I Now Know… (But, still learning!)

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Back in September 2014, after 6 years of teaching, I wrote this blog, ‘I Used To Think.’ Within it I detailed the methods and mind-set I had used towards teaching and learning and how wrong I used to be. Over the years I have returned to that blog and reflected on those areas of ‘inconvenience’ whilst trying my utmost not to fall into those traps again.

Since joining Twitter, a fair while ago as a newly appointed Advanced Skills Teacher in Teaching and Learning (hence the handle @ASTSupportAali)…

I have actually learned a lot (way more than any previous CPD I had received,) about what effective teaching actually entails. Rather than through the ups and downs of trial and error, I have harnessed the power of research and evidence of what actually works to help my students succeed, more.

I have connected with some of the most inspirational people in the world online. I have read blogs from the most powerful, reflective, intelligent minds and I have been signposted to books and events I wouldn’t have known about if I just carried on doing, what I used to think.

I have also seen the #WomenED movement grow from strength to strength and have been involved in #BAMEed and its inception into a tangible movement. I am also seeing the birth of #lgbtED develop too.

So, what do I now know, that will benefit my students and my practice: (In no particular order!)

Rigid Routines

Teaching is a routine based ‘game.’ Trying to instil a change in your practice needs to be met with a doggedd determination. Most people, do not like change, they revert to what they are used to and find it very difficult to do things in a different way.

For me, teaching is about ensuring you have adequate routines in all the areas of your practice. For example, questioning, I use a variety of methods, hands up, cold calling, open, closed, or ABC; add, build, challenge. In order for you to get the best out of your lessons, ensure your students know the cues for your routines.

Ask yourself, what is your routine for:

  • Students entering the room?
  • Wait time after asking a question?
  • Collecting/putting their books away?
  • Logging/recording/writing down their homework?
  • Handing in work?
  • Finding/speaking to you for extra help?
  • If they don’t understand something?
  • If they make a mistake?

“I have also learned that as a leader we can’t just keep on giving colleagues more things to do, but rather, if we add something, something must be taken away.”

Dual Coding

I kind of knew this anyway, we do it ‘accidentally’ mainly trying to make out information more ‘easy on the eye.’ Nevertheless, the actual elements that works is based on the theory of ensuring text or information, that is presented to students, via a PowerPoint or whatever, is dual coded with a graphic that supports that information.

I have started to spend more time on this, thinking about how I can present information in a graphic/pictorial format too.

@OliverCavigliol shares lots of useful information on Dual Coding, via Dual Coding!

Download his Visual Guide from here!

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The graphic can help my Year 8 students understand the journey a Muslim would undertake whilst completing one of the Pillars of Islam- Hajj. Visit https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140914234334-55327442-the-hajj-guide-in-graphic for Source.

Keywords– We all say to our students they need to use keywords, or ensure they remember the keywords for the topic etc.

I use the term Specialist Language instead and aim to provide glossaries of these ‘keywords’ words fully defined, in advance. I provide these at the start of the unit. The aim is for students to know what they are expected to know. They need to know where they are going. What the end product of this learning is. Not necessarily, lesson by lesson, but an overview. a checklist, a summary slide, something that shows students what they will cover, So That (power of So That by @FullonLearning)… they can achieve x, y and Z.

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By Zoe Elder

Students, if left to their own devices will find the most obscure definitions of words! (I found this out, after setting homework which required students to defined the keywords needed for unit x.) Therefore, I now provide students with the specialist terms they need, I also put them into context. Along with an image if appropriate.

Spaced Learning and Interleaving

For over a year now, I have been getting students to complete 10 Question Recall Tests (call it a ‘Check’ if your students get worried about the use of the word test.) I use these in their lessons. Every lesson, at any point of the lesson. The start, middle, end, before an activity, after an explanation and so on.

