Catch up on our Christmas Giveaway: Days 1-12

19 January, 2015

If you missed our Christmas giveaway,
here’s another chance for you to get our 12 Days of Christmas Gifts.


Level Up Explaining: Please click here to view the 4by4

Explaining is a key skill in the armoury of teachers.  Yet it is often hugely underrated.  The better you are at explaining, the clearer learners will be about the steps they need to take and/or the ingredients required for a high quality piece of work.

Questioning For Proof: Click here to view the 4by4

Many teachers like to have a variety of proof seeking questions in their questioning arsenal.  Used regularly, they can help teachers to avoid assuming that learning is taking place.

Resilience: Please click here to view the 4by4

Being able to cope with, and overcome, difficulty and challenge is one of the key elements in becoming a successful learner, not just in school but outside school too.  Some learners already have high resilience, others will need to have this developed.

Learner Clarity: Click here to view the 4by4

The more clarity learners have about what to do, how to do it, and what the final outcome should look like, then they are more able to get into ‘flow’.  Without clarity, learners will be de-motivated, instead they have to rely constantly on feedback from their teacher about how they are progressing.

Lesson Openers: Please click here to view the 4by4

Psychologists have coined the expression the ‘primacy effect’ for the way the human brain has an uncanny knack of having a higher level of recall of the first of a series of events than those in the middle.  If you want learners to remember the key messages from your lesson.  Make sure you use the ‘primacy effect’ to its full effect.  Equally a good lesson opening helps learners to easily link back to previous lessons.

Mindsets: Click here to view the 4by4

Learners with a fixed mindset wants to ‘look smart’ even if it means not learning a thing in the process. For them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat. So they
avoid the sorts of experiences necessary to grow and flourish in any endeavour. By contrast, learners with a growth mindset take necessary risks and regard mistakes as a chance to learn.

Playfulness: Please click here to view the 4by4

By playful we mean creative strategies which help learners explore and interact with their learning. Playfulness often stimulates fun, which is a powerful intrinsic motivator for many.  In these examples teachers are using playfulness to create a more open, positive learning environment where learning from mistakes and ‘having a go’ is encouraged.

Curiosity: Click here to view the 4by4

Curiosity can be aroused in many ways, such as stimulating questions, teases, predictions, wonder and even awe. It is particularly useful to use curiosity to at the beginning of a topic or project to get instant engagement.

Meta-Cognition: Please click here to view the 4by4

Meta-cognition entails an awareness of your own thinking.  The strategies in this 4by4 help train learners to become better thinkers, better able to cope with learning that is more complex.  Being able to master their own thinking enables a learner to use more agile ways of solving problems both in and out of the classroom.

Relevance: Click here to view the 4by4

Relevance is a fantastic motivational trigger.  It can make abstract learning appear relevant, important and necessary for learners.  If you are ever asked ‘Why are we doing this?’ by your class, you will know that making learning relevant is key to engagement.

Classroom Dialogue: Please click here to view the 4by4

Many teachers we work with, come to realise that they talk too much.  Some teachers know this before they go through the Outstanding Teaching Intervention.  On other occasions, video analysis of their own teaching helps them to see how the balance of classroom talk is far too skewed towards themselves.  We echo Professor John Hattie’s advice given in a conference speech to educators in Parramatta, Australia in 2011 “shut up and listen”.

Expectations: Click here to view the 4by4

The most effective teachers we have worked with have high expectations.  Often much higher than their colleagues down the corridor.  Not only that, they communicate these expectations clearly to their classes.  These are teachers for whom learners try much harder and perform at higher levels.

Those teachers who have high expectations but who fail to de-mystify them often find themselves frustrated that their classes fail to reach the level they want.  Our latest 4by4 provides four ways to help teachers build higher expectations.

Classroom Feedback: Please click here to view the 4by4

Through our training courses and publications such as Engaging Learners we have been contributing to the national conversation about what makes Outstanding Teaching and how we can get more of it in our schools. Many teachers have found our idea of the ‘BIG 4′ to be helpful when thinking about how to improve the quality of teaching/learning.

Rapport: Click here to view the 4by4

September sees the start of the school year.  It can be a disconcerting time for learners as well as teachers.  For learners, there are new teachers to get used to.  For us teachers, it can be a time when we are kept awake at night trying to remember how to teach and worrying about whether the class will listen to us!  As it turns out, these annual fears are groundless.

Yet it is a crucial time to establish productive norms and build rapport with learners.  Planning backwards from the class of your dreams.  A class that you have an excellent working relationship with.  A class who will work much harder for you because they see you as someone who can help them on their learning journey.

Learning Performances: Please click here to view the 4by4

A key part of backward planning lessons is to ensure that there are opportunities to gain feedback from learners about the level of understanding. Some use traffic lights, thumbs up or thumbs down or hands up if you understand. Much better to get students to demonstrate an understanding performance, as they are clearer, more reliable indicators that students have made progress.

Competency: Please click here to view the 4by4

Most student surveys suggest that what they most want from school is confidence. By looking to build a student’s competence you will inevitably build their confidence.

Pre-assessment: Click here to view the 4by4

Planning starts with assessing what would be outstanding progress for the range of students in the class.  The teacher can then plan backwards.  Identifying the series of learning experiences that will secure these outcomes.

Pre-assessment means finding out what students know already.  It can take as little as ten minutes at the end of a topic and provide vital information to plan for the next topic.  Information that will enable the level of challenge to be pitched appropriately.


The ideas within this 4by4 come from teachers who have gone through the Outstanding Teaching Intervention (OTI).


Outstanding Teaching: Teaching Backwards book by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns



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