#100wordTandL on @pedagoo

What is it?

A quick way to share a teaching idea in 100 words or less. There are a lot of great in depth, detailed and reflective blogs out there. But… Sometimes we just want a quick idea to fire us up or give us something new to play with. Something we could use in the classroom tomorrow.

This was the brainchild of Pete “Loving the Learning” Jackson and he’s kindly allowed the @pedagoo community to have some fun with it. Example post here

The Challenge 

Share one of the teaching and learning ideas you’ve used recently either on your own blog or on @pedagoo. Make sure when you Tweet it out to include @pedagoo in your tweet so that we can retweet it to the community.  If you post it on the @pedagoo site we’ll take care of all the social media side and you’ll get to share your idea directly with a huge number of enthusiastic professionals just like you.

If you’re not sure how to get started just go to Pedagoo and sign up. Click onto the “New Post” section and you’re a blogger. It would be amazing to see loads of new people on there sharing their ideas. 

It doesn’t need to be brand new just something you’re using that you’d like to share. I find it’s always great to be reminded of an idea I haven’t used for a while or see someone else’s perspective on it.

We’d also love to see you at #pedagoofriday sharing your great ideas. 



#100wordTandL on @pedagoo

What is it?

A quick way to share a teaching idea in 100 words or less. There are a lot of great in depth, detailed and reflective blogs out there. But… Sometimes we just want a quick idea to fire us up or give us something new to play with. Something we could use in the classroom tomorrow.

This was the brainchild of Pete “Loving the Learning” Jackson and he’s kindly allowed the @pedagoo community to have some fun with it. Example post here

The Challenge 

Share one of the teaching and learning ideas you’ve used recently either on your own blog or on @pedagoo. Make sure when you Tweet it out to include @pedagoo in your tweet so that we can retweet it to the community.  If you post it on the @pedagoo site we’ll take care of all the social media side and you’ll get to share your idea directly with a huge number of enthusiastic professionals just like you.

If you’re not sure how to get started just go to Pedagoo and sign up. Click onto the “New Post” section and you’re a blogger. It would be amazing to see loads of new people on there sharing their ideas. 

It doesn’t need to be brand new just something you’re using that you’d like to share. I find it’s always great to be reminded of an idea I haven’t used for a while or see someone else’s perspective on it.

We’d also love to see you at #pedagoofriday sharing your great ideas. 



I recently wrote a piece on wellbeing reflections for the Christmas season on @InnovateMySchl which can be found here.

One of the concepts I mentioned was the idea of #futureyou and doing something every single day that the you (me?) of the future will benefit from. It doesn’t take away from my notice and enjoy the moment belief; merely making those moments more purposeful.

It’s something I’ve been doing for years, making sure I make time for family, professional development and personal growth. How to spend more time with loved ones seems obvious even if it is difficult and sometimes requires a bit of sacrifice.

Professionally I try to read something almost every day of the year (if I’m on a mountain I find it impractical) that will enhance my understanding of education. It doesn’t matter if it’s blogs or a bit of a good book, or even a book by someone I don’t really agree with. It’s important to challenge my thinking after all and reading alternative views is rewarding. If you like this idea why not actually subscribe to one of your favourite blogs; I always thoroughly enjoy seeing new posts in my inbox from the likes of @LearningSpy , @ICTEvangelist @mrsjacksonmusic , @dan_brinton and @lisajaneashes. It’s also free to subscribe to a blog; which is my favourite flavour.

From a personal point of view I always try to get a little exercise in every day, even if it’s only one set of weights or a mile run. I know every little counts. It’s not like I’m planning to become an Olympian, just keep the flesh and bone machine in good enough condition to do the things I enjoy. This year I’m planning to get back into martial arts training even though I’ll be rusty and soft round the edges as it’s a hobby I used to love that just fell by the wayside. Life gets busy sometimes and I know it’ll be a long journey to achieve my personal goals but I’m certain I never will if I don’t start. So next year why not pick up a lost love or find a new one (Remember I’m referring to hobbies like music and sport, not infidelity;)) Make a commitment to you as a better you is a better teacher. 

