EduBook Club – First Meeting


edubookbooksLast Friday saw the dawn of a new CPD approach at DHS – the EduBook Club – led by Andy Tharby.  All classroom based staff were bought a book, from the selection above.  They then met to discuss the book they had chosen – that’s when the magic happened!  Put teachers, teaching assistants and cover supervisors in a room together, with a book about teaching as a catalyst and ask them to talk about teaching.  The discussions taking place were fantastic, rich and varied.  Free from the shackles of a prescriptive approach to teaching (we’re tight but loose!) it was great to see the books prompting thinking, affirming existing good practice, challenging what we think is right and encouraging colleagues to try new approaches.

This blog is in two parts.  Firstly, there is a summary of each book group, from the group leader. Secondly, there are some reflections from individual staff – what’s been different, a week after the first meeting?

Group Summaries


Why Don’t Students Like School? – Daniel Willingham

Facilitated by Jane Squire

  • Home environment was a huge topic, most of the group are LSA’s with a much deeper relationship with individual students than most teachers could hope to achieve, and their input was consistent in stating that help at home with basic skills and knowledge was lacking in a huge number of students. (meritocracy). When there are gaps, we need to be aware and look to fill them.
  • We discussed writing things up while working to free more ‘working memory’ to figure out problems/concepts.
  • This idea of Willingham’s was discussed at length, I have cut and pasted it from today’s blog as it summarises our discussion perfectly.

Deep knowledge is also vital to memorising and thinking.  Willingham argues that a memory replete with facts learns better than one without, and reasons that it “makes no sense to try to teach critical thinking devoid of factual content.”

  • We discussed ways of thinking about, rather than ‘just’ learning about, making time to develop real understanding rather than relying solely on retention.
  • Revisiting topics and interleaving were discussed as valuable both for measuring retention and as a means of clarifying background knowledge before moving forward.
  • Students remember what they think about – so there needs to be challenge.


Make it Stick – Brown, Roediger & McDaniel

Facilitated by Carole Burden

  • We talked about the use of interleaving content and use of quizzes in lessons to improve recall – so keep coming back to topics.
  • We talked about the need to teach students effective revision techniques rather than re-reading notes as this does less to extend ‘forgetting time’.  Encourage students to quiz each other.
  • We discussed also how to interleave content effectively for lower ability students that have low confidence and low recall whilst still moving through content effectively.

bookVisible Learning & The Science of how we Learn – John Hattie & Gregory Yates

Facilitated by Kerray Rawlinson

  • Learning happens over a long period of time – not in single lessons.
  • Feedback needs to be specific and related to improving the task
  • Better relationships can result in more effective learning.  Take the time to build relationships.  How we respond to challenging behaviour e.g. publicly in front of peers, can be more damaging.
  • Take the time to think as a learner – what key ideas and concepts might they struggle with and why?  How should this inform my teaching?

bookThe Hidden Lives of Learners – Graham Nuthall

Facilitated by Andy Tharby

  • The importance of ‘cues’ to the retrieval of memories and how we, as teachers, can create better cues through our delivery.
  • The fact that the depth and breadth of knowledge in any class is huge. How do we plan for the fact that many students will already know more than we realise, and others will learn less? Nuthall claims that in most classes, students already know 50% of the lesson content already! We discussed avoiding assumptions, challenge and checking for prior learning.
  • The importance of good relationships as a foundation for learning, even though this does not necessarily lead to better learning.
  • The fact that there is no ‘one size fits all’ description of effective teaching. Teachers need to find their own niche. We discussed the ‘sincerity’ of the teacher as a quality to aim for and how ‘teacher personality’ is less important than you think.
  • The thinking and decision-making of teachers is paramount. How we respond and adapt when things do not go to plan is the mark of effective teaching.

