Following Ofsted in December 2012 we must remember to celebrate our strengths but also to focus on the areas we still need to improve. Some of the articles in the magazine should help toward this. In this edition you will find a range of articles covering the key issues for our school including independent learning, encouraging reflection, and marking, intervention and feedback. The success of our sixth form is also recognised in this edition with articles focusing on sixth form tutors, and teaching and learning ideas for A-Level lessons.
Many thanks to all the staff who have contributed to this issue, and again all staff contributions for the next edition are welcomed. There is a lot of good practice out there, as recognised by Ofsted, it would be a shame to not share it. As the magazine is also online, I have been contacted by other schools impressed by the magazine and how staff personalise articles, and therefore teaching, to our student’s needs. I am aware of two
schools who have since decided to produce their own in house magazine! In my role I have the privilege of working with a range of staff through mentoring and training events, observing staff and being involved in work audits. Throughout these processes I am constantly learning from other staff and the strategies and ideas they use. Over the last month in particular, I have learnt more about effective marking, feedback and intervention and employed ideas from other staff and departments in my own work. I have also enjoyed working with NQTs and been impressed by their ideas and enthusiasm, it’s infective! As I write this ‘editors column’ I have actually started my maternity leave. Therefore I will have a year away from editing ‘The Don’. I look forward to seeing how the magazine evolves in the time I’m away and look forward to reading the next few editions. Therefore whilst I’m away, if you would like to find out more about any of the ideas in this edition or contribute to the magazine or get involved in the planning and running of staff training, please see Sarah Morgan. All your feedback on the articles and ideas you have adapted and tried is valuable to us. Please pass on any comments and feedback to Sarah. It is really appreciated. I will look forward to seeing you all soon, and look forward to seeing your contributions to the next edition of ‘The Don’ Abigail Gaines
Gill Thompson, Director of Sixth Form, explains the role of the personal tutor. The Personal Tutor system at Don Valley Sixth Form is a vital and central part of student life and has been one of the major driving forces in the success that our students have enjoyed over the past few years. Personal Tutors are expected to provide individual support, advice and guidance to every student in their tutor group to ensure that they gain the most from their studies at school.
The role of the Personal Tutor is primarily: • To provide general academic advice to students on their progress and development; • To give students help and advice about pastoral/nonacademic matters insofar as s/he is competent to do so and to refer on to the Learning Managers or Director of Sixth Form for further assistance as may be required; • To assist students with the process of induction and orientation into Don Valley Sixth Form and retain an interest in their personal and academic development throughout Year 12 and 13;
To seek to ensure that no student withdraws from sixth form prematurely. It is a responsibility of students to meet their Personal Tutors when requested to do so, and it is their right to ask their Personal Tutor for advice whenever it is needed.
Good Practice for Personal Tutors • To meet their students (this can be individually or in small groups) for a minimum of 10 minutes at least once a week with at least one academic review once a term. • To advertise one free period each week where students can consult them; • To communicate with their students regularly, including via email; • Some students do not respond to written invitations and tutors often ask how much they should “chase up” their students. Independent, self-sufficient, students will need little chasing whereas students who have given cause for concern in the past may need a great deal. Tutors are expected to speak to the students regarding attendance to tutorials and follow this up by contacting home if the problem persists. • Personal Tutors are asked to keep a folder with evidence of their meetings with their students and all other necessary documentation which is necessary to provide the students with the support and guidance they require.
Abigail Gaines, AST, shares some of the feedback from the recent Ofsted visit to Sixth Form lessons. A-Level lessons perhaps get a bit over looked when it comes to staff training. However, it is generally expected that all the good features of teaching and learning used in KS3 and 4 are applied at KS5. In the wake of a recent Ofsted inspection, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show the diversity of teaching and learning styles Ofsted saw at KS5 and rated as good. I’d like to thank those who shared their grading and lesson plans with me. A number of vocational A-Level lesson were seen. The teachers here were interested to see how the lessons would be perceived by an inspection team. In general, the students are ‘getting on with work’ with little teacher direction and input. There may be no whole class starters or plenaries and this made some teacher nervous, but in truth these are not always needed when students are aware of what they are doing. There are other ways to see progress in the lesson. ‘Little teacher input’ in the lesson itself though is an understatement. The teacher may not be presenting ideas or directing learning, but the teacher is facilitator. Work is regularly marked and fed back. Students have clear targets on how to improve. A range of a peer and self-assessment is used and then students use this to improve work. In one lesson, the inspector arrived following a detailed session of peer assessment. At this point the students were working individually at a computer improving their tasks based on the peer assessment. For twenty minutes the teacher just went to individuals to check
understanding of targets and what needs to be done and used questioning to further thinking. At no point was the whole class brought together. It didn’t need to be. All of the class knew what they were doing and got on with it. In another vocational lesson there was some paired and individual work to start the lesson. Some time to think and feedback ideas. Group work took place where students had to use own ideas and prepare a presentation. The presentation was then peer assessed by other groups. Groups then went back to improve their presentations What is evident in both of the lessons described above is that the teacher is the facilitator and the students were fully active and involved in the lesson. They got straight into work, knew the success criteria, could judge others against it and help others improve. Students then had the opportunity to improve their work, thereby showing clear progress in the lesson.
