLR or other position in the future.

I’ve had a some comments that people can’t believe I’m leaving TLRs to just be a teacher. But that’s why I got into teaching, to ‘just’ teach. In actual fact, I feel that being a fantastic teacher has more worth than other responsibilities. I want to strive to improve T&L for students, once again…

For now, I want to nail KS3 and 4 teaching.


Rosenshine Approaches

How to review knowledge (implementation stage)

The effort involved in recalling recently-learned material embeds it in a long-term memory. And the more this happens, the easier it is to connect new material to such a prior knowledge.


This year I have focused on the summer term with year 9 studying ‘Macbeth’ for GCSE and how to improve retention of key concepts, themes and quotations.

My initial thoughts were how do I develop better retention of key quotations and enable students to use a method that is effective over the course of their GCSE studies (not just in English)

I used the following worksheets as homework (sorry I can’t remember who shared these on twitter) Top 5 key quotations with some contextual information to learn and understand each week.

I gave all my y9 students an A4 green exercise book for their revision/homework. I talked them through how to use the copy it/say it/cover it/write it/check it approach. Their task was to practice each day for 10-15 minutes and each week they would be quizzed on them. Week 1 was on key terms, then we moved to key quotations. This self quizzing process is something I initially picked up from Caroline Spalding on Twitter @MrsSpalding.


The students reward? Gratification that they’re learning. I would only check they had done it and if they hadn’t I would simply say ‘you’ll need to try again for next time so you can understand the text/plot better,’ I would also give some of them small targets and say ‘just get one right, then get two.’ I would also reward giving out Epraise points, 1-5 points if you’d tried a few but many more if the student had clearly spent 15 minutes every day. So all students were acknowledged in the ‘trying’ process. Which I think is really important in the early stages of training students in revision processes.

Also, this was in a school where the homework detention policy needs revisiting, which is why some students just NEVER do homework. I knew I needed a different approach. One they would feel gratification in after having learned it off their own back.

I would do the self quizzes at the start of a lesson once or twice a week (sometimes more, as you can just use a question or two to ‘test’ knowledge). Simply place a ‘Do now’ slide on the board like the following:

Do now.

Fill in the blanks:

“______ is _______, hover through the _____ and ______ air”

“O ________ _________ ! __________ gentleman!”

I then built on this and used questions to recall key information/moments in the play:


A combination of blanks and key questions has really built a knowledge enriching experience for the students this year. They have been able to make connections across texts more thoroughly (better than I’ve ever managed to teach before!)

Adding this to some excellent resources where we would ‘pause’ on some moments in the play aided their development of understanding the purpose and intent. (sorry I can’t remember who shared these on twitter)

I unfortunately can’t show you the images of the drama scenes that I took of the students showing connections across text. I took images of them performing key scenes and then I printed out the images so they could evaluate Shakespeare’s use of character/dramatic irony/foreshadowing – the use of weekly reviews ensured a more developed understanding of the concepts.

In conjunction with this I used the 5 in 5 inspired by @SusanSEnglish who created a Romeo and Juliet 5 in 5, and I have made a Macbeth one (and Jekyll and Hyde, and others on the way…)

Going forward I want to take the following to my next school:

  • weekly key quotations (3-5)/context home works
  • weekly reviews of key information (quiz on 3-5 key quotes or questions)
  • use of 5 in 5 for a text (more of a daily review, a ‘starter’)

I am hoping I can do this across the key stages!

I can’t say how much this has transformed my teaching for the better, and more importantly has been WAY more useful for the students I teach.


Boys’ engagement

After reading Mark Roberts’ blog about boys it made me want to make some jottings about the success I’ve had with boys, in what some may say is ‘old school.’


Even as recently as 2 years ago I was told to introduce competition, and for a few weeks it ‘seemed’ to work but as Mark says it wares off. They either know they’ll be successful or not and it leads to demotivation and repetition of tasks they don’t find relevant.

