Our common lesson format.


This is our attempt to capture the universal expectations and routines.  It emerged from a staff CPD session last year and was agreed by all departments.  It’s sufficiently flexible for everyone whilst providing a consistent framework across the school.  If you can’t read the image, the text is below.

(To respond to some of the respondents reeling in horror at the prescriptive appearance of this document, relax! Crucially, this is a framework, not a list of absolutes. However it is something we have all agreed to follow and we think you can teach pretty much any way you like within the agreed framework.   The spirit of it is as important as the detail.  Five minutes of positive affirmation and show-casing excellence isn’t some weirdly fixed rule – it’s an indication of the need for us all to be building the positive affirmation element into our lessons routinely so that students expect it and experience it consistently, regardless of the particular permutation of teachers they have. )

Interacting with Student Data
Data-annotated planning sheet. All teachers should have an up-to-date data plan for every class they teach. This can be a seating plan or any helpful hard-copy format.

Data can be coded but should reference KS2 data or Starting Profile; SEN/EAL status, Reading Age, PP status, G&A status and latest AP attainment grade.

Routines for All Lessons
Starting Lessons:

Entry Routines

·       Teacher welcomes class at the door; they go straight in without talking, sit down and get their books and equipment out ready to learn, engaging with any written instructions provided.

·       Teacher uses signal for attention and addresses class with full attention, setting expectations for introductory activities.

·       Once students are working, register is taken. During Period 1 and 4 or for a new teacher or class, registers should be taken close to the very beginning with a full roll-call.

·       If students arrive before the teacher, they wait lining up quietly against the walls to the greatest extent possible.

Behaviour for Learning C1 and C2 must be logged visually on the board.

B8 and C1/C2 Consequences should be issued systematically right from the start. No disruption should be tolerated; C3s must be issued and On Call contacted as required. Red Slips must be completed. Staff should not log C3s directly.

Showing Excellence and Positive Affirmation At least five minutes in every lesson should be devoted to showcasing examples of excellent work or attitudes to learning, highlighting the reasons.

Achievement points and QuickNotes should be issued publicly at this time.

Ending Lessons:

Exit Routines

Students stand behind their chairs with all equipment packed away.

Teacher dismisses them from the door, table by table, calmly into the corridor on the pips.

Common Pedagogical Elements.
Modeling and Practice Where new ideas or new skills are being introduced, teachers should always model the work expected from students.   This could be through worked examples, student exemplars or demonstrations.

Students must have time to practise skills repeatedly.

Structured, targeted questioning. Questioning should include all students with answers selected by the teacher in a deliberate, planned manner.   Questioning should be probing and targeted to specific students where appropriate. Students should not have the option to opt out or to dominate.
Responding to Feedback Feedback will take many forms – verbal comments, written comments, peer and self assessment. There should be evidence that feedback leads to students’ work improving in response.

Agreed departmental workflow procedures should be followed.

Students and teachers should all be clear about where and when feedback will be given and which work should be redrafted, improved or corrected.


Features of Good Speech Students should be required to adhere to the guidance on good speech. This applies to general discussion as well as set-piece structured speech events.
Homework Homework should be set each week. All homework must be recorded on Google Classroom, ideally during the lesson and definitely the same day.


  1. That’s insane. You should be able to see that.

    No matter what your teachers tell you, they think it is insane too. No one has the time.

    It’s astounding. For the wrong reasons


    • Which bit takes time? It’s all common sense. Hard to think of a good lesson where these things don’t happen. You could teach anything any way you like within the framework of common expectations and people do.


      • This rankles: “There should be evidence that feedback leads to students’ work improving in response”

        All students? All feedback? All the time? Written or verbal or both? Or how much and when? What sort of evidence is actually real evidence of a real long-term improvement?

        There’s a lot of people using the word “evidence” in education at the moment – and I don’t mean you here Tom, you seem like a good guy doing a very good job and with the very best of intentions too. Most of them don’t seem to understand the word “evidence” at all in scientific terms.

