#100wordbookreview An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger

A text which lives up to its name; a beautifully crafted narrative sharing an inspirational educators philosophy and principles.

As well as telling a personal heart warming tale of making education purposeful, personal and relevant this book shares how to apply these principles in your practice. Extolling the importance of community, both inside and outside of the classroom, and the impact it has on learning.  Berger is honest about the effort and care taken to make the right culture and meaningful projects happen. He also shows why it’s worth it.

If you’re passionate about education this is an essential text.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE


Big Day Out Newcastle #BDONE Part 4 

The real highlight of the day for me was the pedagogy speed date circuit where the ITL Associates were corralled from table to table to share instant impact teaching ideas…


Hywel Roberts

#Poundlandpedagogy A must follow hashtag. In simple terms you go and buy stuff for £1 and then do interesting things in your classroom which you share online. It’s a fun thing to challenge yourself to be creative on a limited budget. 

Example: Cut out people; you can get learners to write key characteristics of characters from plays and books. Get them to to write all they know OR things they’d like to know about the character and stick them up or even in their books.

Bonus share; Gordon from our table shared how he uses wipeable tablecloths as giant table cover whiteboards and lollipop sticks with names written on for no hands up.

Tait Coles

QFT: Question Formulation Technique

Start off by giving them a stimulus then…

1) Give them 5 minutes to come up with questions they want to answer.

2) Refine the questions; which ones are closed/open, or even worth investigating.

3) Share the questions.

4) Pick groups – do this by choosing which “ungoogleable” question to investigate.

5) Students have control of learning to research their question. Enquiry.

Martin Illingworth

Cut & Paste Poetry Challenge

In order to make cutting and pasting from the internet more interesting…

1) Cut and paste an A4 page of text.

2)Turn it into a poem using the following rules:-

  • Can’t add, only move words and punctuation.
  • Can delete.

Dr David George

Finish this sentence:- 

Thinking is… (Feel free to do this in the comments section or on Twitter)

(The whole purpose of education is thinking so it’s worth reflecting on what thinking is.)


Roy Leighton

The self confessed cynic offered 3 questions to make ourselves more effective and waste less time doing purposeless stuff.

1) What shall I keep?

2) What shall I develop?

3) What should I let go of?


  • Intellectually
  • Emotionally
  • Practically
  • Spirituality (inner harvest)

Dave Keeling

3 headed expert: get three students, each one takes it in turn to say one word to answer a question. The challenge is to keep it going. It can either get some great succinct answers or be a fun opportunity to stitch each other up. 

Tattoo Review: write one word to summarise your learning on the back of your hand. (Means they’ll think about it each time they look at it.)

Pick a letter; use as a review challenge for words linked to our topic beginning with ‘?’ Either pick a number or challenge to see who can generate the most.

Reflections: Lots of great little ideas we could take away and play with.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE


You’re nothing but a pack of cards

Here’s my latest reflections for the #teacher5aday project. It’s an acknowledgement that our job is a tough one; that fact has been eloquently expressed by @ICTEvangelist in his recent blog: Do Superheroes Cry? He also suggests ways in which we can act in order to have a negative impact on others less often. 

The thing I would like to offer when considering the pressures of our profession (or any other for that matter) is a simple question…

“Will it matter in ten years time?”

The reality is we’re subjective creatures who perceive through a lens of our personalities and past experiences. As the Talmud states “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” I’ll admit that may be slightly misquoted from memory but the point is our perception of the world and our situation is always in the context we set. 

What the question offers therefore isn’t a magical cure on those hard days when we are tired, grumpy, hurt or need a cry. What it does offer is perspective. When I’m having a grim day I always ask myself this question and it does help me regain the rich picture. I might still need a moan or tea and biscuits but it pulls me back into reality.

It also reminds me that some things only seem important at the time.

“Look after yourself and each other.” – Jerry Springer 

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Ten More Tips for Questioning

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Sunderland to be honest) I did my first Teachmeet presenting on questioning. It also ended up being my first blog on @pedagoo which can be found here.

So I thought it about time I added another ten tips for those interested in questioning for the Red House TM. 

1) What’s it all about?

Why not start your lesson with this question. It’s the only time it’s really acceptable to play the guess what’s in my head game. Give them a stimulus; music, pictures, artefacts, a piece of writing, a bag of tat (also known as a bag of wonder.) Then the students have to guess what the lesson is about and explain why they think that. Learning hook, questioning and a bell activity rolled into one. #Bosch

2) Wait Time – For You

When you get their answers you need to have time to think too. We always complain that their first answer isn’t always well thought through; we want them to dig deeper when they give their reasons. Perhaps we should give ourselves time to dig a little deeper when we’re thinking about our questions.

