Educational leadership & learning

#HackTeaching 23.6.16

So on the day that voters in the UK were casting their votes about whether to remain as part of the European Union, with all the positives that collaboration and cooperation with partners can offer, or to vote leave and go it alone, I was pleased and excited to travel to Hedge End in Hampshire for a #HackTeaching Teachmeet orgainsed and run by Henry Penfold (@penfoldno1).

For me Twitter, the internet, and grass roots shared Professional Learning events like these have been transformative for my understanding, approach and practice in schools. Investing the time and focus to listen and learn from others and take the time to reflect on your practice (past, present and future) is invaluable. Personally I think it is a huge shame that some teachers remain behind the closed doors of their classroom or walls of their school buildings, and don’t venture outside to consider the alternative options that may be out there, being shared freely in the real and online world.

Taking time to reflect and remember previous effective practice, and how it can inform future practice was a thread that I kept returning to as I listened to the presentations. Why is it that when we try and take on new ideas we sometimes lose / forget positive practice that has a strong impact.

  1. Times tables practice: Ian Addison (@ianaddison)


Ian shared some ways his school have transformed the teaching and learning of times tables, and hugely motivated their pupils. As part of this he recommended Times Tables Rock Wrangles (which at only £50 for a whole school Ian said is a bargain). He also played part of a clip from YouTube of a teacher using a counting stick to teach a group of teachers the x17 table in under 10 minutes.

He also demonstrated a way to get the pupils to use known facts, adding and subtracting 6 and doubling to work out the multiples of 6 quickly. It reminded me of a method I used to use. I used to start with 2 x the number, 10 x the number and half of that (i.e. 5 x the number). These 3 numbers used to in circles to make them stand out as the ones to remember. My pupils would then add and subtract the multiple we were working on to work out the others. By focusing on patterns, and making it visual, I always found this a useful and memorable strategy.

2. Genius Hour: Graham Andre (@grahamandre)


Graham spoke passionately about how he has developed Genius Hour in his school, and then taken it to different levels, by for example Genius Club (where the pupils can create and organise a club of their choice for the other pupils). He shared how the concept had developed from Google’s concept of 20% time for their employees to follow ideas and questions, which has led to a great deal of innovation.

He then explained how it is such a powerful approach to develop 21st century skills, such as: creativity, innovation, collaboration, communication and critical thinking. He then shared some of the pupils comments about why they value it:


It may me reflect on the work we are currently doing in our school to develop Project Based Learning and the challenge we have found so far in Y2 and Y3 (our oldest pupils at the moment) of getting a balance between a teacher created learning journey (to cover the National Curriculum) and empowering the pupils to take some ownership of the content they are particularly fascinated by and choice over how they might research and present their learning.

I started to discuss with my colleague: Fran Pretty (@francescaprett2) that we consider a ‘mash up’ of Genius Hour and Project Based Learning, by creating a some Genius afternoons with the planned learning journey sequence.

3. Homework: Jenna Lucas (@JennaLucas81)

Jenna shared the frustrations she and her colleagues have had re. issues with homework. From it being very time consuming to prepare and mark, to being unsure whether it was more the parents or pupils work, and the key question of whether it was having any impact on the pupils’ learning and understanding. During this section she referenced Bart Simpson and John Hattie as evidence (and yes in that order)

Jenna spoke about what she believes makes Homework effective.


She shared examples of ‘Takeaway Homework’ which go over a term and enable pupils to choose a few activities from a range of given tasks to undertake. Their work is then brought in for an exhibition at the end of the term, with comments sheets next to them for other pupils and parents to record on. The positives of this approach are: no weekly preparation, greater pupil choice and motivation, no teacher marking, a real sense of purpose for creating and presenting their homework.

At a previous school we used to do this as part of our Projects. It gave the pupils chance to play to and develop their strengths and passions, and always ended with some inspiring and creative exhibitions, which then opened minds and raised aspirations of other pupils.

4. Pride and Priorities: Tim Clarke (@tim_jumpclarke) (Yes me)

Although the aim of the Teachmeet was to share ideas to help teachers save time in the classroom, as someone who last taught his own class in 2011, I decided to share some tips I have found useful in managing my time and workload more effectively, and to take pride in achievements and impact.

Essentially I shared 3 elements:

  • Having an online to do list (in categories of importance) which can easily be accessed
  • Using an online calendar for the regular reminders and to ring fence time for specific tasks
  • Finishing on Friday by spending 5 minutes adding bullet points of that week’s accomplishments to a Proud and Achieved list (which helps me go home on Friday feeling positive, and not being too anxious about my still to do list)

My presentation can be accessed here:

#HackTeaching 23.6.16

5. Kahoot: Henry Penfold (@penfoldno1)

The Teachmeet concluded with Henry sharing (very interactively) how useful and easy to use Kahoot is. We were challenged with a Queen Elizabeth II quiz (unfortunately our team were neither accurate nor quick enough to be able to boast).

Henry explained how this can easily be used as a pre and post assessment to track progress. How teachers can easily create new Kahoot quizzes and how much the pupils are motivated to use them.



I came away with a reminder of how valuable it is to meet, connect with and learn from other colleagues from other schools. We are all doing great things within our own schools, but there are more ideas out there.

To spend time remembering and returning to effective elements of practice we have used in the past, but has maybe dropped from our repertoire.

To concentrate on doing less, but with greater impact. To not rush trying to do so much that we work harder than the pupils, and that they aren’t motivated or learning because of the treadmill of schooling. There is only a finite amount of time we and the pupils have, so it is important we invest it as wisely as we can to have the greatest, most positive and most inspiring impact.

Invest time




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