        See all that PTE rubbish being touted as “evidence” that is anything but “rigourous”?


  2. Hi Tom, I think a lot of this is good, but I would like to critique this from the point of view as a classroom teacher. This is in the context of me being aware that you know far more about teaching than I do!

    In short, the ‘routines for ALL lessons’ seem to be far too prescriptive. Here are two reasons I think this:

    1. ‘Teachers welcome classes at the door’. Recently a colleague videoed their lesson and we watched it back together, one of the results of this was that we decided greeting the students at the door was the wrong thing to do. We agreed this for what I’m sure is the same intention you have, we want the students to settle down as soon as possible, with their books and equipment out, quietly writing the title and date and reading the instructions on the board. We noticed that students who had been greeted at the door then went into the class and did all kinds of subtle things to not do this, and we decided it would be better to ‘roam’ the classroom ensuring those students who had entered were doing the right thing. We would still advocate greeting the students, but from within the classroom and not at the door.

    2. ‘At least five minutes in every lesson should be devoted to showcasing examples of excellent work or attitudes to learning, highlighting the reasons. Achievement points and QuickNotes should be issued publicly at this time.’ I have many lessons where the following happens: I explain things, I conduct some in depth questioning, and then the students work hard in silence. I do not want these lessons to be interrupted by having to shoehorn in 5 minutes of celebrating excellence. You have written before about planning learning and not discrete lessons, I think celebrating excellence for at least five minutes could be part of an 8 to 10 lesson sequence, but I think it’s unhelpful to suggest that it should happen every lesson (and for a prescribed time).

    Best, Rufus


    • Here’s the danger of sharing things out of context. We need to manage our massive open corridors; it’s really helpful to see teachers at the doors. Maybe we’ll get to a point where we don’t need that. The five minutes isn’t a rule. It’s suggesting creating a celebratory spirit for students all day. We’re still embedding our behaviour system and we see that the most effective staff are actually effusively positive. There’s a spirit to this that might not be obvious enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is fascinating Tom in terms of the responses you are getting . I would say we have many of the elements in your common format which we try to remind colleagues at regular intervals . Why should anyone take umbrage at this in a common format shared and agreed by everyone ? I would have thought it would make everyone’s lives easier but above all do not the students themselves deserve a common learning experience in every lesson ? I talk about our students getting their five a day !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. People can be resistant to imposed structures but each department discussed this and signed up to it pretty quickly. In our school we need to make sure every child’s experience is great and not overly dependent on the particular permutation of teachers they happen to have.


    • I agree with Kevin’s observations. I think the elements within Tom’s format make absolute sense and help promote consistent best practice. Quality time for students to respond to feedback is what will really impact on learning. I like the idea of showcasing excellance; I would argue that if you don’t show students what excellent work looks like, how can you expect them to reach the required standard. The evidence of the pedagogy will be improved outcomes – it’s as simple as that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It does look very prescriptive and almost devoid of humanity when so ordered in black and white (as a couple of comments hint at) BUT, as you say, “…..each department discussed this and signed up to it pretty quickly ….. we need to make sure every child’s experience is great and not overly dependent on the particular permutation of teachers they happen to have.”

    Also, and crucially in my view, what this framework does is to set out simple guiding principles which can be applied routinely (and with routines comes safety and security), but also easily and consistently – and it is inconsistency which is the biggest bug bear of embedding behaviour systems. I agree with Rufus that the 5 minute celebration sounds a bit OTT but I am both reassured that it will be applied with flexibility and quietly humming with delight at it being made intrinsic to the framework!

    It may, in retrospect, have been useful to point out “There’s a spirit to this that might not be obvious enough” as a precursor? The focus is quite clearly on establishing protocols which reflect the thinking and ethos behind the framework with positive relationships and purposeful learning at the fore of said thinking. And it’s a framework that, when in the hands of “the most effective staff (who) are actually effusively positive” will reap outstanding rewards.