With regard to academic subjects. One lesson started with recalling learning in groups and then had to mind map ideas. This was linked to grades with specific skills each grade would be able to do. Students then had to plan an answer to an exam question. They then analysed a model answer and identified skills within the answer. They were asked to keep their own targets in mind as they did this and to focus on these skills and how they are developed in the model answer. Students started to write up an answer and completed some peer assessment.
In another lesson, students had to define a word/term (in this case ‘Strike’) and share ideas. In groups they then analysed photographs/picture to see if this extended their thinking/definitions and they also used the pictures to think about reasons why people strike. Students then had to make a prediction of why people went on strike at a particular time and their role was to investigate this prediction/hypothesis in the lesson (teacher provided a range of resources to facilitate this). Students also had to identify exam criteria and use as the success criteria for the task (linked to grades) so they knew what skills they should be using and how to progress. A range of questioning techniques were used by the teacher throughout to groups and individuals. Students were expected to be able to
prioritise causes and evaluate relative
importance by the end of the lesson. What both these academic lesson had in common again, is that the teacher facilitates. Students are aware of clear success criteria; they work collaboratively and have the opportunities to develop independence. Students were ‘getting on’ with little teacher input. Students and the teacher could clearly demonstrate progress through the lesson and this was linked to clear objectives and success criteria. The students directed the learning and worked to the targets they had. Therefore the lessons were differentiated and individualised. I would be interested in any other feedback from A-Level lessons during the Ofsted visit if staff are willing to share, or just general ALevel lesson plans. Both would be a useful tool to continue to share good practice across the school.
Julie Atkins, Assistant Principal, shares some ideas on reflection. This year, the SMSC steering group at Don Valley has identified ‘Reflection’ as a priority for development in the Teaching and Learning aspect of SMSC. Reflection links to the Don Valley Learner element of being a Self-Improver, but also refers to the development of ‘big picture’ thinking and giving students the chance to
think about how their learning applies and is relevant to their own lives. As part of this focus, we are creating a Reflection Planning Tool, which can be used for staff and students to think about the processes and conditions for creating the perfect moments for Reflection!
10 things to be clear about: promoting reflection – inspired by Dr. John Blanchard To promote reflection, help pupils to: • • • • • •
Develop effective ethos and relationships in your classroom Begin new learning by asking students what they know about it so far Make sure learning objectives are worthwhile and motivating Talk about what interests them in terms of learning and the process of learning Make sure students understand how they are being assessed and know that they can influence their own assessment and the assessment of others Promote, celebrate their successes and strengths through specific, constructive feedback and by assessing themselves and one another – raise their self-esteem, confidence and motivation. Show students how they can improve, and give them the time and support to do so Discuss how they might apply their learning across the school and to their lives outside.
But how might you do this……………………………… Create an effective ethos and relationships in the classroom Use Don Valley’s Code of Conduct to establish Ground Rules - ‘Listen, Respect and Focus’ Provide structure for reflection. ‘Think Pair Share’, is a good example. ‘Two stars and
a wish’ helps to avoid a negative atmosphere when giving feedback.
Begin new learning by asking students what they know about it so far. Open a new topic with a student led discussion about what they know so far. Link to their own lives and pursuits… Could they make a ‘mind-map’ showing what they know so far and add to it on a weekly basis.
Learning Objectives are worthwhile and motivating Use the language of success – ‘Last time you were absolutely brilliant with …I was so impressed; now we’re going to move on to….This is really challenging but I know you can do it …’, Set a challenge ‘I think you’re going to be even better than Y11 last year…?’; ‘You were so good at this I want you to teach my other class how to do it…can you make them/film something…’ Use WAGOLL – either something that other students have done…or let them watch you, the expert, do it.
Talk about what interests them in terms of learning and the process of learning Encourage discussion about linking their learning to life across and outside of school. Use positive students who are enthusiastic about their learning to lead this discussion. Your enthusiasm is infectious. Use your language to put your passion across to the students. How can they be passionate about something if you are not?
Make sure students understand how they are being assessed and know that they can influence their own assessment and the assessment of others Do your students understand and use the exam board criteria. Have you deciphered the ‘code’ together? Discuss with students what constitutes success. Encourage them to define success.