Instead, give them challenging work and vocabulary. I’ve used the brilliant work on tier 2 vocabulary from @SPryke2 and @matthew_Lynch44 fabulous T2 vocabulary work too.

I have also set them key quotations with contextual info for homework each week, part of the interleaved learning. They all learn the same quotes and they all do it the same way! Any guess what… they’ve learnt them. Not only do they know them they can apply their own understanding to the importance of the quotation AND make links across texts!! Exciting!! It’s thrilling to see them make links of quotations which echo earlier sections.

They’re different to girls

They are not.

Don’t treat them differently. Give them the same challenges and aspirations.

Give them the same respect, kindness and firmness they need.

Don’t forget the reassurances and confidence building, best way to do this is through regular ‘live’ marking and buildings responses together.

Relevant topics/books with Male voice

Again, even in recent years people still have mentioned making it accessible/relevant for boys.

Some of the y9 and 10 boys favourite ‘topics’ or books have been the suffragettes, Macbeth and analysing lady Macbeth, romantic poetry, lord of the flies, and modern articles. Look at that, a mixture!

They need a mix of texts / topics and plots to get their teeth stuck into !

I haven’t done extra intervention at any stage. The onus was on them to improve their learning, I provide quality teaching they give their best learning. And this was clear to see from the start of the year. Particularly, with the y10 class whom in y8&9 were often isolated or excluded and ‘hated’ English… this year they’ve ‘engaged.’ Meaning they’ve taken their learning into their own hands due to the challenges and high aspirations I have given them. And they’ve met them!

Most of them are on target which is excellent!

Never hold grudges, no matter what they’ve done or not done or said.

I truly believe that each student, boy or girl, has the potential to get ANY grade they wish. With quality teaching (high challenge and persistence that you can reach it) students can achieve anything and shouldn’t be limited or have what set they are held over them.

As sets don’t matter. The exam is not in two parts. There is no foundation or higher tier. And students need to be told this (repeatedly I find) as many still say ‘so can I not get a 5 if I’m in that group.

The Michaela Way

I asked for the ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers’ for Christmas because I was genuinely intrigued by some of the things I have read. I’ve read positive and negative things about the Michaela school and the book itself.
I’ve just started reading it (yes on Christmas night!) I just couldn’t resist. The few bits I’ve read so far really do make sense and I agree with it, for example a few things about homework and marking. 

It’s already inspired me for when I go back to work in January! I would love to visit the school (I know they aren’t accepting anyone at the minute) and I would love to discuss ideas further with some of the staff about English and reading (as I am the coordinator for Accelerated Reading). 

Looking forward to reading the rest and I’ll give you a few updates as I go along.

Revision Tools



How do I revise? What’s the best way? 


I am going to offer some advice and some useful tools on how to actually revise. Students are told to revise but often not given enough options on how to do this and what this actually entails.


Revision is all about re-engaging with the texts and skills you’ve learnt.

Ensure you create a timetable that offers your free time and some revision time, I often find that 20-30 minutes are good sized chunks to revise in.


Some useful tools:


You will have learnt about mind maps/spider diagrams, highlighting and note taking and a few other ideas. Try these out…




Here I have written down quotes (in black), characters (in green), structure (in orange), themes (in blue) and so on and so on, from Of Mice and Men, An Inspector Calls and poetry (IGCSE Literature). You can either set up a Jenga game for just one text or you can mix it up and really test your knowledge! Play the game as normal and if you happen to pick out a brick with something on it you must explain (giving examples) in as much detail as possible verbally. You can then write it down but I find it does work better as a verbal game as this way it really tests your memory!


Character profiles



How I’ve used the cut outs here is by adding quotes in a darker colour then the analysis of the quotation in a lighter shade (this is a profile of Slim, Of Mice and Men). Then in different colours I’ve written key words that describe the qualities the character has.


This is a fun and creative way of re-thinking and re-evaluating characters, a great visual.


