Lee Garrett

A teaching and learning journey through PE


10 steps to consider for using SOLO

I have recently been asked for some tips when using The SOLO Taxonomy in lessons. I must stress that I have only started using this framework since September 2012 and consider myself still learning and exploring the concept. But nevertheless, since then I feel I have made some half decent progress with it and feel confident using it in all my PE theory classes.

The 10 tips provided have been a result from my own experiences. Rightly or wrongly, the positive experiences have overshadowed the negatives and I have most certainly took risks in trying to be creative which by and large have been successful. Here goes:

Introduce the framework

#1. Introduce the idea to students as a thinking and learning framework. I made conscious efforts to encourage students to think and write down ideas en mass whilst discussing about the use of the multi-structural level. We even related this to exam questions for revision. Once ideas were jotted down we then set about making links/connections and associations (Relational). Again we looked at how we could use our SOLO framework to answer questions which were requiring explanations. And to extend, challenge and differentiate we looked at bringing in other topics to establish a higher order level of learning.

#2. For 2 of my groups, I sacrificed some lesson time to discuss and explain the SOLO concept and the associated terminology. In conjunction with #3 the language used was quite impressive within such a short space of time. Students were able to articulate their level of learning, what they needed to do to improve and how they were going to do it. They were also very aware of the use of the building blocks and the requirement for connections to be made. At no point do I ever assign grades to the various distinguished levels as Im trying to lead the students into thinking about their depth of learning as opposed to the grade they are working at which I’m trying to relate to the work of Dweck and the Growth Mindset. At the same time, I have also tried a different approach with my Year 11s. They are knowledgeable on SOLO but the concept was taught via intertwining it with the syllabus, therefore having no special time set aside to go through the language and framework. My reasoning for doing this was to see how effectively students could apply the taxonomy after being taught 2 different ways. For future planning, I personally would recommend to spend some time going through the different learning levels and the use of the SOLO language.

Classroom environment

#3. The classroom environment is a particularly important one. Firstly, to help embed SOLO, the symbols representing each level have been printed and laminated and stuck down one side of the whiteboard. This for me has been a key factor as the whiteboard now has become one of the main workplaces when discussing, using feedback, demonstrating and thinking. For example, it makes it far easier to write out a success criteria so that students can visually understand what is expected and required to make progress. Using good old post-it notes allows students to come up and show at what level their learning is at by simply writing their name and sticking it next to a SOLO symbol. If you compare where they were at the start of the lesson and where they are at the end, students can start to understand, reflect and feel how their learning is developing. By continuously applying stages of learning to the symbols, it helps students to use the SOLO framework and hopefully positively transfer across different subjects/situations.

Take risks and be creative

#4. Take risks and be creative. When I first set out using SOLO, I really enjoyed seeing the learning being developed and applied by the most simple yet effective tool.The hexagon. My concern though now is death by hexagon!!! For those new to SOLO, students write on one hexagon shape which represents 1 idea (unistructural). Students continue to write down numerous ideas (multi-structural). The power of this tool comes into effect when you then start to join various hexagons together linearly (relational) or like a jigsaw. If you use different colour hexagons which represents different topics and make links this is working towards the deep learning of extended abstract. Since then I have tried a spiders web approach whereby I aim to use the whole classroom and make links and connections with string. To be honest the theory behind it is exactly the same as the use of hexagons but just an alternative way of doing it.

Embed within your lessons

#5. This next point is similar to #3. Encourage the students to apply the SOLO framework in planning, evaluating, designing, answering, explaining etc. This way the common use of the learning language starts to become habitual. In preparing students for the big 6 mark questions in GCSE PE or the 14 mark questions in GCE PE, I have started to combine the IDEAS model (shared by @thebenhorbury) in conjunction with the SOLO to help students think, apply and structure their questions more constructively.


#6. Another way I encourage the students to think and apply the framework and become more accustomed to the language is by structuring homework questions using the associated verbs. For example, list, name, define and describe would be uni/multi structural whilst the more extended questions would be to include explain, compare & contrast, design, predict and construct. I find that students begin to understand the nature of the question and the level of detail required. With students understanding the question and the level of learning/thinking they know that for more developed statements, verbs such as, BECAUSE, SO THAT, THIS ALLOWS and THEREFORE or similar must be used to enhance their answer. Obvious, I know but for some of my students this has made a big difference.

Feedback tool

#7. Getting students to ‘feedforward’ can be quite a straight forward process using the SOLO success criteria and the help of a few SOLO symbols in the classroom.

where am I now?’ with the explicit learning objective and the success criteria, feedback for the students is important and using SOLO has for me made this an easier process. Using Formative Assessment strategies and carefully constructed questions helps this.

Where do I need to get to‘ With the shallow to deep’ continuum its a very visible and dare I say easier progressive pathway to reach a target/objective with the intermittent SOLO levels. However, in 1 lesson, I find that reaching extended abstract is not always possible. The deeper learning may be discussed and touched upon but to actually store and retrieve the learning is not always possible and takes quite a few days/weeks. Is it possible to go from pre-strucual to extended abstract that easily? Im not so sure it is.