Promote, celebrate their successes and strengths through specific, constructive feedback and by assessing themselves and one another – raise their self-esteem, confidence and motivation.
Thumbs up, sideways or down. Colourcoding, traffic-lighting….all methods of establishing the understanding of your students. But what they want to know most is what you think… lead pupil feedback by example in both verbal and written feedback by being specific to your subject and its criteria…keep students positive by emphasizing achievement.
Show students how they can improve, and give them the time and support to do so Allow time to act upon the suggestions that you and others have made.
How can they apply what they learn in your lesson to other areas in school and to life outside? At the beginning ask students to refer to other learning that might help them. At the end, ask students how they can link their learning to other areas in the school or to the outside. Can they teach someone else? Eg. teach, coach or mentor one another or students from other classes or year groups. Quite often in Drama, our sixth form students will work with us to encourage Year 11 with the process that they not so long ago experienced themselves.
So…what could you do next? Everything is easier said than done in a classroom! But why not try the following…even if you just have a think about it….. 1. Read the article 2. In terms of your Reflective practice, what do you do well? WWW 3. And what about what you could improve??? EBI 4. Why not try and make one change to encourage more Reflective Practice in your room. And in the Reflective sense of an Old Chinese Proverb……… It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward, only to stumble backward.
Sarah Morgan, Assistant Principal, shares some of the work of the Teaching and Learning group so far this year. The Learning & Teaching group consists of representatives from all curriculum areas, varying in experience and expertise. The groups’ aim is to share effective teaching and learning ideas in order to disseminate good practice across the school. This year the Learning & Teaching group have been mainly focusing on what makes lessons good to
outstanding. In the first instance, we took the main features of good to outstanding lessons from the new Ofsted framework and gathered ideas on what this might look like in a lesson. The ideas below are not exclusive, but the groups initial response to the framework.
Ofsted criteria Almost all pupils make rapid and sustained progress
Ideas *Pupils can be seen to make rapid progress at all stages in the lesson (in starters, main activity and plenaries etc.) this is explicit to the observer. *Secure knowledge of the class, demonstrated through effective planning and detailed class context sheets -with clear strategies to ensure progress of all learners through effective differentiation. *Lessons move through Blooms-knowledge, application, evaluation etc, lesson objectives are challenging and ensure rapid progress can be made. *Marking and feedback showcases progress-students respond to feedback and can be seen to act upon it.
Teachers listen to, carefully observe and skilfully question pupils in order to re-shape tasks and explanations to improve learning ...
*Students as questioners (students allocated tokens to develop meaningful questions/questions for a purpose) *Effective AFL *Socratic questioning *Thinking time *Avoiding constant use of ‘hands up’. *Facilitating group/paired discussion. (pupil talk)
Consistently high quality marking and constructive feedback from teachers to ensure pupils make rapid gains…
*Regular and shows understanding of the individual (personalised, tailored to them through relevant interests/ knowledge and language. *Peer and self-assessment evident. *Effective use of grading/success criteria-even better if students have ownership over it. *Wagolls *Students equipped with the skills to respond through learning dialogue, eg MRI-My response is…. *Targets which make it clear how students can improve. *Use questions in books to encourage dialogue and build in time at the start of the lesson for students to respond. *Develops curiosity *Creativity *Pitch, pace challenge and support *Differentiation *High expectations * Pupil-centred success criteria *Different learning styles (VAK)
Teachers use welljudged and often inspirational teaching strategies……..
*Encouraging risk-taking *Engagement, fun and active learning. *Strategies develop intrinsic motivation, where students want to learn. *Use of upper school-KS4 and 5 as role models-as inspiration. Reading, writing, communication and mathematics are taught effectively…..
*Consistent application of whole school literacy focus. * Class displays *Cross-curricular links *Modelling-Wagoll, Standard English *Teacher as role model *Develop numeracy opportunities in lessons
Having taken our focus, we organised ourselves into four clear areas, in order to carry out more detailed active research. These were: Independence, Engagement, Challenge and Reflection/Feedback. Below is a description of the work being conducted in these groupsPlease feel free to ask your department representatives, what they are currently working on, and how this may help develop practice in your individual lessons, or in your curriculum area as whole.
of the preferred learning styles in each of their classes and ask for a ‘Recipe for a perfect lesson’. At the next meeting the group will discuss the methodology used and the results from pupil voice. The group will then devise a series of lessons which will match the different preferred learning styles and will evaluate the success of these lessons through further pupil voice and evaluation. The group will use further L&T meetings to reflect on the success of this process, and how it has led to modification/development in their own teaching styles. Watch this space for the pupils ‘recipe for the perfect lesson!’.
