Category: SOLO

So, I sit on the train home like Cinderella having to leave early in case she turns into a pumpkin, or fall over! After an amazing day at Pedagoolondon, I am trying to be reflective on all the amazing inspirational ideas I have heard to day. Whilst also getting my head around the fact that the people I have been tweeting with for the last six months are actually ‘real people’, who like me have their insecurities of meeting the real life versions of their avatars.

The keynote by Keven Bartle was inspiring ( I think I am going to use this word a lot!). We have to be ‘Trojan Mice’ bringing innovation, focus and above all “pedagogy, pedagogy, pedagogy ” to our classrooms. Bravely we need to use ‘Guerilla’ tactics to push up standards and improve the outcomes for those pupils in our classrooms. Only by doing this from the ground up will we show the government, senior leadership, OFSTED and the media that we are truely are a profession who take our practice seriously. One by one our numbers will increase and we will make a difference which, if shared slowly, will percolate our everyday practice and we will encourage more risk taking to push our learners forward and achieve their potential. Bring on the MONKEYS, let the mess begin.(

From there, I went to Rachel Stevens @murphygirl, looking at how to do ‘Group Work’ better. The reasons for not doing it are often due to our relecutance and nervousness in handing over learning to the children . It’s messy, how do we manage it, how can we prove they have learnt what we want them to, how do we evidence that elusive “progress” ?. She gave us some amazing strategies to setting up ‘Habits of Mind’.to give us as teachers confidence in managing group work effectively. If you want “a bag of tricks” then you can DM her for the contents. But these “tricks” will allow risks to be taken with some “gurillela” teaching thrown in.

Then on to planning with the exceptional Hayley Thompson @HThompson1982 the 7E’s of planning. The focus was ‘How to ensure we focus on the learning of the students rather than the teaching.’ Making sure we are focusing on the concepts, ideas in more detail, and how we will engage them from the start to ensure that you carry them with you through the ultimate goal, of making independent learners who know how to investigate and develop learning and knowledge gathering, rather than those who rely on us to give them the information needed to pass the exam. (

The atmosphere as we moved around the corridors of the IOE was amazing, teachers sharing, talking, smiling about what they are doing and learning, plus lots of wide eyes looking like they couldn’t possibly absorb anymore information but still two session to go!

I opted for David Fawcett and his PBL/ SOLO mash up. This has triggered more brain cells and neural pathways being fired up than I thought possible. Getting the big question, purpose behind the why you are doing this project, getting the buy in from community, locals and experts to show the value of the project. Do something that might have an impact on the community rather than some made up scenario. I am inspired to move forward with my ideas for my disengaged Year 9. The wonderful Hayley Thompson has happily offered to do work together on ideas. This is the true impact of these sessions where teachers from far and wide come together to share, offer support, extend our thinking. (

We are on to session four by which time I’m exhausted and a little sweaty but going for a SOLO experience with Joe Freeman@biomadhatter. Here I got to spend a lovely 30 mins chatting with Andy Knill @aknill about how we have used SOLO in our classes and where we go from here. (

This is where I need to digress to one of the many highlights of the evening as Andy route marched us around London in search of the Holy Grail that was Macdonalds. We passed the ‘Green Man’ noting location for the later more traditional Teachmeet. Only to get a frantic tweet from Helene to say it’s the wrong ‘Green Man’. We noted new location and set off on our route march up Great Portland Road, with Mr. Knill leading the way almost getting us run over!

We arrive at the right ‘Green Man’ this time to discover a relieved Helene and Kev who had ten minutes earlier thought they’d be presenting to an empty room. Very quickly the room filled up,and there was a palpable buzz about the room and this wasn’t just the noise of all the phones and iPads being put on charge as they were exhausted from the earlier events of the day.