Cornell Notes

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If you are unsure of what these are feel free to google it. It’s all about how to layout key facts about the play/Novel and character, and then summarising in your own words.

Here’s an example off the internet:

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Here is an example I have created on the character of Eric from An Inspector Calls. All you do is create a small margin for key themes/words, then a large section for contextual notes, quotes and wider reading and then a small-ish box at the bottom to summarise the character.


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Who am I?

Hopefully you may have played this game before. You need to guess who you have but can only ask questions with a yes or no answer from your opponents! ( you could also do this with post it notes and stick them on your forehead or make a headband with names on)


You will need other people for this revision tool to work!




Identity Thumbprints



These are a great way to show your knowledge of the characters by creating an identity thumbprint FULL of quotes that relate to the character! one thumbprint = one character. The quotes can describe the way they look/sound etc or are words they say in the text.

Just a few ideas for now to get you started (if you haven’t already started to revise) or to keep you going!


More to follow, if people are interested!

Happy Revising!!



Giving up the promotion…

During the Easter 2014 I was offered a position as second in department at a different school, which I accepted. However, this was not a change for my career for the better. But it was a learning curve to help me to understand what type of school I want to work in.

I was on the hunt for a new job and possibly a promotion due to the circumstances of the school I was in: new management, work load demands were going up and up, irrelevant changes and bullying/intimidation in the work place. I decided I wasn’t putting up with it any longer. You have only one life and I want to teach !

Looking back, I don’t think it was a mistake to leave that school and go to another school (which didn’t turn out too well!) as it developed my understanding of schools further and my own views.

It’s so important to remember why you became a teacher. I’ve never lost that or forgotten hence my changes (as I embark on a new school on Monday!) I want to inspire and give children the creativity/extended thinking abilities that they are capable of! I love seeing the lightbulb moment, the ‘Miss I did my homework, and extra, I spent 3 hours doing it. I’m still not sure it’s good enough’ moments alongside the ‘I actually understand Shakespeare’ moments! To seeing children read more and actually enjoy it!!! Children even coming up to me to say ‘Miss, I’ve started reading this it’s great! You should try it!’ From children who refused to pick up a book when I started teaching them. Magical.

I’m saying all of this as I decided by October that he new school I had gone to (for the position of second in department) was not for me. There were a range of things that weren’t right or weren’t working the way it should be. Things I felt that were essential: behaviour management/policy, communication, teaching and learning.

I may write more about my experience at this school as I think it is useful to share these experiences. It disheartens me so to see fellow colleagues feel battered on a daily (lesson) basis because of behaviour. Working at this school really made me realise why so many NQTs quit so early on! It was a school of little hope! Teachers felt that if the students managed to get into class, write the date and title and do some of the task it was an achievement! I was mortified to learn this as it’s just not me or the way I’ve come I to teaching.

So, I write this brief post to teachers out there who want to change schools or don’t want to go back into theirs on Monday. Think what do you want? What type of school do you want to work in? What is essential for you?

How useful are ‘Exit Tickets’?



I’ve been asked a few questions recently in regards to ‘exit tickets.’ Most seem to find these a pointless activity. 

I thought I share a few thoughts about this tool from my perspective – please do feel free to message me how you use them etc! The good, the bad, and the ugly..all is welcome!

I was observed before Christmas having used exit tickets with my year 9 class (studying war poetry) and was asked ‘why?’ ‘what do they do?’ This is an idea I’ve got from twitter (from @ASTsupportAAli) I love the idea and think it’s great way to ensure students get some time to reflect (on the lesson they’ve just experienced and previous lessons, and future ones!)

 I use them to link back to the Learning Objective and where they see themselves, either as unistructural or extended abstract etc (Solo Taxonomy) and where they want to be (giving themselves personal targets). You can see the ones I’ve created here [if you can’t let me know I can send them over]

I find it useful for myself and the students. It gives them a set time to really consider what they’ve understood, and often they surprise themselves as they’ve learnt more than they initially thought. 