3) Write more questions down

If you come up with a few great questions you can write them in their books as they’re working (or even as part of your marking). It gives them instant personalised challenge, means you don’t interrupt the flow of learning every time you think of a great question and it even provides “evidence” in their books.

4) Edit an answer

When you get a first answer stop. Write it on the board and talk through with the class how you can develop the bare bones into a quality answer. Think about literacy, key subject vocabulary, quality of reasoning and word flow. Get them to add their ideas and use it as an opportunity to model thinking through great answers in your subject.


Keep It Simple Stupid, rather than accompanying your lesson by singing “I was made for loving you baby.” Which I can never imagine being a good thing. I know I’m guilty of it but try to avoid generating questions so long winded you’ve forgotten how they started by the time they finished. If they understand what we’re asking there’s more chance we’ll get the kind of answers we want.

6) Plan your style

It’s easy just to throw questions around as they pop into your brain. To make your questions more strategic think about what you want to achieve. If you want to check knowledge quickly you may want to go for closed questions. You might want to build specific types of thinking through Blooms or SOLO. You may want to unpick deeper meaning with Socratic questions or use wobblers and other dirty tricks to generate cognitive conflict. Questions are powerful tools, use the right ones for the job.

7) Act Stupid

For those of you who’ve met me you’ll know I’ve spent so much time mastering this skill it appears natural. I find acting like I don’t quite get it encourages them to reword and develop better explanations. It’s also quite good fun.

8) Be curious

If one of them goes off on a bizarre tangent go with it; ask them to develop and explain their idea. 

Ask them to make predictions; what if questions can lead to some really interesting thinking.

Ask them questions about things you don’t know; be honest in your ignorance when you’re doing enquiry based stuff. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching Geography so much is because I learn so much from the case studies they pick from around the world. Get excited by your ignorance!

9) Sniper NOT spray and pray

Sometimes we get all excited and start firing questions like a trigger happy extra from a mob film. They fly all over and some of them hit their mark. Next time you’re planning to go for a big question fest get your class list; figure out the kind of questions that would stretch specific students and target them with precision. It’s also helpful to make sure you target students who can avoid you in random question sprays… just when they think they’re out you pull them back in.

10) Measure the responses

Get a load of answers written on the board. Get a discussion going on what makes a good answer. Similar to the editing strategy but you’re looking to prioritise the best responses and dissect why some ideas are better than others in your subject area. I especially like this for generating ideas to use in an essay as each mini-answer can be expanded into a paragraph.

Hope some of these are useful to you in your classroom practice.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Big Day Out Newcastle #BDONE Part 3

Nick Owen – 10 Strategies of Highly Effective Teachers 

In the second masterclass Nick Owen shared ten strategies of highly effective teachers; he did state there were many more but these are ten of his favourites.

Nick started by sharing his philosophy for education, it’s all about enthusing the child to love knowledge and love learning. The Latin origin of the word meaning “filled with the spirit of God.” Once he had reinforced the fact that education should be something special he drew us all in with a mystery, challenging us to figure it out only using closed, yes/no response questions. Once we had figured out the challenge he talked us through the details with cryptic clues, grandeur, anecdotes and leaving gaps for us to fill in. All this was to suit his purpose, to force us to think hard to recall as many of the details as possible. 

The entire process was a demonstration of the ten strategies which Nick then shared.

Context – Details are more memorable when they are put in context, facts floating around by themselves in the ether. Most people prefer the big picture as having an overview makes things more relevant.

Magic Number 7 – Add or minus 2; chunking information into blocks helps learning as there’s only so much space available in the working memory. Focusing in on a small number of ideas makes the information manageable.

Primary and Recency (BEM) – People remember things from the beginning and the end better than the bits in the middle. Give your lesson lots of beginnings, middles and ends OR make sure that’s where you put the most important ideas.

Van Restorff Effect – Our brains notice things which are different and unusual. Use strategies to make things shocking, controversial or weird and they’re more likely to remember.

Zeigarnick Effect – The brain remembers uncompleted things better than completed ones, it keeps thinking about it after the time.  Unfinished ideas and tasks can force their brain into thinking about them once they’re gone.

Experiential versus abstract – If you’re going to use big abstract concepts give them real world, concrete examples to latch onto.

Principles and Relationships – It’s easier to remember the links between ideas than details or specifics; try and link ideas and concepts together.

Learning by Examples – Most of us learn more easily through stories, narratives, case studies and anecdotes than by just getting dry facts.

Multiple Sensory Encoding – Using sensory encoding to add details,and build a rich and vivid verbal picture and they’re more likely to recall that information in the future.

