CPD Briefing: Literacy & Numeracy

CPD Briefing: Literacy/Numeracy

To be able to increase progress in the curriculum, it is essential that we as teachers are teaching Literacy and Numeracy within all subject areas.  The question is, how do we achieve this?

For most teachers, we include Key words and pick up on spelling and grammar for literacy and for numeracy we try to include the use of data and use statistical. 




literacy picture


There is nothing new about the focus on whole-school literacy. As a headteacher commented in The Times Educational Supplement:

If you want a sure way to provoke a collective groan in your staffroom, announce that you are intending to hold a training day devoted to whole school literacy. ‘We did that five years ago!’ someone will shout.

At its most specific and practical, the term applies to a set of skills that have long been accepted as fundamental to education. The Department for Education is clear and emphatic – the curriculum should offer opportunities for pupils to:

  • ‘engage in specific activities that develop speaking and listening skills as well as activities that integrate speaking and listening with reading and writing’
  • ‘develop speaking and listening skills through work that makes cross-curricular links with other subjects’
  •  ‘develop reading skills through work that makes cross-curricular links with other subjects’
  • ‘develop writing skills through work that makes cross-curricular links with other subjects’
  • ‘work in sustained and practical ways, with writers where possible, to learn about the art, craft and discipline of writing’
  • ‘redraft their own work in the light of feedback. This could include self-evaluation using success criteria, recording and reviewing performances, target-setting and formal and informal use of peer assessment. Redrafting should be purposeful, moving beyond proofreading for errors to the reshaping of whole texts or parts of texts.’  (Ofsted)


‘Literacy’, however, is more than the mechanics of reading, writing, speaking and listening. The National Curriculum demands that connections be made between each strand and across subjects, which calls for thought and understanding, for recall, selection and analysis of ideas and information, and for coherent, considered and convincing communication in speech and in writing. All pupils should be encouraged to:

  • ‘make extended, independent contributions that develop ideas in depth’
  • ‘make purposeful presentations that allow them to speak with authority on significant subjects’
  • ‘engage with texts that challenge preconceptions and develop understanding beyond the personal and immediate’
  • ‘experiment with language and explore different ways of discovering and shaping their own meanings’
  • ‘use writing as a means of reflecting on and exploring a range of views and perspectives on the world.’ (Ofsted)

For example using the writing instruction below:-

writing instructions


‘What’s in it for departments?

  • Literacy supports learning. Pupils need vocabulary, expression and organisational control to cope with the cognitive demands of all subjects.
  • Writing helps us to sustain and order thought.
  • Better literacy leads to improved self-esteem, motivation and behaviour. It allows pupils to learn independently. It is empowering.
  • Better literacy raises pupils’ attainment in all subjects.’

book pictureFurther reading:-







numeracy picture

While most people have a reasonable understanding of what it means to be literate, one of the issues with numeracy is the many different definitions; it means different things to different people.

For some it is synonymous with mathematics, for others it is a subset of mathematics, while others will argue that numeracy lies only partly in mathematics and partly in many other disciplines. Some see numeracy skills simply as those needed to do a specific job (e.g. an engineer or a bricklayer, or for calculating invoices).

Many see numeracy as being essential for the ability to be a reflective learner (e.g. making sense of charts and information reported in the media).

Numeracy is a fundamental life skill that is needed in many ways – personal, leisure, social and work – in order for people to lead a confident and fulfilling life in school and beyond.


To raise standards in schools, numeracy needs to be seen as a practical capability that enables learners to apply their skills and knowledge to solve problems in a whole range of contexts across school and in real life.

Key messages

  • Numeracy is a basic life skill without which individuals will struggle in and beyond school
  • As a life skill, the description of numeracy goes beyond mere computation – it includes essential abilities such as solving problems, understanding and explaining the solutions, making decisions based on logical thinking and reasoning, and interpreting data, charts and diagrams
the essential in literacy


Belief or a ‘Growth Mind-Set’: US professor of psychology Carol Dweck states that it is our mind-set, not abilities or talent, which lead to success (Dweck, 2008).

