Engendering a positive work ethic

hard work

The 15 Minute Forum tonight was led by Kate Bloomfield, our Director of English.  This year Kate is teaching two Y10 groups who, for a variety of reasons are challenging.  Their academic level was low at the beginning of Y10 as was their level of motivation and engagement with work.  Kate has been trialling a couple of strategies to change their habits and enable them to experience success – and so hopefully developing a growth mindset.

The students had become used to viewing English lessons as a lesson where they couldn’t write, so wouldn’t work and as a result, would often have to leave the lesson.  Kate wanted to break this cycle when she took them on – she wanted them to appreciate the value of hard work and effort.  It was about changing the culture in lessons.


In one lesson, Kate set up a task with the group and to her amazement, her work appeared to finally pay off!  Every student had their head down and was working hard and in silence.  Kate wanted to capture the moment and took a photo – shown above.  She then showed them the photo – and they loved it!  They enjoyed celebrating their own hard work and felt proud of themselves.

bloom2Kate thought she was on to something – and took some more photos.  Again, students really liked it – and felt proud.  She then thought about how this could be captured and used to further motivate students – through their own efforts.  So she decided to take a photo of each student and stick it on the front of their exercise books:


There was a very good reason for Kate doing this.  Rather than writing a grade on the front of their book that would probably be low and demotivating, she wanted to stick the photos on their book as a constant visual reminder – ‘this is how we work in English’.

There was a very important rule though – Kate would only take a photo when they were genuinely working hard.  No faking was allowed!

This strategy had a great effect on students.  If at any time students started to drift off, they could just be referred back to their photo – ‘Look, come on – this is what I expect’.  However, Kate is a realist and understands that this wasn’t snake oil – it wouldn’t last forever.  So she needed to do something else….the ‘Brilliant awards’.


The sheet above was laminated and put on each desk.  The awards focused on the things that Kate wanted students to focus on – asking good questions, thinking about and answering questions well, presenting their work neatly and writing clearly.  There was also an explanation for each award to clarify what was required – that Kate discussed with students in detail.  During the lesson, Kate then awarded different awards to different students – and explained why they had been awarded.

To develop this strategy further, Kate flags up on her powerpoint slides, where they should be working on the different awards – always in red text, so it’s easy for students to recognise.  Two examples are shown below:


bloom6Not only does this encourage students to aim high, but it also facilitates deconstruction and modelling.  Once a student has been awarded an award, there can be a discussion with the whole class about why they achieved the award.  What was it that made that piece of work so brilliant?  How can they learn from their peers?  How can it be made even better?

Kate finished by stressing that whilst these strategies have made a difference – they don’t always work.  And when this is the case and her high standards aren’t met, no awards are given out.  This isn’t a strategy to pander to students and accept low quality work, it’s a strategy to celebrate and share excellence – and to show students that irrespective of what they’ve achieved in the past, they can always do better.



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4 Responses to Engendering a positive work ethic

  1. pgthinking says:

    Very interesting. It works because it’s personalised in the same way that Dirt tasks Work. The kid thinks it’s relevant to them.

    Is this the key to everything with challenging kids / parents? From before they even arrive?

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Pingback: Assessment Commission, FLiC software and making growth mindset real…some recent reading | Assessment Without Levels - RBWM Professional Learning Community

  3. Pingback: That was 2015… | Class Teaching

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