Mindset – I’ve said it. Can I be popular now?




I’m no expert here. My ability to preach is qualified only by the fact that I read Carol Dweck’s book when Elsie was born and then heard that I should instil Growth Mindset in my pupils. As simply as that.


My problem is, however, a concept such as instilling or changing mindset isn’t something that can be done immediately. It can’t be done over the course of a scheme of work. Probably not in a term. Maybe not even in a year. If you’re my mother, you’ve been trying to change Big George’s mindset for the last 50 years. And no, he still won’t clear his shit out of the garage, because he will not be convinced that it is no longer required. Big George has a fixed mindset. Big George is passionate about his fixed mindset. “Tha can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but tha can’t tell ‘im much“.


I’ll try to give you a practical example. If you’ve sat through some staff training; probably laid-on at great expense to you, the tax-payer, presented by a slick, well-oiled key-note machine, you will have been informed that it is imperative that your students have a growth mindset. I completely accept and endorse this. Wouldn’t it be great if all your kids rocked up knowing that the lesson you’d prepared for them was a rung on a ladder to success. Sometimes the rungs might break, but the climb would continue, Eventually, the drawbacks, pitfalls, bumps and intellectual bruises they had sustained would shape them as individuals and help them to really learn.


Let’s be realistic though; we’ve got a few problems.


1 – Us. How can you force a growth mindset on a kid, when you might not have one yourself? A change in mindset is tough. Do you love your job? No? Right, start loving it. Easy. Ok shit example, you are teachers, you all love your jobs… Try again.

I’m not foolish enough to admit that I went on a Speed Awareness Course run by the AA on behalf of Northumbria Police at the start of August; that would just be insurance-premium suicide. However, if I had done so, I would have been exposed to unbelievably powerful information about the dangers of speeding, especially the myth of “braking distances and modern cars” and of course the impact speeding motorists have on those around them. If I had done the course, I might have left the training centre at around 9pm, got back in the car and then proceeded to drive home, never once exceeding the speed limit. The instructors might have acknowledged that one of the biggest influences on the speed of a motorist is the desire to “go with the flow”. We like to move at the speed of those around us. If you don’t believe me, try driving without exceeding the speed limit tomorrow on your journey to work. Without a doubt, after 10 seconds at 30mph with the dick in the Impreza trying to mount you from the rear, you will feel an irresistible urge to depress the pedal on the right a touch. Asking someone to change a habit, a mechanical action we perform every day overnight is tough. Even when you’ve just seen images of the worse motorway crash the country has ever seen where scores of people were injured and dozens lost their lives.


2 – The kids. I don’t care what your school “culture” is. There’s another term that has inexplicably penetrated British educational jargon from the shores of the US. Kids are kids. We’d love them to think like adults and have adult minds when processing the state of play around them. But surely, if they were adults, it’d be a proper boring job! Kids don’t always see value in things, even when you’re passionate – like it says in your Twitter bio. Kids will fight the system. They’re James Dean, but in McKenzie tracksuits and shit trainers. They’re rebels. Rather than expecting to create a mindset and live out the rest of their 5-7 years at your school in peace and harmony, accept that you might have to chip away, rather than “fix” the issue.


3 – The Parents. We provide the world’s best free childcare system for 190 days of the year; 8ish-4ish. That means that 175 (or 176 in a leap year) days of the year, you don’t have to look at the little buggers. And that’s a problem. To be a teacher you need a school education up to 18. A*-C in Maths and English. Relevant A Levels or equivalent at KS5. A degree or L5 qualification. QTS obtained through PGCE, SCITT, Schools Direct or whatever the sodding hell you can do nowadays. Regular CPD delivered by them what’s cleverer than you. Regular inspection by a set of wonderful human beings from Ofsted or the Gestapo. Oh, and of course, annual appraisal – just to make sure you’re not too shit to teach.

To be a parent, you could knock up Candice from the cheese counter at Asda. Unless you attract the attention of social services (you’d probably have to send them a letter confessing your incompetence these days), you’ve got legal responsibility for that kid for the next 18 years. With no qualifications, no check-ups, no accountability. You simply do not have to do anything to raise aspirations of your child, develop any sort of can-do attitude or indeed support their intellectual development. If a fixed mindset has crept in during the early stages of childhood, teachers are screwed. I walked past a hag of a woman in (not Asda – don’t want to bump into Candice) the Supermarket the other day, screaming at her child “You’re an idiot! How stupid can you get?!” Wow. Not in my house Big Lady. Yes, I intervened and asked her not to shout stuff like that at her kid, and certainly not in front of my two. Big Lady is not in the tiny minority you might like to imagine.




I’ve no idea. No seriously, I’m not clever enough (fixed mindset). My advice however is that you chip away. If you try and praise effort and perseverance (I’m desperately not saying “resilience”), you’re doing something right. If you have kids, work massively on praising the time and care they’ve put into painting their pictures. When you realise that you’re constantly saying “Clever girl! You won! Weren’t you brilliant!” You realise that as harmless and well-intentioned your praise might be – it’s actually pretty damaging. What does the kid expect when they lost? Or didn’t do well? Or got the answer wrong?


We’ve banned the phrase, “I can’t do it”. It’s old and probably cheesy, but Elsie is only allowed to finish this with “…yet”. Then we’ll have a practise and try and do something a bit better.


Ok, you probably think this sounds like crap and are questioning my motive. Here it is. Last month, it was Elsie’s 1st parents’ evening at nursery school. All good, pleasant, polite, bright, well-spoken. My wife’s beaming from ear-to-ear. Then the teacher told her that of all the kids in the group, Elsie’s the only one who won’t bring her favourite work to the front to go on her display board. When we asked Elsie why, she told us she didn’t thin it was good enough. Heartbreaking. A kid at four years old, already starting to think that her effort isn’t good enough. We’ve no idea where it came from, but it certainly has made us think about what we say, how we praise and let her know that if she does her best, it’s always good enough. And surely that mindset would make us all happier bunnies.


Night all.


Are you crap at asking questions?

As Michael Jackson might have asked, “who’s bad?”