‘How will I get there‘ is an important question and if the student can identify this themselves, then surely you are facilitating independent learning bearing in mind that of course direct instruction will have played a big part in helping you reach this stage. Again if the learning objective is explicit and success criteria links in with SOLO, it makes a far easier discussion to understand the feedback report FROM the students in aiding you for your future planning.

Peer and self assessment

#8. When peer/self assessing, get students to identify what level of learning has been demonstrated/achieved. Get them to highlight the work and symbolise it. This has many advantages but the most important element of this activity is allowing students to redraft. After hearing so much and reading Ron Berger’s, The Ethic of Excellence, this is an absolute must and one where improvement can be visible. Let the students redraft and learn from their mistakes.


#9. When planning, I think about the lesson objective first, then the success criteria and then design the activity ensuring it is pitched at the right level.  I am a big fan of the SOLO stations (@totallywired77). Put simply, each table or area of the classroom represents a SOLO learning station. Students can start at any station they feel matches their knowledge and then they complete several tasks which are pitched at the levels appropriate for each station before moving on. This really is differentiation heaven. If students are struggling they can move back down a SOLO level before moving back up until they feel they are ready. I found that the more the students get used to this type of lesson, the more confident they become and the more independent they are at making their own decision to move on.

#10. My final point is one of sharing. Firstly, Twitter is an unbelievable tool for sharing and collaborating. There are some outstanding practitioners who are more than happy to support, share and advise. Follow the #soloarmy. Secondly, from Twitter, there are some very informative blogs which will help inspire you to take a chance and be creative. I first came across SOLO thanks to @davidfawcett27 and from there was directed to @totallywired77 and @lgolton. I would also really recommend watching @learningspy on youtube. He clearly explains the SOLO levels at a TeachMeet and clearly explains the Taxonomy. Finally, I would make sure you fully understand the SOLO concept and get a clear idea of how you are going to use it in your lessons. I came across it in June 2012 but didn’t actually implement it until September 2012 and used the summer holidays to fully understand the concept and now it has become an essential ingredient in my theory lessons.

Hope this helps.





I have been using SOLO Taxonomy since Sept 2012 and I have to say that generally it has been absolute key element to  my classroom teaching. As a PE teacher, I decided to use SOLO in my theory classes, GCSE and A Level and my first inspiration was David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27). It was after discovering his blog that I then started chasing people on twitter and people’s blogs making sure that understood the language. After reading the brilliant Tait Coles (@Totallywired77), I was certain that I was not going to visibly associate a level descriptor or grade against the learning taxonomy. I know some people do and thats fine, but I feel that with my particular students, they get too hung up on what grade or level they are currently working on and ignore the importance of utilising feedback and working towards developing that growth mindset. The students do know however that relational learning is the threshold they should at least be aiming for and to be honest without the public grades, the students use the appropriate language when using SOLO as an exit ticket.

So for those reading this, and wondering what on earth is SOLO all about, I will talk about the presentation I did at a Teachmeet that I participated in and which I ran out of bloody time!

SOLO ( Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) Biggs & Collins

SOLO is a taxonomy for teaching and learning. It has similarities to Blooms (taxonomy for thinking) which I still use to help frame differentiated questions.

To get people to understand the SOLO taxonomy, I used the example of a sandwich. The AW Sandwich! Here goes:


Prestructural – I have no ideas about the AW sandwich, I need help to describe it.

At this level of learning, students will have no idea what it is that is being learned and therefore will need help to build the language, terminology and basic factual blocks of information in order to progress. Unless you are the chef who designed this culinary delight I am probably guessing that most people reading this will be at this level.


Uni-Structural – I have 1 idea about the AW Sandwich. I know 1 ingredient/characteristic of the AW Sandwich.

For those of you wanting to learn all about this sandwich, you now know that the main ingredient is a slice of wagyu beef tenderloin.


Multi-structural – I have several ideas about the AW Sandwich. You know the main ingredients.

As previously stated, this sandwich contains a slice of wagyu beef tenderloin, a poached quails egg, rocket lettuce, seared foie gras, black truffle mayonnaise, crispy strip of turkey bacon and finally heirloom tomatoes.

When planning the learning objectives and the success criteria, there are key verbs to help (this is where it is similar to Blooms)

For example: define, list, name, state, describe, and identify.
PE exam question: State 2 factors that will cause optimum weight to vary between between individuals in the same event (2 marks)
LG example: Describe how hungry you after after knowing the ingredients of the AW Sandwich.

The next two levels are the most important ones. For my subject, this is where the big marks are allocated and usually found in the differentiated questions. However if a student can identify a relational or extended abstract question and understand how to approach answering them correctly and recall and link the correct knowledge then they are well on their way to achieving and demonstrating their learning.


Relational: I can connect and relate relevant ideas and learning. I can explain why these ingredients are used and how they compliment each other.

