Please take a look at our new webpage that invites you to join us in developing and tweaking our recent activities, even if you are too far away to attend one of our free Saturday workshops. Let's go back to the Age of Invention!

We are hoping to run our November history and geography workshop at the next NALDIC conference on 16th November. See you there!

Keep scrolling down down down and you will find:

Diary (now moved to the top)

News (most recent at the top)

Recent Activities at the very bottom!



























The Diary keeps links to resources and information from past events in addition to information and links for future events. If there is anything you think should be here please let us know.

We update this diary regularly. Go to our links page to reach websites for the diary entries.

16th November 2018: We ran a seminar at the National Education Show in Cardiff entitled "The EAL Friendly Classroom in the EAL Friendly School". We have Wales history activities in development. You can find a link to the follow up page by clicking on the dragon.

5th December 2018: Eighteen excellent ideas for scaffolding talk at the School 21 Teachmeet.

26th January 2019: This development workshop looked at the books in the 2019 UKLA long lists for KS1 and 2.

7th February 2019: We presented our Bradford on Avon monastic barn activities to teachers. Details and contacts on the Bradford Preservation Trust website.

5th March 2019:"Longstanding research has suggested that setting and streaming have little impact overall, but disadvantages pupils placed in low groups. But why, then, do the practices remain so prevalent?" London meeting organised at Hatfields off Stamford Street by IOE and EEF. This was a very cheering meeting, since our rich tasks work best in mixed attainment grouping. We have signed their pledge and encourage you to do so. Details here.

9th March 2019: LATE (link to website) conference on stories and storytelling.

16th March 2019:We really enjoyed the SATEAL conference in Edinburgh in spite of the snow and a very unsteady sleeper train.

6th April 2019: London based writing group meeting at the Wallace Collection to be inspired by Dutch interiors. Find out about the UK National Writing Project. Contact us if you are interested in joining a writing group.

12th June 2019: NALDIC ran a Regional Interest group in North London (link here) looking at activators for prior learning.

15th June 2019: The most recent LATE conference was very popular. Title: Whose English? Whose Knowledge? It featured collaborative learning, classroom talk, a splendiferous lunch and only cost ten pounds. Don't miss the next one!

21st June 2019: We ran a workshop on multilingual story telling at the NATE conference in Chester and enjoyed Barbara Bleiman's Harold Rosen l!ecture. You can see it here

2nd July 2019: A very lively and interested group of teachers attended our Fast track literacy for EAL course in London organised by Osiris.

14th September: Our next free development workshop on BAME literature looking specifically at EMC's book: Diverse Shorts

21st September 2019: LATE "planning next year" committee meeting - all welcome but please email if you wish to come and we'll provide enough lunch!

9th November: National Writing Project London branch writing day. Venue to be arranged.The NWP website is in development at the moment but here is the temporary site:

16th November 2019: Free Development workshop on London's history and geography and NALDIC conference.

7th December 2019: LATE conference at the British Film Institute.


We have been updating our poetry sorting boards. Take a look at our ballad activity and suggest additions.


We really like the new oral and visual presentation from Mantra Lingua! Click on the heffalump to take a look!


We have added a link to the Norfolk EAL team on our links page.

Find out about their lively programme of courses and events.


Gordon Ward from Racing to English has just updated his Solar System Connect Four Game. Take a look at his website for more collaborative games.


The National Writing Project has changed its web address. They have gone weebly. Contact them to find out about a group near you. Writing together can be as inspiring as developing collaborative activities together!


A big thank you to colleagues that have publicised the project on social media! Our most recent EYFS activity on the left! Hang on to your copy of this book - it's becoming a rarity.


Take a look at our most recent Geography activity. Not a word in it, but likely to scaffold lots of purposeful talk.

We have just written an article about role play for Caroline's newsletter. We used our KS2 activity on trade goods from the East India Company. You can role play spices and textile and even angels, reals and Spanish dollars.

Would you like to get beyond technical talks and help us develop new activities that empower pupils. Take a look at our new activity on the British Empire which is part of our Work in Progress. It links closely to the history work undertaken by the Runnymede Trust.

Can we encourage you to sign the pledge?

'Best Practice in Grouping Students' is a research project funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and conducted by researchers at UCL and Queen's University Belfast, which ran from 2014-2018. It investigated which methods of grouping secondary school students are most effective in improving their educational engagement and attainment with particular attention to improving the performance of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The project was independently evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Collaborative activities thrive in mixed attainment classrooms.

We are updating our Literacy activities and adding more. Please check our Literacy Page from time to time. We'll also wake up our Twitter Bird (blue footed booby) and flag up new activities.


We have just heard of the death of John Burningham.

We would like to thank him for all his books that have promoted meaningful conversations between children in nursery and primary settings. We hope they will continue to provoke and inspire for many more years to come. We will be producing more collaborative activities around them.