Meet Chris Evans. Radio 2 breakfast show host and hugely successful bloke of the late 90’s. I decided a few years ago, when Chris Moyles left Radio 1, that I was too old to listen any more and switched to the dustier, creakier, fustier sibbling on 88-91FM for my morning commute.


Although Chris is great at many things, I think he is the second-worst questioner I’ve ever heard (perhaps third, but I’ll leave my mother-in-law out of this). The top of the pile is another Radio 2 presenter, Vanessa Feltz.


Why are they crap?


Well, the number one problem is the fact that it isn’t always clear what they want to know. I listened to an interview a few weeks ago during which Chris asked the guest the same thing three times but still didn’t get his desired response. He didn’t actually clarify or indeed simplify the question – he just repeated it and added a few thinking sounds like “errr…” and “ahhh…”


The second problem these two presenters face is that they overload guests with a barrage of words after posing the initial question. Something along these lines; “So, what were the real highlights of performing in those days; I can imagine they were wild times. I mean we only need to look back at your tours across Europe to see that things were pretty wild. It must have been amazing and of course we had Tommy Dickfingers on here last week and he was simply incredible. It really must be fascinating…” By the time the guest gets time to respond, they must be left scratching around their short-term memory for the initial poser.


OK Vanessa; your turn. Unlike many people, I think Ms Feltz is a highly intelligent and astute thinker. She makes excellent key points and shows that she knows her onions across a whole range of current affairs topics. Vanessa’s problem is that she tends not to allow her guests adequate time to form a response. Whilst standing in for Jeremy Vine a few weeks back (for younger readers – this show often involves debate featuring two hand-picked guests, with very much opposing viewpoints), Vanessa asked a key question at quite a pivotal part of the debate. As her guest began to answer (and he wasn’t giving a politician’s answer), she cut across him and asked another question; moving the discussion away from what she wanted to know. Unfortunately, this opened to door for the other guest on the phone to jump in with their answer. Guest number 1 attempted to get back on course, but by this point, their opponent was in full swing and the discussion changed completely.



What’s your point Horner?


Can you relate any of the anecdotes above to your own practice? When asking pupils questions, do you overload them with your verbal diarrhoea? We often do I’m sure.


Do you always give pupils the necessary “think time” before expecting a response? For those beginning their journey as teachers, it can be the most excruciating feeling in the world, to ask a question and be met with an hour of silence. The hour probably lasted a second, but it feels a lot longer when your HoD and the Deputy Head are sitting at the back of the class. Pupils cannot respond until they have got a response. Try and bottle your desperation to arrive at the “right answer” for just a few seconds at least.


If a pupil answers your question, do you let them finish, or do you finish their sentence? Or even worse, do you cut across and allow someone else to hijack the discussion? There isn’t much worse than making a kid feel shit by devaluing their input into a discussion. “What do you think the answer is Jonny? NO! Complete shit! Sit down and face the wall – Now, if Tarquell could give us a less moronic answer…”


If a pupil has no idea what you’re on about, do you simplify/clarify/differentiate your questions? My old Maths teacher would just keep repeating the same thing, but speak slower to make you realise what a dunce you were. Being met with the response “I don’t know” is not always a bad thing. The solution isn’t as easy as the highly irritating, yet popular “OK, you might not know, but what do you think“. Kids might not actually know what they think. At this point, you need to take a step back and possibly start with a bit of low-order thinking; “Right, let’s start again – tell me what this is again… Good – now; how is that similar to…” and so on. I pinched an idea off Ken Brechin at our place a while back, whereby if I ask questions intended to spark a bit of thinking, I don’t respond in any other way than saying “thank you”. This way, pupils aren’t influenced by your praise of one answer and refuting of another.


On the topic of differentiation, do you plan for who you will ask specific questions? It’s something I’ve tried hard to improve in my own teaching and I have a pretty stupid but (for me) effective way of questioning more effectively. You need to scribble down, or at least have an idea of what questions you want to ask at different points in the lesson. I then use a class printout, showing target and recent pupil grades, and tally a mark next to a pupil every time I ask them a question. My lead-in questions (OK, possibly the easier ones) go to those on D/C’s – thank them for their input, then push for more from a pupil on a higher grade. Not only does it ensure you pitch questions correctly, but it lets you check to see who you’ve heard from in that lesson.


Last but not least; do you ask stupid questions? Despite our better judgement, I think most of us would agree that the vast majority of pupils aren’t stupid. I might have lost a few of you there. Do you ask “Yes” and “No” questions? “Do you think the Treaty of Versailles was good? Yes? Right on we go...” It’s like asking a three-year-old girl eating the chocolate ice cream, “Is that nice?” OK, sorry I did say I’d leave the mother-in-law out of this. My point is, a Y/N question might be useful if it is a lead-in to something else, but on it’s own, it’s crap. There are only two responses you could give so therefore the thought process is just above redundant.


As PE teachers, we verbalise really well in lessons. In practical lessons, I’m not impressed by writing on sheets of paper, exit-tickets or even on the benches in the gym. If you ask good questions, you can actually find out quite a lot about how much the kids have learned in your lessons. It’s something we could all do better – and hey, if we get it right, maybe the kids might start doing the same…

Instead of “Are we playing a match?”




“Illegitimi non carborundum Ticker”

The following is a post by my great mate Paul Taylor. Or to the world, “Ticker”. Paul is Assistant Principal at Penistone Grammar School, a high-achieving and popular secondary comprehensive school near Barnsley, South Yorkshire.



Do you feel it yet?

The pressure of ensuring that the students you teach secure the grades of which they are capable; the pressure of ensuring they fulfil their potential; the pressure of making sure they are exam ready.  Do you feel it yet?

This year while sunning myself in Florida I was contacted by my friend and colleague Paul Crook on A-level results day about how the students I taught in AS and A2 PE had performed.  I am always ready to hear how my students have performed.  I am desperate for them to secure the grades they need to access the university they desire.  I am desperate for them to see all their hard work, blood, sweat and tears be justified through securing or exceeding the illusive target grade, but each year I am beginning to question who is this more important to, me or them?  I question the tears.  Are their tears generated through the fact that A-levels are hard and consequently they have to work hard?  Or do the tears fall because they are failing at some things and they just want to give up or have someone to do the graft for them?