In classical French cooking, the beef and foie gras form part of the Tournedos Rossini dish and are used together for texture and balance of flavour. Using wagyu beef takes this to the next level. The rocket lettuce adds a crisp texture and the peppery flavour balances out flavours of other ingredients.

The verbs to help the learning at the Relational stage include, compare and contrast, sequence, classify, explain, analyse.

PE exam: Explain the requirements of a balanced diet (4marks)


Extended Abstract: I can look at the ideas in a new way and make links to other concepts.

The AW Sandwich as described was on the menu in a hotel in the UAE, hence the turkey bacon. BUT what if we were in the Caribbean? How might the sandwich change? Would we swap the wagyu beef for Canadian lobster? The black truffle mayo for Beluga caviar? How would the sandwich fit within a dinner party? What colour wine would you use if eating at 1pm as opposed to 7pm?

As you can see this is a lot more about making generalisations, predicting , evaluating, hypothesise, create.

A2 PE Exam: Outline the possible causes of spectator violence at sporting events and explain how the law aims to protect them (14marks)


One well documented tool for using SOLO is the use of hexagons. Here each hexagon is used as an idea (uni/multi-structural). On each hexagon an idea is written down and to advance the learning connections are made (relational) by placing the hexagons side by side.

To further enhance the learning, students need to make connections to new concepts. Using different coloured hexagons which represents different concepts and making connections, students are on their way to developing learning at an Extended Abstract level.

photo (3)

The Web

I have been devising other ways to engage the students into making connections and facilitating students to become more deeper learners and deeper thinkers. One way myself and colleagues have explored is the spiders web. As a revision lesson the aim was to answer this question which was generated by @revisePE on Twitter:

David is a swimmer who competes around the country. Suggest some of the influences of participation that has helped him get to this level

In groups, students worked on an individual concept. For example one group worked on factors influencing participation, others worked on Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, National Governing Bodies, and the performance pyramid, five groups in total.

Starting with a multi-structural task, groups had to write as many ideas (1 idea per piece of paper) and make Relational connections/links within that topic by drawing the connections on the table. Each group then moved around the classroom (carousel style) and contributed where appropriate to each topic.



Then armed with a load of string, new connections across the room were made to link ideas from different topics. As an extension task, students had to answer the question which was on the whiteboard throughout the lesson.



As time was running out from the lesson, each person had to think of 2 E.A connections and discuss this with a partner and then to the whole group. What came out of the whole group discussion was that even more connections and deeper thinking emerged as fresh ideas came to light.  All ideas were photographed and made into a PDF as a resource on Edmodo.

The progression from multi-structural to E.A is not an easy one and should take time to reach. I admit that I do not always get to E.A in my lessons and sometimes don’t even plan to get to the deepest level of learning (mainly due to time issues). But what I have found is that where appropriate, the E.A level creates new opportunities for learning to occur, engages the students as they are being stretched out of their comfort zone which as research has shown increases rate of learning and allows students to grow in confidence as they can connect information easily and accurately from a wider perspective.

The Power of Feedback

One of the strongest applications SOLO has is its use as a feedback tool. I have particularly found this useful in A2 PE theory lessons where students are explicitly shown via the whiteboard where they are now, where do they need to get to and how will they get there. This can be shown to the students quite easily with a rubic success criteria or simply stated on the board.


Certainly with my A-level group, we have moved up and down the taxonomy several times before reaching our final destination of learning and this is the beauty of the taxonomy. There is a saying which I really find true to its word;

feedback to feedforward

And SOLO helps you to facilitate effective feedback in order for you and the students to move forward towards deeper learning. This notion of feeding back to feedforward had really helped my understanding and use of SOLO.

And finally planning. I have already mentioned that uni and multi-structural is more quantitative and relational and extended abstract more qualitative. David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27) wrote a great piece on his blog about planning to get to extended abstract and it is something which I fully agree with. He notioned the fact that you dont have to keep to the linear path of working systematically from unistructure to E.A. Why not start from the bigger picture first? This makes perfect sense to me.  I used to plan from bottom up; uni – multi – rel, and then admittedly struggled to see how this fitted in with the bigger picture. Now I much prefer to work using the top – down approach. With the adapted 5 min lesson plan by @teachertoolkit, its far easier to plan the bigger picture first (what do you really want the students to understand) and then plan the foundation of ideas. Darren Mead wrote on his Sharing Pedagogical Purposes blog “who would buy the best high revolution precision cutter, and then decide what to make“. And this is the point I am trying to make. What is the main deep learning foci that is your target? What key ideas, learning tasks do you need to learn to understand the goal objective? As Darren calls it backfill the building blocks.

20130414-180654.jpgphoto (4)

I am certainly still a novice playing with this teaching and learning concept and there is much more I could write about but my final thought on this is that the more risk you take in being creative, engaging and ambitious in leading students to the path of deeper learning, the higher the quality of teaching and learning and the more satisfying your job becomes. Anyone for a sandwich??