Collaborative Learning and Bradford Barnstormers (a group promoting community use of the Bradford on Avon Monastic Barn) with the support of Historic England and English Heritage have been working together to produce three teaching activities to make a visit to the barn more exciting and informative for children. The activities provide opportunities for role play, careful observation and work with chronology. Click on the right to find the activities which we are currently piloting. Please try them out and send us your comments.

Even if you are too far from the barn to visit, you will find the activities an interesting introduction to medieval building methods. We are currently adapting the activities to support work on Guedelon the castle in France, being built in a medieval way using only medieval tools and techniques.

Collaborative Learning and Kate Moorse have been running workshops for Humanities Coordinators in many London boroughs for many years. Cuts to LA budgets have meant that these workshops are now few and far between, so we have set up a webpage with links to useful documentation which you can access even if your authority can no longer fund workshops or has actually never funded them. We'll try to keep it up to date.You can find it here! Please persuade your head to let you join the History and Geography Associations for the best and cheapest CPD. Links on our links page.



We have just updated our Mad Food activity since our Rascally Cake work will match it beautifully.

Inspired by Hallowe'en and the current preoccupation with increasing vocabulary without too much attention to curriculum content, we are adding a contextual language activity to each of our early years activities around popular storybooks. These activities use pictures from the books so for copyright reasons are not accessible from our main website. If you want access you must register your school with us and we will send them by email in pdf. If you want to join us in developing them we can also send you editable versions in Adobe Creative Suite. This software usually costs an arm and a leg, but Adobe do offer hefty education discounts. Our first activity is Room on the Broom. Whooooosh! Our next one is Rascally Cake. We are developing more at our next workshop.



Erica Field and her colleagues in Rochdale have worked with pupils on what it feels like to be "new". How could your classmates help you? She tells us: "I've had the privilege to work with an amazing group of young people, who are answering these questions."  'Our Story' shares the collective experiences of a number of international new arrivals and asylum seekers, most of whom arrived in KS2. Their short animation is designed to be used in school with a class before the new arrival starts.  "If we can help make things just a bit better for the new person and the class that would be amazing!" says Neet-Kaur.

The young people involved worked with M6 Theatre and Kilogramme Animation Studio to explore their own feelings, write and record a shared script and consult on every stage of the animation.  They had the final say about everything.They have also produced an activity pack that class teachers can dip into if they want to do a little more than just show the animation and have a chat about it.

'Our Story'

Download their animated film here.

We have just added two lively and useful sites to our updated links page:

Better Bilingual based in Bristol


The Hampshire EMTAS blog


We are very sorry to hear of the death of Ron Carter. He has modestly and thoroughly supported work on the value and impact of talk in classrooms for many years. We cannot count how many inspiring sessions he has led. We will ensure that his ideas and resources will be available for teachers in the future. The link to LINC is on the right!


We have received the final copy of Race Equality Teaching previously known as Multicultural Teaching. It is a glorious compendium of articles from all the issues since 1982. Some good news: you can reach all the issues on open access on the IOE Press archive. Click on the right!
The SATS are still with us and if anything more pernicious than ever; poking roots into every bit of the curriculum and drawing off any creativity that still remains. This poem by Alan Gibbons was published by the Anti-SATS alliance and offers hope and humour.
This cartoon from Private Eye appeared ten years ago! It was bad then and is worse now.
You have probably been receiving inumerable emails from agencies who hold your data re the new rules starting on privacy. The only data we hold at Collaborative Learning are the school emails of colleagues who want access to the early years activities which hide, somewhat ineffectively when chased by search engines, on a 'secret' early years page on our website. e.g. underpants dice/lotto. We'd be grateful if you could let us know if you are happy for us to continue to hold this information. In a few days from now, we will delete information of colleagues from whom we have not heard.

This book, one of the best explanations of the nature and value of Collaborative Learning, published in 2002, is back in the news. The Daily Mail, now a reformed character?, summarised Paul Gardner's most recent research (see on the right). His full article can be found in "English in Education" - the NATE English journal. Paul has agreed for us to show you the first chapter of this book, since it is still in print and there has not really been anything better published since. Link is on the book cover above.


Daily Mail, June 2017

Australian schools are better at teaching children English than schools in England, according to new research.

Dr Paul Gardner, a lecturer at Curtin University's School of Education, compared the English curriculums of England and Australia - and found a significant difference in the way pupils are taught in the two countries.

His study, published in the English in Education journal, says teachers in England were faced with a rigid curriculum in how they could teach the language, while Australia's curriculum allows for more creativity and flexibility.

His research found that 68 per cent of England's curriculum emphasises a didactic, teacher-directed approach – with a focus on phonics, spelling and prescriptive grammar - as opposed to interactive learning.

