Category Archives: SOLO

Reminders – positive ones

On Twitter yesterday a Depuy Head teacher that I used to correspond with about various education ideas remade contact. He commented how he had read my blog up until the point that I left social media for a while as teaching as my core thing imploded. In chatting it made me realise that now after two years I have actually moved on. I have landed very fortuitously living in a coastal area, I have the finance to support our life and when I work I can choose to do things I like.

Today, wondering how it might make me feel I scrolled down through all of my blog posts on here back to 2011 and revisited my 365 photo blog that I started blogging with on a platform called Posterous. Then I imported the content into WordPress and Mishmashlearning was born out of my first experience presenting to education peers at a Teachmeet in Feb. 2012. This caused some reflection on how much went on and changed between 2012 and 2016 for me to leave teaching all together. I wasn’t getting upset which is a relatively new feeling, teaching is over.

I read on through 2012 and the amount of initiatives I was aware of and trying to bring into school while discussing ideas with professionals I admired online and in several cases met at education events in the next four years. I still feel passionate about Solo Taxonomy although I resist applying it to everything I do now, I just know that my enjoyment of learning new skills and ideas has transferred into my boat work and art.

So many thanks Dan B. for a prompt.

Living a dream …

For those of you who read and support a bit of an update. GOB is now 61 days, on the 12 March my first journal will be full. I attended Teachmeet Poole last week (Thursday 23 Feb) and as a presenter received a nice notebook which I shall use to continue the GOB journey.

Those who know my background and change in circumstance might well challenge, why is Andy at a teachmeet? It’s a fair question. I had looked up to see if Jenna Lucas’ TMBournemouth would be on and found details of the event in Poole on Differentiation. I immediately thought what about a piece on Solo Taxonomy, whose enthusiasm has not left me. I offered my services and settled to participate in the break marketplace and fill any other gaps that arose. I ended up in a mock classroom in the corner of the school theatre presenting to the entire teachmeet. Not what I had expected but I just got on with it. I loved talking about Solo. As I finished I made the point, from the chap in shorts and polo shirt, that this was my first time in a school building since November when I had a nervous breakdown and left teaching. It was a great evening to see the enthusiasm of young staff. There was repetition of many familiar ideas I have seen previously but I was left to wonder how long they would stay in teaching and knew it was unlikely to be as long as I had managed and that still upsets me.

Anyway apart from that I have been sketching with other artists for PAW (Purbeck Arts Week) at The Etches Collection – fossils of Kimmeridge. I liked the setting, found the number of experienced artists quite intimidating tbh. However it was a link back to degree days with Jo Angseesing my palaeontology lecturer. In fact my eyes were drawn a lot to the architecture after the urban sketching trips I have attended with both London and Cambridge groups previously. I have taken some photos to allow follow up on this.

Yesterday, March 2nd, I had a conversation with a mental health professional about a local programme Steps to Wellbeing, and after being very open and honest about what the last six months have been like – a range of triggers, it was felt and I agree that I am doing all that I can to recover and don’t need additional input outside what I am doing already for myself which overall is working. Yes there are slips and dips but that is the nature of depression and anxiety. In fact after the phone talk I went out on an standee walk from the house along the SW Coast path. T-shirt, shorts, walking boots and a sweatshirt for when I stopped plus camera. In the end I walked about 8 miles, took over 200 pictures (the advantage of digital) many of landscape and waves, enjoyed fresh air and sunshine, got muddy but felt great.

Today the weather is back to cloud, wind, rain and more time indoors I suspect.

A rambling post, not pre planned as usual but flowing from my thoughts. I live in a wonderful place, I have an active lifestyle. I share delights of hares, deer, numerous birds with most of my family. I live a sort of semi-retired status and it suits me.

Our friend Morris the Mad March hare who may mean we have ravaged lavender bushes, but it’s a price worth paying.


Last year I set 15 targets split in 5 sections – so I will review these first. I will decide as I post how targets will be set for this year. 

Dec 2015 review
1) Family: (3)
spend more time with parents – this has varied as own pressures impacted but speak to even more regularly especially as now both living in same residential home.

spend more time with both sons, whatever is happening in their lives- seen less of eldest as he has been accommodated in fewer places this year but finishes the year after six months of relative stability. Youngest at home, have done a few mote things together including some Forza sessions on xbox 360.

couple time – Anne and I to get back into our dining / evenings out more frequently- some dining but more day trips, break in Bristol and time for walks and nature. Support each other’s interests with choir and sketching.