Why not share your plans on the #teacher5aday hashtag on Twitter.

Have a great Christmas and New Year.



Ghosts of students past

It was year 10 parents evening tonight; always an experience that fills me with mixed emotions. Part of me is tired after a day of teaching and wants to get home to my wife and the boys, but I always thoroughly enjoy it. A mix of celebrating the successes and hard work of students and giving timely advice to help them move forward. No matter how tired I feel just beforehand I always love it once it’s in full swing. It’s also a great opportunity to build the relationships with home, after a few siblings go through your school it’s like catching up with old friends. That feeling of community is part of what makes the job so special for me.

Tonight was one of the best parts of the job as a few older siblings who were ex students had accompanied their families to parents evening. We also had a few ex students along with the local college representatives sharing the opportunities our students will have post 16.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the urgent and the things we do every day; essential in many ways to keep focused on making a difference to the students in front of us. But… The GCSE results aren’t the end of the journey; we’ve just given our students a foundation to build on, to go and make a life for themselves. Hearing about university offers and entrepreneurial plans tonight as wonderful examples of the journeys they are taking for themselves. Seeing them so happy with their lives and where they were heading fills me with great joy and reminds me that it is a privilege to teach.

Featured image made using Typorama app.


Warning; not a pedagogical piece, more a personal reflection.

  Today was my first day back to school after my two week paternity leave after the birth of our second son Killian. It was a little daunting on the way in knowing I was feeling a bit groggy and fragile from the lack of sleep that’s the joy of being a new parent.
As soon as I arrived at school people were smiles, hugs and handshakes welcoming me back. Within moments I felt like I was home and that for me is the sign of a great school. Schools are for learning, but for me it’s a learning community. The learning doesn’t happen in some isolated, distant kind of way. The whole fabric of community is woven into everything we do. It’s how we feel at school and how we act because of that feeling. The feeling of belonging we have as staff and that our students have matters; it makes the hard times bearable and the good times something to share and celebrate together. As the boss (Bruce Springsteen rather than my headteacher) would say “We take care of our own.” 

It was great to be back and a pleasure to see my colleagues and students; to be back in our community. That’s how it should be. Yes, teaching is hard work, but it’s enjoyable and worthwhile to be part of a learning community.

I hope that your school stirs that special feeling of belonging in you and wish you a well earned rest after this first half term.

I would also like to thank my colleagues and students for all of their kindness today; it’s appreciated.

Barry – @SeahamRE

Lesson Study 101

Lesson Study is a professional learning cycle where 2 or more teachers identify a challenge to learning, research possible solutions, plan a lesson together using this knowledge, observe the lesson and reflect upon their findings. This cycle is then repeated until all members of the group have delivered a collaboratively planned lesson and their finding are often delivered to colleagues or others to share their learning.

Dudley (2010) identifies the process originating in Japan in 1872 and due to this it is a significant proportion of the researched written by practitioners in Japan. He identifies this as a “highly effective form of collaborative, classroom-located teacher learning which focuses upon improving and innovating practice knowledge.”


1) Identify an aspect of teaching to improve.

2) Research approaches to improving this aspect.

3) Plan a lesson collaboratively.

4) Lesson is taught and observed.

5) Target students interviewed.

6) Group meets to discuss findings.

7) Cycle restarts.

8) Next steps; presenting findings and forming new groups.

Identify an aspect of teaching to improve

This is a crucial aspect of the process, without determining the focus for improvement this would become a generic lesson observation; Lesson Study is about targeted teacher research making a difference, not measuring a teacher by their performance in a one off lesson. Dudley (2014) recommends looking at the needs of individual students (or groups of students), teaching strategies, the content or curriculum strand to be developed. These give a sound basis to form an area of focus for a Lesson Study project.

