Observing others teaching

This unit looks at the knowledge you need to have and the processes that can help you to support colleagues in improving their teaching practice to ensure better outcomes for pupils with SLCN.

The unit includes:

  • Research on key areas of inclusive classroom practice
  • An exploration of formative assessment and how it is used
  • How to use feedback from assessment to improve practice

Developing integrated attention is central to listening and learning, and may be an area of difficulty for pupils with SLCN. This mind map shows the myriad factors that contribute to the level of attention we give to specific tasks at any one time, as detailed in the book Helping Children Hang on to Your Every Word (Johnson, M and Gallow, R, 2007).


Levels of attention

  • End product
  • Motivation
  • Success factor
  • Task
  • Organisation
  • Understanding
  • Environment
    • Comfort
    • Focus
    • Distractions
    • Troubles
  • SLCN: an intervention

    Reception class teacher Rachel Drinkwater uses a bag game, focusing on ECAT, to teach two pupils: one with cerebral palsy, physical development delay, and speech and language delay; and one with speech and language delay. She explains how such approaches can help develop and progress the communication of children with SLCN.

    This video clip relates to the task in your PDF of unit 17.

    Show transcript

    Rachel Drinkwater – Reception Teacher

    My name is Rachel Drinkwater. I’m a Reception Class Teacher at Bankside Primary School in Leeds.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Rachel: Are you ready then Owais? Ready…

    Owais: Steady… go,

    Rachel: go, go, go, go!!!! What is it Owais?

    Sahill and Owais: A spider, a spider.

    Rachel: It’s a spider!

    Sahill: I know, I know.


    This morning I did a bag game which is a speech and language focus, focussing on “Every Child a Talker”, and I taught that with Sahill and Owais. Owais is a little boy with cerebral palsy, who has physical development delay, and speech and language delay. And Sahill is a little boy who’s got speech and language delay as well.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Rachel: Good boy. And what’s the giraffe got?

    Sahill: Polka dots

    Rachel: Polka dots?

    Sahill: Yes


    I chose to focus on using the bag game, and using animals today, vocabulary and language being the main focus.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Sahill: Walking

    Rachel: Walking giraffe.

    Sahill: Walking giraffe.


    I change the objects every other day, so they might have household objects in, or school objects in. But today it was animals.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Rachel: Oh, Owais’s turn.

    Owais: It’s a shark

    Rachel: It’s a shark

    Sahill: I know

    Rachel: Go on

    Sahill: It’s got sharp teeth

    Rachel: It’s got sharp teeth, good boy


    It’s about the social development, so they take it in turns and they say, “ready, steady, go”. It’s about the repetition, the rhyme, they’re joining in, they know whose turn it is.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    All: Ready, steady, go, go, go, go, go.


    They look at the animal, and they say the name of the animal. So this morning, Owais was taking it out of the bag, and he was saying, at one point actually he said, “big grey elephant”.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Owais: Big grey elephant.

    Rachel: A big grey elephant

    Sahill: I know


    Sahill was like, yes, yes, my turn, my turn, elephant, elephant.

    Teach-pupil interaction

    Sahill: Got a trunk

    Rachel: He’s got a trunk. Can you have a trunk like this? Where’s your trunk? Brilliant. It’s a big grey elephant and it’s got a trunk.


    And I repeat. So even if the child doesn’t say it perfectly correctly. Like today, Sahil said, it’s a giraffe, and it was a horse.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Sahill: A giraffe

    Rachel: oh what’s that one?

    Sahill: A giraffe

    Rachel: Is it a giraffe? What’s that one Owais?

    Sahill: A giraffe. A horse

    Owais: A horse

    Rachel: Good boy you corrected yourself, excellent, it’s a horse. Well done.


    So I know he wasn’t naming them correctly all the time, but I encourage him and it’s all about praise. And he’s having a go, he’s using his voice. He’s actually saying, “it’s a giraffe”. “Well done, it’s a horse”. Then I say, “it’s a brown horse”. So the first part of the game is about their speech, and getting them to use the words I want them to use. Getting them to describe the animals. The second part of the game when they’re putting the animals back into the bag, it’s about their understanding and their listening.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Rachel: Sahill, can you find me the red shark?

    Sahill: Teeth!


    I don’t look at the animal I want them to get, I look straight at them. Can you find me the animal that flies?

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Rachel: Can you find me the animal that flies?

    Sahill: Bat, bat, bat, bat.

    Rachel: Bat. It does fly, excellent.


    And it’s up to them to think flies, which animals was it that flies? Pick it up and put it back in the bag, so that’s checking their understanding.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Rachel: Can you find me the animal with a trunk?


    I know they’re working at 2-word level, so I’m pushing them on to a 3-word level, and I encourage them to repeat and to join in, so this morning they were joining in with: “scary teeth”, “sharp teeth”. That’s brilliant. They’re using describing words, that’s 3-word level, “the bat that flies with sharp teeth”, that’s fantastic. They were so involved.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    Rachel: Does a horse fly?

    Owais and Sahill: No

    Rachel: What does a horse do?

    Sahill: Walking!

    Rachel: A walking horse. Well done.


    From that I know now, that we need to start forming sentences, and to use those words that they had this morning; “sharp teeth” - to put it into a sentence: “a bat has sharp teeth”- would be my next. So I’d work on repetition and getting them to copy me - consolidation. I think they did very well this morning and I was very proud of how involved they were.

    Teacher-pupil interaction

    High five! High five!

After a lesson observation, meet with your colleague to discuss what you have noted. This could take place immediately after the lesson, or after some time for reflection and further note-making if you both prefer. Make sure you schedule this meeting in a window that provides both sufficient time and privacy to complete it without interruption.


Post-observation discussion

  • Note down what you have observed. Pay particular attention to strengths in the teacher’s approach to the pupil in the class.
  • Making notes on areas covered in the discussion will help your colleague reflect on their practice.
  • Reflect jointly with the teacher on the objectives of the observation/self-audit. Consider if the objectives have been achieved.
  • Put together an action plan that will help the teacher improve the pupil’s learning and participation in class.