Andy has also blogged about his meeting here

bookTeach Like a Champion – Doug Lemov

Facilitated by Kate Bloomfield

The group discussed twenty-one of Doug Lemov’s methods. The five they decided were most useful were:

  1. Right is right. The importance of accepting nothing but the correct response using the correct vocabulary.
  2. Name the Steps. The importance of breaking learning down into manageable steps and ‘planning backwards’ from the place we expect students to reach.
  3. Break it Down. Breaking down questions into smaller questions is all part of good questioning.
  4. At bats. The importance of returning to previous learning through questioning. Vital for mastery and interleaving.
  5. Format Matters. Students should be expected to use subject specific terminology and teachers must intervene to ensure this happens

The group were unsure about ‘the shortest path’ (i.e. that teachers should plan to get to the learning destination in the quickest way) as this lacks breath and may obstruct mastery.

bookAn Ethic of Excellence – Ron Berger

Facilitated by Claire Gray

  • Liked the idea of students re-drafting work, promoting striving for excellence, but when is it finished and lacking time to keep on re-drafting.
  • More suitable for practical subjects as portfolio based – but the principles can still be applied to more written based subjects e.g. encouraging critique and redrafting of writing.
  • Enjoyed the chapter when the students visited a school for hard of hearing as it promoted understanding and that excellence in behaviour is as important as excellence in work.
  • Hard to replicated on a large scale (author worked in a small primary school).  The new freedoms within the KS3 curriculum are an opportunity to do this.
  • The environment that students work in promotes pride – have lots of exemplar work on display.
  • Powerpoint portfolio of exemplar work is a great idea for all subjects.

bookThe Secret of Literacy: Making the Implicit Explicit – David Didau

Facilitated by Ben Crockett

  • All teachers agreed that literacy should not be considered as a bolt on to your usual teaching – it should be embedded in everything you do.
  • Teachers should not fear literacy – less focus on complex grammar skills, but more emphasis on promoting academic and subject specific language and structure to facilitate students in demonstrating knowledge.
  • Importance of teachers modelling language. As subject experts we should not “dumb down” our language, nor should we assume that our “word poor” students have the literacy skills necessary to demonstrate what they have learnt appropriately.
  • Teacher-talk when done correctly should model to students how to use academic language appropriately – if students can see, hear and speak scientifically then they will write scientifically.
  • First section of the book was highly theoretical and did not provide many practical tips, however there were a few that as a group we thought could be useful and easily implemented:
  1. Black Space – students are given a black board pen and “black out” parts of a text/ their answer or exam question that are irrelevant. This encourages answers to be concise and can direct students in redrafting work.
  2. Nominalisation – promoting a more academic tone to students work though this process will need careful modelling but will allow students to write in a more formal and academic manner. For example:
  • Student sentence: “The cliff was eroded at the base and a wave cut notch formed.”
  • Redraft with nominalisation: “Erosion at the base of the cliff, subsequently led to the formation of a wave cut notch.”

bookTeach Like a Champion – Doug Lemov

Facilitated by Emma Mason

We discussed techniques from the book and how we already use them / could use them in our classrooms. These consisted of:

  • No Opt Out: not allowing students to respond to questioning with “I don’t know”…scaffold the question or as a last resort, get someone else to answer the question then the original student to repeat the answer.
  • Cold Calling: Posing a question then pausing before directing it to a particular student so that all students have to think about it
  • Mapping: Discussion about classroom layout, seating plans and owning the room
  • Right is Right: Avoid saying “that’s excellent” when an answer is only half right. Ensuring the student and/or class has the opportunity to improve the answer before saying it is great when it was not.
  • No Apology: Discussion about what affect apologising for content of curriculum has on the students attitude. We discussed alternatives to apologising for content or difficulty.

bookPractice Perfect – Lemov, Woolway & Yezzi

Facilitated by Chris Runeckles

  • The importance of the ‘quality’ of practice – “practice makes permanent.”
  • The 80/20 principle – 20% of what we do in the classroom has 80% of the effect. We should aim to work out what this 20% is in our subject areas.
  • Using very specific learning objectives.
  • The importance of ironing out transition time in and between lessons.
  • Sharing ideas and checking practise between departments.
  • How ‘walking/talking’ mock exams are similar to Lemov’s notion of ‘scrimmage’.
  • Dot marking was  useful – find a mistake in their books, put a dot beside it, then they have to figure out what’s wrong with it and correct it.
  • taking photographs of excellent work and sharing it with the class is a great strategy – and discussing why it is great.