Independence group: *MBD and SHX are working on promoting the DVL skill of being ‘committed to learning’ through rewards and sanctions, they are also developing ‘effort rating’ tasks, the use of question tokens to promote greater independence in work and the idea of pupil ownership over success criteria. *JBS and PBK are looking at pie charts and RAG rating to develop effective group participation and effort ratings. *AGA to continue working on developing greater resilience in learners, the use of student ownership over developing success criteria and pupil ownership over sanctions and rewards.
Engagement group: Focus: KS3. The group are going to all focus on their least engaged classes; this will focus on 3 Y9 groups and 1 Y8 group. All reps are going to take a poll
This group discussed the problems of students showing little resilience or motivation to rise to the challenge of lessons, sometimes settling for poorer quality work as being sufficient. The group are investigating the use of 6th formers as subject ambassadors to improve motivation and engagement levels lower down the school (in particular with KS4 groups).
Reflection, Feedback and SMSC. JAS has been working on a teacher toolkit which focuses on the area of reflection. It is hoped that the final product will feature in class context files and be used by colleagues to support the planning of pupil reflection and learning dialogue. RNN is currently adapting the resource into a student friendly version to support pupil responses to their learning.
Gary Oldfield, Assistant Principal, shares some ideas to help improve relationships with students. ‘A teacher’s response has crucial consequences….. It creates a climate of compliance or defiance, a mood of contentment or contention, a desire to make amends or to take away revenge. Teachers have the power to affect a child’s life for better or for worse. A child becomes what he or she experiences’ (Ginott 1988)
‘Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.’ (Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, Goleman 1995) Throughout the extensive research carried out about behaviour in schools, there are some basic facts that all teachers should be aware of and although many of these might seem obvious it does give us something to
think about when dealing with so many students on a day to day basis : • Boys are 4x more likely to disrupt than girls • 2/3rd of all referrals into the disciplinary systems of secondary schools involve students with reading ages between 8.5 and 10 years • SEN students are more likely to be in the disciplinary system than other students • Most students referred have poor social skills • Many have low emotional intelligence • Increasingly many more come from fractured homes With all these factors in mind it becomes even more necessary to use strategies that ensure consistency and give students a clear set of values and expectations to follow. This checklist can be used as a tool to ensure consistency and will support your everyday practice in positive behaviour management.
Setting a positive model
Praise, Praise, Praise
Be at the door, smiling, enthusiastic about working with the children and about the content of the lesson, changing your focus to catching children doing the right thing, modelling the behaviour that you expect to see and making this model overt and easily read, discussing how successful learners deal with the frustrations of learning.
Personal, sincere, specific and age appropriate praise, eye contact, touch, building relationships and mutual trust.
Maintaining an Assertive/Positive approach
Removing the negatives from your verbal and physical language, being specific about the behaviour that you expect, providing clear choices structured around rewards and sanctions, resisting hostility or passivity, using an assertive performance when there is turbulence in your own emotional control.
Using positive contact with the home, class rewards negotiated with the children.
Each day with a clean sheet
Redirecting low level disruption
Making sure that incidents have been dealt with from yesterday and making a conscious decision to refresh your expectations for the class and for individuals.
Non-verbal cues, movement and positioning around the room, proximity, use of verbal cues.
Collaborative agreements with other adults working in the classroom
Providing clear choices and time to make a decision
Having an agreement about how certain children are managed; who applies sanctions/rewards, what happens if an incident occurs; working towards a classroom where the two adults speak with certainty and with one voice.
You can choose to join the rest of the students or to sit next to me. Have a think about what you would like to do, I will come back and speak to you in a momentâ€™.
Establishing explicit rituals and routines
Private verbal warning
Verbal routines and rituals written on clear signs (language and image) and posted in two or three areas of the room.
Eye contact, lower than eye level where possible, using a positive model of the childâ€™s previous good behaviour to encourage them to make better choices, making sure that they understand they have been given a warning and what will happen if they ignore it â€“ marking the moment.
Applying sanctions with care
Saying thank you, acknowledging every child on a personal level and with an informal tone/register, making sure that even the quietest children are acknowledged for their efforts.
Showing empathy, patience, care, your disappointment, concern, attacking the behaviour not labelling the child.
Positive reinforcement and encouragement
Slowing the process of applying sanctions
Redirecting groups of students, catching students doing the right thing, building a positive atmosphere where children feel emotionally safe.
Giving the child time to make the right choices, finding opportunities to reinforce positive choices, catching them doing the right thing.
