Robert Brooks

Leading Practitioner

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Knowledge acquisition in Science – Part 2

Students have a lot of information to remember from Science lessons and they need to be able to make links from different topics.

So how do we ensure our students remember what we have taught them from previous Science lessons?

To remember information on a day to day basis whilst a student is starting to learn a new Science topic in our school, we give knowledge starter questions at the start of every lesson. This is our starter activity. For example, a Year 7 student has learnt about tissues in the previous lesson. The starter activity for next lesson is 5 quick recall knowledge questions about tissues:

7Ac Tissues Knowledge Questions

The activity is quickly peer assessed and whilst the students are getting on with other tasks later on in the lesson the teacher can go round with their mark book and take in the scores. The teacher can also use a ‘well done’ stamp and discuss any concerns with students.

Here is an example of starter questions used in Module C1 of GCSE Science:

c1.5 rocks kq

At GCSE and A Level we expect our students to be reading over the previous lesson and if they do not achieve a high enough score (i.e. 8/10) on the knowledge test they are expected to come back and redo it.

Without the basic foundations in knowledge, students are unable to access even the low level questions on an exam paper, let alone the higher ones. Even in the higher level skills, such as evaluating, the students need to remember the very basic facts in order to fully show both sides of the argument.

In my next post I will be talking about how to get students to recall knowledge that they have not accessed long periods of time.


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Knowledge acquisition in Science – Part 1

At the forefront of our minds as Science teachers, we need to think about the importance of knowledge acquisition for our students.

For students to gain both the lower and the higher grades in Science examinations at GCSE and A Level, they need to have the basic building blocks of knowledge so that they can answer the lower order questions, such as recall. Knowledge is also essential in the higher level questions where learners have to apply their knowledge to an unfamiliar context for instance.

So how do we get students to remember what they are taught in Science from as early as Year 7?

First of all, do not mistake the idea of knowledge acquisition with just lower order recall tasks in Science lessons. Every Science lesson must be challenging and stimulating for the students and, as a teacher, you have to carefully think about the activities you have planned for your lesson to successfully achieve this.

When planning, ask yourself whether or not this activity could actually be done at home by the students without your support. At home students could be learning basic facts, reading material or watching a video clip before the next topic being taught. Students should not be arriving to a lesson knowing nothing about a topic as this will waste at least 10-15 minutes of lesson time introducing the bigger picture which could have been done already by the student. This promotes independent learning skills. An example of a PAE (planning, applying and extending) document for a BTEC Level 3 Applied Science course is below:


Students need to be prepared for their learning in the lesson where they can carry out challenging activities under the direction of their Science teacher, such as tackling difficult exam questions, practical activities, debates and learning revision techniques to help them with their consolidation of knowledge and understanding at home. This is all to do with the idea of ‘flipped learning.’

In my next post, I will be talking about the importance of knowledge testing at the start of every Science lesson and how to successfully implement it.

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The Sunday night feeling for teachers!

How are teachers feeling this evening?





This evening I have been thinking about how over my years of teaching how the Sunday night feeling has changed for me.

As an NQT, I would be exhausted having spent nearly the whole weekend planning lessons from scratch and thought that if I had not spent an hour planning an hour’s lesson that it will not be good enough. I was worried that if I had not had time to plan all my lessons, that I would not find time later in the week to fit in the planning and that everything would all fall to pieces! I later found out that sometimes my meticulously planned NQT lessons were the worst!

My planning is now much quicker just as my PGCE University Lecturer told me it would eventually be (although it is harder to believe at the time you are told that!). I also had the usual NQT worries about controlling Year 9’s and 10’s! At the time, I spoke with their excellent Head of Year who helped me to realise that managing the behaviour effectively of these particular year groups would come with experience, persistence and making the effort to build relationships. He was right. I now enjoy some of my best lessons with these year groups and am currently Deputy Head of Year 10 and feel I have good relationships with these students.

In my first year as a TLR post-holder, I was worried that I had not had time to plan my lessons as I did in my NQT year and carry out my teaching and learning responsibility duties so lo and behold I started off by spending the whole weekend working again! This could not continue for the next 40 years or so of my career! So I then decided to stop reinventing the wheel in terms of lesson planning and resources. This then freed up more of my time to concentrate on my TLR post and to have a day’s rest at the weekend!


Of course, I would occasionally create a resource from scratch still but learnt the art of tweaking and adapting already good lesson plans. Although we want trainee teachers and NQT’s to spend time thinking about the planning of their lessons, I think it is vital that they are taught this essential skill of adapting good lesson plans so they can concentrate more on their lesson delivery.

As a relatively experienced teacher and TLR post-holder I now question this when I have a ‘Sunday night feeling’ worry:

“Is it something that can wait until Monday morning (I could always get in a little earlier if necessary) or even later in the week to think about?”

I make sure that my lessons are planned for Monday and have an action plan on my Outlook calendar for the week so that I know I am organised and have some buffer time during my ‘free periods’ in case something else comes up (it normally does in any day of a teacher!)