Leave a comment

My Quest for Effective CPD

I have been in post as leader of CPD for nearly a year now, and this has been my first post in a long time partly due to this fact. My school is an international school which hosts EYFS through to P16. My role as leader of CPD is to coordinate CPD through the entire school! I am not on the SLT which has its positives and negatives but working between the Primary SLT and Secondary SLT has been quite time consuming along with the current duties as HOD. The hardest part of this role has certainly been trying to create a provision that fits in with the vision of the school. However, being given a free reign and using the research available to produce a provision almost entirely from a blank starting point has certainly been challenging thought-provoking and engaging.

Before I started this post, I was lucky enough to jump on a 3 day leading CPD course which quite honestly has been one of the most effective externally led courses I’ve been on, as it gave me the knowledge, tools and insight into creating effective provision for professional learning. Since going on that course, I have read vast amounts of research and evidenced based articles regarding CPD and evaluation in particular and I am now on a path of reading further into the wider field of research in teaching and learning. Being overseas can certainly be lonely in terms of keeping up to date with the fast pace of education and policy changes but this has been made possible and more accessible thanks to the Twittersphere and the Livestreams (ResearchED and Teachmeets for example).

This is my first year in attempting at changing the culture of CPD towards a higher quality of provision through the use of the trojan mouse effect – small focused changes which can be far reaching. My whole year has been based on trying to create a bottom up, personalised approach in providing professional learning and because of the nature of the environment that we live in has been centred largely around collaboration thanks to the 2003 CUREE review on the impact of collaborative CPD Teaching and Learning – here and the many blogs and tweets I’ve encountered. The review consisted of combing through some 13,479 titles and reading 266 studies. Of that they found 72 studies that carried some relevance and then assessed again in terms of their weight of evidence that left 15 studies from around the world. In summary, collaborated CPD was linked to improvements in teaching and learning and reported that some of the improvements were substantial towards students and teachers.

There were behavioural changes to teachers including an enthusiasm to work collectively, a reduction in anxiety with regards to feedback and greater confidence as well as a greater belief that teacher could actually make a difference to student achievement. For students, there was evidence of enhanced motivation, increased quality of response to questions, improved performance (test results) and an overall wider experience of different learning activities.

Below is a reflection and summary on the strategies and interventions I have started this year in the quest for promoting effective CPD provision.

Strategy #1

Whole school meeting – Primary AND Secondary:

A copy of the slides in PDF format can be viewed here: http://goo.gl/Vf9jZg

Here I used some of Prof J Hattie’s research to try and make the point that the teacher has the highest number of effects which can affect student achievement and learning. I then went on to talk about the blog (Alex Quigley – HuntingEnglish.com) and the OK Plateau which sort of led me to research Joshua Foer. I think it was at this point where I felt personally people were becoming more reflective about their own practice and how much they had developed over their teaching career. This lead on nicely to a slight detour as I had come across the work of John Fisher and the process of transition. I showed them this slide http://goo.gl/G6nrtt which highlights the emotional change people may go through for effective change to occur. The main reason for doing this was to try and counteract some of the negativity I was anticipating with the changes I had planned. I think at the time, it would have had some impact but would certainly need revisiting to sustain a positive ethos towards professional learning. There was certainly a good vibe and an air of optimism after the meeting which was good because the following day there was another CPD strategy. See below.

Strategy #2

Internal Teachmeet

An internal Teachmeet. For the vasty majority of staff, they had heard of Teachmeets but had never attended one. So for the first week of INSET, we held our own (with a slight difference). Four primary and secondary staff randomly had 3 minutes to share their idea BUT they had been briefed not to go into too much detail because afterwards, staff voted on their top 2 preferences for further exploration of that idea in a classroom. This worked perfectly because it allowed teachers to engage in questioning to further their understanding. For example, one member of the primary staff used imotion HD and spent an extra 20minutes supporting staff in using the software in a ICT classeroom. After the 20minutes workshop was over staff went onto their second preference. For that 90 minute session, staff were engaged and already some of the more ‘reserved’ members actually vocally approved of the small event.

Strategy #3

Teaching & Learning Bulletin

Quite simply I have put together “The SES T&L Bulletin”. A simple document which is emailed to all staff – once a month. Inside are blog articles (with permission!), ideas on AFL, research, and general tips and ideas picked up.

Strategy #4

Lead Practitioner

Lead by the SSAT, there are currently 9 members of staff who are driving pedagogical change through the school to improve teaching and  learning. This has been kindly part funded (50%) by the school and is working towards a whole school improvement. This is evidenced based and once achieved, the accreditation can then go towards a masters degree. The programme involves those to attend 6 school based lectures, carryout an action research project and a coaching module evidence impact.