The beers, wine, and some soft drinks were purchased and the TeachMeet in its truest form started with Andy Knill starting us off and then the steam train that is the wonderful sharing of ideas, suggestions flowed with some memorable performances from Jenny Ludgate @MissJLudd with her Monster Cook Off, @ICTmagic, magic video session with a voice made for radio, many others who I lost track of, and then just as ’The marvelous Kev Bartlett’ stood to do his thing, the quickest ever departure ensued and I was gone, like Cinders, running towards the tube, to catch my carriage to whisk me away from an inspiring, challenging, fun and exhausting day home.

My abiding memories of today will be laughter, sharing, meeting great teachers and believing in a profession that has at its heart the welfare of the children that walk through our doors, ensuring we are doing our very professional and personal duty for them everyday. Thank you Pedagoo.


After spending a wonderfully indulgent grown up evening with @KEVBARTLE last Wednesday, where we watched the sun go down over Torbay, we discussed all manner of topics from music, food, benefits of twitter and Kev’s view on the world of teaching. My NQT brain was spinning at all the information I was absorbing, plus the wine which went down rather well on a school night.

However the most important discussion came about through our talk about the work both of us were doing with SOLO.

Now my pupils really do wonder about the point of national curriculum levels. My school like most others I guess is obsessed with reporting data every six weeks, with both a level and an attitude to learning level, and just lately we have added a new column QWC! (quality of written communication) with associated sliding scale!

But I was having trouble getting the kids to realise that levels don’t always apply to the quality of learning that is going on in the classroom. Some government junkie has allocated these levels for various skills that the children have to meet and they differ across all the subject with numerous AF strands. How on earth are they supposed to know where they are going or where they have been?

Our department has taken the reporting of levels to another dimension, with us having to complete a Level Assessed Task at the end of every module we teach, nor more tests, just chose a AF, choose a task, assign a level!!!

So I was wondering how using SOLO I could evidence …… brace yourself, here comes one of Kev’s weasel words PROGRESS without having to show the level, also to get the kids to look at their JOURNEY! rather than for the level.

Plus in true CYA style, making sure I have evidence for HoD that what I am doing is not some ‘namby pamby’ new age dance, but is rooted in solid achievement.

So on @kevbartle’s advice I embarked on another new adventure on the Thursday morning in school.

He suggested that I took the level ladder of the task and ask the kids to look at the levels and assign the SOLO criteria to each of the descriptors, ensuring that they were using them correctly, in addition also explaining why they were applying that level.

So armed with four coloured highlighters and a lesson plan thrown out the window I gave it a whirl.

At first they struggled with what I exactly wanted them to do, more on my part of not explaining it very well (can’t have been anything to do with the wine the night before!)

But eventually they got the hang and comments were coming forth like ‘Miss how can this be level 5 when it is only unistructural, or maybe multi’.

The light had dawned that the levels that we issue aren’t in line with the learning journey that they go on.

Next stage was to get them to self assess the LAT they had just completed to see where they could highlight their SOLO levels, once again with choruses of ‘Miss but I am a mixture of all the levels now, how will you mark this?’ How will I indeed.

Once they had finished their own marking, I asked  them to peer assess someone else and see if their assessment matched those already on the page. Upon returning their work I then gave them a further opportunity to improve on what they had done, seeing where they were unistructural, multistructural and where they could get further detail added in.

See pictures for examples of some of the work…

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This young man is a NC Lv5 but he managed to use some good SOLO levels reaching Relational.

20121003-040250 PM.jpg This pupil underestimated her achievement but understands why she is actually further along her journey

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20121003-040330 PM.jpg This young lady is a very reluctant participant in class, with low belief yet her work shows a level of understanding that she didn’t realise she had.

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I have now started to mark the redrafted work and it is amazing to see the new found confidence in the work. The children knowing what they needed to do in a more structured way have included detail that wasn’t even on the level ladder.

I think most of them have exceeded their so called predicted target in the first assessment and I can only see them getting better.

So I would recommend taking your level ladders and doing something similar to see what effect it has on the quality that can be produced in the so called Level Assessed Tasks.