bookBounce – Matthew Syed

Facilitated by Jo Grimwood

  • Practice is vital for all learning.  We all agreed that repetition of tasks is essential and that in order to make things stick we need to give students the opportunity to repeat what they’re learnt.  This can be a real challenge with some very content based subjects, such as science, where there is so much to get through that there are fewer opportunities to learn.
  • We discussed the talent myth and the way we sometimes view students as more able, when in fact some students just need more time and opportunities to practise. It can be dangerous as a teacher to think that some students are more able; all students need to have the opportunity to develop their skills.
  • 10,000 hour rule. We discussed it being important to communicate to students that progression takes time. Also something staff should have more understanding of- they may not reach targets straight away.
  • Knowing what to practise is vital. This is especially important for revision and in the lead up to exams.


Individual Staff reflections – One Week On

 How has the book club changed your classroom practice and thinking?

I really enjoyed the book club on Friday and as I said it was great talking with the other Hums staff about their books to get different perspectives.

The main thing that I took away from our discussion was the variety of ways that ‘excellence’ is measured – particularly between countries. It made me think about what an ‘excellent’ teacher should look like and re-enforced the idea that what the pupils ‘learn’ is the key, not how they learn it.

The discussion also challenged my thinking about tests and how they are structured. This is something that I have changed in my teaching this week, as I have reflected on how I structure multiple choice quizzes/questions. The question is am I testing what the pupils should know or am I testing their ability to work out the answer from their prior knowledge, which may not be related to what I have actually taught them?

Martyn Simmonds, Geography, TheHidden Lives of Learners

Following the first eduBook club, I’m reading ‘An ethic of excellence’ I have  explored the concept of re-drawing similar to the ideals of Berger with my year 8 classes. Students are currently designing Cubist portraits looking at creating Picasso inspired self portraits utilising the artists style of joining portrait and profile. Initially students find drawing portraits difficult and when asked to join the two styles this adds to the pressure of their confidences as they want the drawing to look like them. We started with A5 drawings, discussed the outcomes and delved further into Picasso’s unique style. Students then redrafted using a basic copy technique to apply a more cubist (fractured) image. Students were set the first drawing as homework, the second or first redraft formed the starter of the next lesson. Following this we redrafted again only this time we enlarged the image and further amendments were added to simplify the image. Students were more pleased with this draft but some images still lacked a true cubist feel. To develop this I incorporated a basic block font using the word ‘Cubism’ which was added atop their portraits to fragment the image even further. Next week we will be painted their portraits.

Students first found the redrafting and development of a drawing difficult, however, as the lesson progressed it was evident their understanding of cubism was clearer further solidifying the learning objectives and securing the knowledge. I would definitely recommend this approach and intend to revise future projects where a similar redrafting can take place.

Ray Burns, Art, An Ethic of Excellence

The key thing I took away from the session was high expectations and challenge for all. This was especially true when listening to Lesley reflect on her teaching. In my Year 10 lessons the students drew detailed case study diagrams. This meant that all children had the detail required for high marks. These diagrams enable students to remember specific information. This week for the IRIS project observation, I adapted a lesson I taught the previous week on cloud cover. I gave my year 9 classes a GCSE style exam question “describe how clouds form” and we deconstructed it, together as a class before they attempted it. I also showed them a video clip of a practical that was aimed at GCSE to aid their explanations. The “year 9” example was kept on the board and the students then told me how to make it a better answer, for example by using geographical words such as precipitates rather than rains. This activity taught the students valuable exam skills such as the importance of sequencing ideas. Prior to the next lesson I marked their answers and the students responded to my feedback to improve their answers. Two of my PP students produced the best work I’ve seen from them. Students with full marks helped “stuck” students. Interestingly, it tended to be the two classes with lower MEL’s that attempted it without query and enjoyed the challenge (and were proud of themselves for giving it a go) whilst some students in my other class that had higher MEL’s were put off by the challenge aspect & said “I can’t do it”.