Strategy #5

Personalising through small T&L groups

I conducted a staff survey on CPD provision. This was to try and gain some insight into the needs and develop a bottom up approach model. The questionnaire which went out was based (at that time) on the new Sept 2012 teacher standards. The intent here was to pick out staffs strengths and weaknesses and create a programme personalising CPD to their needs. This started shortly after the Christmas break but prior to that and in conjunction with the Primary SLT we initiated the planning by using various review tools and using the coaching skill-will matrix (Max Lundsberg) identified staff to help change the culture of an outdated CPD approach to a more collaborative one. One term I came across during the CPD Leaders course was through a research paper (McKinzie Report), Prescribe Adequacy – Unleash Greatness. Headteacher, Tom Sherrington in a similar way describes his unleashing greatness of his staff by using a rainforest analogy and allowing personalisation to characterise the provision of CPD – here. Rather than constraining staff to a linear path he envisages staff taking risks and creative opportunities without being too restrictive.  I wouldn’t say that we have unleashed greatness just yet or that our rainforest is growing wildly out of control but their is certainly some growth and momentum and hopefully this can all be showcased for the purpose of improving student achievement. Slowly, I have experienced particular members of staff who have surprised me with their willingness to come forward and share with me their teaching and learning accounts in the classroom. A possible sign that the wheel is turning.

With the needs of the colleagues now collated, the Primary SLT identified members of staff to lead a mini T&L group with a specific focus: Implementing the new Primary Curriculum, AFL strategies and success criteria. Over the past couple of months staff have been busy trialling, collaborating, exploring, implementing ideas based on their focus. To share the findings, staff will be presenting to the SLT and the rest of the Primary school where hopefully this will shape future practice. Early indications from feedback suggests that this has been a useful approach but need to re-consider group sizes in future.

Strategy #6

CPD Tues Briefing

Within the primary sector, briefing is on a Sunday and the secondary school, everyday but on Tuesday this is known as CPD Sun/Tues. After all the reminders have been shared out, CPD briefing kicks in. Basically, all staff were entered into a random generator and one person is picked out to share one teaching and learning idea that they use. For most people this is one of the highlights of the week as it breaks up the monotonous morning briefings that we have on a daily basis and the more interactive they are, the more entertaining and interesting they are at 7:30 in the morning. This has now evolved to sharing 2 ideas. One person who is randomly chosen and one person who volunteers to share a revision strategy.

Strategy #7

Triple Tuesday

We have just recently gone through ALL the staff (randomly) and rather than going through a second cycle I have revamped the day to Triple Tuesday. Staff have to group together (voluntarily) in threes where there are at least 2 different departments represented. Each group then decides on a focus e.g. effective starters. This then becomes the focus for the week for the entire secondary school and the three staff involved also share ideas associated with that focus and a small checklists to refresh the importance. With 2 different departments represented this should ensure that the ideas are cross curricular and not subject specific.


On of the hardest tasks has been measuring the impact of the strategies which is reliable and valid. I have sent out a staff survey via Google Forms where they describe the impact of the various strategies which they have had in the classroom. This has been interesting as you gain an insight into the kind of strategies that have made a difference which I suppose will now help to further embed a positive culture and ethos. The second evaluation method is based on Thomas Guskey’s model of Evaluating Professional Development. This is based on; the learning made by the staff member, the additional support/change needed from the school, the impact of staff’s use of new skills/behaviour and the student’s outcome which is then followed up 6 weeks later to test the real impact or see if it is just another flash in the pan idea but soon forgotten. This is by no way the perfect evaluation model but when browsing over the data, it does give a good picture on the range of quality of CPD including external provision which appears to be working and perhaps needs to be focused on to sustain the enthusiasm.

Final thoughts

My intention was to start small and build up the CPD provision for the school. For me getting staff to understand the OK Plateu shared by Alex Quigley – read here and doing some self-reflection has been key. And most people agreed with the concept but getting staff out of their comfort zone and taking risks is a bigger challenge than first thought. Changing the attitude of what CPD ‘used to be’ to now what ‘effective CPD is’ will certainly be my challenge for the remainder of the year and the next I suspect. But reading the feedback it is appearing to be not a lack of desire or will but  actually sustaining the enthusiasm as it gets lost amongst all the other newly introduced processes, pressures, deadlines and polices. For me collaboration has been vital. In an international setting, we are not bombarded so much with the huge CPD advertising and therefore external courses are not as widely available, which is not a bad thing as it encourages me to use the expertise within the school. For the future, I would like to see the secondary school become more involved with research and enquiry based practices. With the Lead Practitioner’s course, we have members of staff who is currently working through this course and would be an ideal opportunity to lead others through this action research process. CPD is not yet a central part of the school system for various reasons. We do not have allocated time for INSET training and therefore building that all important time capacity is much needed. How we do this could be through being creative with the curriculum and continue persevering with trying to personalise professional learning, develop independent enquiry in the hope to sustain the engagement of professional learning.


‘Crossover’ Cooperative Learning Structure in Rugby

In my quest of delivering #realpe lessons, I have recently been focusing on

1) reducing teacher talk

2) lean towards a more guided discovery approach.

I have publicised the benefits of using the cooperative learning model and the various structures on this blog. Today, I used a Kagan structure called Crossover which was used in Rugby. 

