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Learn through puppy love

Forget phonics and formative assessment. Puppies and cosmic balls are the new essentials for in-service training.

Confused? Well, maybe you need to rehydrate. The connection is an in-service training day in Liverpool which offered 400 teachers thinking skills strategies to stretch their pupils.

Roger Powell, a retired primary head, ordered teachers to hold hands in a circle to show how the energy coursing between them lit up a red light in a cosmic ball, resembling a ping-pong ball.

He enthused about exercises to warm up children's brains for serious study:

"If I went to a PE lesson and said we are going to teach tennis, we would warm up our arms. Many teachers have forgotten that learning involves physical skills. When I start handwriting, we do some arm-stretching and pushing."

Meanwhile, Carol Carlisle, a maths teacher at Broughton Hall, demonstrated how a primary-style approach to using toys and games can motivate, and improve the results of, middle and low ability key stage 3 pupils.

A 5 per cent dehydration leads to a 30 per cent loss of concentration, and she uses a cuddly toy "learning puppy" to encourage children to drink water. The puppy and his drinking bowl only come out of the cupboard when more than half of the class have remembered to bring a water bottle with them. "It encourages them to drink throughout the day and rehydrate. If they have a trigger, a toy or tool, they will remember it."

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