Sarah Jeffries, SENCO, explains some ideas on helping students with Dyslexia. ‘Dyslexia’ comes from the Greek language, meaning ‘difficulty with words’. It is a symptom of a number of different information processing disorders in the brain. There are many different possible underlying problems, many of which have yet to be fully understood. Dyslexia is hard to define, because it affects children in many different ways. Most experts agree that dyslexia occurs because of physiological or biological differences and these tend to run in families. However, the basic problem is a difficulty learning to read, spell and write despite adequate intellect and teaching. It is estimated that one in ten of the British population is dyslexic. There is also a strong link between dyslexia, BESD and low selfesteem. It is estimated that 20% of Britain’s prison population are thought to be dyslexic with 1 in 2 thought to have severe difficulties with reading. Dyslexia is classified as a specific learning difficulty, belonging to the family of difficulties including conditions such as dysgraphia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. It is different to moderate learning difficulties because it is not necessarily a reflection of a child’s IQ. Difficulties associated with MLD are likely to be more global. For example, a child with MLD is likely to achieve low scores in the following areas; verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, processing speed. In contrast to this a student who is diagnosed as having SPLD is likely to only score poorly in the areas of working memory and processing speed.
Dyslexic students are very likely to have problems with short term memory. It is therefore important that instructions are broken down into small steps. A frustration for a child who suffers from dyslexia can often be that they are unable to read what they have written when they come back to it a later point. This, combined with short term memory problems can prove to be a very frustrating combination. Intervention approaches at Don Valley are aimed at giving students active approaches to learning letter sounds and graphemes. Students are encouraged to use tactile methods to explore letters using water, sand paint etc. This method has been proven to improve the likelihood of a student retaining information. We also deliver multisensory programmes such as Toe by Toe. Although there will be some variation the table below summarises likely strengths and difficulties.
STRENGTHS Increased creativity and innovation Good lateral thinking ability Good problem solving skills Good visual and spatial skills
DIFFICULTIES Handwriting. Copying. Fine motor skills Difficulty following multi step instructions Difficulty recognising previously seen words Hesitancy or inaccuracy when reading Sees letters that appear to move around or shake Difficulty tracking across a page Student may experience glare from bright white paper and may be sensitive to bright lights.
How can I help? • •
• • • • •
Be aware of who your SPLD students are. Some dyslexic students suffer from sensitivity to bright lights and experience glare from white paper. It is worth talking to students about whether printing on blue/yellow helps. Some students have coloured lenses. If you know that a student has these you may need to prompt them to put them on. There are coloured overlays as an alternative in the staffroom. Print homework instructions rather than asking students to copy them down in the last few minutes of the lesson. Try to avoid asking dyslexic students to copy. Mark spelling for high frequency words. Correcting all spelling is unlikely to be of benefit to anyone. Liaise with parents Use visual hints on resources.
Abigail Gaines, AST, continues to share some ideas on how to encourage independent learning skills. In the last edition of the T&L magazine, I shared some ideas regarding independent learning; namely TASC and SOLE. In this article, I want to share some further ideas about collaborative independent learning. Independent learning is essential to challenge and motivate students and build essential skills that learners need to be effective. In order to be a successful independent learner students need to have the following dispositions: • Flexibility • Persistence • Curiosity • Innovative • Show initiative • Take risks • Be resilient With these dispositions, learners can be creative, problem solve, reflect, think critically and make decisions. Therefore in order to develop independent learners, we need to allow students to develop these key dispositions. It is worth looking at your lessons and schemes of work and considering what opportunities you provide for students to develop these key dispositions. In my previous articles, I talked of the need to personalise learning - to allow students to choose topics or key areas to study, to allow them to choose how they study, to have the opportunity to reflect on their work and opportunities to improve work. Such styles of learning help develop the key dispositions referred to above. It is our job as teachers to find ways to facilitate this type of learning. In this article, I aim to share some techniques for developing independent collaborative learners, but please keep in mind that the techniques will not be successful on their own without students having the opportunities to develop the dispositions (and this includes reflecting on their progress towards achieving them and evaluating afterwards). Prior to collaborative learning opportunities… Get individuals to assess their skills and abilities, maybe through a check list where they rate themselves. Alternatively, as a class they could prioritise the skills and decide to focus on certain ones in specific lessons. A list like the following could be used as a starting point:
What can a collaborative Learner do? • I can listen carefully to others • I share resources • I am sensitive in explaining when I agree or disagree • I am flexible and willing to change my mind if needs be • I am able to stand up for my own opinions when necessary • I build on and develop other peoples ideas • I draw out other peoples contributions • I keep the group focused
Skills as a collaborative learner In Skills for Learning I have seen these techniques used. Students agree what skills different levels of collaborative learners demonstrate. These can be ranked as Beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert. Students create descriptions. Students are reflective about where they are and aim to move up. They are encouraged to set own targets each time they complete collective learning. Level Beginner Intermediate Advanced Expert
Roles in groups This idea is used by a number of staff in the school already, but is worth reminding people of. In group work, individuals can be given roles so they have an individual responsibility as well as a collective one. For example, the organiser, listener, leader, creative thinker, positive thinker, collaborator, peace keeper and so on. It is worth creating cards that explain the roles and responsibilities that students can access. It is beneficial that students get the opportunity to experience different roles through the year. Skills for learning have examples of such cards. I also have some examples if you would like copies.