In a fixed mind-set, people believe that their abilities can’t change. In a growth mind-set, people believe that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. They seek to learn from mistakes and embrace challenges. They have a can-do attitude.

To achieve growth, people must therefore believe that their maths abilities are not fixed, and feel confident that anyone can develop mathematical skill.

For teachers outside the mathematics department, how are we ensuring that we are using numeracy within our curriculum?

book picture Further reading:-



Dweck, Carol. 2008. “Mindset and Math/Science Achievement ". Teaching & Leadership: Managing for Effective Teachers and Leaders.

Tools: Lollipop Sticks – Random Questions

Lollipop Sticks

What are they?

Lollipop sticks are simple: small cards, with every student’s name written upon them, used to nominate students.

Some commentators are not keen!




Ways to use them


This can be used as process or as individual techniques..

Students prepare an answer to an open question. 

Lots of ways to do this.

write ideas on mini-whiteboards

talk to partners

jot down notes

The teacher can use this time to circulate and look at what students are writing offering help as needed


Questions, directed using lollipop sticks. 

Pose a question, pause, and choose a student at random. It is useful to allow a pause and to be ready to use no-opt out

(When a student says they can’t answer a question bounce the question to another child then return to the child and ask them to repeat the correct answer.)


Follow-up questions. 

This is the key to differentiation and challenge.  

  • elaboration (But what would the implications have been?)
  • evidence (Can you give me an example ..)
  • reformulation (1) (Try again, giving the point first, then the supporting evidence).
  • reformulation (2) (That evidence doesn’t prove the case – what else would?)
  • responses to contradictory information (Why might …?)
  • links (Which other …?  What did he do?)


Questions bounced to other students. 

Again, using lollipop sticks to nominate:

  • Do you agree
  • Why might someone disagree?
  • How could you improve that answer?



  • They are democratising…  every student in the class has an equal part to play.
  • They help me balance access and challenge…  It forces the teacher to ask a question to which every student can respond while inviting high level responses
  • They discourage passengers… 
  • They raise expectation I force myself to expect everyone to be able to answer constructively, thoughtfully and with evidence at any time.  


“Stop picking on people”

Removing choice over participation radically changes the classroom contract.  It’s universally unpopular: students who consider themselves weak don’t want this publicised; those who consider themselves smart are frustrated they can no longer dominate discussions and that time is being wasted on students who don’t know the answers.

Without lollipop sticks (or something similar), only a few students will consistently participate.  Of the others, some will be listening; some will have great ideas but keep quiet, not realising; some will tune out.  Everyone can offer something to discussions, but a little force is needed to demonstrate this.  Ensuring all students are listening and responding sends a critical message that everyone should be participating in learning.


What about differentiation?

Many would argue that lollipop sticks need not be used to enforce participation.  David Didau has written: “I’m not a fan of randomisers; the power to select who answers our questions should be treasured.”

All questions should be sufficiently clear and challenging that everyone benefits.  I can then differentiate in follow-up questions, as I’ve described above.

Selecting students for our ‘targeted’ questions can, I believe, embed low expectations: I’ll ask X that, because he’ll get it right; I’ll save the hard question for Y.  ‘Weak’ students never cease to surprise me with brilliant answers to hard questions, because they get the chance to answer.  Equally, asking ‘simpler’ questions to ‘smarter’ students offers the chance to hear good answers modelled or, on occasion, highlights surprising gaps in their knowledge.

But what if some students don’t understand the question?

Why would a teacher ask a question they do not expect students to understand?

It takes time to make them.

About half an hour at the beginning of the year.



In my view they are great tool to support learning 


This was adapted/plagiarised from a hand out at a training I attended.