2) Self: (3)
– I have a kayak and a bicycle which both need more of my company throughout the year and exploring far and wide – not used a lot,limited kayaking but some trips with Anne past Ulting church and met school D of E expeditions at Papermll Lock. 

– Cedric, the cello and subject of a recent post, and I are to make music more in 2015 and maybe even some guitar and the keyboard that is currently hidden in the loft-  failed

– screens are nice and I can access and share information, but 2015 is the year where I rediscover the pleasure of reading from books. I can start with my recent purchases from Tate Modern: London Villages and I’ve lived in London for 86 1/2 years by Martin Usborne- more successful including 10 books in summer with #teacher5adayread. I have also bought a read a variety of books on sketching from the urban sketching fraternity.

3) School / work: (3)

– I have two more terms leading to our first set of GCSE results under my management. Three sets are under my tutelage, so mocks in January, revise intervention groupings and work hard to a happy August results day – worked b***** hard throughout the year, results ok but not progress I had hoped for. Analysis interrupted by September breakdown. Best success girls results A* to C  up from 25 to 65%.

– continue to develop our revised KS3 curriculum and delegate sections to Adam and Michelle as we develop as a team – aha, well rewrote ks3 year one with more to develop, inclusion of John Muir Trust award successful. Adam lasted the year and a great loss. Michelle didn’t return for Spring term and in fact staffing throughout school year caused lots of stress. Started better this year with Gordon, but then own breakdown  upset the rhythm.

– more student voice and more hands on geography to make our department a “happening” place- considering staffing upheaval a good reputation generated overall in first year in post, tbc.

4) Twitter: (3)
– 2015 will see account no. 6 start with a departmental one so pupils can follow and share geographical ideas, sites …- didn’t start this as too much else to do.

– @knillsocks to continue especially as a bumper load of new socks hopefully being opened later today- account continues, remains novelty of teaching – the one with a Twitter account for …

– @globalsolo and @gasigict to continue to develop and facilitate discussion and collaboration globally- gave up @globalsolo in May and passed Twitter account to Pam Hook. Still using solo taxonomy including in own teaching but staffing crashed development in department. Shared ideas in school and at some events.

5) Blogging / presenting / … (3)

– have another successful year with GASIGICT, Promethean Advocates… – GASIGICT goes well and Twitter account from strength to strength. Presented at #GAConf15 on developing global network to small group. Ceased Promethean link as no time and no benefit to what I am developing.

– develop all of the linked blogs and Mishmashlearning to continue to have less #mentalhealthmatters – GASIGICT blog is paused, global solo gone, but now two mishmash – original and new sketching blog.

– present throughout the year – BETT, TMBexley, PedagooLondon3??, GA Conference, Northern Rocks, TMHavering2015?? TLT15??? ……- missed BETT and TLT15. TMBexley was good, also did a Medway event – interpretive dance and solo taxonomy intertwined – used this at NRocks15 with Andy Day for second year (this also featured jiving with KDWScience. GA Conference session – small attendance but seemed well received. GASIGICT stand display I did was popular. PedagooLondon was in July and presented this year on John Muir Award, also did this for PedagooHampshire in September plus an impromptu solo session when presenter no showed. Contributed photograph to #teacher5adayexhibition. Inspired (I am told) #teacher5adaysketch in October and took part in #teacher5adaype in September. So however busy school was still did some of own CPD. Also applied for FRGS – heard all ok and await paperwork. Fellowship of MirandaNet confirmed in January.

So a reasonable review – still did too much and it has had an Autumn consequence which I am recovering from. Also not mentioned here- finding all 50 of London Shaun the Sheep and 37 in Bristol. Family holidays in Cromer twice, Cardiganshire once. New hobby sketching started, 400 plus sketches to date in 6 months art supply shop geek now as yesterday’s Christmas money spend shows. Attended urban sketcher meets in London, Cambridge and Colchester. Rejoined a gym. Have lost 3-4 inches of waist fat.

2016 targets / priorities

I am sticking with five headings but more generalised and definitely not 16 targets.