    I believe PRU’s and Special have a lot to offer mainstream (and definitely vice-versa!) and as ex-HT of a successful one I would have been chuffed to bits if staff had (and they did) adopt this type of framework. A regular part of my role was in support pastoral teams and reflecting upon behaviour “systems” whereas the real focus should, more often than not, have been on consistency and clarity. This framework provides both.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seems a bit odd to respond to my own post but my wife has just read it and said the phrase “devoid of humanity” was a bit harsh. In retrospect (Ha! the irony!!), she’s probably correct but then her the method of making her point clear was itself devoid of humanity and I couldn’t possible repeat it – but that’s what it rhymed with (it, I mean).


  5. Dear Tom
    This is very clear and direct and probably has had lots of deliberation and discussion to get to this point of clarity. To me, this is not prescriptive but a very supportive framework with freedom for using different pedagogies within this.
    Thank you for sharing. If you have time, I would be very interested to hear about the next stage. How has this been implemented? How have you assured consistency? How did you set this up with students and how did you meet resistance from them if there was any?


  6. Would be helpful to know what C1, C2 etc. refer to specifically. Also, I can understand the ‘devoid of humanity’ as an initial reaction – all teaching is ‘devoid of humanity’ when written down, as soon as there is a positive and dynamic interaction between teacher and students humanity is at the centre of the process [as it should be]


  7. In my role I observe and support teachers looking to develop their practise moving on from a RI or less. Often the key features they are not thinking through enough (they only think that they’ve thought them through) are rules and routines which will allow them to get to the point of delivering quality learning. I know that there are cpd courses which say that if you get the pace and engagement etc right then behaviour isn’t an issue. I don’t concur with this thought. Rules and routines enable successful learning to take place and to have this made explicit in the lesson planning document, I feel, is supportive for all teachers and pupils. As previously mentioned, checking consistency across a large school then becomes the next hurdle, regardless of how quickly departments signed up. I’d like to use this document in a training session if you’ll permit?…

    Liked by 1 person

    • How do assess a teacher as RI? Is that RI in terms of the teachers learning gains across the groups they teach? Or your subjective opinion of what they do in a couple of lessons? Grading lessons is flawed and RI in particular is much more likely to be wrong than not – as has been shown in multiple studies, But don’t let that stop you (I know it won’t!) The Emperor really does have no clothes in education these days.


      • Agree- the term ‘RI’ to apply to a teacher is not something I would ever do. We are all RI. We might have some serious concerns about someone based on various pieces of information but grading lessons themselves should never happen.


  8. Reading this just makes me feel sad.

    As a teacher, my only focus in lessons was connecting with my students, and finding a way to help them connect to the subject and the deep ideas on it. I never wrote up an objective as I couldn’t say in advance where we were going to go. I didn’t have a strict set of behaviour rules; I built relationships and drew on them when things got challenging. I have feedback selectively and intuitively, respecting my own need for free time and that of my students not to be overwhelmed. I would form questions in response to their distinctive perspectives, rather than read them off a script. The lesson ended when I said so, with a warm goodbye.

    I had much more improving to do as a teacher, but I think I was good one, whose students learned to live their subject, and achieved well. I left teaching after 3 years because of the drip feed of new, some similar to those you detail above, that threatened to destroy my humane relationships with my students.

    These rules and routines seem to me to seek to obviate the need for mutual trust, and marginalise and reduce the distinctiveness of students and one’s relationships with them. Who knows, perhaps some teachers need them with some students, for a while. But it sounds like a joyless affair to me.


    • In context this helps people. It’s a demanding school and we feel that everyone doing their own thing makes it harder. We all build relationships and teach using our individual styles with some agreed common elements. Three years is a short run. We’re in it for the long haul.


      • Well, I have gone on to become a university lecturer who has worked with hundreds of early career teachers, helping them build relationships with their students and improve the quality of dialogue in their classroom. If these sorts of rules hadn’t started creeping into my school, mind, I’d never have left the classroom.

        I understand the need for some structure and stability, especially in disrupted communities. But I go for building trust over rigid constriction. Sometimes just a little of the later may be necessary temporarily, but it comes at a cost.

