3D Printing has made my Day

Thank you to all that read my blog, and continue to do so, even though I’ve not posted for a while! Not so long ago my wife and I had a baby….not quite as easy to find time to sit writing these days, but after seeing an article online about some work I have been doing with 3D printers, I have decided to get back on WordPress and will continue to do so when I can. As well as writing about some general educational issues that are general and can be viewed by all….this post is very much related to my subject, Design and Technology….and my latest passion, 3D Printing. If you are a DT Teacher, and are reading this without having a 3D Printer in your department….please please please do all you can to get one! For years I have been putting large bids together to increase the size of my department capitation so that I can fill my stock room full of material for the pupils at my school to use.  Most materials come as flat sheets, bars, tubes or have been bags of small electronic components.  Since getting a laser cutter 3 years ago, I’d guess I’ve spent a fortune on acrylic sheet, I have no idea how we coped without a laser cutter, and at the time I can honestly say it changed my life!  New possibilities came with the laser cutter, crazy shapes and intricate designs could now be cut….things that a hack saw, wet and dry paper and a bit of T-Cut would not allow! I look back at the projects I have made with pupils, some getting the top marks available for GCSE controlled assignment….they all have one thing in common….lots of flat sides and box like constructions (no wonder really when most of the material I bought had a stock form of a flat sheet!) Only too often did a pupil design something that was unique and organic, then to be told, ‘that is great, but is hard to make, so…..lets make it like this’  the poor pupil would more than likely be able to have some curvy/organic part to their work, as long as it was stuck on a box 😦 Now that we have 3D Printers, all that has changed! My new saying is….’If you can think it, we can draw it….and yes! You can make it!’ (As long as it fits in a 3D Printer :-)) The school I work at is a teaching school (St James’s C of E High School, Bolton), through the teaching school I was able to get some funding to buy a 3D Printer and have some time to learn to use the CAD software.  I use Autodesk, but many are available. Just before Christmas many teachers braved the cold to attend a twilight CPD session I ran, to read more about the session there is an article available via the link below from 3D Print.com: http://3dprint.com/35037/3d-printing-education-2/ The article was written by @ladybridgeDT Phil Cotton, (3dprintshow winner 2013 and 2014 educational excellence award for 3dprinting.) There are many pros and cons to any method of manufacturing, and don’t think that 3D Printing is not without its issues….it is.  But after a bit of tweaking and patience, it is well worth investing time and money in.  Some pupils laugh when I tell them that their print will take 6 hours to make, but they soon smile when they know that their work is being made overnight and will be ready to see in the morning! If you are interested in 3D Printing and would like any help, please get in touch with me, and also check out Phil’s website, http://www.3dfilemarket.com


The less teachers talk, the more pupils learn @jackiebeere @teachertoolkit

A couple of years ago @jackiebeere came to do a presentation at my school, this was soon after her book ‘the perfect Ofsted lesson’ came out.  I’m not on commission….but since it is a great read you can get it from the link here:


One piece of advice that she gave was to try to aim for a teacher input of 20% and a pupil engagement of 80%. Many of you will have heard of the 80/20 split in many different situations,  “It was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population.

It was after Jackie’s presentation that I started to look at the clock in my room, so many times I have been guilty of standing there…..leaning on my whiteboard….and talking for up to 20 minutes – before I would unleash the pupils to actively learn.  I am even more ashamed that I am a Design and Technology, a teacher of a practical subject, where all the pupils say to me is ‘can we just get on with it Sir?’  Once a pupil even turned his stool round to face me, stretched his legs and leaned back to rest on his table, when I asked him why he was sat like that, he replied ‘I’m just getting comfy Sir before you start!’  Whilst this pupil was being polite (I think), it did make me realise that things have got to change and I need to reconsider my approach to the way I deliver my lessons.

I am going to list a few practical ways that I have adopted to ensure that the pupils do more work than me in the lesson, not only do I think the pupils are learning more, but I feel that I have more time in my lessons to speak to the pupils on a one-to-one basis, more time to assess their work with them and to ask really focussed questions that are pitched to the correct level of their ability….ensuring that each pupil is challenged.

