And now the next stage!

Today was an excellent opportunity for all the participants of Shirley Clarke’s Action Research Project to celebrate what they have learned and achieved with the children over the past year.  The open sharing of findings amongst schools has been a unifying and humbling experience and has been a great source of inspiration.

We were proud to deliver our results to our guests today in such a positive and growth-mindset environment. And now we are all so excited to continue to spread the word!

Alison, Shirley, Clare and Nick
Alison, Shirley, Clare and Nick

Co-constructed Success Criteria


Shirley Clarke says that: “Success criteria are internalised and used by pupils if they have had a stake in their generation“.

success criteria picture

Strategies we’ve used:

We have both tried using a number of strategies for co-constructing the open and closed success criteria (SC) for Maths and English (& other subjects).

Having compared our notes, we have found we have approached their creation in very similar ways, with the differentiation across the two cohorts being from our approach in facilitating and guiding the pupils talk.

SC maths

In Y3/4 Maths:

The model we use which has developed over the year, is to get pupils to spend time working on skill fluency and then practice applying the skill in reasoning and problem solving.  Following this period of embedding and investigation, the pupils, with the help of their Talk Partners (TP), discuss the SC they feel are important.  This is then shared amongst the class and discussed.  This is an invaluable Formative Assessment tool, as at this point, any misconceptions are able to be analysed and skill fluency revisited.  A ‘master’ SC list is agreed by the children (guided by the teacher) and typed on the IWB so that the pupils can see their ideas are used and valued.  This is sometimes printed off to put into their books, and sometimes the class one is used as a starting point for the children to edit and improve using their own words and ideas which they can write into their books. This is usually done towards the end of the unit, when they have all become familiar and confident with the skill being taught.

Sometimes, they have written the SC down on paper when discussing with TP at an earlier point in the unit, and a copy has been kept to refer back to later in the unit (or when the topic is revisited later in the year).  At this point, the pupils are able to add to the SC they originally created, in another colour, as a clear indication of the progress in their understanding.

In Y5/6 Maths:

Having spent time teaching and applying the skills needed for a unit of work, the Y5/6 class are given a blank slip of paper where they create their SC list during working through the unit, using their TP to verbalise their thinking and reasoning, and changing and updating the slip as they go.  They approach it as if they were writing to teach it themselves.  At the end of the work we share our SC with the class – the pupils adding on any criteria they feel they missed off, and I as the teacher type up a ‘master’ copy on the IWB, to save for when the topic is revisited, and for revision.  The pupils glue their own copy into their books, at the end of their unit.

In both teaching cohorts, the maths SC are generally closed criteria as they refer to the process of the skill.  Obviously, when using the skill in a problem solving activity, it is the problem solving that needs the SC. It is at this point that the criteria becomes much more open, as the children are able to ‘choose from’ a range of techniques/approaches that they have at their disposal.

SC English

In Y3/4 and Y5/6 English:

We have both taken a very similar approach here.  When writing a particular section of the story/non-fiction piece, we use our Toolkit created earlier in ‘Imitation’ week when studying the class text.  Using our TP, we remind ourselves of what we need to/want to include in the Shared Writing that day.  A continual dialogue is being had during this time and at the end of the Shared Writing, we create a ‘master’ list on the IWB together.  It is at this point that we split the SC into Open and Closed criteria.  For figurative language techniques, the pupils usually decide that these are open criteria and come under the optional “Choose From…” column.  For the key ingredients that make the writing that particular genre, or that particular section of a story, the pupils decide these need to go in the closed criteria, (“Remember to include…”) column.  This is done as a TP, then whole class, discussion.  It doesn’t take very long at this point in the lesson as it follows the continual dialogue about it during the shared writing.

This SC table is visible on the IWB throughout the lesson, but also printed off, copied and handed out to the children so that they have their own copy to stick in their books, and mark off as a kind of ‘checklist’ to support their writing.

SC Outcomes



Year 3/4

Realistically, the process has not been as seamless as the above description would suggest. The last go at co-constructed success criteria was more like the above but the first couple of attempts required much hand holding and teacher input to end up with a coherent set of skills. The children have embraced it as the year has gone on and the process is much swifter now than our early bumbling attempts.

It is an extremely useful formative assessment tool. You can see exactly what the children have understood and used.

Year 5/6

The older children were able to assimilate the idea of what I wanted them to contribute pretty much immediately.  SC coconstructedIn English, they could see from the outset that I was recording what had already been discussed by them in class and they found the print out of the SC table to put in their book extremely powerful as a tool in itself.  In maths, they have always been trained to ‘teach it’ in their explanations and to justify and clarify all the way through any explanations.  Writing up the co-constructed SC at the end of the unit and sharing our findings as a class seemed a very natural process to them.

I have found it a very powerful contribution to my Formative Assessment of the learning. The ownership they feel over it, and the talk that it generates and requires, is a very powerful thing in embedding the learning.