Gifting cards Students should award cards to members of the group. Each member has a card to award to someone else following the group work. Cards may include things like: You are great at being organised and help keep the team on track You come up with a lot of creative ideas You look for positive points in what everyone says You are practical – you spot problems and think of ways to overcome them
Diamond Ranking Again, used well by a number of teachers in this school. A range of reasons/causes/things are on cards and students rank them in order of importance. The shape should result in a diamond. However, this idea can be applied to any number of cards, the shape doesn’t really matter!
Best possible answer Set questions and allow time to develop ideas as a group. Groups then decide which they think is the best possible answer. Networking Students are given a card with a statement on. Each student must meet one other student at a time. They discuss each of their statements and then have to decide which is better/more important. They then tick this card. They keep moving around until they have discussed with all. This can be done with two groups of 14 for example, so only 14 cards are needed. The aim is that students have collaborated, discussed ideas and are aware there is no right or wrong but their opinion counts and how they have justified it. Examples: Geography – “The main problem caused by hurricanes is…” History – “Life in Tudor times was…” Science – “The best argument against genetic engineering is….” Maths – “ The most important thing we can draw from this statistics evidence is…”
Six Hats Again, often used in this school. De Bono’s ‘Six Hats’ allows students to progress through a range of thinking. The whole group may ‘wear’ each hat together or individuals can take a ‘hat’ White: What do I already know/what are the facts Red: How do I feel about this/what’s my instinct? Yellow: what are the advantages/good points? Black: What are the disadvantages/bad points? Green – what new ideas/solutions can we think of? Blue: What are we trying to do here? Where are we going next?
Introduce a topic and groups decide on some questions they want answering. When then collecting information they only focus on the specific questions. They may also have space/opportunity to record particularly interesting things they have learnt that doesn’t directly answer their questions. This may be done through a carousel/research stations.
Eight ways of thinking Students maybe given a topic/key question – they then have to set questions they want answering that cover all the ‘eight ways of thinking’. The eight ways cover words/meanings/titles/names, feelings/emotions/reactions, actions/events, sounds, numbers/dates/statistics, sights/spaces/structures, nature/environment and people/roles/jobs/responsibilities. Example: The First World War Nature/environment – where was it fought? What was the terrain like? How did it change the environment? Numbers/dates/statistics – how long did it last? How many died?
Students can then move to others questions and ask questions about questions if wanted. Some ideas taken from CJ Simister ‘Independent Learning’ course For reference see: CJ Simister ‘How to teach thinking and learning skills: a practical programme for the whole school’ 2007
Assistant Principal and Curriculum leader of English, Andrew Crompton, shares some ideas on how to use active reading strategies in the classroom Ni siht elcitra I lliw sserdda eht eussi fo woh ot elbane srenrael ot egagne htiw stxet. Therefore, a crucial consideration is how we can use starter activities to introduce the texts that students will explore in the classroom – so that, from the minute that students walk through the door, they are involved in reading and interpreting texts. Used judiciously, starter activities can enable students to hypothesise about, and make links between, key events, processes and concepts that will be introduced in texts; they can also allow students to engage actively with the essential language in texts. Of course, the opening sentence here is not such a difficult puzzle – but puzzles such as this, involving text sequencing or reconstruction, can be compelling starter tasks that allow students to develop their abilities to understand patterns in words, sentences and whole texts and can deepen subject-specific learning. ‘Text teaser’ starter tasks can be created easily using wordle.net or tagxedo.com. Wordle creates ‘word clouds’ quickly: you paste in the text that you would like to use and a word-cloud is generated. The program allows you to change font colour and positioning to your preference. Each word is used only once but the more often the word is repeated in the original text, the larger the type will be in the word-cloud – so the emphasis and importance of the word can be explored (copy and paste President Obama’s recent victory speech into wordle and you will see a clear visual representation of the ideals he wants to emphasise). The main difference – and advantage – of Tagxedo is that it is more aesthetically pleasing and can formulate word clouds in recognisable, relevant shapes. The example here is one that Angela Graves created. She says that the activity was highly effective because it “worked well
by engaging students. I used this to introduce a longer text. They reconstructed the text using the information in the picture before they saw the longer extended text. I imported the picture from the Internet.” With my own classes, I use wordle and tagxedo to encourage early investigation of new texts, encouraging speculation about thematic concerns and allowing analysis of aspects of language. Applications such as wordle and tagxedo are useful because they allow differentiated challenge: by allowing careful selection from the text, repetition and emphasis, they allow mediation between text and student. Image-related starter activities can also provide intriguing and engaging introductions to texts and topics. In Maths lessons at Don Valley Academy, picture puzzles are used to engage students: students are challenged to work out words and phrases from
sequences of pictures (thanks to Lee Welch for the example used on the next page). Images are frequently used in Humanities lessons to prepare for the study of texts. For example, the use of a graphic that is a historical source can prepare for deeper investigation; the instruction ‘ask three challenging questions about this image’ can prompt creative or deductive discussion and thinking. Such an accessible introduction allows students to be ‘walked in’ to the topic as a preface to the subsequent introduction of more sophisticated texts.