Consolidation and Support – New learning needs to resonate in the brain to consolidate it; if students have just learnt something get them to share it, use it and apply it.

After summing up these top strategies Nick left us one more thing to muse on…

“Curiosity is our greatest ally” – Nick Owen


What I learnt about teaching from The Godfather

As soon as I discovered that @DKMead and @simcloughlin had decided to go for film themed presentations for their Newcastle Teachmeet I felt it only appropriate to go along with the madness. Not only has the Godfather got a lot to teach us about the importance of fine tailoring it can also give us a few things to consider for our professional practices.

I refuse to be a puppet dancing on someone else’s strings.

It’s important to remember with all of the changes, regulations, accountability measures and fads out there that it’s your classroom. It’s your lesson; not just yours, you share it with the learners in your room but your SLT, the twitterati and Ofsted aren’t going to make it special for you. This brings about two important ideas for me…

1) Accountability; it’s a lot bigger than what other people think about your lesson when you realise it belongs to you. It’s about whether you can take pride in what you do; there should be no greater critic than ourselves.

2) It’s up to you to make it special. It might be through the positive learning relationships you’ve built up, or your technical knowledge of learning. It may be your love of controversy to create cognitive conflict, your sense of humour or your superfluous (but fun) selection of props. Whatever makes your lesson special… don’t let it get swept away in a tide of mediocrity while you’re only worry is the boxes you tick. 

Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgement. 

It’s never personal; well, it’s rarely personal. There’ll be hard days where you’re feeling a bit mean and grumpy; other people feel that way too. The difference is our students aren’t as grizzled and resilient as we are. They can take out their personal circumstances and teenage angst on those around them; it’s important to remember this and not take what they say in their darkest moments to heart. I’m not saying ignore their behaviour; schools have consequences for young people when their behaviour fails to meet expectations for a reason. I’m saying not to lose sleep when they’re venting; use the systems and remember that holding a grudge isn’t great for you or their learning.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

You can’t put the problem people out of the way and hope they’ll magically change. You need to connect with them regularly and make sure they’re where you can see them. It might be easier going for “out of sight, out of mind” in the short term but you’ll pay for it later. Whether it’s in terms of results, relationships or intervention; and this applies to your colleagues as well as your students. Don’t put off getting the dirty work done.

Whilst making sure the problem people get the time and support they need to direct them you can’t lose sight of the stars. Whether students or staff people like to be acknowledged for their successes and given opportunities. Those doing great work shouldn’t be forgotten; they should be praised and given opportunities to develop further. Celebrate and challenge your star players; they deserve it.

Make him an offer he can’t refuse.

I love a false dichotomy; presenting a situation where they only have two choices. Do what I want OR unimaginable doom, or maybe a detention. My actual point being rather than using the hairdryer method to manage behaviour in class, once it’s moved beyond eye contact and gesticulation, give them clear choices. The majority of students make the right choice when they’re given one. 

My one caveat here is once you’ve set out a consequence, no matter what you need to carry through with it. If they think you won’t carry through there is no choice.

There are things that have to be done and you do them.

It’s an uncomfortable truth but regardless of whether we like it or not there’s some parts of the job that need to be done whether we like it or not. Don’t put off the things you don’t like doing; get them done and do them well. 

Once you’ve got the bits you don’t like out of the way it frees up your working memory to focus on developing the stuff that you’re really passionate about. All the time you spend focused on things you don’t enjoy is a waste of good thinking.

Never let anyone outside of the family know what you’re thinking.

It’s natural for us to disagree as professionals; especially at high pressure times of year when we’re all focused on getting our students the best possible results. There’s nothing wrong with this; we are all grown ups and entitled to our opinions and have different personal and departmental priorities. When we are going to disagree we need to make sure we do it behind closed doors. 

The students need to see the staff as a united front; who follow the rules and support each other. With all the pressure they’re under they don’t need ours spilling onto them too. If there’s something to deal with, leave them out of it.

Great men are not born, they grow great…

There’s a lot of impressive and inspirational people out there; they were once not so impressive and inspirational. It’s easy to be dazzled by the big show and people at the top of their game that make it look easy. This doesn’t just apply to teaching, every profession has its greats. What we don’t see when we watch greatness in action is the countless hours of effort, the relentless drive and the sacrifice that carved out that greatness. 

I find it genuinely disheartening when I hear teachers put themselves down, whether they realise they’re doing it or not, by assuming they can’t be great. I’m not saying being great is going to be easy but I believe it’s something we can aim for. If I manage it I’ll let you all in on the secret;)

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE (AKA Dunn Corleone)