Tackling in rugby is something which, I can quite easily omit from lessons and leave for the extra curricular activities for those who want to develop their rugby skills. But this particular class (year 5 boys) love to be stretched, are very competitive and the lower ability students like to embrace challenge  so I decided to try something different other than my ‘traditional’ command style (safety conscious) rugby session.

In groups of 3, Independently warming up, students applied a pulse raiser (rugby specific), stretch and specific skill practice.

After a quick Think-TRI-Share structure, it emerged that most students felt comfortable with the key points and so demonstrating the side on tackle (on knees only) became my hinge task on which way to advance the lesson.

Whenever I ask students to get into groups, this is normally what happens.

1) All the friends (usually similar ability) get together

2) All the competitive ones who MUST win get together

3) Those who struggle (socially and/or physically) get together

And so a continuum of differing abilities, skills, personalities emerge which reflected on the quality range of work produced. So now it was the time to use the Crossover structure to raise progress and continue to use and develop skills other than practical based ones. The Crossover structure is an extremely simple format where students rotate in a specific direction. Shown below:


In groups, they numbered themselves 1-3, and then ALL number 1s moved 1 place to the right and ALL number 3s moved 1 place to the left. Extremely simple to administer but extremely effective. 

I continued to encourage the groups to work together applying the key points of the tackle and then shortly introduced a task to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the front on tackle and the side on tackle. To be honest, the process of thinking, collaboration and analysing was more important than the actual success of the performance and students were rewarded for the level of answering/feedback. 

Initial thoughts at this stage are that, the more able students became leaders through a natural process and not by myself ordering them to take on the leadership role (Taking responsibility). The lower able students were subject to specific feedback by their new peers which enhanced their understanding and confidence (critical feedback). Those that normally get left out/socially rejected suddenly found a new gear to operate in and were engaged although they still had to be monitored for the occasional peer fall out. I’m not sure this would happen with older students.

Back to the Think-Tri-Share structure and this time it was to generate feedback into their understanding and knowledge of comparing two types of tackles. 

After a quick recap and questioning session, I then decided to revert back to the original groups as I felt it would be safer and easier to differentiate the games. The next task was 3v3 with a rugby league type format. To my surprise the level of effort and determination offered by the lower able students was significant. There was a definite resemblance to the technical model offered which more importantly made the skill effective, safe and dare I say fun??? Not to mention the level of knowledge and understanding previously fed back in the lesson

I did have to balance some of the teams but again this was in consultation with both parties involved and at one point I questioned myself as to whether I had ‘stretched’ the students. Yes was the answer. How did I know? They regulated their own game without much confrontation, they wanted to keep playing through their break time, one student requested in private that I do the same next week because he decided he worked better with a particular group as his behaviour had improved.

Finally, this is a great little structure if you want to share or develop information. It randomly mixes groups up creating an environment that can develop leadership, problem solving, decision making/evaluating, I can see that this would be successful in the classroom and in a wide range of activities in PE.

Nb. The Think-Tri-Share is my extended version of Think-Pair-Share. 



Leave a comment

Sharpening the Swiss Army knife (ipad) for P.E – Ready for 2013

A lot has been said about the use of the ipad in the classroom. Twitter certainly helps collaborate ideas and the mass variety and uses of the apps. The ipad is like the Swiss Army knife (wiki: generally has a blade and various other tools). In this edition it generally has a 9.7 inch screen with various apps. Its versatility, creative apps and high quality output never ceases to impress me but as a tool to enhance learning and aid teaching, it has become a tool which has become an everyday item along with my keys (when I don’t lose them) and my board pen. Some of you reading this who already use the ipad especially the #pegeeks will know what I’m talking about but let me share my valuable Swiss Army tools:

The aim of this post is simply to inform and therefore the description is brief but a link to various websites has been attached for more information.

  Twitter: This is probably the most important tool. You have access to a whole community of like minded teachers from the same subject, different subject, different parts of the globe, senior management, middle management, NQT. The list is endless. And for the time you spend creating an account you get in return a plethora of ideas, strategies and some wise words of wisdom. However there are some valuable people who #sharingiscaring openly elaborate on the new releases found, new ways to use the apps. Techies worth a follow: @ICTmagic, @syded06, @mrobbo, @danielharvey9 and ICTEvangelist.

Edmodo: This pivotal learning platform has provided me an infrastructure to effectively and efficiently communicate, organise , monitor and report, give good quality feedback, engage and support. The interface is very user friendly. As a teacher of GCSE and A Level PE, it has enabled me to mark homework as it comes in reducing the pile up that has occurred in the past. Once in, I am able to annotate the submitted online homework and give effective feedback. There is a gradebook function which acts as a teachers mark book and you are able to monitor what time homework is submitted. This has been useful!