Now at this point I am sure you can sense that I am going to go on and have a moan. You’d be right; there is a moan about to rear its ugly head in about four or five lines time!  This is not because I am a cynical and miserable teacher or a ‘drain’ to coin one of Hywel Roberts’ terms.  I always try to exude positivity and development in the students I teach and the staff I work with but the more I give in time and effort, the more my students take and shelve.  Surely one of my many jobs as their teacher is to give them the tools they need to succeed and begin to show them how to use them?   Their responsibility is to become proficient in using them, or at least pick the bloody things up!


So who is it more important to, me or them?  I want it to be them; I am beginning to think it’s me, the teacher, the guy going through appraisal, the one sat in line management meetings doing exams analysis, the guy who has to suggest why these students have underachieved.  While I am doing all of this they are securing their 1st or 2nd choice at university despite performing poorly.  Who does it mean more to, me or them?  This year one of my students was offered an unconditional offer of acceptance onto a course at a university if he made that university his first choice.  This news went down like a fart in a lift when he informed me as I immediately thought, well that’s going to hit my ALPS results!  Are humans innately lazy and do they always look for and take the easy option?!


Last year the staff in the PE department at PGS went above and beyond for these students, support was off the page (or at least the offer of it was), access to every possible resource was provided, contact with parents was increased, additional consultation evenings were added to the department calendar, learning contracts were drawn up, intervention mapping was strategically followed, social networking (Twitter)  gave students access to support throughout holidays, the offer to PGS students last year was the dog’s b*****ks!  There were tools everywhere but the majority didn’t pick them up. The only tool of interest to some students was the spoon with which my colleagues and I were feeding them!


Now that’s enough ‘drain’ talk because some of these students bust a gut.  We had an A* in A2 PE this year and the student who got that grafted every single day of the two years in our post 16 centre.  Unfortunately, that type of mindset is now becoming as rare as rocking horse sh*t amongst students!





This year things are going to be different, well at least I hope they are!  This year I am going to change a culture amongst my new cohort of AS students as well as doing a little bit of an experiment!  I want to create the mindset of the A* student I alluded to earlier and while I will still offer the support I did this year I will also spend time creating a culture conducive to growth.



I have spent many hours reading the work of Carol Dweck; it is fascinating but forgive me for saying, it’s not rocket science!  My old man is a plumber by trade although he does less now than he did when he started out!  He’s as rough as a bears arse and had little meaningful education in his childhood but from his childhood and into his adult life he has worked extremely hard and he’s done well, very well!  Big Steve was preaching Dweck’s ‘Mindset’ to me long before Dweck herself was even writing about it.  A couple of his favourites were “nowt worth achieving comes easy Ticker, coz if it did everyone would do it” and “illegitimi non carborundum Ticker” (Google the last one).  The message here to me is crystal clear, if you want success you can have it, (my old man is a less glorified example of those in Dweck’s literature!) but you can only have it if you work for it and when faced with adversity you ‘keep at it’.  Furthermore, and long before I became familiar with Dweck, a Y10 student at PGS said to me, “do you know what sir? ‘Learning is Earning’”. What a simple yet profound thing to say.  This surely highlights the importance of the process of growth, how we truly learn from our errors and how this may be directly linked to ‘earning’.  What did he mean’ earning’? I am pretty sure he meant money, the lad who said it was certainly not a budding psychologist or the next Carol Dweck!  However, my spin on this is that ‘earning’ in this context and linked to Dweck’s work means becoming rich in a whole array of things; money, friends, love, power, knowledge etc.  ‘Learning is Earning’ is Dweck’s Growth Mindset!


This year, ‘nowt worth achieving comes easy, coz if it did everyone would do it’, ‘Learning is Earning’ and the more sophisticated work of Dweck will be applied to my teaching and hopefully next year this blog will be much warmer and fuzzier because it will come from the real me, the ‘radiator’ me (another one of Hywel’s)!




It has started already and I urge anyone else to do this.  I have today issued home learning to my AS class that will be incredibly difficult and they will need to work extremely hard to even gain any success.  In doing this and asking for information about how long they spent in trying to complete the work I should begin to identify who already displays some of characteristics of resilience.  I am going to then predict after lesson one who I think will achieve or exceed target and who will fall short and disappointment me yet again.  However, over the course of the year I will I bust a gut to make them want to bust a gut, I will teach them to pick themselves up when they fall and to have another ‘pop’ when they fail.


Watch this space!

Effective Behaviour Management – What I Know & What I’ve Pinched

The idea for this post has been brewing for a while. It’s something I have been wanting to write about, but never got round to. I have very traditional views on the importance of behaviour and class management in the teacher-skills hierarchy and this piece will hopefully share some old and new ideas that might work in the classroom.

I delivered a session on classroom and behaviour management to a mixture of PGCE students and Schools Direct trainees last year. It must have gone down an absolute storm, as I’ve never been asked to do it again. The now obsolete PowerPoint is attached if you care to peruse its content. Link: class man


I believe these key points form the cornerstone for building good class management skills

•Meet at the door
•Be positive
•Have something engaging for kids to do on entering room
•Learn and use names
•Be confident
•Be Tenacious
The tenacity thing is probably my main advice to anyone training to teach – Kids will push you to the limits of your sanity; it’s a rights of passage thing. They know you’re a student teacher, no matter how well your school integrate you into their system. If you offer up a sanction, it is imperative you follow it through – failure to do so will result in a battering down the road.
I try to get student teachers to stop using the phrase “control the class”. As most teachers would agree, we’re not in control, we simply manage what’s going on and attempt to keep things ticking along nicely and prevent the meltdowns before they start. It can be a scary thought to “not be in control”, but that’s what working with kids is all about.
I posed the question; “why do kids kick-off?”
  • How did you treat Student Teachers?
  • Is the pupil stuck?
  • Is work set at appropriate level?
  • Would you find the work stimulating?
  • What’s happened earlier in the day?
  • What has the kid had for breakfast/lunch?
  • SEN? Have you catered for this?
…and then, “how many of these can you influence?”
What next?
There’s nothing worse than going on a course (as if any of us has been on one in the last 10 years!), or INSET where an “expert” stands and hints at problems or issues… and then gives you absolutely nothing of use to take away. With this in mind, I actually wanted to give the trainees some tools and tips that have worked for me in the past. A couple of these are stolen and then adapted from an excellent presentation I saw, by Jason Bangbala about nine years ago (I’ve asterisked these so as not to claim undue credit). If you’re ever booking a staff training session on this subject – he’s your man.
I started by letting the trainees know that, ultimately, THINGS WILL GO WRONG. So what should they do?