Hannah Townsend, Geography, Mindset

I have been making more of an effort to set high expectations in terms of questioning students and not accepting no for an answer when they are asked a question (no opt out technique) – I have been using this to go back to students and have them repeat the right answer or really breaking it down for them to show that they can reach the right answer when going step-by-step.  I have also been thinking more about what students are going to do as well as what I am going to do in my planning, I know this sounds obvious but just little things like considering in my instructions whether they are writing answers in English or in Spanish and just considering everything THEY are doing as well as myself. 

These have made me consider how learning objectives may not be achieved in one lesson and that we need flexibility within our Schemes of Work to allow for time to revisit concepts that have not been entirely grasped by students.  Over the last few weeks I have been constantly revisiting things that we have done previously (perhaps in a starter activity, etc.) and what we discussed has reinforced this.  It also made me consider the importance of exaggerating my excitement about something that I found boring and making sure that I convey this to the students rather than sympathising with them that something is perhaps a bit tedious but ‘we have to do it’. 

Danielle Walters, MFL, Teach Like a Champion

It was great to be involved in this.  We had fantastic discussions and it was good to hear from people I didn’t know so well.   I had previously done a two question survey with my pupils after reading the first section of the book and either changed practise or explained why I did certain things like reading aloud from textbooks to improve literacy and speaking aloud.  Since the meeting I have also been asking them what they (pupils) have questions on to plan the start of the next lesson rather than relying checking on their books to do this.  In relation to time as a global indicator of learning, I am covering their weak points and reiterating areas to increase understanding and recall.

Kerray Rawlinson, Science, Visible Learning

I showed Austin’s butterfly to my 11×7 class at the start of a revision lesson. These students constantly give up and see feedback as criticism. I wanted to let them know that even if they didn’t get something straight away they were to ask me and Miss Chester and remain positive  that they can get there.

I had the best lesson with them ever. All joining in- all left feeling positive about the content.

Steph Holt, Science, Bounce

I am thinking more about nominalisation and how it can help students focus their answers to exam questions as it depersonalises the language of responses and so reduces the risk of following a narrative.

Naomi Bridgeman, English, The Secret of Literacy

Following the discussion my year11 students have used the two techniques below to develop their answers to exam questions:

  1. Black Space – students are given a black board pen and “black out” parts of a text, their answer or exam question that are irrelevant. This encourages answers to be concise and can direct students in redrafting work.
  2. Nominalisation – promoting a more academic tone to students work though this process will need careful modelling but will allow students to write in a more formal and academic manner. For example:
  • Student sentence: “The cliff was eroded at the base and a wave cut notch formed.”
  • Redraft with nominalisation: “Erosion at the base of the cliff, subsequently led to the formation of a wave cut notch.”

In terms of challenging my way of thinking – it has made me think more about how I can get my “verbally great” students to be transfer their verbalised knowledge onto paper. I have subsequently been much harder on them when they give verbal answers, ensuring that when they do, they do so in academic language (using nominalisation) so that what they say is what they should write.

Ben Crockett, Geography, The Secret of Literacy

Inspired a blog

Inspired a thought about lodge hill

I feel drama is very much a place where we focus on growth mindset. We have changed our lower school schemes of work with the Bench mark of excellence as we always have done in year 10 by doing a “show first”. The hardest thing first.

It has reinforced many of my beliefs

I have thought about for next term to video the start of a project and then the end so students can see the journey and realise that with effort they did develop

Lesley Graney, Drama, Mindset

This week I definitely gave more thought to the way I used exam questions as part of my teaching ….. in terms of incorporation within the “taught” lesson itself and in terms of the way I expected it to be answered, marked and used to stimulate further individual study.

I think, on the whole, the book I chose reinforces the key components of lesson planning we are currently working on as a school. It really is confirming what we as a school are well on the way to making “the norm”

Angie White, Science, Make it Stick

I have said ‘I know this is hard but I have full confidence that you will be able to master this problem.’

Instead of before I used to say ‘ This topic is really  it’s A grade…..

Also I have moved a student who I tended to ignore near to the front of my class and it has had an impact on their interest and progress in class.

The discussion on Friday has embedded my thinking.