But on several occasions I’ve been asked ‘what’s the point? They seem pointless.’ This got me thinking…are they pointless? I can understand the concerns: when do you get chance to look at them? How do you know all students have made progress that lesson without checking all the tickets there and then?

But I responded by saying ‘I did look at them then I was able to ask the student a question at the end of the lesson.’ Didn’t get much of a response to this, apart from but you don’t check them all. But I do use them at the end/check them, and they inform my planning as I then have a scan over them before the next lesson to see if there are any ‘sticky’ areas that I need to go back over, but I’ve also done the ‘mini progress check’ style ending (put a number up/thumbs up or whatever in order to show I’ve checked everyone’s understanding) My thoughts are this tool, the exit ticket, is a way of ensuring students to reflect, and it helps your future planning

hmmm… Any thoughts/views are most welcome!

My coaching journey

Ok this is just a quick blog from my phone as my laptop is out of action!!

Today I was on a training programme for coaching. I was approached a few weeks back by SLT about being a coach. I was wary when asked as I am only a RQT and thought how will staff respond to me being their coach.

So, we had our first session today. This told us what coaching was. (You ask the coachee questions but give no advice or pointers and follow the GROW model) It was really interesting and difficult! We got to coach each other and trial it out today. And it’s very difficult to not become a mentor and start giving tips.
What next?

I find coaching students ‘comfortable’ but it was a little awkward today with fellow colleagues! I also found it hard being the coachee having to come up with the ‘options.’ It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds…

Embedding Kagan

Just a quick blog about embedding Kagan…I’m getting better and better at using Kagan and do you know what THE KIDS LOVE IT! As do I!

The smiles on their faces and the work they achieve is incredible! I’ve been using Rally Robin and All-Write-Round-Robin mostly and it’s just been great! Even with students who aren’t confident, SEN, or just troublesome classes (low level disruption) it really does cut out the annoying things that can irritate a teacher (talking, shouting out, messing with pens). 

I’ve used them in Drama and English lessons. Love Rally Robin as a starter and particularly for students who have weak literacy skills – as it’s a simple ‘create a list’ idea and they can be involved from the word go! 

All-Write-Round-Robin has worked a treat with year7, 9 and 10! They’ve enjoyed the ‘thinking’ time aspect and then sharing. 

If you haven’t used Kagan before try Rally Robin first..then give AWRR a go! There are so many things to choose from..but they’re a good place to start 🙂


Now…which structure to use next?



My Nurture 1314 Post

Hello, It’s been a while since I’ve blogged (busy teacher and all that). I’ve been reading a few #Nurture1314 blogs and was tempted to do my own…and after a few tweets telling me to do it here I am…So, here goes.

Well, I was an NQT until July 2013 and then ‘became’ a RQT in Sept 2013. My blog will be about ‘life as an NQT’ for me and the transition to RQT. Hope you don’t get bored.. haha! Not sure I’ll have enough to say….

OK I’m going to write my reflection (the number) and then the ‘wish’ underneath 

1. My family and close friends who have supported me through the ups and downs on being and NQT and RQT (through the changes and challenges that have happened during the year) It’s been a huge help. I’m not sure I’ve been clear enough with them on just how much they’ve helped. My best pal on twitter @carleyjoanne has really been there, and as a fellow teacher understands my ridiculous tears and tantrums! But has remained a great strength, whom I turn to A LOT! THANK YOU.

> I need to ensure that I show my appreciation to the staff who have been my support and strength, friends and family. Like I said, not sure they realize how much they help (including @anaustra)

2. Twitter – without this I would not be half the teacher I am today. I always worked hard, but twitter has been a new world of connections and collaboration. Thanks to all you #tweachers out there who have encouraged me to blog (and even read what I write!) And a huge thanks to the support you give. There are so many of you to mention but particularly @rlj1981 (who has also introduced me to googlehangout) @kerrypulleyn @teachertoolkit @andyknill and many many more! The help given through shared resources and ideas has been incredible in times of need!