Dr Gardner, a British former academic who now lives in Australia, also found that the Australian curriculum was better at combining the basics of English with a broader socio-linguistic view of the language allowing students to reflect on and respond to a wide range of literature.
What the research shows is the England-based approach focuses very heavily on language at word level and did not encourage pupils' exploration of meaning at the level of texts'

..Barbara Bleiman

from English and Media centre is promoting and developing group work across the curriculum. Here is a link to her blog:


Lucy Burton has launched a new magazine for children learning English. Good luck to her! We like the graphics. Take a look at her website and download a free sample copy. She promises collaborative games.


We like this quote a lot.

Tony Booth and colleagues have set up a website where colleagues can share, anonymously if they wish, stories of daily foolishness in conversations, jargon, directives, cuts, inspections, and feudal style management that has undermined the creativity of educators, turned schools into testing factories, distorted thinking in universities and led to many leaving teaching. Here's an example:

"The school has bought into the Rising Stars test scheme. Teachers looked at the test for this half term and saw there are several things in it we have not taught our classes yet (we will teach them later in the year, but the test doesn't match the maths scheme we use). We were told we had to give the test anyway, despite already knowing most children would score 0 on a number of questions, not because they were incapable of answering them, but because they had been taught other things which did not appear in the test. Children we know are not working at, say a Year 4 level, but are in Year 4 have had to sit the Year 4 test and some have scored 0/20 as a result. The test has told the teacher nothing they didn't know already and can only have been bad for the self-esteem of those children."

Do take a look at the tidied up and refurbished Education Endowment Foundation site. Based on more new research on dialogue and talk, Collaborative Learning still rates highly for raising achievement and it does it very economically! Oral Language Interventions also rate highly and we believe they occur frequently in collaborative group work! Feedback is also praised highly and this is much easier to carry out in collaborative classrooms. EEF has been described as the "Which" guide to spending Pupil Premium. School uniform incidentally has a negative rating! Take a look at their recent research reports. Link on the right!
Thank you Berkeley Primary School for posting your appreciation of Are You a Stinker? We hope you will try out more of our over the top activities such as Queasy Tum or Germ Warfare. We'd also welcome any new drawings and predicaments. Also we think you are near enough to Bradford on Avon to try out our Meet the Barn activities and make a visit. We'd welcome your feedback.

Well done OBE providers for choosing Raymond Briggs! He has been tickling our imaginations and stirring our consciences for yonks! Sometimes you think the gong folk stick a pin into the phone book or are open to bungs (well, we know they are!), but this time they must have listened to reason.


We concentrate mainly on developing classroom resources here at Collaborative Towers, but have been worrying about the fact that we have not updated our research pages for some time. Our new research page/blog will appear soon. It has always been difficult for classroom teachers to access research so we are grateful to colleagues like Robin Alexander and the Cambridge Primary Review for self publishing. Here comes help from Kamil at Building Diversity and Equality Awareness (link on the right!). His most recent blog post has done our work for us and he has provided an excellent summary on the value of talk for learning. And he promises a second part very soon!
We support and work with Kate Moorse and her network of London Primary Humanities Coordinators. If you coordinate history or geography or citizenship and would like to access the London Humanities webpage, attend network meetings and/or work with colleagues on resource development and planning, please contact us and we will give you a link to our dedicated webpage. Even if you work outside London you will find the resources on the webpage useful. We will be posting activities in development on our new Work in Progress page.

Sheffield University and Sheffield Local Authority have been working together to develop EAL friendly teaching resources for Science that involve parents and employ first language. We have a number of science activities just about to be published.

We have just added a link (on our links page of course) to the new online EAL course set up by Hampshire Ethnic Minority Achievement service. They have worked hard to provide advice and CPD for schools. There latest link up with the London Grid for Learning is well worth investigating.
Mark Sims, who was Ofsted lead for EAL in England, produced a series of very short video clips where he stresses the importance of opportunities for EAL pupils to hear and respond to the spoken contributions of their English speaking peers. Learning conversations are vital for these learners. You also have here a pdf of his powerpoint presentation on the inspection of EAL.



Gordon Ward at "Racing to English" is producing some very entertaining and useful videos introducing collaborative activities. Click on his shape monsters on the right to reveal his youtube channel. He has responded to nagging and produced more videos recently.

P.S. You can find a link to his website on our links page.



We have provided here a short one page guide to one of our most empowering kinds of resources. You can find many examples of role play activities on the site and we hope you try them out and develop your own versions.

You can click on the tiny version here on the right to download a full size pdf version which we hope you will introduce to colleagues.

We have also linked the main aims of the project to quotes from James Britton's work: click on his book!



Is your school publishing an account of your collaborative learning work in your pupil premium impact report? We'd still like to hear from schools who are. This will help us network good practice.


sutton banks

Did you register with us to use the Early Years Activities around Stories "Secret" page? We have moved the page, so please contact us to get the new address.



In response to the recent decision to test tables (up to 12 times to help with old pence calculations!) at the end of Primary School, here is a chatty way to encourage the learning plus some good folding practice. You will find Chatterboxes (sometimes called Fortune Tellers) useful for scaffolding talk in other subjects. In the meantime here are some mental maths Chatterboxes.