1) Family

Regular phone contact or via social media with all branches of the family.

Quality time – this links to work targets as I rephase back in. School work to not come home.

Trips out especially with Anne sharing our interests. Lots of London day trips.

2) Self

Keep exercising – bike and kayak where possible plus walking

Hobby time – play some music and sketch skills and practice inc. sketchcrawls

Read more often

3) school/work

Based on return to work aims:

– give work 50 hours of my time each week

– school work stays at school

– pace

– Inform others when stressed/ mood issues as agreed

– develop department

– Friday social time / staff sport to end the week

4) Twitter

– go with the flow, if tired less, use and stay in contact especially with friends

– GASIGICT – do not over commit time as discussed at meeting

5) Blogging / presenting/ …

-mishmash continues plus sketching posts in own blog too when feel like it

– presenting – less in Jan to July. TMEpping February to attend and listen only. GAConf16 workshop. See how year goes after Easter.

Key aspect is listen to my mind / body and work with them. That also includes friends too and reciprocal support.


Everyday solo taxonomy dilemma reblog

Pre structural ….but not able to retain uni structural … | globalsolo

A week in…

Hi, a slower week night so I thought a blog post-et i.e. brief? Well Wed. and Thur. last week were staff training days and then I started to meet pupils on Friday. Tomorrow marks the end of my first full week in a new department, new role and my fifth school.

I have returned to my love of Geography and am now Head of Geography at The Albany School, Havering. I have 4 staff working in the department.

My first commitment to myself- until the new GCSE specs appear! stick and maybe tweak the current scheme of work. Do not rush in and reinvent the wheel as it were. Great idea and I am sticking on the GCSE plan currently. However, a muddled search for matching resources and sow at Key Stage 3 means that this week a new team have started to deliver and develop a new Key stage 3 course that will integrate the old and new National Curriculum specification for Geography.

A non specialist, who has been grateful for being supported at last – why would you not support non specialists in your area? Two new staff, one from the Republic of Ireland and one from Australia and myself.

David E. Rogers, Priory Geography and other departments that I have admired previously I have achieved that aim – I have a fresh team, open to idea, enthusiastic, a range of experiences and a school that supports us innovating – as long as we deliver on the dotted line – and fair enough.

So initiatives, we are a Solo Taxonomy department and have been from day one, we are using it across KS3 and GCSE classes. We are looking to develop a curriculum that draws from the teaching and travel experience within the team. We will move away from a text based course to one where co-operative learning challenges attainment. Work by Ron Berger (An Ethic of Excellence) and Carol Dweck (Growth Mindset) will be used to challenge and extend. A new in school club: Explore – will combine looking at geography from an inquisitive, enquiry and Guerilla approach and also link curriculum support to assist or extend pupils who seek that.

We have a duty in a school with a 13% EAL cohort to learn more about our school population’s cultures. To celebrate those cultural differences and entwine that into our geographical education. We will look outside to new ideas like the proposed Greater London National Park City. We will build on my extensive PLN to develop links with schools globally. Our first international visitor is provisionally booked for December from New Zealand. An aspiration includes a linked school visit to New Zealand for 2016.

I want to lead an outstanding department within two years. I believe I have the foundations to do that and I hope to blog about our journey as a new phase and pathway in the Mishmashlearning process. Thanks for reading. As always your comments are welcomed.


Teachmeet presentation by proxy

TMStratford video presentation

Offered a chance to attend a Teachmeet but it’s too far away…is there a solution. These days a variety of options come to mind. You can: follow the #hashtag during the event to comment on or follow the stream of messages. Some events are live streamed so you can watch the presentations as they happen subject to technology and weblinks. Others may video the presentations so you can watch them later.

Asked to or want to present? Make a presentation and send it, or a weblink to it, to the organisers if this is acceptable to them. Video presentations can be made in many forms using a variety of software or apps. I have used iMovies to capture images / screenshots and added a VoiceOver. For TMStratford (upon – Avon) this week I used Haiku Deck for my Slideshow for the first time. I then added a VoiceOver using Knovio iApp which is free, however once the 5 presentations used up there is an in- App purchase to make more presentations – but I admit I like the product.