Julie House, Maths, Teach Like a Champion

Hello, I have been documenting exemplar work more closely, with high quality photographs and powerpoints to use in lessons.

Claire Gray, Art, An Ethic of Excellence

The discussions have embedded my belief that there should be allocated time for students to revisit and redraft work.

Becky Owen, Science, An Ethic of Excellence

Changed the layout in my classroom to fit Lemov’s principles – its working well as I can now circulate the room easily and get to every single pupil to support them. I also feel it has given me greater ownership of the room as I am out and about more and not stuck ‘on the plane’ at the front. I’ve also been much more mindful in my questioning this week – especially using ‘stretch it’ but also ‘right is right’ and ‘no opt out’. Small ‘low input’ but really feel they are making a difference to the learning!

Jack Tyler, History, Teach Like a Champion

I think I used No Opt Out a lot before anyway but this week I have been much more aware of it and not letting anyone get away with not answering the questions!

Emma Mason, Maths, Teach Like a Champion

The  book itself did make me think that so much of where our kids are at, at  school is down to their homelife, and I do think that I have tried to get to know them a little differently.

Karen Chester, TA, Why Don’t Students Like School?

One of the major themes that the first 8 chapters of the book attempts to discuss is that of empathy – recognising that a uncooperative student is not necessarily being lazy or unwilling to work (or, if they are, that there can be elegant ways to circumvent this). While the book isn’t entirely successful at suggesting methodologies, it does at least serve as a useful discussion point, and it was useful to be able to voice this in the session. I am already sympathetic of the knowledge gap between an ‘expert’ and a ‘teacher’ , and it was useful to have this emboldened by the point raised in the meeting.

Andy Allen, Cover Supervisor, Visible Learning

A section of the book referred to the ‘and repeat’ section of learning, the idea that to learn a concept it has to be regularly reviewed and brought back to the front of you r mind.

I have started each of the grammar sessions this week with  quick fire 1-5 quiz on the previous few weeks grammar.

This has seen several students groaning “ohh I know this” looking agonised as they recall their work and feeling triumphant when they get it.

Gillian Almond, Early Intervention Teacher, The Secret of Literacy

I have an increased awareness that one cannot assume prior knowledge that may have been expected from students in high school and have given an overview and some background explanation before embarking on a new topic or discussion, just to make sure that everyone is at the same starting point.

Jane Squire, SME teacher, Why Don’t Students Like School?

No apologies and no opt out was my focus especially with a low ability and quite disengaged group. The first lesson was a bit tough to be honest as there was a couple of ‘stand off’ moments  where students refused to answer as they didn’t know,  but even getting them to repeat a correct answer as given by another class member helped.  I genuinely felt like there was some progress made with a few of the stuck learners.

Also with regards to the no apologies, avoiding saying the task being  studied was hard or dry or boring helped to avoid reinforcing negative opinions regarding the theory elements.  Trying to take a more enthusiastic approach to the topic really did help.

John Fuller, PE, Teach Like a Champion

I continue to change the way I talk to the students “I can’t do this”…..”yet”.

Or “I need help” “show me what you’re doing first” etc

The session has just made me think a little more about how to challenge the students.

Chloe Gardner, ICT, An Ethic of Excellence

There were some practical points that I have now tried that were suggested in the book – don’t round up answers, push the students to get the answers correct rather than praising and correcting the answer myself.

The discussions were really useful as most of the points in the book most of us already do – quite reassuring to know this.

Amy Dove, Media Studies

I have thought carefully about Right is right and used this idea to push my students for a more accurate/precise response to questions in class.

Kelly Messik, Teach Like a Champion

The discussions reinforced the importance of layering and reviewing in so much as we may clearly remember the last lesson we had with a certain group as we have our planners and resources and we know our subjects, but students may have had so many different learning experiences and so much new information they need to take in between our lessons.

I will look for more ways of building this in in lessons as some students think they can only use certain vocabulary in relation the topic in which they first encountered the words.

Pam Graham, MFL, The Hidden Lives of Learners


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7 Responses to EduBook Club – First Meeting

  1. Reblogged this on #TeachGeog and commented:
    Educational book review

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