CPD Briefing: SEN


SEN Code of Practice makes it clear that schools are required to use their best endeavours to make sure that a child or young person with SEN gets the support they need. This means doing everything they can to meet individuals’ additional needs, starting with securing high-quality, differentiated and personalised teaching at whole-school level: high-quality teaching is the first step in responding to pupils who have SEN and is the starting point for the graduated approach (four-part cycle of SEN support):


A key message within the Code is that every teacher is responsible and accountable for the  progress and development of all the pupils in their class, including those with additional needs. Indeed, the cycle of SEN support is a model for all teachers to ensure that everyone understands their role in meeting this expectation, for example:

◆ delivering high-quality teaching in every lesson, including assessment, tracking and monitoring of pupils’ progress

◆ identifying potential SEN by carrying out a clear analysis of pupils’ needs

◆ planning and implementing additional support and intervention

◆ reviewing the effectiveness of additional support and intervention

◆ deploying teaching assistants and other adults to support pupils’ learning

◆ contributing to annual reviews for pupils with education, health and care plans through a person-centred approach

◆ engaging in co-production with parents and pupils to identify SEN, plan and review progress

◆ working with a range of other professionals to support the needs of pupils in the most effective way.

However, for some staff this may be a challenge. Ofsted’s review of special educational needs and disabilities in 2010 found there were inconsistencies in the identification of the needs of children and young people with SEN in schools and that additional provision for these pupils was often not of good quality. As a result, too many children and young people with SEN were not achieving good outcomes. The report recommended improving teaching and pastoral support early on so that additional provision is not needed later, and ensuring that schools do not identify pupils as having special educational needs when they simply need better teaching.

The SEND Code of Practice states that all schools should be:

◆ ensuring that decisions are informed by the insights of parents and of children and young people themselves

◆ using assessment effectively and efficiently to identify a child or young person’s potential special educational needs

◆ having high expectations and ambitions for children and young people with SEN

◆ setting stretching targets and tracking pupils’ progress towards these goals

◆ providing an increasingly differentiated and personalised approach to pupils’ learning

◆ reviewing the additional or different provision that is made for these pupils

◆ promoting positive outcomes in the wider areas of personal and social development

◆ ensuring the approaches used are based on the best possible evidence and are having an impact on progress.

Children and young people with the most complex needs require support from staff with the highest level of skills, knowledge and confidence. However, in practice, this is not always the case. Research from the Institute of Education shows that, too often, pupils with SEN spend a disproportionate amount of time being taught by support staff rather than by a qualified teacher. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Teaching and Learning Toolkit summary suggests that in many schools where ability setting is used, the most effective teacher rarely works with the ‘lower set’. Arguably, there are valid reasons for this type of practice, often linked to external accountability. Leaders need to be regularly reviewing how resources can be used to build the quality of provision.


Ofsted’s handbook judgement on the quality of provision for pupils with SEN takes into consideration the impact of additional provision for pupils receiving SEN support, along with how effectively high quality teaching in the classroom meets the needs of all pupils, including those with SEN. Ofsted expects that the school’s practice consistently reflects the highest expectations of staff and the highest aspirations for pupils, including the most able, disabled pupils and those with SEN. The 'outstanding' grade descriptors include the statements:

The progress across the curriculum of disadvantaged pupils and pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities currently on roll matches or is improving towards that of other pupils with the same starting points and progress is above average across nearly all subject areas.

Strategies for supporting student with SEN

The following link is to a booklet of information to provide support for staff in identifying classroom-based strategies for SEN, which are useful in meeting pupils’ needs within their lessons. It represents a range of strategies which teachers will find helpful in a range of contexts. Staff can consider the strategies and use those which are most relevant to the subject content, their own teaching style and the pupil’s immediate needs:



The following link is an interesting piece of research- a study into SEN:

Strategies Booklet










Further Reading

Bringing out the Best

Boosting Attainment

Special Teaching for Special Children?


CPD Briefing: Questioning


As teachers we inevitably ask questions all the time to gain what knowledge our students have and what they have learnt from us.  This would include questions such as:-



Why Ask  Questions?