If the link works correctly let me know what you think… This links to my two Twitter network interests:
– apps and web applications for @gasigict
– solotaxonomy advocacy and sharing ideas @globalsolo

@BMTeachmeet 25 June 2014

I was lucky enough to attend and present this week at a new venue for TMEssex. Burnt Mill Academy, Harlow hosted their first Teachmeet. Toby Hall ran a very organised evening. We were entertained on arrival by a school singing group, the food was gorgeous before and at the break. The Head Boy was MC and did very well, if stuck at times for jokes. The prizes team – more pupils were very courteous and efficient at the. Conclusion of each twitter based competition.

Many of the attendees were colleagues at Burnt Mill with a few outsiders, the issue of attracting others to events – the “how” of attracting new audiences to participate in Teachmeets.

Three regulars of the region’s Teachmeets – Martin Burrett (@ICTMagic; @UKEdChat and @UKEdMag), Paul Hutson (@NightZooKeeper) and myself in @globalsolo guise enjoyed the wealth of prizes as we tweeted furiously.

Next week it’s co-hosting at @TMHavering on Tue. 1 July and a video presentation made for #TMStratford on Thursday 3 July. This has led me to using Haiku Deck and Knuvio iApps for the first time.

Oops …. Blog neglect

Hi anyone who follows this blog. I have realised that the gap since my last post was growing. So initially a fill in on what’s been happening:

March 16- informal post of first review of lesson planning format
Follow up – a student survey was carried out in the final week of the spring term to cover several aspects and this is still being collated.

March – April
More articles have been submitted for publication in @UKEdMag and so far I have been published each time either as @aknill or @globalsolo. I now await May’s issue to see if both pieces make it. Also promoted the idea at the at events I have attended. The number of twitter mentions to advertise magazine are maybe a little uncomfortable at times, but I fully understand how magazine must advertise its existence.

This time included the news that I had been nominated and listed in the @UKEdChat top 100 UK Ed Blogs – a very pleasant accolade. I’d display the widget badge thingy but not worked out how to do that yet.

April – I attended, the conference, my group’s stand and presented a workshop at #gaconf14. The Geographical Association’s annual conference held at the University of Surrey in Guildford. Being on the ICT Group’s stand and meeting a range of geographers from several countries was very interesting and I could see that further follow up would be needed.
My own workshop on Starting with Apps on Tuesday 15 April was an active event. Mission Explore had laid down some conference challenges to speakers linked around the word Dance. Well official photos showed a group of geographers joining in a mad dance free form to Electroswing at the start of the workshop. The room was overflowing, I hope someone counted how many attended but it was more than the 40+ spaces originally seated and arranged.Solo taxonomy was used to gauge progress and 26 post its were left for feedback. This will be commented on in further detail with a workshop write up on here, the GA site ( and a new blog – details in a bit. I enjoyed catching up with friends and colleagues, meeting many new people and stretching my brain with the subject concepts which I have not taught in many a year.
This weekend,at the start of May, has seen the start of that conference follow up through the beginnings of: @GASIGICT on Twitter and a new blog on: The aim: To have one central place for geography educators to share ideas about web resources and apps that have been or might be used. An encouraging start which of course has gone globally straightaway with links in Abu Dhabi, Australia, USA, Ireland, UK, New Zealand, China and Canada.

So busy? Yes you could say that plus family holidays with more coastal pictures already being shared in lessons.

Modified lesson – one month in

When I returned to work,I reformatted my lesson plan structure (see previous post). I have now been using it for just over a month and thought it was time to reflect more formally through a blog post than just in my head. My visit to #PedagooLondon last weekend highlighted the idea of Lesson Study which I hope is something that my school will look at. Meanwhile, I go through a similar process but internally and on my own.

Stage one:
New lesson plan designed and trialled from 4/2/14.

Ideas including:
– mindfulness to start lesson and gain classes attention for any teacher
– use of solo taxonomy based station exercises to differentiate
– developing a common language in the classroom to show how to progress
– drafting our first answers (F.A.I.L.)
– limit teacher talk time
– redrafting our answers (S.A.I.L.)
– developing proof reading skills to focus on literacy skills- backed up by
Teacher checking work for accuracy
– using self and peer assessment between pupils to identify if a solo
taxonomy stage has been achieved. Using this to advise a “Feed Forward”
next step approach. This can then be applied to own work as well.
– homework – returning to the principle of providing evidence of research
sources and expecting a minimum collection of facts for multistructural

Realistically, my stage one involves a lot of ideas at the same time. Many aspects of these were being used beforehand but the classes had a period without me teaching where the habits I was working on had not been used.