  1. I use Solo Taxonomy in many of my lessons, I split the levels on learning/understanding into the five  Solo structures.  I write the different levels of learning/understanding on five post-it notes and stick each note in an envelope.  I have lots of envelops with the pictures of the Solo Structures on the front. (Go on twitter and search #Soloarmy for examples).  I then hand the envelopes out to various pupils as they come into my room, the lesson then starts with them opening the envelopes and reading out the differentiated learning objectives.  I use this envelop technique a lot, the pupils love opening them.  Sometimes they will contain instructions to share with their tables, instructions on how to peer assess, how to pack up work, sometimes I put instructions in so that the pupils lead a practical demonstration….rather than me. The envelopes could contain anything that you would normally stop a class for.  Do try it and comment on here what you have done with the envelopes!
  2. An amazing idea from @teachertoolkit – Homework.  Homework is often an issue.  Either because it is time consuming to think of what to set or time consuming explaining how to do it.  I think that if you add up the time a teacher spends setting homework and explaining it, over a day, a week, a month, a year….it would be a shocking amount of time that not only a class is stopped for, but how long they have stopped learning for.  @teachertoolkit came up with the idea of take-away homework.  I now have a take-away style homework menu up in my room with 50 different homeworks on.  I spent about 30 minutes making the poster (it can be found on my blog).  The pupils now just get given a time slot in the lesson where they go to the take-away and pick which one they want to use….they love it.  Now my whole class carry on working whilst each table simply goes over to the large A1 poster and picks a homework.  I usually write on my board, Table 1, 9.00 am, Table 2, 9.10 am etc. etc.
  3. On a laser cutter I made a class set of Red and Green discs, they look like poker chips from a casino, but are red on one side and green on the other.  The pupils simply have these in front of them and flip them back and forth during the lesson to show their understanding.  I always say that the discs are for them, rather than me.  If a pupil turns their disc to red, a pupil with a green chip must try and help them.  Again this is something that all pupils seem to like from Year 7 to 11.
  4. Exit cards are in a small box in the middle of the table (this is where I also keep the red/green chips), the pupils answer some simple questions on the cards and hand them to me as they leave.  I change the questions every few weeks to keep them interested.  Typical questions could be, ‘what have you learnt today?’ ‘have you enjoyed the lesson?’ ‘on a scale of 1 -10, were you challenged enough?’ ‘what do you think we will learn next lesson?’ I then use the feedback to inform the way I deliver my lesson next time.
  5. I have a Solo Taxonomy Continuum line on the wall in my classroom.  After the learning objectives have been read out, (by the pupils), I get the class to write their name on a post-it and stick it on the line.  During the lesson, without me saying so, they can go and move their post-it as they feel they make progress.  It is great to take a quick picture of the post-its on my phone at the start of the lesson, and then at the end.  I email the pictures from my phone to my work email and stick them on the interactive whiteboard for the class to see….whilst they fill out their exit tickets.  A great way to keep the class motivated by sharing the progress with them.

All these resources take a bit of time to make and set up, but once you get the pupils in a routine the lessons pretty much run themselves!  My last 6 lessons have been graded as outstanding, both by Ofsted and in school.  I truly believe that to be outstanding you need routines that the pupils know.  It would be a shambles if you had no routines that promoted learning through a teacher talking less, and then shocked the pupils by copying all the things I’ve written about here simply because you know you are being observed.  Forget observations, plan outstanding lessons for the pupils, get your routines right and let the pupils lead the learning.


Please comment on this blog if you have any other good tips for me to try, or if you use any of my ideas.


Thank you.


50 Strategies for Differentiation

How can we put policy into practice?

50 Strategies for Differentiation
from the amazing teachers at Greenford High School

shared at Teaching and Learning Takeover
at Southampton University 19th November 2013

Get the basics right: CONSISTENCY
1. Exercise Books – organisation
2. Exercise Books – meaningful marking, with DIRT – Dedicated Improvement and Response Time
3. Seating plans with info relevant to students’ needs
4. Get to know your students as well as possible
5. Show them you care, ask about their lives, remember their replies
6. Use the behaviour management systems of the school

Obvious, but often ignored
7. Grouping
8. Re-arranging tables in a room
9. Teacher position in classroom
10. Schemes of work with challenge at different levels
11. Homework booklets adapted for a range of abilities
12. Clear coherent planning to teach what is really important, not a moment wasted
13. Listen to your students during the lesson and change your plans accordingly

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Teacher Interview Questions and tips

Donnelly’s Interview hints and tips

I thought I would write down some hints and tips about going for job interviews at schools after someone on my Facebook group ‘Design and Technology teachers’ asked for advice about a job they were going for – sure it will be useful to students that I have at my school as well.

If you read this blog, and find it useful….and get the job, please comment for others to see.

  • Research the school thoroughly. Check their inspection(s) and from this, figure out what their strengths are, and what you can add to the school to build on this.
  • Keep bright and enthusiastic – it is stressful and gruelling, and you may think you have ruined your chances throughout the day, but if you keep focused and remember what you do, every day, as a great teacher – then you will be fine.
  • Do not be put off by the really chatty outgoing one who is also there to be interviewed, I know I have seen many candidates try to pretty much say all they know about education during the day and then are in a bit of a mess at the interview.  Please also read my blog post about Assistant Head Teacher interviews, I have included a few of the tasks that are generally used in schools.
  • Do not feel the need to ask questions in a tour or group interview – this was one thing I really panicked about before the interview – I felt I knew the school really well, well enough not to ask any questions, while the other candidates did – and when it came to my turn (all the staff looked expectedly at me when the other candidates had finished) all I said was;

“I feel that, at this moment in time, I do not have any questions” and when it came to my interview with the Headteacher, I made sure I demonstrated my knowledge of the school by building it into my answers.

