Using the Stretch and Challenge wall in lessons.

Do you Stretch and Challenge all pupils ?

According to Mike Gershon there are “two ways to interpret the phrase stretch and challenge”.

On one hand it refers to stretching and challenging every pupils thinking while teaching a whole class. On the other, it relates to individuals and the importance of pushing the thinking of the most able pupils.In theory, we should endeavour to stretch and challenge all pupils in our lessons and no pupils should be passive.Hopefully, as a result pupils will be actively engaged in lesson activities and feel stimulated to learn and be productive and make progress.

I have been reflecting on how pupils are academically challenged in food lessons of late, in particular in single period lessons of 50 minutes where sometimes we seem to rush through a practical task .Ultimately, we are trying to beat the bell. Perhaps, we do this because practical tasks are the norm or perhaps even expected and pupils like practical work. So I investigated and asked pupils for some feedback and some admitted feeling stressed, rushing through activities to finish on time without understanding the knowledge behind the techniques.So I decided to begin the year by doing a New Years stretch and challenge lesson to see how pupils would respond to a challenging non practical lesson.

I have been inspired by many other teachers including those from the food teachers centre group which enabled me to collect some resources to create a Stretch and Challenge Wall. Thanks to all who share good practice.

I have also got ideas for resources from . I found the Challenge Toolkit particularly inspiring and helpful.

The wall is in a weirdly positioned corner of the room because my notice boards are too high to use so I had to find a wall that the pupils could access easily .See photos below:





It is not the most aesthetically pleasing but I do feel the idea behind it is what matters. I began my lesson by thanking my pupils for being honest about their feedback about food lessons and I explained that in today’s lesson we would do a theory lesson in the hope that it would stretch and challenge them.Pupils were unsure about what stretch and challenge actually meant ; so I explained as best I could in pupil friendly terms. I showed them the wall and explained that there was many different types of challenges some which were straightforward but would slightly challenge their thinking and pointed out ones which they might find very challenging based on my previous knowledge of the students attainment record/ progress.

The wall contains the following challenges which are inserted into labelled plastic envelopes:

Short questions which can be answered in 10 – 15 minutes.These  would be ideal for an extension activity for pupils who finish work before others.e.g. How can hunger affect people?

Deep thinking questions – difficult worded questions that require a number of opinions, perspective etc may be base on social, moral environment issues e.g. How should animals be treated in the food chain?

Evaluation activities : great for pupils who finish practical work early as an extension activity but it is also a good idea to evaluate learning in non practical situations.

Random challenges: A mixture of activities such as write a poem or write a quiz or plan a lesson on a food education topic. These tend to be a little more creative and different and as a result tend to be challenging in a non testing way.

Take away menu : tasks are differentiated according to difficulty rating and pupils are required to pick an activity which they will feel challenged by. This would be ideal for a cover lesson or if you wanted to do a whole lesson where pupils do a similar topic but one that is suited to the way in which they learn best.

Discussion challenge: pupils are given scenarios which they can discuss individually through written form or devise to work in pairs.

Ethical challenge : encourages pupils to think outside the box surrounding ethical issues.

Articles : encourages pupils to read articles form newspapers, magazines, journals and look for arguments and bias within those articles. e.g. If all people were vegetarians then animals would not suffer.

Pupils had 5 minute to pick their challenge, 30 minutes to complete their challenge in silence and 10 minutes to evaluate and report back on the activities.

An evaluation of the lesson will feature in a follow up blog but the general conclusion was that the stretch and challenge wall was challenging and pupils enjoyed the lesson. However, they have given me suggestions and tips for improvement which I will talk about in my next blog on  because it’s time to mark mock papers now 😊

Feel free to comment or email me at if you would like to discuss this blog further.

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