Finn for Curiosity – Learning Power #4

We have unveiled Learning Power #4 –Finn for curiosity, the 4th meta-cognitive power in our series of 8.  Great excitement rose before the big reveal – who was the character this time?  As before, we began by sharing the ‘Learning Story’ together, and with their Talk Partners, the pupils identified skills from the story that would be useful in helping them to work with others and be co-operative.

Finn for Curiosity
Finn for Curiosity

Initially, the pupils were surprised by this Learning Power, but after a quick discussion, they decided that without this power, how would they learn anything?

Once again, we identified the skills we thought necessary to help our curiosity develop and improve, as a tool for our learning.

Learning Powers - C3PO 1_Page_11


Key Skills for Curiosity
Key Skills for Curiosity


The repeated thread of comment from the children on this learning power was that it it felt like it was talking about our maths class.  And how true; I’m always asking these questions and getting them to look for patterns and connections in our visual and numerical mathematics.  Obviously, it is also applicable across the curriculum, but maths does feel like its natural home to our class.  Ms McCarron says TOTES agree!

C3PO for Co-operation – Learning Power #3

Ms McCarron described the start of this journey with our Learning Powers in her blog post, “Yoda for Concentration – Learning power 1 unleashed we have,” on 28 Feb 2016.

Last week I unveiled Learning Power #3 – C3PO for Co-operation, the 3rd meta-cognitive power in our series of 8, to my Y5/6 class.  As before, we began by enthusiastically sharing the ‘Learning Story’ together, and with their Talk Partners, the pupils identified skills from the story that would be useful in helping them to work with others and be co-operative.  They know the format of the unveiling of the Learning Powers by now and are already trying to guess which power, and which character, may be next!

C3PO for Co-operation
C3PO for Co-operation

We made a class list of those skills identified and entered into a lively discussion about what makes co-operation important, why it is important, when it might be important and conversely, what might impede co-operation.  Having reflected on what might hinder co-operation, I felt that they had thought deeper about how much they indeed value this Learning Power.

Key Skills for Co-operation
Key Skills for Co-operation


We referred back to these skills over the next few days (and of course the previous Learning Powers), particularly when working on our DT projects and in our maths investigations.  These skills of course apply across the curriculum in every lesson where pupils are together, so this Learning Power is a particularly important meta-cognitive skill.

The pupils said that this is the most important power so far for the success of their Talk Partner scheme…..commenting on how the key skills they identified were very similar to the success criteria they generated for their Talk Partners rules. (See previous blog post “Time to Talk pt 2“) 

Finally, we all decided that C3PO’s joke was OK, but he still needs some more practice……and perhaps some co-operation with inventing better ones!

Next Step

The fourth ‘Learning Power’ will be unveiled to the pupils after Easter – “Be Curious“.  Who will the character be??

Involving Pupils in the Planning


Shirley Clarke states, “Formative Assessment is essentially about pupils being actively involved in their learning, so their input into it needs to start before lessons begin, at the planning stage…..What is clear is that structured involvement increases their motivation and leads to higher achievement.

What we did – co-constructing the planning of our Rainforest Topic

 1.  Finding out what they already knew:

I gave the Y5/6 pupils pictures of the Rainforest (our new topic), posted a list of vocabulary on the IWB,  and then invited discussion on what they already knew and what they wanted to find out.  Using their Talk Partners, followed by whole-class feedback, I was given a feel for the knowledge and skills I needed to cover, misconceptions I needed to address, and the appropriate pitch I needed to take during the subsequent teaching.

2.  Finding out what they wanted to learn and ideas on how to achieve it:

In order to focus their excitement and imagination into a term’s worth of work (rather than a year’s worth!) I presented the children with the key skills that we needed to cover on a large flip-chart.  They were then invited to write their focused questions on post-it notes, which we matched up to the skills that we needed to cover.

Co-constructed topic planning
Co-constructed topic planning

From there, we discussed activities that we could do which would help answer our questions.  Any question that did not fit into our ‘skills-based’ plan, was posted onto our Wonder Wall (“I wonder….”).

Our Wonderwall
Our Wonder Wall

This wall is for any question, at any time during the topic, which children want to find out about.  During the topic, any pupil can research and post answers to those “additional” questions.


3.  Immersion in the subject:

We immersed the children in the subject via a trip to ‘The Living Rainforest’ (Oxfordshire).  Whilst we were unable to carry out the trip at the start of the unit (fully booked), the trip occurred half-way through and inspired them enormously, helping with their research for extended writing tasks.

What was the impact?

Without doubt, there was a huge increase in independence and ownership of the topic.  We were learning about what they wanted to learn about, and they felt that their suggested activities were valued.  Children felt that they ‘controlled’ the topic’s direction, giving them more motivation and enjoyment.  The visibility of the planning to all pupils, all of the time, helped them understand where they were along the journey of the topic, and helped prompt further questions in advance of the lesson.  In summary, they were fully involved as active learners.




Time To Talk! (pt 2)

Part 2 -Achieving Effective Talk – maximising the learning opportunities with the Talk Partner strategy.