1.Don’t ignore – challenge (not confront: kids don’t back down)
2.Assess the situation – be rational
3.Where does it sit from 1-10 on the Dr Pepper scale (i.e. What’s the worst that could happen?)
4.Your response needs to be proportionate – don’t go too hard too soon
5.If you issue a sanction – follow it through
6.Focus on Primary Behaviour – deal with the major issue

Tools to use

•“Maybe, but” – Maybe my breath does stink Jonny, but right now, I’d like you to get on with task 2*
•“Thanks for that…” – Thanks for pointing that out Callum. Now, where are you up to on this task?
•“I like you _____, but what I don’t like is____” – usually add in the behaviour you want to get rid of; “talking when I am giving instructions” for example.
•NEPGIT: Name, Eye Contact, Pause, Gesture, Instruction, Thanks – pretty much says it all
•Choice – “if you choose ___, then ____” – sanction – Try and encourage positive choices; make sure you praise the kid if they’ve made the right choice.
•Back at ya! – “put yourself in my shoes Sarah; how would you…”*
•The Humour Shield – deflects stuff – “You’re right Tom, I am garbage at teaching this bit of the syllabus, but with your unending support, I might just make it through
•Remove from situation – “Bailey, come here for a second my friend… Right, the reason I’ve asked to speak to you…”
•Role Model – find a pupil doing what you want (preferably a peer of the other), reinforce good behaviour – “Adam; thank you for sitting down and getting your book out – you’re ready to learn“*
•“ACE” – Acknowledge…Clarify…Explain – “OK, I see why you’re upset Jack. This is what I’d like you to do… and this is why. Thank you.”
In review
It drives me nuts when teachers make excuses for poor discipline skills or weak class management. My personal “most hated” is the old “well it’s easy for you, you’re PE”, or “it just comes naturally to you” – it doesn’t. As with all skills, class management is something that needs to be worked at. You never perfect it – kids and their temperaments are unknown quantities when they enter your classroom – you need to learn as much as you can, adapt it and keep on looking at good practice. When you see something that works; try it.
Hope this helps.

Pupil Premium & Bad Lads

The Background

Our new weight training room is now (almost) complete & ready for action. There is a bit of equipment yet to buy, some about to be delivered, but all the basics are in place.

For those reading this not familiar with the term “Pupil Premium”; in layman’s terms it’s a sum of money received by schools for every child on roll entitled to a free school meal.

The purpose of this facility has always been to help “narrow the gap” between FSM and non-FSM kids in attainment, engagement and attendance. When the concept was 1st pitched to SLT, we identified a cohort of pupils entitled to free school meals, supplemented with a number of disengaged boys in years 10 & 11. Plenty of these lads are our “biggest hitters” in terms of behavioural issues.

The basic notion is that the gym will be used as not only a “motivational carrot”, but an engagement tool.

How will it work?

As funding for the gym project stalled after 1st being proposed, our focus cohort will need some work. Basically, lots of them have now left. At this moment we’re looking at a number of factors when considering boys to target; attendance (particularly on English & Maths days), “reports manager” entries (the pastoral recording system for misbehaviour etc), kids on pastoral report, anecdotal recommendation (who do staff feel would benefit?) and FSM. Free school meal entitlement remains a vital ingredient, not only because of the need to evidence “narrowing of the gap”, but our funding for the gym came directly from the Pupil Premium.

This cohort of pupils will be entitled to designated sessions in the gym, outside of the free-for-all scramble for access that will no doubt occur once we open the facility to all kids in years 10-13.

What are we going to do?

At the moment, three staff will run sessions. I had one of those moments this week, suddenly aware that I’d not even considered to legal/health & safety/qualification requirements of operating a free-weights facility. So, armed with the latest copy of AfPE “Safe Practice…” I started having a think about the practicalities.

All pupils wanting to use the gym will be given a gym pass. We’re trying to coincide the sessions (either lunch or after school) with KS4 English/Maths days. On these days, pupils will need to get their pass “stamped” in their English/Maths lessons in order to validate them. Although this isn’t completely set in stone, a “stamp” will be reflective of; attendance, good punctuality, acceptable work-rate in that particular lesson. No stamp = no gym entry. The gym needs to be seen as a reward first and foremost. Obviously I am aware of the fact that this might backfire on us & it could lead to “catch 22” situations. We’ll see.

Year 10 pupils will work to accumulate total weight lifted aggregates. Leader boards will be used to chart progress. We want kids to be able to see their names on a wall for positive reasons. Meanwhile, behavioural sanctions will cost pupils points. Again, this is in the early stages of planning but a “reports manager” entry might cost a pupil 500kg, being placed on report – 1000kg; a day in the unit may be 2500kg and so on. In order to retain value, the weight aggregates would be rewarded at points throughout the year (those who are responsible for rewards in KS4 might get in on the act here?!).

Year 11 pupils over 16 are permitted to lift heavier weights in line with AfPE recommendations. Leader boards will still be used but with new emphasis placed on challenges & cohort records. Our lads seem to really enjoy the kind of sadistic workouts inspired by Gym Jones (check them out, they’re nuts). There have been discussions about some form of CLV Gym “graduate programme”, whereby completing a specified workout (or series of), would earn pupils a prestigious award. What this will be, I don’t know yet.