        Evidence from my experience and research tells to me that much of the value of what we take from our schooling is the diversity of the relationships we have with our teachers, and their distinctive approaches to their subject and pedagogy. The worst of this for me is telling all teachers to take the same approach. Easier? Maybe – but that’s not the point, is it?


      • They aren’t rules. We’re a team; we discussed the approach together. In a big school kids risk getting vastly different experiences. Common routines help everyone. They help build trust. It may be a matter of context. There’s nothing controversial in there.


      • Well, we see things very differently, and I see what you’re doing as highly controversial – and extreme. “Vastly different experiences” is, I think, exactly what it’s our duty to provide to children at school. Relentless uniformity is stifling to individuality.

        Put it this way: if you were to go on a 2 week course, would you like to be subjected to this sort of routine? If not (and I’d rather gnaw off my own limbs), why would you think it appropriate for children?


      • Honestly, you’ve misconstrued this massively. My school context requires that we share common practice. No-one is straight-jacketed. It’s important for teachers to support each other and agreed approaches helps us and the students so that learning can flourish. You are choosing to read this as an imposed stifling diktat – but it’s not.


      • I think what we see differently is that you say it’s not a stifling diktat for the teachers because you all agree. Fair enough – although such an agreement among my colleagues would have left me no option as a teacher other than to leave. I do think, though, that it’s stifling diktat for students. Did they agree?

        If young people are to become responsible adults, they need increasingly to be treated as such. It is hard to see how, from this plan, you could give them any less freedom than you do so that they might learn to be responsible.


      • It’s that kind of comment that gives PGCEs a bad name. It’s so out of touch. Really. There are no great schools that are not also highly disciplined. That’s entirely compatible with being warm and loving and giving students lots of responsibility. Final word. Thanks.


    • Building relationships for some teachers is natural and will happen with our without strict rules for behaviour. For those teachers that struggle building relationships, they will be left struggling in a un-disciplined school, this would not otherwise be the case.

      What is astonishing is that a teacher with three years experience is advising early-career teachers… Surely those in charge of teacher development should be highly experienced and practiced in what they are advising on, ideally also would have worked in multiple contexts… Is this the case across the training sector at the moment?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We introduced something very similar last year as part of our updated T&L strategy. School context sounds similar to yours. It provides clear expectations for teachers without being overly prescriptive and has been instrumental in helping us improve the quality of T&L.


  10. Having worked in a neighbouring school with similar intake and then moving on to a school with a very different atmosphere, I can understand, support and applaud the above framework. As a HoD of a core subject, my team and I would have bought into this immediately.

    Greeting students at the door is essential in some contexts, but it is difficult to do well as you need to keep an eye out for behaviours in the corridor and those in the classroom, for our maths corridor in the school, it worked well and the majority of us did it, those on a free period would support for two/three minutes after the bell. Colleagues commented upon the orderliness in our area of the school; effective? It must have been.

    Greeting students at the door in my current school is completely unnecessary, what do I do instead? Not much, I still greet each student by name from wherever I am standing, I still chat to them and welcome them with a smile… It’s totally context-specific.

    The only point in this that I do not like is students entering in silence, for classes with good behaviour already established, this would be unnecessary, for those without, there must to be a whole-school expectation to hold the students account against, clearly this is here to support colleagues with ‘those’ classes where more structure is needed.

    This uniformity of the expectations is the natural way to drive forward the atmosphere that is desired across the school, and I had been subject to many of these directives in a very tough local school in 6 years, on-the-whole they worked, where they did not is when it is not valued by the staff or is seen as onerous or inflexible. This framework in my eyes is not such a thing.

    I trust that the ‘evidence’ required is intentionally vague to acknowledge that in a lot of classrooms, the evidence is right there before your eyes when verbal feedback or a demonstration of students work on the board immediately effects the change in student work and outcome.

    Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Consistent, flexible and straightforward. Students know where they stand and teachers have a safety net to enable them to ensure students make progress.


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