Teachers ask questions for a variety of purposes, including:

  • To actively involve students in the lesson
  • To increase motivation or interest
  • To evaluate students’ preparation
  • To check on completion of work
  • To develop critical thinking skills
  • To review previous lessons
  • To assess achievement or mastery of goals and objectives
  • To stimulate independent learning


In general, research shows that instruction involving questioning is more effective than instruction without questioning.


One important finding is that questions that focus student attention on important elements of a lesson result in better comprehension than those that focus on unusual or interesting elements. Questions should also be structured so that most elicit correct responses.

Throughout our teacher training days, we have traditionally classified questioning according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchy of increasingly complex intellectual skills.


However, over a period of time this has been adapted in various ways, such as ‘Thinking Hats’, but the basic concept still remains the same.


Types of Questions

There are many types of questions but the main ones are normally focused around 6 areas:-

  • Knowledge – so students can recall data or information
  • Comprehension – students can understand meaning
  • Application – students can use a concept in a new situation
  • Analysis – students can separate concepts into parts; distinguish between facts and inferences
  • Synthesis – students can combine parts to form new meaning
  • Evaluation – students can then make judgments about the value of ideas or products


Some researchers have simplified classification of questions into lower and higher cognitive questions. Lower cognitive questions (fact, closed, direct, recall, and knowledge questions) involve the recall of information. Higher cognitive questions (open-ended, interpretive, evaluative, inquiry, inferential, and synthesis questions) involve the mental manipulation of information to produce or support an answer.

Question: Which type of questioning do you normally lean towards within your own classroom practice?


How many questions and when?

  • How many questions should a teacher ask?
  • At what point during the lesson?
  • Who do you normally direct your questions to?

Frequent questioning has been shown to be positively related to learning facts, but simply asking a greater number of questions does not facilitate the learning of more complex material. Just as with higher cognitive questions, it may be necessary to include explicit instruction to promote student learning of complicated concepts.

Teachers often pose questions prior to reading. Research shows that while this strategy is effective for older students, those with high ability, and those interested in the subject matter, it is not as effective for younger students and poor readers, who tend to focus only on the material that will help them answer the questions.

The most commonly used questioning methods are the least effective.

Take for example the “volunteers” approach: you ask a question; hands go up; you choose someone to answer; they answer; you comment on that answer.


Question: What is wrong with this?

  • Many students keep their hands down, and may not even listen to your questions.
  • You only learn whatone student thinks, not how all the rest would have answered.
  • Students don’t discuss their answers and correct each others’ misconceptions.
  • The best students answer quickly, so there is little time for the others to think out their own answers.


You can of course choose a series of students to answer without using ‘hands up’, this is the ‘nominees’ approach. But:

  • This can be scary for many students.
  • A student who has just answered will guess that it will be ages before you ask them again. So they may stop listening.
  • You still don’t know what the majority of students think.

Compare these very common approaches with the much more effective “Assertive Questioning” approach (see redirecting section).



Wait-time is another crucial factor in questioning techniques. Wait-time can be defined as the amount of time a teacher allows to elapse after he or she has posed a question. (A less frequently used and researched definition is the amount of time that a teacher allows to elapse before responding after a student stops speaking.) While traditional wisdom advocates a brisk pace of instruction to maintain interest and cover more material, research shows that slowing slightly to include more wait-time promotes achievement.

In the classrooms studied, the average wait-time after a question was posed was one second or less. Students perceived as slow or poor learners were afforded less wait-time than students viewed as more capable. This amount of wait-time is not sufficient for students, particularly for those that experience difficulty.

Studies show that for lower cognitive questions, a wait-time of three seconds is most effective in terms of achievement. Shorter or longer times were less positively correlated with student success.

For higher cognitive questions, no wait-time threshold was observed. Researchers noted that students seemed to become more engaged and successful the longer the teacher waited (within reason, of course).