Stage two:

Initial thoughts and reflections.

– Mindfulness – this clearly works most of the time for me as I am very calm.
Some classes have responded well, some groups within the class are more
reluctant but with patience and occasional slow counting by me leads to
the desired outcome.

Action: to continue to practice the skill and review after a second month.

– Solo taxonomy stations use- I have changed from 5 mixed ability groups
in the classroom to differentiating table groups by KS2 APS / in school KS3
target. This has allowed better targeting of pupil support by teacher and /
or the TA or Pupil premium mentor and tables can be aiming at the same
stage which allows more shared discussion within the table group.

Action: after the second month to use a student survey to review their
views on the process against their recorded marked stages (for classwork)
and End of Unit assessment.

– Common language using Solo taxonomy – this is generally working well but
the display symbols are not bold enough (see action).

Action: replace display symbols of the 5 solo taxonomy stages on
classroom pillars and also available to refer to on the group table. To do
for Summer Term 2014.

– Drafting first answers (F.A.I.L.) – for the first 4 weeks this was using A4
portable whiteboards. The amount of draft work noticeable increased
especially on the tables with the highest attaining pupils. The biggest issue
has been the number of board pens gone through in each week. A number
of alternative models have been tried. In the 5th week we are drafting in
the book and after the next two marking cycles I will look at the writing
quantity at the same stage of the lesson.

Action: review use of whiteboards and / or in exercise book in student
survey after two months and staff reflection too.

– Limit teacher talk time – this seems to make me stand back and ensure
learning is handed over to the class. However, I need to record or have
someone time this in lessons to see that my perception is correct.

Action: record lesson or peer developmental observation could time in
summer term and provide feedback. Student survey could challenge this
idea as well.

– Redrafting answers (S.A.I.L.) – this has run up against timing issues with
some individuals. I have then made individual decisions on strategies to
adopt. It has also highlighted where some stuff dents have gone off task
and their redraft is incomplete.

This links well into

– Developing proof reading skills – the new classroom expectation is to aim
for 100% accuracy and when individuals are sure their work is “perfect”
they are encouraged to share their work with the teacher. This is
becoming quite competitive with additional repetition of spelling errors
required if (when!) errors are found. It has developed some good
discussions individually about the importance of SPaG that they will face
at Key Stage 4. The satisfaction for pupil and teacher when 100%
accuracy is found is palpable and shared with the class to show that it can
be achieved or the pupil who comes up four times but gets to perfection
through persistence.

Action: to continue to use this with faster workers. Once work is perfect
the pupil is challenged to work on the next solo stage or in the case of
Extended Abstract to be set an individual task that responds to their
answers so far.

– Using self and peer assessment – this has worked well but could do wit
more time allocated every few lessons to allow greater depth in the
comments made and to challenge if there is a disagreement over the stage

Action: obtain student views in survey. Note where self or peer assess is
consistently inaccurate to work at with individual.

– Homework – this is set weekly and marked as part of the fortnightly
cycle – standards vary and pupils are more likely to work downs stage on
Homework than on classwork.

Action: further thought needed, although focus initially is more on class
Work tasks.

-plus – see marking post on which there is a
link to in the main blog. I have now run a series of “coaching sessions”
when two or more lessons are below the target for this term. These have
included use of the student’s book, answers and also hexagon tiles to
model how to develop answers from first principles at prestructural up
to their targeted solo stage.

Action: the key test of this will come in the second and subsequent months
to see if individuals need further coaching. The second session will be 60
minutes in length to include working through more examples individually.

Stage three:

See action points above in stage two and a student survey before the end
of the Spring term.

Feedback and feed forward are welcomed on the blog or through my
main twitter account (@aknill).

Thanks for reading.

Modifying my lesson plan (!) and structure

For those that communicate with me regularly online you may be aware that I have recently returned to work after a period of the Black Dog, from end of November to Mid- January.