What will be the Impact?

Hopefully, our cohort of lads will become much more part of the school community. Some of our kids simply don’t love the badge. We offer them nothing, so they offer us nothing. Or so is the perception. Behaviour isn’t a massive issue at Cramlington, but we still get our fair share of shittiness. By offering our lads a chance to take some pride in this part of their school lives, we should see an upturn in day-to-day conduct.

Hopefully better attendance & punctuality levels. If I want to go and train in the gym at lunch, yet I know I’ve got to get into Maths lesson 1 (and work hard !), I will hopefully make good decisions.

Hopefully better attainment. I’m not going to patronise kids or you, the reader, by saying we’ll be embedding vital numeracy & literacy skills within gym time. I’m sure we will, but it’s getting the kids on-board and wanting to do well that’s the important bit. Once that’s in place, the idea is the kids will be more receptive to the other stuff that school throws their way.

We’ll monitor our cohort closely. After spending the cash, it’s vital that school sees a return on its investment. But it’s also vital that we try our best to do the best by our kids.

Hopefully (now my favourite word), I’ll be back to update you once we’re firmly established in the first term of 2013/14.

Edutainment: Celebrity Juice


Revision is boring. We pretend it isn’t, but we all know it is.

This activity was designed for two reasons. 1) to make revision less tedious for year 12 AS PE kids 2) so that Dave Best and I had something to talk about at the CLV festival in June.

Well, mainly No.1.


The idea

Having previously taught a “Jeremy Kyle” lesson to the AS group, it seemed like a good idea to use them as guinea pigs for another talk/gameshow session.

The same “engagement” theme was apparent – I wanted to find a concept that kids would be interested in & find entertaining. The AS cohort had finished the syllabus the previous week & past papers seemed a bit tedious.



Although it looks like chaos, I can imagine the TV show must require a load of spadework in order to produce the finished article. First up was the format. Our resident Northumbria University ITT student, Julie Trotter & I decided on 5 separate games/challenges that kids would complete in teams. The kids have been in the same ability groups for the last few lessons, so we left them on the same tables.

Next came the tasks themselves; these are discussed in more detail below. Topics & content next, followed by HOW kids would show their understanding. Last but not least were the aesthetics; the display, the props & of course, Keith Lemon’s outfit. I decided to assume the role of Keith, bought a wig & tache, put on my worst shirt, a wrist bandage and my best Leeds accent. I stayed in character the whole lesson.

I made a mock-up of the magazine wall used by the show, projected it onto whiteboard & hyperlinked some intro videos from YouTube. These vids were made using “Funny Movie Maker” app & took about a minute to make.

Jess Ennis intro


The Games

1) Pop the Question: if you’ve ever played “Taboo” you’ll be familiar with the basic idea. Taboo involves trying to describe a key word/phrase on a card, without saying any of the “Taboo” words listed underneath. For example: the key phrase is “Tricuspid Valve”, the taboo words are “right, Atrium, Ventricle and blood”. Each team was given 6 balloons, Inside each, a Taboo challenge. The team member doing the describing had to burst the balloons using the buttocks, then describe the phrase on the card. To ensure fair play, each team had a “moderator” from an opposing team keeping their ears out for any intentional/accidental slips of the tongue. Some groups were great (we had a 5/6 in two minutes!), some realised their descriptive skills needed more work!

2) The Cereal Box game: this challenge (courtesy of Miss Trotter) was a variation on the oft-played party game, seen in student kitchens across the land. 4-mark exam questions were glued to cardboard boxes of decreasing sizes. The smaller the box, the tougher the question. Three minutes were put on the clock. One team member had to pick up a box with their mouth & then attempt to answer the question with the rest of their group. No hands could be used & only feet could make contact with the floor. The longer taken to pick up the box, the shorter the time available to answer the question! After 3 minutes, mark scheme went on the board & answers were marked.



And the scores at the end of that round… Shat-ting!

3) Blind graph drawing: I pinched a lot of this activity from another teacher who tweeted the idea a whole back. One member of each group was required to create a heart rate response to exercise graph, using an A3 sheet (with axes) and some strawberry lace sweeties. Numbers/labels also needed to be Written onto the sheet. The twist was that the graph maker was blindfolded & had to rely on their teammates for verbal guidance. Again a moderator from an opposing team ensured fair play. Moderators marked the efforts according to set criteria.



4) Shouting one out: Another of Miss Trotter’s creations based on “Chinese Whispers”. This was a challenge rather than a marked task. Groups were given sentences, definitions & statements of varying complexity (colour coded green-to-red). One person in the group could read the message, then whisper it to the next… You get the game. The addition was that after receiving the final message (and writing it down in whatever form it was now in!), the last player had to add any additional information they could to the piece of text.

5) Fingers on Buzzers: Pretty straightforward really. A level studies don’t particularly lend themselves to one-word answers so we had to be careful with our questioning. We also got kids to make their own “buzzer” sounds on the iPads. That was interesting. It should that be disturbing?




Pop the question: CV system

Cereal Box game: Respiratory System

Graphs: Specific aspect if syllabus kids struggled with previously

Shouting One Out: More Resp.

Fingers on Buzzers: Mixture, with heavy focus on muscles, bones, movements, biomechanics.



Let’s be honest, it was fun. I don’t like to pretend things aren’t what they are, so there it is. Fun was the major element. Without wanting to spout meaningless jargon, I recently came across the phrase “academic rigour”. I scrutinised the games & challenges we had presented to the kids and certainly feel like they held up well. The skills we really want from our AS kids were all there, particularly the thinking, communication & descriptive skills, whether verbal or written. This wasn’t simply a “mess around” lesson as I’m sure some sceptical readers will have already decided. I would be happy to wager that the kids learned something. I would also be happy to wager that they enjoyed this format better than sitting going through past papers with me at the front.

Easy to do? No. You’ve got to have a screw loose to dress up and talk like Keith Lemon for an hour, but to be honest, that applies to most PE staff I know. This lesson took time to prepare, set up, resource & a lot if energy to deliver. But hey, when the kids are sitting AS paper next week, surely it was worth it.