Increased wait-time is related to a number of student outcomes, including improved achievement and retention, greater numbers of higher cognitive responses, longer responses, decreases in interruptions, and increased student-student interactions. These outcomes are quite similar to those observed with an increased frequency of higher cognitive questions. In fact, researchers believe that a causal relationship may exist between the two: higher cognitive questions require more wait-time, and more wait-time allows for the implementation of higher cognitive discussions.

Redirecting, Exploring and Responding

A teacher’s response to students’ answers is just as important as the question asked. A response may redirect students when an incorrect answer is given or students misinterpret the question. Teachers may probe for further explanation when a partial answer is given.

You get the best representative feedback on understanding if you ask questions like:

‘Why did your group think that?’

‘Did any other groups get that answer?’…’Why?’

‘Has anyone got a different answer?’ ….’Why?

Acknowledging correct responses is necessary and effective especially to students that respond well to praise.

Bouncing questions from one students to another is also an effective strategy in building upon the main question but also ensuring that students understand the question in the first place.

Assertive Questioning

With Assertive Questioning:

  • All students are thinking – “the teacher might choose me”.
  • All students are talking and checking each others’ thinking – they need to agree an answer with its reasoning. Group members will be cross if one of their number misrepresents their group’s answer to the class. So peer-pressure increases participation.
  • You get detailed and representative feedback on all the class’s thinking, and can eventually correct misconceptions before they take root.
  • There is lots of thinking time.
  • Students are usually very comfortable to give answers, as they are answering for their group not as an individual.


Thought provoking questions – Buzz Group

Buzz groups work on a thought provoking question. The teacher asks individuals to give their group’s answer.  These individuals are nominated by the teacher.  The teacher gets a number of answers saying just ‘thank you’ after each, and perhaps ‘why did your group think that?’. The correct answer is not given away.  The teacher then encourages the class to discuss these various answers, and to agree, and justify a ‘class answer’.  Minority views are allowed, but the aim is consensus. Only when the class has agreed its answer, does the teacher ‘give away’ the right answer. The teacher reviews the class’s thinking.


How can teachers make use of these findings? Teachers often have little training in questioning techniques, so being familiar with the research is a good place to start. Improving in this area requires a reflective and metacognitive approach. For example, teachers may choose to:

  • Plan and write out the questions to be used in a lesson. How many are lower cognitive questions? Higher cognitive questions? Is the percentage appropriate for the age and ability level of your students?
  • Anticipate possible student responses, especially partially correct or incorrect ones. How will you probe for further information or redirect?
  • Ask a colleague to observe a lesson, paying particular attention to the types of questions and student responses. Meet to discuss the observations and plan for improvement.
  • Videotape yourself teaching a lesson. When you watch, record your wait-time for each question. Also note if you provide longer wait-times to certain students. Or examine your feedback. Are you specific and focused on the students’ responses?
  • Seek out resources and professional development that can help you improve your questioning techniques. If possible, start a study group with colleagues.

Further Resources

Geoff Petty Questioning.

Which questioning strategy?


Geoff Petty

Prof John Hattie’s







CPD Briefing: Classroom Culture



A classroom will always have a culture; the question is who sets it? Research shows that the culture of the classroom has a significant impact on how well students learn, students ability to participate and students wellbeing. Indeed Gary Phillips states that learning can only happen in a positive culture.

“School culture is the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school,” says Dr. Kent D. Peterson

There is a great deal written about approaches to the classroom culture but I think it is helpful to think of two key areas:

  • Physical Environment
  • Emotional Environment

Physical Environment

  • General ambiance
    • Messy/Tidy?
    • Clean?
  • Desk Arrangement/Student placements
    • Grouped – places priority on collaboration
    • Straight lines – places priority on independent work
    • Where do you place students who tend to distract?
  • Classroom Decoration
    • Students like to see their own work and class displays
    • Class made posters help promote belonging

Emotional Environment

It is the teachers responsibility to value each and every one of the students in their class, so that each student feels special and important: Groundwater – Smith)

  • Meeting Special Needs
    • ADHD – Students need extra motivation so they can maintain attention – avoid boring and repetitive tasks
    • Aspergers – Needs consistency and safety
  • Students need to know and like you to learn effectively
    • Who are you?
    • What do you stand for?
    • What will you ask them to do?
    • What will you not ask them to do?
    • What you will do for them?
    • What you will not do for them? (Glasser, 1993, 32)
  • Strategies
    • Greet students by name
    • Make eye contact
    • Negotiate rules and routine
    • Acknowledge positive behaviours
    • Use positive language
    • Minmise embarrassment
    • Use humour

Prompt Questions

What does your classroom say about your:
Attitude to the students?
Attitude to learning?