One of my own favourite starter activities is simply the use of a deconstructed text – such as an advertisement – with a different ‘fragment’ on a different powerpoint slide. Using a relatively brisk scrolling presentation (five seconds per slide), students are challenged to remember the contents of the presentation prior to discussion about the most striking words and images, links or contrasts between these and an exploration of possible messages in the whole text. Of course, many colleagues will use such direct activities related to texts (DARTs) on a regular basis to enable active learning experiences and to provide a language for learning. Here is a summary of some easy to use and very effective DARTs.
Direct activities related to texts (DARTs) Name of activity Sequencing
Description Reconstruction of separate statements from text, paragraphs or sentences within a paragraph
Text teasers (eg using Wordle/Tagxedo)
Display of key words from a text and either: a) reconstruction of the text; or b) quick interpretation of what the key elements of the topic/text will be.
Omission of key words from text – to be replaced by student.
Grouping of pieces of text according to characters/themes/events/topic sentences etc.
Provision of paragraphs from text and creation of sub-headings to
Purpose 1. Enables focus upon stages within a process or a sequence of events. 2. Enables explicit focus upon textual structural features such as connectives or topic sentences. 1. Enables development of sentence-level literacy skills. 2. Pre-reading activity that enables access to key ideas explored in the text. Can enable engagement with or exploration of subjectspecific terminology. 1. Allows vocabulary building skills and engagement with key words in a text. 2. Enables understanding of sentence construction. 1. Allows prioritisation of most important information and organisation of ideas as a preface to writing. 2. Can be used to prepare for higher order skills of evaluation. 1. Allows development of close reading skills. 2. Allows development of precise vocabulary
KWL grids/comparison grids/Venn diagrams
Mapping from memory
provide an overview of each paragraph. Provision of whole text with a wide margin on left or right side of page. Students summarise key points from each paragraph in their own words. Explanation of parts of the text underlined, circled or highlighted by the teacher or response to questions in the margins about highlighted parts of the text. Display of an image relevant to the lesson focus; students write down 5 questions they would like to ask about the image or annotate the image with as many notes as possible in a given time or link the image to previous learning or make connections between 2 or more images. Provision of text; students then compose 3 challenging questions about the text. Re-circulation of questions to other pairs/groups. Use of frameworks to focus text investigation and categorise or compare aspects of texts.
Specification of focus areas by teacher. Highlighting of references to different focus areas using different coloured highlighters. Reading of an extract from a text to students which students record only using symbols or images. Students then re-tell the ‘story’ of the text to each other. Teacher finds or creates a 1 page text or poster comprised of key words and images that relate to the topic that will be explored. Representatives from groups take turns to view the text for 1 minute at a time. Groups compete to recreate the text as accurately as possible.
skills. 1. 2.
Allows development of close reading skills. Allows development of precise vocabulary skills.
Enables direct engagement with essential ideas explored as a preface to writing or further discussion. Allows effective differentiation.
Useful starter activity to prepare for deeper investigation into a topic or text.
Allows close reading and deeper engagement with texts. Enables development of higher order thinking skills. Enables direct engagement with essential ideas explored as a preface to writing or further discussion. Can enable links to be made between events/texts/topic areas as a preparation for writing. Allows prioritisation of most important information and organisation of ideas as a preface to further discussion or writing.
2. 1. 2. 1.
1. 2. 1. 2.
Enables close focus upon details in the text and recall of most important aspects of the text. Can allow a close consideration of language and structural elements in a text. Allows fast and focused active engagement with ideas that will be explored in a topic. Provides close focus upon most important terminology.
After you have tried these, I’d be delighted to hear about how successfully they worked for you. In addition, I’m always keen to hear about other ways in which colleagues help students to access texts and interpret information.