Games for Understanding: why and what?

Along with the Fundamental Motor Skills unit that our Yr7 boys undertake at the start of the year, this unit forms part of a “non-sports specific” element of our KS3 curriculum.

It isn’t my intention in this post to discuss the benefits, drawbacks or pedegogical tripe involved in G4U; if that’s what you’re searching for, try someone more intelligent than me. This is very much in the flavour if the #PETotD (PE tip of the day). Real ideas, you can implement in practical PE. Which is really what you’re probably paid to do.

Why do G4U?

Many of you will have seen or experienced a similar idea before. I remember being on PGCE and doing a couple of sessions on “Teaching Games for Understanding” and it became quite a popular concept in the early-mid 2000’s.

At CLV we decided to dedicate a full 6 lesson unit to the concept & write a specific scheme & lesson plans.

The basic aim of the unit is to develop tactical & strategic awareness & thinking in game situations. There are definite motor skill requirements included but the content is delivered entirely through games, with no drills/practices.

We often expect kids to “know” what to do in a game situation, even though we don’t always make it explicit during our teaching. The nature of delivering via games lends itself better to stopping, questioning, explaining & developing a working understanding of what is going on. It is the hope that this understanding can then be applied to the range of games delivered throughout KS3 & 4.

What? How?

We timetable this as an indoor activity, usually in the smaller of our Sportshalls. On occasion, 2 groups might be timetabled on the activity together. Rather than being inconvenient, this often adds more of a competitive element & buzz to the lesson (just my opinion lads!).

We find that those pink, soft volleyballs (OK, Dodgeballs) are invaluable when delivering the unit. They burst easily so buy loads.


When planning, we worked in reverse. We end the unit with 2 Dodgeball lessons. Reason for this is if we start with DB, all the kids want to know every lesson is “are we playing dodgeball sir?” No. We originally kept lesson 6 as a “kids plan their own games” activity. The girls still do this I believe. Personally however, I think this runs the risk of becoming a classroom/paper-based/planning heavy lesson. If you’ve got 60 lads, absolutely bursting to get active & ready to work their nuts off; don’t put them in a classroom. As my new pal Ben Horbury would say; “we’re educating the physical”.

I’ve included a basic overview of the activities below. These are not extensive instructions/rules. I’m sure you’ll be able to fill in any blanks & do it better than I do anyway!

Lesson 1: Matball/Endball

Set out a “scoring zone”. I like to use gym mats or coned area. Ball can only be moved by passing. Score via pass to teammate in scoring zone. Tonnes of variations here.

Lesson 2: Benchball

Or “screamball” if the girls are teaching it. Set out benches at opposite sides of SH. Start with X number of players on opposing bench, players attempt to throw ball over opponents to bd caught by their teammates on bench. H&S; if your kids are muppets & likely to fall off bench & sustain horrific injuries, get them to stand behind, not on, benches. Ball caught = thrower joins teammates on (of behind) bench.

Lesson 3: Well, we call it “Kicky Rounders”, you might call it Longball etc.

This one is nice to split into 3 teams, kids bibbed-up. 2 teams field, 1 team kicks & runs. Bowler from each team rolls ball out to 2 or 3 kickers. Kick or miss, players have to run across SH to “safety zone” (remove this for extra challenge). Points are scored when runners return over a “home line”. On way, fielders attempt to catch kickers out, or hit them with ball Dodgeball-style below waist. Differentiate points for a run “there & back” or players who chose to stay in safety zone before returning. Fielding teams accumulate points for catches/hits. Good to keep fielding teams active & encourage kids to make good decisions about risk; points are only scored at the home line; is it worth throwing at a runner on their way outwards?

Lesson 4: Corner/Hexiball

Set up goals in corners of SH; we use the tabletennis partition dividers – don’t tell CTTC please, but benches on their sides do the job as well. Or alternatively 6 goals in hexagon shape. Split into 4/6 teams (can do this with massive groups; still 4/6 teams but each has an A & B team with one off the court when other is on).

Ball can only be moved via pass & intercepted in air/on floor. Teams attempt to prevent opponents scoring in their goal whilst attacking all other opponents. If a team concedes, their team is out & their goal is turned over. Last 2 teams play-off in final, defending 2 goals each.

Adaptations: 1) teams start with 2 players. When they score, another player comes into the game. 2) When a team is knocked out, 2 players stay in, attempting to “regenerate” their team. You might use a direct hit on a basketball backboard as a target. 3) Allow dribbling… There are loads more! This game is great. Original idea was pinched from one of the worst teachers I have ever seen – but what a game! Great for tactical discussion, attack vs defence, playing multiple opponents; the kids will often form “alliances” with opponents – @Ticktock80 would love this an an opportunity to discuss historical detantes.

Lessons 5 & 6: Dodgeball

I’m not even going to discuss this here. Have a read of my dodgeball post if you’re after ideas. In a nutshell, it’s brilliant for teaching everything.

Thoughts & suggestions welcome. Big thanks to the lads at CLV: this unit was a joint effort, created at Longhirst Hall, Morpeth. Ah, those were the days.

Making Rugby Enjoyable


For this post, I’m emphatically staying out of the classroom. I’ve recently fallen into the trap, to which we all seem to have been lured; focusing heavily on our classroom practice and not so much on our bread & butter.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that we teach PE. I’m sure if we look back on our PGCE (or PE with QTS) days, we were motivated heavily by the lure of teaching out on some field with a bunch of kids, whatever the weather. We all used the same lines in our first interviews; yes we are first and foremost educators, but the practical, physical element is what pushes our buttons. Core PE for me is the most important part of the job by a million miles.


Whether you timetable proper rugby (like what I learned thanks Creeky), or posh girl’s Rugby (like I now teach); League or Union for those devoid of humour genes, you will encounter at least one of the situations outlined here:

You will find that some kids are absolutely buzzing about the activity. They might never have had the chance to legally smash people around in their lessons pre-secondary school and are now very happy to be doing Rugby with you.

Some kids will get on with it with a hint of enthusiasm, but not necessarily love the sport.