Other brilliant features include the library option where you can store resources and link to Google Docs. You can create classrooms, set alerts (reminders), connect with other teachers and communities and set quizzes/polls. For more information on this platform click here. Other teachers who have documented their use of Edmodo are @davidfawcett27 and @mat6453

 or  Ubersense / Coaches Eye: I prefer Ubersense but my colleague uses Coaches Eye. To be honest they are very similar in use and hold similar features. Once a video has been recorded, you can use it instantly and then the fun begins. You can analyse using various drawing tools, use slow motion, manually scroll frame by frame. Ubersense can compare videos side by side or overlay and finally you can narrate over the top of a video. Follow @mrbpeteacher, @mrmozely and @PEeducator,

Following on from the analysis apps is Youtube. A well known and global app which thanks to @TeamTait has a dedicated #Pegeeks channel which you can access if you contact him. Here there is a bank of skills for students and teachers to use.

Socrative: For me this is one of those apps that gets used the most. In terms of providing feedback, it allows the teacher to get an insight into the whole class. Using a device (ipad, ipod, mobile phone) the student would use this as an online clicker. Teachers can make either multiple choice questions or short answer questions which at the end of the test can be emailed directly to the teacher for instant analysis thus getting feedback from the students. If you have not seen or used this app, use it as one of your 2013 resolutions to do so. Check out the website here.

 Explain Everything/Educreations/Showme: Ive used all 3 screencast apps. Explain Everything has a lot more features and tools to create a high quality screencasts than the other 2 but I have to say that I generally use Educreations simply for ease of use and because you have an online account where you can store your presentations. Great for the flipped learning and blended learning model. @pauldavidmac has some good examples on his blog of how he uses screencasts.

Evernote: This online notebook allows you to clip and store web pages, store thoughts & ideas, photos and general notes. My students use Evernote by taking pictures and using the online storage facility which is helpful if work presentation is poor. They are then able to snyc their notebooks to their desktop/laptop or device which is useful revising or writing up notes. Evernote notebooks can be shared among colleagues via email. Students are now in the habit of obtaining evidence of anything within the lesson by taking photos and saves valuable lesson time as they dont have to copy stuff down. Click here to take you to the Evernote website.

The above are the main tools I use for teaching and learning but following this are other apps which I use:

Pocket – Place to store online blog posts and other interesting articles.

Wordsalad – Free tag cloud used to put across learning objectives in a different way.

Avid Studio – I use Avid instead of imovie.

VideoScribe – Engaging presentation app other than Prezi

Aurasma – Augmented Reality. This app has so many potential uses.

Dropbox / Box.com – Online storage

Phoster – Excellent poster app

Kagan Name Selector – Instead of using lollipops. Will start using this come the start of term for questioning techniques.

Easy QR – QR code generator / reader

Below are apps that I rarely use for one reason or another (mainly lack of time) but I will eventually get round to it.


Video in Video



Comic life

There are some excellent teachers who are using some of the above apps and more to enhance the learning of students. There is no right way or wrong way in using these tools in class as long as the purpose is to engage the student and enhance the learning.

Over the next couple of months as technology and pedagogy evolves, some of the apps listed will be replaced but part of the excitement is trying new stuff and experimenting, using the ipad creativly within the classroom. Please feel free to add to the list of alternatives or recommend any others.


Leave a comment

Blended Learning? I’d call it diverse teaching!

Ive recently been observed by senior management. I tried to keep the lesson as routinely normal as possible without dressing it up, so I opted for SOLO stations. why not? Students have already experienced the benefits and the challenge of progressing and seeing their own visible learning, they know and understand the language and the process involved. Done!

These are some post obs reflections.

Briefly, each station had a different activity. To start, Socrative was used to generate a hinge question and find a starting point for the students to begin working. There was a Flipped Classroom approach integrated with cooperative learning, there was peer critique on another station and finally hexagons for the Extended Abstract which was planned but not used. Students needed to pay extra attention on the relational stage.

Some may call the above a Blended Learning approach, who cares, I would just simply call it diverse teaching and learning to engage the students into personalised learning. The great @learningspy recently posted a blog called Is there a right way to teach? in which I totally agree with his sentiments. Direct Instruction has been found to be extremely effective in terms of student achievement (Hattie – 0.59 effect size). Just reflecting back to my lesson observation, did I exercise Direct Instruction? Most definitely because it was easy for me to create a success criteria through the use of SOLO levels, the students knew what had to be achieved and as the teacher I set clear learning intentions (cheers WALT) AND from time to time I was checking progress. This does not mean I used didactic teaching methods which is sometimes confused with the term Direct Instruction. No way. In fact did I mention that cooperative learning was used, the great Think-Pair-Share strategy pops up again (reciprocal teaching).

William Glasser

There were times that as a teacher, I felt that my expertise needed to interject some of the conversation. As much as I felt it would be right to allow them to explore various avenues and allow them to make the mistakes in order to learn, there are some restrictions which prevent me from allowing this to happen. Mainly TIME. We have an even shorter academic year due to the cultural environment this school is located in and time is tight to finish off the syllabus. Fortunately, formative questioning steered them back on course and the students themselves questioned me and others for their own understanding (these were duly congratulated).