Part 1 of the ‘Time To Talk!‘ post described how and why we have implemented the Talk Partner strategy in our class.  The natural follow on from this was a discussion with the pupils about what makes a good talk partner.

Blank bingo card given to the children.
Blank bingo card given to the children.

What we did:

We co-constructed the success criteria for Talk Partners in class, using the blank bingo card method (as described in the post I wish these children had been my Maths teacher!)


The children and I thought about what does not make a good talk partner and the subsequent discussion drew out ingredients for being a good talk partner.  The pupils filled their cards in with their thoughts about what being a good Talk Partner involved……. talk partners success criteria creation & poster_Page_2


……and we played Bingo against a collation I made of our ideas.



I created a class Success Criteria poster for us to have up on the wall as a reminder for us to refer to throughout all our lessons.Success Criteria Posters

Our class poster which we refer to.
Our class poster which we refer to.



The final step in the process, to really embed the Effective Talk criteria, has been to have short self- and peer evaluation sessions before changing Talk Partners each week.

Children write a positive comment and give to their Talk Partner, before changing.
Children write a positive comment and give to            their Talk Partner, before changing.

The children have really enjoyed reflecting on their part in the partnership and writing a positive comment on a “Thank You” slip, which they then give to their partner, saying why they enjoyed learning with them.  The children love receiving them and keep these complimentary slips in a special book, which they (and I) can look at over time.


Achieving all the success criteria will need training, and I intend to look at each one in more depth over time, creating tasks that will specifically target areas that require it.  The immediate impact I have seen is:-

  • that children are aware of the importance of looking at each other when speaking;
  • they are beginning to take a shared responsibility for each others’ learning, ensuring that together, they both complete tasks set, helping each other along the way;
  • the amount of pupil speaking and listening has increased dramatically;
  • and my talk has decreased, allowing me to listen in to their conversations and gain immediate formative feedback, and give immediate feedback, clearing up misconceptions as they arise.


I look forward to watching this develop over time and believe it will help me to have a clearer focus for assessment in lessons.




Time To Talk! (pt 1)

Part 1 -Talk Partners & Seating

Talk partners clip art image

In a world where knowledge and excellence are increasingly shared, we understand the importance of discussion and learning from others. “Talk Partners” is a term we use to refer to pupils discussing and planning together and cooperatively improving each other’s learning.

On the advice of Shirley Clarke, I’ve recently implemented the changing of Talk Partners much more frequently and rearranged the seating plan in the class to enable classroom talk to be more effective and focused.

What we did:

table arrangement
New seating arrangement – everyone broadly faces front
  1. Mixed ability seating had already been standard practice in our class, arranged with tables grouped into six/eight children.  The upside of this is that it lends itself naturally to group work.  The downside is that some children were always facing away from the front, and had to keep moving their chairs round or worse, twisting their backs, every time they were required to face the front of the class.  We have now rearranged the seating into a broadly U-shape, with rows in between (within classroom shape limitations!)  The upside of this is that all children are now facing the front but also have a talk partner beside them.  When we want to work in a group, the pupils have worked out for themselves that it is a very quick task to move their tables together.
  2. Talk partners are now changed much more frequently (weekly), using the random lollipop method, in order to maximise the experience of learning from so many of their peers. Over the course of the remaining year, each child will have had the opportunity to have been paired with over half the class.  Next year, this will increase as we begin this from the start of September.


Talk partners allow children a chance to articulate and rehearse their thinking before sharing with the whole class.  The experience of having different learning partners has already benefited the pupils in many ways across the curriculum in our class, and is removing the inevitability of some children not wanting to work with other children (such as across the 5-6 Year divide, or girl/boy pairing). Pupils are beginning to recognise and value the skills of others (e.g. such as who has a talent for ICT or our current topic etc..) and they remember those skills at a later date.

The higher achievers have benefited by being “explainers”, a higher order skill which deepens and embeds their own learning.  The lower achievers have benefited from discussing ideas from a perspective other than mine!  They have all begun to recognise that all children have ideas and talents and that each brings different strengths to the partnership and this has increased the respect they have for each other.

The pupils liked the new seating arrangements much more than I had anticipated, “off task” talk has all but disappeared and the children have taken to the frequent change in talk partners in a very positive manner.  Some have even spoken to another member of the class for the first time!

To Follow:- Part 2 – Achieving Effective Talk – how we have maximised the learning opportunities with the Talk Partner strategy.

The Target of Deliberate Practice

Deliberate Practice Target

Deliberate Practice Target

Sky Maths Class (Y6) have been introduced to this pictorial idea of viewing their learning experience at any one point in the lesson.  With the diagram’s help, they have been able to recognise and talk about how they feel about their learning experience, and therefore take action themselves to move their learning on.

They recognise that ideally they need to be in the yellow Learning Zone to maximise the learning opportunities and outcomes.  There will be times that they cross over into the Comfort Zone (central green area) or the Panic Zone (outer red area).  However, once recognising this, they feel more empowered to do something about it (i.e. take on more or less challenging ideas).    This supports Growth Mindset and the idea that Learners take more responsibility for their own learning.