Some kids will hate the idea of having to lay hands on another human, let alone have someone do the same to them.

So there you have it; we’ve got the jocks, the inbetweeners and the softies. What you’ve now got to do is make Rugby lessons enjoyable for all of them. Good luck.

First things first:

Timetabling is important. If you want your little Year 7’s to take away positive experiences, put Rugby as the 1st or 2nd activity on your curriculum calendar. If you start the activity after October half-term & have never done any Rugby with a group before, chances are the weather will kill you. In the Northeast, once you get to that 1st half term, it’s time to put the shorts away & stop pretending to be hard as nails. It’s Baltic. Imagine how an 11 year old is going to cope with contact skills for the 1st time when his hands simply won’t work in the cold. Leave the character-building & “hairs on the chest” to the private schools.

At our place, year 9 and 10 boys core PE is ability grouped. The bottom sets simply don’t get timetabled on Rugby after half term 1 for the same reasons as above.

Introduce contact work early:

This might sound ridiculous but I think it works. Contact isn’t just tackling, ruck, maul & scrummaging. You need to encourage kids to hit the deck properly, hit contact shields & become comfortable with physical contact with other pupils and objects. I like using contact shields loads in warm-ups. Get kids punching the pads like boxers to warm up shoulders & arms. Lay out as many pads as you’ve got in a grid and get kids to drop onto them “knee, hip, shoulder” as the jog past. In your warm-up, pair kids up – play “follow the leader”. When shouted, ball carrier drops onto ground/shield and pop passes from the floor (union only please!). These ridiculously simply warm up activities all help build confidence.

Relevant Warm up:

Sounds obvious, but there are still times you’ll see a warm up at the start of the lesson with some kind of running around aimlessly, whilst the teacher sets up their cones for activity 1. I know this because I did it on Friday morning.

If teaching contact skills, always try and incorporate some elements of contact in your warm up. Press-up wrestling is one of my favourites (assume press up position facing partner, attempt to get partner to put elbow, knee, torso, full body on ground).


It goes without saying, your kids will almost certainly differ in height, weight & physicality. Kristian Jowett at my school was a 6ft 1inch man in year 7. Imagine being paired with him in your 1st ever lesson (Jon, Tick, you know that he was a big lass as well as I do but we’ll keep that secret).

Encourage kids to work with a pal; someone of similar size, strength or ability. Give choice. You might set up a few different activities or practices with a variable amount of physical contact. Let students pick which one they’d like to attempt. Hey, if they improve, they could move on to the next stage of challenge. Oh is that you Mr Ofsted inspector? Did you see that progress there?


Mix things up:

When introducing tackling, I usually start with a pad/shield-based warm-up. Getting kids adopting good body position (“Aeroplane swoop” – get them to swoop on approach, touching the grass with one hand to get low), make it competitive by putting a cone behind the pad-man – see if you can drive the pad man behind his cone.

Rather than just moving straight onto tackling a partner, stick with the pads. Instead of standing holding the pad, put the pad upright on the floor with pad-man supporting it from the side. Get kids tackling the pad; using all your teaching points, body position, head, shoulders/hips, arms, drive, landing.

Once kids are ready, then move onto 1-1 tackling. Again give three or four different “stages” through which kids can progress/pick a starting point. It’s a bit like if you use SOLO taxonomy in your classroom – you aren’t expecting all kids to start from pre or uni-structural stages, so do the same in your practical.

Switch things up between using non-competitive/passive practices like the examples above and more challenging, competitive situations. Our lads seem to love “Kabaddi” games “Last Man Standing” and “Ball Steal” (examples of these can be seen in the old exemplar scheme linked at the end of this post). These games are great for removing the “Rugby” from the lesson, should you encounter a group of students who are switched off.

Do fun stuff:

Use games like Kabaddi or “Escape from…” to make contact fun. I tend to use “Escape from CLV” with yr7’s. Arrange groups of 5; 3 attackers, 2 defenders in a 20 x 10m grid. Set up 2 pairs of cones on the try line as “scoring gates”.

1st defender is a tackler (name them after one of the heads of year/deputy heads etc). This tackler can only operate in 1st 10m. If attackers pass into 2nd 10m, tackler is defunct. 2nd defender is a “blocker” who can stand in either “scoring gate” to prevent attackers from scoring a try (I always get the blocker to be the headteacher – the last line of defence you have to cross in your escape from school). This set up helps you differentiate defensive roles as well as using a game situation to deal with the inevitable “can we play a match?” questions. You can give the blocker a shield and introduce more contact should you wish. Tell the kids that they’ve found a magic egg (the ball incredibly) and they’ve got to bust out of school past the teachers. They can only use the exit doors (scoring gates). Mad, inappropriate, but fun.

I want to assess the kids in a game; it’s the end of the unit

Use differentiated pitches & modify rules. Pitch 1 might be Twickenham (or Headingley if you teach proper Rugby) – this might be “touch” or “grip” tackling. Pitch 2 might be Murrayfield (the Jungle at a push) – there might be tackling but rucks might be uncontested. Pitch 3 – well you get the idea.

You don’t have to play 15 (or 13) a-side to assess kids in game situations. Have you ever seen that on A Level moderation day? Cater for your kids.

Enjoy it

Even if your own experience is crap, don’t pass that onto the kids. Rugby has the potential to offer so much more to kids that things like football ever could. Use it & get your kids to love it.

Sample lesson plans:

Rugby Year 7 Scheme

Rugby Year 8 Scheme

Edutainment – Chat shows in lessons


I’d had a similar idea to this a while back, but had never been able to get any further than that, an idea. It was my old pal Paul Taylor (@ticktock80) who put me onto Kate Bancroft (@klbancroft88) at Penistone Grammar School, who then inspired me to try the lesson I’m about to describe.

Kate is famed at their place for her innovative use of chat-shows/reality TV in creating engaging lessons. I’d read a few bits and pieces about her lessons and started to think more seriously about how I could do something similar. Another old pal, Jon Nicholls (@JonNicholls81) had mentioned on Twitter that he had an idea in the pipeline and this sealed it for me – I was definitely going to give it a whirl.