> Looking forward to attending some TeachMeets. Haven’t been able to this year as they’ve been midweek and too far for me to get to in time! Can’t wait for #pedagooLondon and #NorthernRocks2014 (I get to meet the amazing #tweachers)

3. I never wanted to read another ‘critical’ education book (or whatever) again after my PGCE (which I failed by 1 mark – I got QTS but I was hopeless at the writing/academic element. I’m not one to shy away from that. In all honesty – my work was absolute rubbish, no matter how hard I worked or how hard I cried!) However, with the aid of twitter I’ve rekindled my love for reading a few critical books etc which is great as it’s helped me to move on as a teacher and realize i’m not as ‘thick’ as I think I am…perhaps…

>looking forward to making use of my #101ideas @teachertoolkit book, amongst others on Solo Taxonomy and Leadership skills. I may try to read some books for fun too! Got a few ready to read before I head back in the new year.

4. Attending a Kagan Day 1 and 2 course. This was brilliant! Mind blowing and just fabulous – right up my street. I love to be an interactive teacher and have my classroom so. I taught like this before I went on the course and the students developed not just with their academic progress (Level 3 to 5 or Level 5 to 7!) But the classroom atmosphere and respect rose too. The students are ‘real’ friends. When they feel safe, and they’re having fun, and we experiment together as a class they grow, their relationships develop.

>This then lead to T&L asking me to deliver a Kagan morning of CPD on the first day back in September 2013. This was fantastic! I couldn’t wait. I just love ‘teaching’ and sharing ‘my’ discoveries and experiences. I simply want others to ‘see’ what I see. It also lead to my school having their own in-house #TeachMeet and I delivered a 3 minute presentation on #SoloTaxonomy. The feedback from some staff for both CPD sessions was good. Just hope it is of real benefit. I intend on doing more CPD sessions and developing my own personal professional skills and helping others to (if the school feels that’s the right approach) I also need to ensure that I continue to develop my skills as a practitioner – as this is the most important part of my job. I want to be a good teacher. 

5. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching KS3 – I feel this is my ‘area’ I’ve quick to adapt and be flexible in this area – I feel like I’m really getting to understand how to make it engaging yet academic and building students knowledge/understanding as well as preparing them for KS4 and onwards. I love setting the challenges through the use of cross curricular, solo taxonomy and kagan. (not sure this one makes sense!)

> I would love to develop my role in KS3, either at my current school or another. I’d also like the opportunity to develop my skills in Literacy (I’ve been working on this just before christmas – mind is buzzing with ideas!) 

6. Having 5 of my year 11 students (of boys who aren’t interested in books, English or education) attend a theatre performance of An Inspector Calls. “Their behaviour was impeccable,” said another member of staff – I beamed!! Then I asked them for their views on the performance – they LOVED it! They were engaged, talked about it on the journey home and again to me the next day! Their achievement in the past year is brilliant. They’ve worked so hard to achieve a C. Nothing like the boisterous, rebellious, reluctant class I met back in 2012 (as year 10) Now they have dreams, ambition and ideas for their future. YES! That’s success in my eyes!

> I now need to continue with this engagement! Last hurdle for these guys, which I fear is going to be a big one!! I aim to encourage their reading too. Still a work in progress as there is very little they want to pick up. But I will persevere! 

7. To my delight before the Christmas term I had a year 9 student ask me about taking AS English! We deliver AS English to year 10s. So I discussed this with this particular student who also said another 5 in my class were already considering it! I was gobsmacked and thrilled! They said they’re loving English now and feel like their skills are always developing to a high standard (and they are!) I’ve worked hard with this class – pushing them to their limits and a little further. To ensure they’re leaving my classroom not just a Level 6 or 7, but a person who understands.