National curriculum levels I think your days are numbered.

So the time had come for the cross department faculty meeting between two of our three specialisms, science and design and technology. I have been developing good links with this department outside of the directed time, working with the wonderful @lisamort1 on the whole school CPD session. While also doing peer observations with the deputy of the faculty and reciprocated with her observing me!

So there we all were being polite as we droned (opps sorry discussed) on about the heads drive for consistency across the school and the implementation of the amazing PAR ( Praise, Action, Response) marking.

How were we to get our very passive learners to respond to the Action part of the marking, when they aren’t even really interested in responding during lessons.

Much discussions followed about how often we should do this and how much time we are giving to the activity and how do we see if they are learning, improving, acting on the actions, Blah, blah, blah….

On and on went this conversation and I’m sitting there thinking SOLO, SOLO, SOLO! Shows everything we want and we can get the kids to mark (under the guise of peer assessment) their own learning.

Till no longer could I contain myself and turn casually (read into that what you want) to one of my books with the rubric in, well you’d have thought I’d just stripped naked, covered myself in chocolate and run around the room.

Much oohing and ahhing went on with one college saying ‘oh tried it, didn’t work! Rewrote the learning tasks and kids don’t get it!’ Mmm can’t think why, but that’s for a private conversation.

So reluctantly I started to talk about SOLO with more and more wide eyes looking at me like I’d lost my mind. However in this darkness came the light, with the HoD @fredwoodward and @lisamort1 wanting to know more.

So SOLO sharing and twitter love started. Explained in more detail what was going on took a grilling for Head of specialism to prove the neigh sayers wrong and had booked another peer observation to see SOLO in all, well limited glory in my lab!

I didn’t think I was ready for this step but agreed with a smile thinking that I had better make it a good one.

Extolled the virtues of Twitter talked about the amazing #soloposse out there who are ready and willing to help, support, blog, laugh with you on the journey.

That night @fredwoodward joined the ranks of tweechers with @lisamort1 not far behind.

So now we start on our SOLO journey next year embedding it into my science classroom on its own and the D ‘n’ T guys bringing up the rear, with the HoD wanting to look to spread the word across his department.

So forward with SOLO where to next?

Good with Outstanding Bits!

So the big day arrived last Friday for my observation with my NQT mentor and for me to go public with SOLO. I had planned a good week in advance to teach the SOLO bit to the eager minds of year 7. Only to find half of the class missing as they were on a MFL trip to France!

Oh well! Undeterred I ploughed ahead and informed the remaining 12 that they would be my SOLO experts and they were going to teach their classmates all about SOLO when they came back.

So SOLO was introduced and I quickly followed up with the new lesson in the scheme Ecology and I used the rubric for their learning tasks on looking at environments and habitats.

So now I had my experts and with the wonderful input for my tweechers especially @LGolton, wall display was done with help from @JohnSayers and @sciteachcremin. I prepared my room ready for the big reveal. So to the lesson, I will give an outline of the lesson and then the feedback.

Topic of the lesson:

To reflect on the impact that the environment has on a habitat and adaptations of the organisms. (Big Ask!)

The room was set up so each table had colour coded resources on them, blank paper, hexagons with key words and some blanks and a laminated copy of the habitat that they were going to be looking at. Around the room on the benches were the books on the four habitats and adaptations that they were investigating and some other books of interests about general animal stuff.

They came into the room to see where they were seated using the colour coding on the whiteboard and this went off fairly smoothly.

I then got the SOLO experts to explain and recap on the terms of SOLO and how they were going to use it in the lesson, referring to the display when they needed prompting.

The kids were then asked to look at their rubrics and mark on them with an S where they thought they were in their learning and understanding of habitats and adaptations.

We then discussed their thinking and I probed deeper with the WHY questions only to discover that some of them had put themselves down to low and were much further along with their learning and understanding.