Hattie’s Visible Learning is not predictive, it is evidence based on many millions of students and a synthesis on over 800 meta analyses and if you want to know what impacts on student’s learning this should be a good starting point.

The lesson showed visible learning. Students achieved set learning intentions. They demonstrated the use of various skills, interdependence, accountability, formulated questions to consolidate understanding, and made mistakes which they learned from. They received feedback in order to feedforward. They gave me feedback in order for me to gain an understanding of their actual learning.

The use of teaching strategies are an important contributing factor (0.6 effect size). One thing Ive learned is that with my expert personal learning network via Twitter and the professionally written blogs being shared, diversifying the strategies has been made easier to use and explore. The Blended Learning (BL) approach is an interesting one in that it combines face to face interaction (teacher) and online learning (screencast).

The use of the SOLO stations fitted in well with the BL model Station Rotation with a few variances to make the lesson work. I would certainly use this model again as it allows more effective use of the teacher within the classroom in other words, there is more student-teacher time making effective use of feedback. Part of the reason why I used SOLO stations was that as a whole school, we are having a drive on differentiation. Students can start at any stage and their decision can be guided by the hinge question. Students then progress forwards or backwards (consolidate) at their own pace. During the flipped approach students could watch the screencast as many times as they wish (self paced). As highlighted, the BL model allows for differentiation.

Call it what you want but this lesson was filled with a variety of different tasks and activities pinned against learning criteria. The fact that I used a potential BL model is irrelevant. Diverse, specific and engaging teaching and learning tasks for me is a successful recipe in the classroom. I will however pay a little more attention on Blended Learning to see exactly what it can offer.


Physical Literacy

As a PE teacher and indeed any teacher you are continually thinking about behaviour management, progression of activities, questions for effective feedback, AFL strategies, warm-up, cool down, differentiation. The list goes on. But physical literacy? This is a term that I’m well aware of but never really gave it much thought. Why? Probably because there is so much we have to consider to incorporate within a lesson that specific physical literacy tasks is put to one side and left to develop over time through day to day experiences. Until now!

physical literacy

I recently attended a course on developing physical literacy by CreateDevelopment delivered by @creatorronnie and @cretorjohn. This is not a sales pitch for CreateDevelopment although they did deliver an outstanding course but my thinking and reflection from that day has ignited some thought as to the future of my PE units of work and lessons.

When we talk about physical literacy, we essentially are talking about the basic fundamentals of skill and movement. Some call it multi-abilities or A,B,Cs (agility, balance, coordination) but it is all very much the same. The analogy which really stuck with me is that the sport specific skills / the complete execution of a task is referred to as a sentence of movement. I will use triple jump as an example.

But what about the letters and words that make up these sentences? Without the letters, you get mis-spelled words, incomplete sentences and a paragraph that does not make sense. The letters are the so called physical literacy skills needed to execute the skills. For example in triple jump the words run up, hop, skip,  jump, flight and landing make up the sentence (the complete execution of the triple jump). Within the words are letters. These letters are the fundamental physical literacy skills, balance and coordination, and don’t forget these skills need to be transferred bilaterally. Generally the multi-skills which act as a foundation for movement are by and large overlooked.


– How could physical literacy be embedded? As part of the warm-up/cool down, integrated within the lesson? We have the resources to do this but department planning and sharing good practice is key.

(Next question refers to our school which starts from Foundation Stage 1 to Post-16)

– Could we do INSET training to Primary staff and encourage/guide them to set aside 5-10 every day of physical literacy exercises as part of 5-10min motivator break? There is actually another learning benefit by doing this.

– Physical literacy was largely developed through “play”. With the ever increasing technological society, is it possible to educate parents about the value of physical literacy and the various ways that home support can contribute. We constantly get asked by parents what they can do to support their son/daughter although many rely on school as their only provision of physical activity.

– How can we get staff to support PE and offer physical literacy ECAs?

– Would Secondary students benefit from an intervention of physical literacy? or is it too late by then.

We have already took a big step since September by redesigning the curriculum to focus on developing 6 non performance skills (cognitive, physical, creativity, social, personal, health and fitness) and have already seen higher attainment, an increase in a positive attitude towards PE and visible learning. But if 75% of students are switched off PE by the age of 16, questions have to be asked as to why. Is it because they do not have the physical literacy skills developed enough to participate AND ENJOY sport, peer group pressure and other external factors, inflexible curriculum, or some other complex reason.

Whatever the reasons, PE teachers have to try and eliminate as many factors as possible. For me right now, the development of physical literacy is important especially in the environment I work and live in. Culturally, the students I work with do not have opportunities to develop the basic fundamental skills and this can be observed in the quality of their own body movements and coordination.

Like I said earlier, I always knew about multi-skills and abilities but it was never in my radar until now. I’m pretty sure that just a minimal amount of time spent developing some aspect of  fundamental skills will go a long way. Some would call this a marginal gain.