Quality First Teaching

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How can you ensure, that what you do in the classroom, is high-quality from the outset?


I asked my readers the following question;

Twitter Poll Lesson Planning

There is nothing as unequal, as the equal treatment of unequals, by Oliver Wendell Holmes.


In our school, 95% of our students come from minority ethnic groups. From our intake of 1,400 students, 83% of students have EAL (English as an Additional Language); 61% of who are Pupil Premium students. We are working very hard to equip all our teachers to have a range of classroom strategies in order to deliver quality first teaching from the outset for every one of our students.

Quintin Kynaston Data Dashboard Ofsted

In this post, I would just like to share a range of strategies and dialogue we are sharing that will soon form part of our learning policy. As part of our annual professional development and appraisal process, we regularly map our staff CPD needs. Over the past year, there has been one key area that stands out above the rest. This is what our staff say their professional development needs are, in accordance to the Teachers’ Standards. Click the image to enlarge it.

Self Review Teachers' Standards

Sample based on 100 teachers self-review.

Adapting teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.

Lesson Planning:

So, with our own school needs in mind, how do you plan for differentiation to ensure quality first teaching? 

Do you see planning (differentiation) as a one-off activity in each lesson, or is this something that you consider over a longer period of time? If you do, then great, because meaningful differentiation is planned over time and is not a one-off exercise. You should not be trying to over exert yourself with endless reams and reams of over-planning, especially for something that is an incredibly challenging thing to achieve and something that is also unrealistic to attain.

Therefore, we should want every teacher to deliver quality first teaching from the outset. But how can we do this?

Quality first teaching and a graduated approach are embedded throughout the new code, which states that SEN provision goes beyond the differentiated approaches and learning arrangements normally provided as part of high-quality personalised teaching. (Source)


When looking to differentiate your lessons over time, what are some of the common questions that you would need to consider? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Do you give time to plan and talk with colleagues/students outside of lessons?
  • Do you allow students to highlight keywords? Do you highlight some words for them?
  • Is there a specialist within your school, someone you can ask to complete a translation in the home language?
  • How often do you model written language? Do you do the work with students?
  • How do you scaffold oracy? How do you structure and provide writing frames for EAL students? For gifted and talented students?
  • How do you systematically check understanding in the lesson? 
  • Do you provide collaborative opportunities to work together with contextual support?
  • How often do you include visuals; including yourself using visual hand signals and facial expressions to make learning stick?
  • Have you considered using culturally accessible materials to help students sequence learning?

The Cognitive Challenge:

Consider this illustration by Dr. Jim Cummins;

Jim Cummins explained that when children new to English first start learning English they will need to have the cognitive challenge of some tasks lowered whist they are learning a lot of new vocabulary. (Source)

This doesn’t mean we have to lower our expectations, but it is certainly something we should all consider when teaching a large number of students with EAL.

Cummins Grid

Image: EAL Strategies

Classroom Strategies:

Many strategies also need to include techniques to help create a supportive environment; as well as providing an inclusive curriculum for students of all abilities and to allow them to access subject knowledge in every subject across the school. We should all see teaching to support all our students as a vital elements of language and literacy development, supported by the effective teaching of our EA L and SEN departments.

Here are a range of questions that we ask our teachers to consider when planning or reflecting on the teaching;

  1. Do you encourage and seek opportunities to use first language at the initial stage of learning?
  2. Do you model and encourage an atmosphere of risk-taking where errors are seen as a natural part of learning?
  3. Do you create opportunities to engage in value new arrivals to the classroom/including early-stage EAL learners or students on the SEN code?
  4. Do you consciously interact with English non-speakers in your classroom?
  5. Do you support your students to make links and build on previous learning and experiences?
  6. Do you provide thinking time and oral rehearsal before students pick up in front of the class?
  7. Do you regularly monitor student understanding, providing opportunity for individual explanation?
  8. Do you use visuals and identify keywords for clarity in your lessons?
  9. Do you explicitly teach the subject specific vocabulary?
  10. Do you clarify keywords, provide synonyms, and rephrase key content in a variety of ways?
  11. Do you use group work effectively with students whose language to complete purposeful, cognitively demanding tasks?
  12. If receiving EAL specialist support in lessons, do you plan your teaching tasks collaboratively?
  13. Is your EAL specialist actively engaged in target setting for targeted EAL students?
  14. Do you delegate your EAL specialist to differentiate your teaching and learning resources?
  15. Have you found the EAL CPD opportunities and effective way to improve your teaching practice? If not what could they do to make a difference?

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Image: Shutterstock

From the 1,400 students we have in our school, currently 38 cannot speak a single word of English. Can you imagine what this must feel like if you had to be placed into five or six lessons in one day? The immersion of language must be stratospheric! The challenges any student will face and the emotions that they would have to deal with in terms of integrating into school life, must be incredibly daunting. Thankfully, we have a wonderful SEN and EAL department in our school.

How does your school manage quality first teaching?


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