I then set out the task, making sure that each table knew that they had to have a spokesperson, resource finder,  note taker and timer. @LGolton told me this was called Market Place. Each habitat had to list first the types of organisms they would find in those habitats and then write, draw, annotate their paper with their adaptations to that particular habitat and they had 15 mins to complete this first part of the task.

Off they all went, full of enthusiasm and even my more reluctant learners were set off at a rate of knots grabbing books with gusto and even pinching and spying on others to see what they were doing. The class was a buzz with activity and I moved around discussing their work and reasons for their choices. It was great to see them really striving to see how they could move their thinking on.

At the appropriate time we stopped, regrouped and discussed the habitats fielding questions from the tables and extending answers were needed. All done by the kids. I asked them to review their learning and see where they were on the rubric now and had they improved or moved forward, with many actually moving into Relational without too much difficulty.

The next part was the fun part for me, they then leaving their spokesperson left their own habitat in search of others and get as much information from the others to bring back to their table and share with their own spokesperson. This was great to see in action as children were pointing out similarities between habitats and adding to others info-grams so that they were complete.

Once they had collated all their information they had to complete a compare and contrast HOT map on two different habitats. They loved it. We reviewed the rubrics and this time using hexagons I asked them to make the links between habitat and impact we humans might have on it.

This is where it fell down as I didn’t have enough time to really show them what I wanted with the hexagons hence some of the less able kids weren’t really sure what I expected but with a bit of fancy footwork we got them to work.

One final assessment of their learning and wow a couple had even made the links between human impact on the Arctic.

Lesson over! Exhaustion sets in. Now the long wait for feedback, after a very quick . Good with outstanding bits.

I spent the weekend wondering what else I could have done, checking my dreaded OFSTED criteria had I ticked all the boxes.. thought I had.

So feedback.

See pictures. The main reason for not outstanding one pupil off task for a small amount of time between moving tables!!!! Enough said.

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Pic 1 – wall display
Pic- 2 & 3 mentors feedback

So next time I will remember to photograph kids work for more evidence. However they were all able to show where they were on rubric and where they got too at the end of lesson.

Now just have to do this every lesson.

Year 7 flying SOLO

After a disastrous (well in my opinion) disastrous day trying to use hexagons for revision with a low set 8 group, I was wondering whether I should give it all up for a bad lot.

However after much sympathy and encouragement from a my new friends on twitter @LGolton and @CanonsOPP I resolved to try again with a lovely and accepting year 7 group, who already think I am completely mad so it wouldn’t matter if it all went horribly wrong.

I introduced the terminology using a Sparkol presentation which was met with gasps of awe, (so easily pleased)… I then gave them a blank rubric and used Tait Coles (@Totallywired) X-factor card sort which, after first asking them to assess where they were on the rubric.

The kids sorted the cards easily and we discussed why they chose the levels and got them to discuss the links. I next asked them about Exeter Chiefs ( slight modification from Leeds Tait,) at which point most of the kids said they were at Prestructural. So once again card sort and off they went allocating the terminology no probs.

So now for the test. We have been covering the topic of rocks formation etc, but had not put the whole rock cycle together yet! Using the blank rubric, I asked them to assess where they thought they were and fill-in why they thought they were there.

They were very honest, with most saying they were at Multistructural , with a couple still purporting to be at Prestructural .. Yet how is beyond me…!

Now to the hexagons, I divided groups into 4, gave them the hexagons and asked them to make the links and to see if they could put the rock cycle together.

Well off they went like long dogs after a rabbit, the TA’s were amazed at how quickly they took to it.

I got to spend loads of time talking to each group discussing their links and extended their thinking and developing connections, so much so, that my ole’ devil from training days ( last year) reared its ugly head; TIME….. which I ran spectacularly out of, so didn’t get to draw they cycle out using their new knowledge.

Oh well next lesson. So feel happier to day and will keep going SOLO till I get all my classes on board.

I just have to become extended abstract now.

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