What do you to create a positive emotional environment?


Further Reading





32 Ideas




CPD Briefing: Growth Mindsets

It is fascinating that often those who start with talent (but have a fixed mindset) will plateau whilst others go past them. My daughter who had great early success as an artist has struggled with this and has largely refused to take on new techniques or materials as she is less successful with these and therefore feels like a failure.


I find it terrifying the influence of my praise on this situation and wonder to what extent I have caused this problem.

Very gifted people, they win and they win, and they are told that they win because they are a winner. That seems like a positive thing to tell children, but ultimately, what that means is when they lose, it must make them a loser.
Joshua Waitzkin

Some thoughts instead:


  • Notice students’ good efforts and strategies and praise them.
  • Be specific about the praised behaviors and reinforce this behavior with your feedback.
  • Use praise to link the outcomes of an assignment to students’ efforts.
  • Talk explicitly and in detail about the strategies a student has used. Comment on which strategies were helpful, and which were not.
  • Ask a student to explain his or her work to you.
  • Don’t offer praise for trivial accomplishments or weak efforts.
  • Don’t let a student feel ashamed of learning difficulties. Instead, treat each challenge as an opportunity for learning.
  • Don’t ever say, “You are so smart.” in response to good work. Instead, praise the work a student has done, (e.g., “Your argument is very clear;” or “Your homework is very accurate.”)

CPD Briefing: Stretch and Challenge


We all know that we need to be stretching students whatever their starting points, we know that we have to challenge every child in a class. This however has to be achieved without increasing work load or work sheets.



Pygmalion in the Classroom (Pygmalion in the Classroom Rosenthal, R.; Jacobson, L. (1968)


I have spoken about this before – the bottom line of the research was that teachers expectations were the key factor in students performance.

The researchers randomly allocated students to a group using a fake test they then labelled these children as high ability’ bloomers’ . All of the students received the same teaching and yet the bloomers made significantly more progress.

The research looked into possible reasons why but came to the conclusion that it was the interactions between the teacher and pupils.

The teacher believed they had potential —> The pupil believed the had potential —> The pupil made progress…

Recent work by Carol Dweck on Growth Mindsets supports such conclusions with an emphasis on providing high challenge and positive, specific feedback.

In June 2013 research by Ofsted The Most Able Students painted a fairly damming picture of current practice. Some of their recommendations are below.

  • develop a culture and ethos so that the needs of the most able students are championed by school leaders
  • help the most able students to flourish and leave school with the best qualifications by providing first-rate opportunities to develop the skills, confidence and attitudes needed to succeed at the best universities
  • improve the transfer between primary and secondary schools so that all Year 7 teachers know which students achieved highly, know what aspects of the curriculum the most able students have studied in Year 6, and use this information to plan and teach lessons that build on prior knowledge and skills
  • ensure that work continues to be challenging and demanding throughout Key Stage 3 so that the most able students make rapid progress
  • evaluate the quality of homework set for the most able students to ensure that it is suitably challenging
  • give the parents and carers of the most able students better and more frequent information about what their children should achieve and raise their expectations

Prompts for Questions

  • Do all students on our classes make good or better progress?
  • Do we meet the needs of every student?
  • How do we cater for high ability EAL students?
  • How do low expectations affect progress? (the Golem affect)

Further Reading

Golem and Pygmalion

Golem affect

Growth Mindsets Video




Stretch and Challenge without Handouts