Finally, I always made sure that my answers followed a specific pattern. I was once advised by a wise Deputy Head to respond to extended answer questions with ‘there are 3 points that I would like to make’…..then start to answer the question.

This technique stops you rambling, encourages you to answer fully and makes sure you cover all parts of the question.  If you feel that you need to add another point, just end with, ‘and one final point I would like to add is……………’

Do not answer every question like this, but some do require an extended answer and this is just one way to do it:

Most NQTs or new teachers will be asked something about Behaviour Management, or “what makes you a good teacher” I would answer in the following way, giving a comment about each heading;

Me  – The pupils – The school

So for example:   “What makes you a good teacher?”

Me– planning, preparation, assessment, delivery (etc. there is loads more but it’s all about you!)

The pupils– mixture of formative and summative assessment, clear expectations, positive atmosphere and feedback, etc.

The school– professional development (if you participated or delivered some yourself) sharing resources, observing others, self-evaluation of teaching, not afraid to ask experienced teachers advice, working with other departments, etc.

I find this technique really helped me when answering questions, as I visualised where I wanted to go with my answers, and always had examples from my classroom.

Typical Questions

Why did you apply for this particular role?

What are your core strengths/weaknesses?

What can you bring to the role that other candidates may not bring?

What makes a successful school?

How would you work with a teaching assistant in your classroom?

Do you find it difficult working alongside older, more experienced staff?
How would you react if a senior member of staff queried or criticised some aspect of your teaching?

What is your understanding of high-quality teaching and learning?
Describe a good lesson
Describe a lesson that did not go well. What were the reasons for this?
If I came into your classroom, what would I see?
Describe the teaching method you find most effective
Do you differentiate between outcome or task?
Tell me a bit about the lesson you taught this morning, were you happy with it?

When marking a piece of work that has been done by a pupil, how do you ensure your comments encourage the pupil to make progress?
How do you ensure all children are involved?
How would you motivate a reluctant child?
How would you meet the needs of gifted and talented children in the class?
Have you had experience of a very high attaining and very low attaining child in your class?
Tell us about your experience of assessment for learning and assessment of learning
If a child doesn’t show signs of improvement after all your planning, monitoring, assessing etc, what do you do next?
What strategies do you use to manage children with special educational needs?

What behaviour management policies have you experienced, and what do you consider as having been effective?
How would you deal with a pupil who is not co-operating?
How would you deal with a disruptive child?
What do you think is the best way to motivate pupils?
Some people say you should demand respect from children. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
What do you understand by the term ‘providing support’ for the pupil?
Bullying is often a serious issue that has to be dealt with in all areas of work with children. In your experience, what is the best way to deal with it?

Ensure that you know about the ‘Big Picture’ – there are lots going on in education at the moment, be clear of any changes that effect your subject, what do you think of the new National Curriculum?  Do you see these changes as an opportunity?  How do you use technology in your lessons?  What do you think of pupils bringing their own technology into your classroom? etc etc etc.


Good luck with your interview and share any tips via the comments on this blog.



‘Should I be marking every piece of work?’


This was a question put to me as I worked with a group of teachers this week. My answer was ‘No’. ‘But we are expected to mark everything in our school, so can you point me to the evidence that says that not every piece of work needs to be marked?’ So, another blog, a contribution to http://blogsync.edutronic.net/

Some background to this. Schools have picked up on the fact that Ofsted inspections are making judgements about the quality of teaching over time. This is a good thing and takes away the notion that a 25 minute observation is the only evidence which is considered to judge the quality of a school’s teaching. But where it has gone wrong is that some schools are saying that every piece of work needs to be commented on by the teacher. This is not feasible and it doesn’t support learning.

What inspections are looking…

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My first attemp at using the #7ePlan #soloarmy @teachertoolkit @Hthompson1982


The lesson plan can be downloaded from the link above – please give feedback if you use it, let me know how you get on.  Thank you.

I am loving the new book #100ideas from @teachertoolkit.  This is idea 16 from the book and is using an idea from @Hthompson1982.

I have used the 7ePlan to build upon the knowledge that the pupils have already, in a hope that every one of them can make some measured progress during the lesson.

I have combined the ideas of the 7ePlan with SOLO Taxonomy, I have explained what I am doing and why on slide two of the attached powerpoint.

I shall add my observation feedback below for you to see.

Wish me luck 🙂

This part of the post has been written after I did the lesson described above.

I am delighted to say that the lesson was graded as Outstanding.  Whilst I was pleased with the way that I delivered the lesson, the structure was pretty much down to the use of the #7eplan and the use of Solo Taxonomy.  I think that these two concepts can be used by pretty much anyone who wants to ensure that all pupils make progress in a lesson.

Please comment on how you have used the 7eplan please.


Thank you