Sitting down to plan my first lessons back, I found myself reflecting on Hayley Thompson’s #7eplan that I have been using since attending #pedagoolondon in March. 2013. For the past year in my school where detailed lesson plans are still required for every lesson, mine have stood out for looking completely original. If a copy is left on a printer everyone knows it’s one of mine.

So what did I think on this occasion? The structure was too cramped sometimes for a 50 minute lesson and I wanted to bring in other things I have been reading about, discussing on Twitter or practising as part of my craft in the classroom.

Hence a more simplified approach and a plan redesign:

This plan splits my lesson into five sections;


On arrival I am using Mindfulness based breathing awareness and grounding to settle the class. This involves me modelling the expected behaviour. Feet flat on the floor, hands on lap or knees, breathe normally and silent focusing on own breathing.when the class have achieved two minutes in silence I am ready to introduce our “Elicit” task. This may be a recap of the last lesson, an opening question or if books are being returned after marking a DIRT session on reflecting and acting on comments in books. The marking includes literacy corrections and comes in three sections:

FB: feedback – looking to praise aspects of the lesson

FF: feed forward- steps to take over the next few lessons, maybe an organisation habit to adopt.

Task: a task to complete e.g. Spelling corrections, extend an answer in more details, redo a task set previously that is incomplete.

A solo taxonomy stage mark which relates to stages 2, 4 and 5 of the lesson and our differentiated outcomes based on Multi structural, Relational and Extended Abstract sections.

I will be adopting the departmental 1,2,3 to indicate if work is: above, at or below expected standard for individuals long term progress against their personal targets.

The lesson’s title and key questions are shared with the class, but not recorded.


Solo stations based drafting / FAIL (Explore)

The class sit at tables with groups of 6 (in most cases). After a couple of attempts at moving between stations, proved not the best way to stretch certain reluctant learners, I modified my technique. Each table now has a copy of 5 differentiated tasks from Pre Structural through to Extended Abstract. Once I am settled after half term, tables will be set by targets so expectations of stage to be reached consistently will be made explicit.

Resources include their peers, dictionaries, textbooks … The pupils draft their First Attempt at Learning (FAIL) on mini whiteboards. This work can include errors and this is emphasised when processing ideas is an obstacle particularly.

The second stage runs for 10 minutes, with clock and reminders of finish time on IWB and reminders from me as the teacher as I move around the room of the time left. I answer questions on tasks, prompt and occasionally give ideas to move groups or individuals into the next task – this is resisted as much as possible.

Three (Explain)

The next stage (maximum 10 minutes) is my teacher slot. This might be talking about examples, it might be collating feedback on the solo stations exercise. It involves listening, if this is an issue I repeat model the mindfulness position until the class are attentive ( in two weeks they are adapting to this very well indeed and practising this technique in each lesson at least twice makes me calmer too).

Four Neat write up / Second Attempt in Learning (SAIL) / elaborate – extend

This is where the exercise books are issued, usually by pupils in the group. Their task is to record just the lesson title and date from the board, underline using the edge of their whiteboards (rulers an ongoing bone of contention averted here). They then write their stage two answers up. They are encouraged to proof read, correct or enhance their written account as this stage is undertaken. They are encouraged to record the solo stages in the margin adjacent to their answers so progress within the lesson will be visible (see stage 5). Then clean their mini whiteboards using the eraser / sponges.

If this is completed within the 10 minute window, they record Extra in the margin and attempt the next solo station stage or proof read work before it is marked as 100% literacy accuracy target has become my SPaG mantra.

Five. Evaluate

The final section of the lesson includes a choice of three pupil activities – they SA (Self assess) their attainment and / or PA (Peer assess) a fellow pupil (peer’s name is recorded if follow up needed as assessing. Is inaccurate) and /or FF (Feed Forward) personalised next steps forward that they can take, over time it will be informative to compare FF and Tasks used in teacher marking and pupil set FFs.

Homework may be set in this section in alternate lessons (KS3 classes on two lessons per week and weekly hwk expectation).

Discussion of some pupil comments encouraged too. Tables then set tidy up expectations and class dismissed in order tables complete tasks and sit quietly.

So there we have it – two weeks in- I am very happy with how classes have started.TAs and pupil premium mentors have been complimentary about the structure and activities.

So what do you think? Yes for a change I am interested in comments.