From a practical point of view, you may know which areas your students perform less well in due to test or examination results. If you’ve got specific teaching and learning targets for your performance management this could be a personal focus for your project or you could look at whole school priorities to identify a target group. You may wish to choose your target students by sticking performance data for one class in a spreadsheet and filtering those with the lowest progress giving an objective measures for identification.

If you and your colleagues are fortunate enough to teach the same students and either have non-contact periods at appropriate times or your school is supporting your project and willing to cover lessons to allow the observations to happen you could target exactly the same students for each cycle.

Research approaches to improving this aspect

Once you have identified the focus aspect it is important to research possible approaches to improving this. This can be from reading academic research, books and blogs, observing skilled colleagues, discussions with experts or going on an appropriate course. The key is to spend time looking at and reflecting upon what you find rather than rushing in to write a lesson, what you’re really after is a finely crafted lesson based on your research and your identified need. It’s about application of knowledge to your context to see if it works. If you end up with more questions than answers you’ve definitely picked a valuable focus for your enquiry.

Plan a lesson collaboratively

The initial part of the process identifies who we want to learn what and the research gives some ideas about how that might happen. The collaborative lesson planning means that as a group you explore what this learning experience might look like. The aim of the planning is to take joint responsibility for the lesson and give all members of the group ownership; it’s about working together to find ways of making the students learn what you want them to. Each aspect should be discussed thoroughly and critiqued until all members of the group are happy with the result.

This could be explored on a micro-scale by looking at one activity, focusing on starters, plenaries, progress checks, questioning, thinking skills or any other aspect for a targeted short period of time. This can create a lesser time requirement for the planning and observation phases if you wish to focus intently on a short section of learning.

Make sure you’re planning your lesson with your key aspect as your focus, after all “Memory is the residue of thought.” Willingham (2010); indicating that students will remember what they were thinking about. Make sure they’re thinking about what you want them to remember.

Lesson is taught and observed

The lesson is then delivered by the lead teacher for the cycle and observed by the other members of the Lesson Study group. The observers focus should be on the identified students and their learning. Nuthall (2007) identifies the huge significance in student peer dialogue in the learning process either supporting or sabotaging comprehension and learning and this has made observing student dialogue a focus in my classroom practice and when observing others.

If as a group you have difficulty finding time to observe each other there are various video recording packages available such as IRIS or the VEO App which could be used to record lessons for later viewing and discussion. (Please note there are other packages available.) Personally if doing this I would leave the microphone with a table of targeted students to focus on the peer dialogue of students.

A variation on the traditional process could be to have an expert coach watching the live stream from another room providing prompts and support to the teacher delivering. This would require clear ground rules and signals in place but would allow the deliverer to access expert support immediately during the lesson. This could even be a pedagogical strategy which you could explore with your Lesson Study group.

Target students interviewed

Following the lesson the target students should be interviewed regarding the relevant aspects of the lesson. I tend to focus the dialogue around three key questions:-

What did they learn?

How did they learn?

What were their challenges to learning?

The first two allow me to identify what successes there were and what process got them there. The final question allows me to reflect on what to do next, supporting the identification of the focus aspect for the next Lesson Study Cycle.

Group meets to discuss findings

Dudley (2014) identifies the importance of this process being about the learning in the classroom, not the judging of the lesson. It is essential that the dialogue within the group is focused on learning, processes, observations and pedagogical strategies. It is creating this climate which reaps the greatest benefits in Lesson Study Projects. The skill of the group to self-regulate these discussions or of a facilitator leading the group can significantly impact on the professional learning of the participants. So, to reiterate, it’s not about the teacher, it’s about the learning.

Cycle restarts

The intention being that each member of the group delivers a collaboratively planned lesson building each time on the knowledge gained from the Lesson Study cycle. I have referred to this as a Lesson Study project several times throughout this piece as I consider a series of cycles the complete project. Once all members of the group have delivered a lesson it is customary to share findings and, if desired, form new project teams.