> Looking forward to developing this love for English with this class further! I’ve started giving them ‘recommended reads’ which seems really positive so far! Students have been really engaged and keen to read the texts I suggest. I am also hoping we will be able to arrange more enrichment and trips that is suitable for them.

8. Teaching a resit class is difficult! As they don’t want to be there, and I understand that. I love them but they don’t see that. However, I feel some of them are starting to understand how much I care! Some of them have actually been revising and practicing. Shock, Horror… Some of them in the weeks before Christmas really started to turn things around and I’m so happy they’ve stepped it up a notch (their exam is in Jan!) They had a mock before Christmas and some of them did so well, I did a little dance! I pray this will be the same scenario in January!

> Need to think about engaging the girls now and giving them one last push before the exam. Otherwise they’re stuck with me until June exam…

9. As an RQT I’ve started to manage my time a little better. Pushing on through schemes of work etc and getting things done much closer to the deadlines! Not always easy when there are trips and enrichment days…but I’ve done pretty well last term.

> Use my diary more and highlight like crazy and use sticky notes. I didn’t do this in the first half term (Sept -Oct) and lost track of a few things, but started to do it again before Christmas. And it’s the way I work – so I’m gona stick to it!

10. I’ve been pushing for students to have pride in their work (school policy to get students to present their work better). This has been ‘easy’ when it comes to homework tasks, as I set them project work/display projects which they take pride in as they go on show/present to the class. Works well! phew! Most students do work well in their books, however I do have some that are still messy! Drives me around the bend!

> Taking time in class to let students lay work out neatly (examples on board). It sounds basic but I need to go back to it as some work has got sloppy again!

11. I was really excited and nervous about starting my blog. But once I got going I loved it (thanks to the encouragement from @rlj1981) But I’ve been busy and not blogged as much as I could/should have…

> I need to blog more for 2014! I’ve a bit of catching up to do for some of my lessons from 2013 too.. eek. I best get to it! I will share more of my joyful experiences 🙂

12. My fitness…at last I’ve taken action. In June of 2013 I got fed up. I decided to stop whinging and DO something. So I started running…then I’ve bought my own exercise tools etc at home and I’ve got myself back into shape and at a good fitness – it makes me feel good, and proud! I’ve not done too much before Christmas (naughty!) But I’m back on it now.

> I will continue with my fitness and ‘clean’ eating. And I like spreading the word too as my colleagues will know haha @tracysharpe71 Healthy brownies, muffins etc they’re so yum…happy to share recipes with my #tweacherfriends

oof I’m almost there – didn’t think I’d have 13.

13. Driving – I guess I better mention this. I passed my test just in time for starting my NQT year but at the time I lived 10 minutes from my place of work. But then I moved back ‘home’ and now travel 45-50min up and down the motorway. My driving instructors words were “You’ll be like my older sister, she’s 70. You will only go from A-B and will NEVER be able to use a motorway.” I’ve been to a few places – Bronte Parsonage for one.

> I will continue to travel around in my lovely little cute car. My aim is to travel far and wide! So watch out world (especially the UK) ’cause here I come…

> I will continue to be bright and bubbly! I can be grumpy teacher sometimes..But I do my best to smile and have energy. My mission is to continue to do this and continue to spread this among staff and students!

Another achievement, which I forget on most days, is how well I did during ofsted. I try my best to ensure students enjoy the topics and texts we study. During the ofsted visit, and during other observations, i did really well (gaining outstanding). And as an NQT this was an indescribable feeling. The feedback was terrific. And made me realize that I can teach and I do know what I am doing. My aim for 2014 is to believe in me! When I forget I must think back to my feedback I’ve gained over the past year.

A few other things I’ve taken on board last term as well as the teaching&learning (and that I’m looking forward too in 2014) is looking at the development and implementation of gifted and talented T&L, CPD and enrichment.. Mission accepted…

Well, hope that’s what I should have written about. I didn’t quite talk about the transition from NQT to RQT ah well…

All the best #tweachers for 2014