Above all, it is important not to be working until late into the night on a Sunday (I wish I could talk to myself on this one from the future to the past NQT!) Nothing can set you up worse for the week and it can affect your sleep that night and cause you to oversleep in the morning, arrive late and cause more problems! The students (and you) need a relaxed (in the sense of confident, prepared and organised) teacher in front of them and more successful learning will be able to take place.

Well there’s my second blog post done and I am now off to bed so that I am ready for an exciting week ahead:

  • KS223 PiXL Conference on Tuesday
  • Annual School Celebration Evening (one of my favourite events)
  • Meeting my Year 7 Science class for the first time! I am always excited to meet the new generation of Science students and their enthusiasm and hope that it may continue!

Goodnight and sleep well!

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Seven Signs of a “Good Enough” Discipline System

Scenes From The Battleground

Last time I talked about what made a school discipline work. I was glad to see a really positive response from a number of headteachers and SMT members about the post, there were really only one or two disappointing ones. A few years back any suggestion that discipline was a management responsibility rather than about classroom relationships was highly controversial. It does feel like there are now just too many schools that have become effective on the back of sorting out discipline properly for that kind of denial to continue to be widespread, particularly among those members of SMT who are active on social media and can be challenged by hundreds if they make the types of excuses for poor discipline that we still often hear in schools such as: “kids like these cannot be expected to listen quietly” or “if lessons were engaging there wouldn’t be any discipline problems”…

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Reflections on #rED14

My first proper blog post, thanks again for encouraging me to do this Cherryl!

This blog post is about my reflections on #rED14. The researchEd 2014 event was held yesterday at Raines Foundation School, Bethnal Green, East London.

Before the event

The SLT at my school very kindly got tickets for those of us that wanted to go to the #rED14 (thanks Richard for organising!). I jumped at the opportunity of going as always wanted to go to a #teachmeet  #TM type event and even better to see and talk to national and international education experts.

At the start of the day!

Morning sessions

It was great to meet Tom Bennett @tombennett71 and my colleague and I managed to get a selfie with him at the start of the day! We talked about his books and advice he regularly gives on the TES and how helpful this is.


I attended several sessions in the morning, including the EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) and was really interesting to listen to updates in educational research and research methods. This is something I really need to do more of but finding the time can sometimes be a struggle!

I then had to rush to get to Dylan Wiliam’s lecture before it started to fill up and managed to get a seat on the upper balcony!

Dylan Wiliam – “Why teaching will never be a research-based profession and why that’s a good thing.”


Having read Dylan Wiliam’s book on Embedded Formative Assessment, I was really looking forward to listening to his views on assessment and other ideas regarding educational research.

Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam

He was extremely informative and engaging with how research education needs to be looked at carefully and reminded me of the importance of reliability and validity in the research and how only the papers that included this will be included in groundbreaking educational research. This brings me back to my MSc Education thesis days! Some of the research papers he looked at didn’t even have a control group! I spoke with Dylan Wiliam afterwards and complimented him on his book and talked about his session briefly.

I then went to see Michael Cladingbowl, National Director of the Inspection Reform for Ofsted being interviewed with Sean Harford by Andrew Old.

Michael Cladingbowl. National Director, Inspection Reform, Ofsted

It was interesting to see Ofsted in an informal setting and for them to talk about the issues they currently felt affected education and how they felt schooling had improved over time and recalled the days in the early 1990’s when ‘supply teachers weren’t even given a key to a classroom’ and tables and chairs were thrown with very little done about it in particular schools. Michael Cladingbowl also confirmed that there was no longer a need to use KS3 National Curriculum levels and that schools could be free to show assessment and progress in any way they wish. The two Ofsted inspectors then underwent a ‘grilling’ from several members of the audience during the Q+A session!


Afternoon sessions

I then really wanted to see Paul Black’s assessment in pedagogy for the enrichment of learning but this session was unfortunately full.

Tristram Hunt‘s session was next on the agenda and this was a little disappointing, particularly because he read off a ‘script’ and made little attempt to engage with the audience until the Q+A session at the end. The speech was very monotonous and many people were on their phones and not on twitter so to speak!

Apologies for the typo!

Apologies for the typo!

Some of the things discussed were a little insulting to the teaching profession, such as implying that technology would be what improves the relationships between students and teachers when it is much more than this, as any teacher would know.

miles berry

Later in the afternoon it was good to listen to subject-specific research in Science and to meet my twitter friend Helen Rogerson. We received some really good resource packs, including questions for governors and how students’ views in Science Education should help change our practice.

Finally, was Tom Sherrington’s session on acting on evidence from educational research, particularly with regards to homework. Tom was very knowledgeable about the importance of setting good quality and structured homework that allows students to progress and for us to ‘proceed with caution’ over research studies that suggest homework does not improve pupil outcomes. This may be because the homework being set was not effective in some of these studies so other variables were not being taken into consideration during the research process.

I was delighted to then be retweeted by the Department for Education:

Overall a fantastic day and look forward to implementing some of the strategies and research learnt today and to coming again to rED#15 next year!