Next steps; presenting findings and forming new groups.

Traditionally once a Lesson study Project has been completed the teachers share their findings, often with colleagues but sometimes in journals, blogs and at Teachmeet events. Allison (2014) provides information on these and a selection of other ways in which teachers can share their findings from research projects. If only your group gains knowledge from your project it has value, but if you share that knowledge it has far more.

Once you have completed a Lesson Study Project if you wish to continue with the practice you could begin again with the same group or you could each form new groups, academic splinter cells if you will, where the more experienced member can share their understanding of the process as part of the project.

Things to consider

As with any research project it is essential to consider the type of information you wish to gather, qualitative or quantitative, both? What are you going to gather the information about? Which ways will you gather this data? What questions will you ask? What are the ethical ramifications of your research and methodology? If you’re really committed to the Action Research aspect of teacher led research I strongly recommend Baumfield, Hall, Wall et (2012) as an excellent starting point for practitioner enquiry in education.

Getting Started

All that’s really needed to begin a Lesson Study project is a friend (a colleague will do), access to the materials on the Lesson Study UK website (link here) and a openness to investigate the learning in your classroom in a different way. If you really want to go deeper into the thinking behind it I recommend Dudley (2010), Dudley (2014) and Allison (2014); all of which feature easy to follow summaries of the process.

In an ideal scenario each group would have a skilled facilitator who has been through the process previously as Dudley (2014) identifies the huge importance of the dialogue between teachers in this process and that the quality of that dialogue improves with experience in Lesson Study. Hence the suggestion of founding new groups shared above.

Why Lesson Study?

Most significantly it’s a teacher led approach to improving learning in the classroom, the intrinsic motivation comes from making our own discoveries. It makes us engage with other sources of knowledge when we are planning and preparing our lesson. It encourages us to talk about learning and pedagogy with our colleagues, always a wonderful thing. It provides an opportunity to reflect on our practice in a non-judgemental way with our peers. It sharpens our focus on things we could improve and students we could better support. It opens up dialogue with students about their learning, informative for us, an opportunity for metacognition for them. The only downside I see with the process is the investment in time, this isn’t about quick fixes, it’s about honing our classroom craft.

What if it goes wrong?

In real terms lessons can, and sometimes do, go badly. The purpose of Lesson study is to be a collaborative action research project built around dialogue and micro-research. The consequences of it going wrong are the same as any other lesson, the students don’t learn as much as you’d like and you need a new strategy.

In terms of the group going wrong through conflict and not adhering to roles or expectations, there are two real options, talk through the issue like reasonable adults or realise that your particular group aren’t going to gain from working together. Sometimes it’s good to know when to let something go.


Allison, S (2014) Perfect Teacher Led CPD, ITL Press

Baumfield. V, Hall. E, Wall. K (2012) Action Research in Education: Learning Through Practitioner Enquiry, SAGE

Dudley. P (2010) from: McGrane. J and Lofthouse. R (2010) Developing Outstanding Teaching and Learning: Creating a Culture of Professional Development to Improve Outcomes, Optimus Education

Dudley. P (2014) Lesson Study: Professional learning for our time, Routledge Research in Education

Nuthall. G (2007) The Hidden Lives of Learners, NZCER Press

Whillingham. D (2010) Why don’t students like school?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How The Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, Jossey Bass

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Featured image created using the Typorama & PhotoFunia Apps.

Update, links to Lesson Study Reports:-

Lesson Study UK

Study Cam
Thanks to @lessonstudyuk for sharing these links.

Challenge: Conflict & Controversy

“We spend so long in The Pit we should put a sofa and a drinks machine in it.” – Former Student

I’m a fan of cognitive conflict in the classroom. The idea of thinking hard to me is a greater thing of beauty than dawn in the mountains, a Rembrandt masterpiece or music that would make angels weep. It took me over a decade in education to realise that nothing was more important to me than thinking hard. I value all of the other parts, developing them as well rounded, caring and thoughtful individuals is good for them and society, passing exams opens up life chances in terms of career and further education, I even like them to have fun when possible because I think that happiness is a good thing. Thinking is the thing that drags me in on a bad day, that excites me even in dark moments, that makes me obsess over education.