Here is the routine:

  1. 10 Questions, always
  2. Students must answer the question with a short answer
  3. If the question can’t be answered the student must write the question down verbatim
  4. Completed in the back of their books
  5. Usually self marked
  6. Always self corrected – automatically becomes homework
  7. I will only ask questions based on what I have taught, I go all the way back to L1 and last lesson
  8. Sometimes I get students to come up with their own 10 Question Recall Tests to test each other

This is based on Ebbinhaus’ Curve of Forgetting research.

Ref: See here

For too long I have taught a unit, then tested at the end of the unit, typically after 5 or 6 weeks of content teaching. In that period of time I may have added a couple of recap starter activities. Ultimately this was down to the fact that I didn’t understand fully how ones mind actually works. I now know a little more about how to get students to remember things better. Essentially by allowing them to forget initially (Robert Bjork) and then repeating the information at varied, spaced, intervals. (Daniel Willingham).

We need to change elements of students long term memory. We need them to remember things that we have taught. This comes from the work of educational psychologists John Sweller and Paul Kirschner.

I have now re planned my topics, looked deeply at the skills needed in each topic and thought carefully about how to introduce, re introduce and so on. I have always embedded the routine of students being taught the same topic, same lesson, but in a different way. I call this ‘Re-Mix Teaching!

I do not allow students to say, ‘we have already done this!’ The routine that has been developed is based on a mantra by @ChrisMoyse ‘If it’s not excellent, it is not finished.’

Image by @DavidDidau

I have learned about Blocking V Interleaving mainly through this book. I have summarised this book here.


And from @AceThatTest and their Youtube Video Clips!

SEND – Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

I have been teaching for over 10 years now and nobody has ever really taught me anything about SEND children. Even on my SENCO course, very little time was spent about the actual details behind an additional, significant learning need. I achieved my QTS through a Graduate Teaching Programme back in 2007, after a series of 3000-5000 word essays and some ‘essential’ reading. My main learning however, came from the teaching, my practice, from being with the students, day to day. I began teaching on day 1. So, other than my self taught further research about Vygotsky or Piaget and the infamous Zone of Proximal Development my learning on SEND was very indeed very minimal in my early years of teaching.

I now know a lot more about SEND students difficulties and how to manage and support those issues. I have learned more about Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyscalculia and several emotional problems. This has mainly been through undertaking the role of AHT for Inclusion and completing a the National SENCO Award. Also through the massive advocates for SEND online, via Twitter mainly.

I have also studied how to ensure the classroom environment and expectations are conducive to these ‘type’ of children and have learned about how to not refer to them as Low Ability or Bottom Set. I have learned how not to make excuses but reasonable adjustments and I have learned how I will never be able to treat every child the same, but I will treat every child fairly.

I have also learned that if you are truly inclusive, you just do it, you don’t need to sing about it. I have seen the most passionate of educators being driven away from the idea of differentiation because it has become blurred with ‘doing more’ for some students. For me, anything you do that supports the learning of your students, over time is differentiation. The most powerful of all the tools is, of course, your voice. I aim to use labels as a blurb, I then get to know my students.

Know your students. Not just students.


I have learned and had affirmed that relationships with my colleagues and students is for me, the single most important thing to help me make a difference in students lives. I believe and feel if I can make a student feel like they are cared for, valued and respected, they will do the same for me, and they will take in the love for my subject and the love for learning.

As Bear Grylls says, ‘Nobody cares how much you know, they want to know how much you care.’

Dylan Williams has also recently stated that ultimately the most effective teaching comes down to the students that have a teacher that really cares. A decent human being.

So, do not let people tell you that your only role in education is to impart knowledge and information. For me, your role is to plug the gaps in a childs life. To pull together the nodes of curiosity and create the First Ofs…

I now know that teaching and learning requires me to be taught and for me to keep learning.

Part two to follow…

  • Subject Knowledge
  • Feedback
  • CPD
  • Anchoring Effect

And more….!

One comment

  1. Good to read this, Amjad – I like these reflective posts, as you know! Look forward to reading the next instalment! Well done on all you’ve learnt/achieved so far. The next stage of the adventure will be exciting.

    I really do believe that the best teachers always want to be better teachers, and the best leaders want to be better leaders….

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