I had already decided on my reasons for using this kind of delivery method with my AS group; for a while I’ve been concerned about their struggles with extended questions – especially where they are asked to “critically evaluate/analyse/discuss”. I would use this idea to help the kids generate argument, discussion and highlight opposing viewpoints.

Guest Spot: Kate’s Experiences – AS PE: Rational Recreation

Jeremy Kyle definitely got my class buzzing about learning! They took on roles of the working class and it was fantastic to see them using so many key points that we had learnt in lesson during the ‘arguments’! Luckily we had a bouncer to step in when it really kicked off between the couple over the amount of time that he was working in the factories and then watching football on the ‘half day’ Saturday.

This particular group got so into character that they did the filming in one take, with no script…and amazingly still hit so many relevant learning points!! Definitely up there with my best lessons. What kids come up with when you give them the chance amazes me!
It really was a hit with my class and I can’t wait to do my next one!”
After a recommendation like that, it was easy to see the huge potential of planning something very similar.
My Lesson:
The lesson focus was on the impact of different factors on Coronary Heart Diseases. I knew I wanted the kids to answer a 10-marker for homework, so I picked the rather challenging “Critically evaluate the effect of lifestyle factors on CHD’s”.
In my planning for the lesson I decided that I’d try and keep things quite structured, rather than go all-out and turn things completely over to the kids to arrange. I wanted each pupil in the group to have a set role/persona and I also wanted to give them the opportunity to plan their response to the homework question during the lesson.
The Plan:
I spent a bit of time looking at the ability of kids in the group along with their personalities. Once I’d got my head round this, I tried to match up kids with appropriate roles. As I’m sure is the case in most groups, there is a good mix of geniuses, numpties, performing seals and kids so introverted you alsmost have to pay to hear their thoughts.
roles and jobs – document. Names in red were the kids I gave the more challenging roles and responsibilities. I emailed each pupil with their own role, with instructions to research their part and, if necessary, liaise with any others mentioned in their part. I gave them a good few days in order to ensure nobody was left with nothing to say.
I used an A3 version of this sheet Exercise and CHD 10 mark planning sheet
As a connect activity, I showed a compilation of the more extreme clips from the show and encouraged the group to attempt to replicate it in their efforts.
I set scene at the start of the lesson in character as Jezza, posed the question they kids would be answering and introduced to group to the horrible charver who they’d be watching/speaking to during the show. He was a guest from a previous episode of the show and was a disgusting looking chap. After hearing from him, I introduced our resident twins who were eating at McDonald’s 3 times each day and they got the ball rolling. In my role as Jeremy, I managed who would be speaking and in what general order. My homemade microphone and boom served as a visual aid to let everyone know who had the floor. Obviously if debate ensued, the structure opened up and a bit of organised madness raged.
The Good Bits:
The main positive of the lesson was the level of engagement. The kids genuinely seemed to love the idea that we were doing something a bit different. Had I simply set some preparatory homework as I often do, I’m sure plenty of the kids would have gone through the motions the night before, found out the relevant information in the course textbook and mindlessly copied something down as a means of answer. However, because each pupil had a differrent homework prep task, they put in some real effort. Some kids had generated pages of notes and scripts. One lad, who played the obese man in his 50’s, had brought in bags of crisps and chocolates to eat throughout his part, whilst wheezing away and simulating chest pains.
The quality of delivery from the kids was unreal. The “doctors” really had a pompous, arrogant air about them and at one point, started arguing with each other as a grudging relationship was hinted-at in their role descriptors. My “antagonist” did a great job of winding people up and making controversial, sweeping statements when other characters were trying to explain their points. We had a couple of characters thrown off the show.
The quality of information shared was outstanding. Rather than simply being just a bit of fun and chaos, the kids had really gone to town on becoming an “expert” in their specific field. There was stuff kids had brought from their Biology backgrounds (I’m lucky in that 16/19 kids do both PE and Bio).
After the “show” had finished, we allowed time for kids to go and find an “expert” in whichever field they still had questions. For example, if you still weren’t sure what the implications of HDL and LDL cholesterol were, you could go and speak to Dan and Luke who could tell you. This was propbaly my favourite bit.
The Bad Bits:
On the day of the lesson, I was already suffering from the Gastro-Intestinal infestation that put me out of school for the next 4 days. Basically I felt like shit. I was sweating like a pig and my guts were killing me. I found out the night before that 2 of my colleagues would be systematically taking kids out of the lesson to do their mock EPIP talks. This really didn’t help with continuity. I had been moved classrooms out of the block for the first lesson of the day, this meant that I had to leg it from main school back to PE to dump my gear, then peg it back outside for my break duty and then back to PE for my lesson. This didn’t allow me time to get changed into my suit. I was gutted about this bit. Having rushed around at the start of the lesson and struggled with the growing nausea, I completely forgot to pick up the 4 video cameras I’d charged up that morning for my film crew to use. Idiot. It was a bit like I’d planned the lesson for over a week and it was going tits-up before my eyes. Once I was chasing my tail, I felt I’d lost a bit of organisation along the way.
Aside from being a bit annoyed with myself at forgetting the cameras and feeling pretty minging throughout the whole lesson, I was dead chuffed with my 1st effort at this type of lesson. There was clear differentiation in the roles kids assumed; the planning sheets and the notes the kids had prepared beforehand showed the progress made throughout the lesson and engagement was through the roof.
Yes, things could have been much better. I would certainly recommend getting more input from the kids in terms of structure of the show – I’d either let things be much more free flowing, or use a panel of kids to direct/produce the show in future. I might even let it go wild and then book the IT rooms (some expert advice) and then let the kids edit a revision video from the raw footage.
I’m already thinking about the next one. I fancy doing a “Question Time” themed show with kids coming up with their own issues and posers for a panel who would be answering in character. That’s as far as I’ve got with it I’m afraid.
The 10 mark question homework was handed in yesterday. At first glance, they look to be pretty good. I’m actually looking forward to marking them – which quite frankly is a bloody miracle.