It’s because of this I’m always looking for ways to make them think hard. My favourite idea on thinking hard in the classroom is The Pit by James Nottingham. Simply put you should introduce an idea they feel confident about, get them a bit confused and questioning their knowledge, provide ways to solve that confusion and ideally have them more knowledgeable and satisfied with what they have achieved and learnt at the end. (That’s super brief, the video link above is a detailed version.)

There are many ways to create challenge or cognitive conflict; questioning, hard sums, appropriately pitched tasks. The one I’d like to share a little thinking on today is using controversy and conflict. To do so I’d like to share five techniques (dirty tricks) I use to intentionally challenge thinking and create disruption in students thinking.

Ad Hominem

This amusing deceit attacks (or supports) an argument or point by pointing out the flaws (or strengths) of a person. It’s a great way to invalidate perfectly logical and well developed arguments or shore up something a bit fluffy with a big name. 

A great example is the way people use quotes on the Internet next to a picture of some legendary figure. No-one ever uses historic villains to back their arguments. Try this one…

“Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat.” 

If that makes you feel motivated Google it’s originator.

If we call the character, appearance or any other aspect of the arguer or their source into doubt we unravel their arguments unjustly. Unjustly, but very easily. Give it a try.

Appeal to Emotion

This is the superb method of using emotive language to manipulate those hearing the argument. Appealing to the emotions of the reader or listener by directing how you want them to feel. 

This has become fabulously enhanced in recent years with the use of imagery to support it. Call it propaganda, or marketing, if you will but some nice words and a pretty picture doesn’t make something true. It can convince people that it’s true though.


False Dichotomy

Giving them a choice of two options as if they were the only ones in the world. It’s the “Daddy or chips?” question tactically applied to your subject matter. I’m led to believe people rarely actually have to choose between losing a parent or never again having access to deep fried potato products.

The idea that they have to choose is easily accepted by most, students and adults alike. The obvious counter to this fallacy is to offer another option or expose the absurdity of the limited choices they’ve offered. You could, if you feel particularly feisty, challenge their authority to enforce such a choice.

Slippery Slope

An almost charicature escalation of the situation to make their point or argument sound like the beginning of the end. 

The process is simple, suggest the worst thing that can happen that still sounds within the realm of reason based on their idea. Then repeat that for each step of escalation. An example floating around the ether on Twitter is how forgetting your pen for lessons can cause your death.

No pen = no study = fail tests = no job = no money = no food = die. It’s absurd to assume forgetting your pen will guarantee your death; if I thought that was the case I’d probably let you borrow one. 

Straw Man

Set up an argument which has enough gaps that you can take it apart to strengthen your own argument. It’s the structure of many an essay. Argument, take apart argument, other argument, conclude.

The trick is to make your straw man (sometimes called a straw dummy) convincing enough that they buy in to it just before you take it apart. It’s a very dramatic and simple trick to make your point seem more valid by proving the weakness of an alternative. In reality it doesn’t mean your argument is good, just that you’ve found a bad one that it sounds a bit better than.

Final Thoughts

“There’s a war going on for your mind. If you are thinking, you are winning.” – Flobots

As borderline insane as it may sound I see using dirty tricks and deceit as a moral duty. Training them to keep their guard up; much like one of my old kickboxing instructors who would slap me around the head every time I dropped my guard, when they stop thinking throw in a sneaky trick. It might sound a little cruel but it prepares their minds for the real world where not everyone will be honest or playing fair. If you don’t believe me go watch some adverts or read the news.

If you want to keep the game fair, teach them these techniques to use against you; it makes it even more fun.

Keep thinking, keep winning.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

#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