I spend some of my week working with our future students in our primaries. At the moment this includes a Y5 class at Castle Hills, a Youth Theatre for GRT students at Toll Bar, supporting NQT teachers at Bentley High and Kirkby Avenue and Saturday mornings with the Dinkie group, who are aged between 4 and 9. Mantle of the Expert and using Drama for Learning is a way of working that engages young people, incites curiosity and excitement in their approach to enquiry and quite often can bring about a change in thinking or feeling that can affect a young person for a very long time. I have tried to outline the basic principles below along with some examples of how these techniques might be used, but if you would like to watch the techniques in action then please feel welcome to arrange this with me. Principle • The teacher’s responsibility is to empower and the most useful way of doing this is for the teacher to play a facilitating role from within the drama, not outside it. • Theatre can create impetus for productive learning across the whole curriculum.
How to start...... 1. Think about the topic you want to focus on and introduce to students with a visual image 2. Ask the class to think about what 'if' eg, what if they were expert scientists, working for the government COBRA committee, in the circus, film makers, detectives...etc....whatever topic you are introducing, ask the students to imagine they are the experts and what would they do 'if'..... 3. Give the class some simple tasks to complete as the experts.....perhaps to help someone, maybe as a briefing.... 4. Tell them something happened in the past...or something is happening now, or something is happening in the future and they have to plan for it! Emily Gill, Geography and I, last year ran a Creative Learning Day exploring Disasters using a drama based approach to explore a geographical theme. Please find below an outline of the day. This type of approach definitely develops SMSC and our Ofsted priorities for developing Curiosity, Interest and Excitement within the curriculum. If you would like to develop a scheme of work to include this type of pedagogy, then I can help you to plan and deliver........please let me know.
Geography and Drama Project The Disaster Day Objective: To inspire the Gifted and Talented geographers, to develop a deeper interest in their Geography curriculum Student Objectives: We will explore the idea of a National Disaster, relating to the actions, thoughts and feelings of the people involved I am looking for you to be an Active Participator and a Creative Thinker, using Drama skills and techniques to explore the theme. Ideas for the session 1. Each student is in a space on their own. After each of the following words is spoken by the teacher, students must try to take up a frozen physical position that clearly represents that word. Positions must be taken up within 5 seconds after the announcement, and then must be held, in silence. Joy Baby Save Students are then given the following sentence: ‘Save me from the flood.’ 2. Sit all students in a circle. Students have been summoned to a Cabinet Office Briefing Room meeting – Cobra – otherwise known as the Emergency Meeting. The teacher in role as Prime Minister now explains that government scientists are predicting a drastic increase in sea levels that could see areas of the UK underwater within six months. As members of COBRA, it is the students’ responsibility to decide what action is to be taken. As Cobra members they are sworn to secrecy in order to prevent panic. Ask the Geography teacher to stand as the Chief Scientific Officer. Give the students thinking time about some questions they might like to ask the Chief Scientific Officer about the floods. Students can then question the Geography teacher about the evidence: what has caused the upcoming flood, when can we expect it to hit, etc…...Field any less serious
questions with references to ‘the Official Secrets Act’. 3. Three questions for Cobra to students to think about, in three groups and then return ideas to rest of class: What resources do we need? What should we start building? Should certain individuals who do certain jobs be prioritised on the first boats? If yes, who should they be and why?
4. Discuss with the students which groups of people could potentially benefit from a rise in the sea level. Create a brainstorm on the board. MAKE SURE THAT THE STUDENTS AS COBRA KNOW THAT ALL INFORMATION IS KEPT SECRET FOR THE MOMENT FROM THE UK. 5. Build local community, using the students as characters, in space, think about who might be there and where they might be including those who would ‘benefit’ from a sudden rise in sea levels. Allow thinking -time and then allow group to role-play with spotlighting to get individual thoughts
and opinions, showing the community in their normal surroundings and normal circumstances. 6. Back to Cobra: Flood will hit Doncaster…specifically Toll Bar due to unexpected rain. Students consider in discussion how to release this information to the public and prepare them. 7. Reaction in Doncaster: Place the students into three groups by numbering them off. Place each group in a separate space in the room. Ask them initially to create a simple movement based on the following three ideas that the whole of the group can do quickly and clearly: Anger Pleading Fear 8. Ask them to rehearse these simple movements so that the whole group, like a chorus, can perform the moves together. Ask them now to add a simple phrase (two or three words) to each of those movements that is appropriate for the action and can be said together as a chorus. For example: Anger – ‘What about us?’ Pleading – ‘Save us!’ Terror – ‘We need help!’ Develop this into a realistic scene that includes the choral moment in it.
9. Add a large map of Great Britain to the wall with the flood hit areas of 2007 in darker pen. Place a red cross over Doncaster. Place students in a circle, ask them to close their eyes and then start with this announcement: ‘The rainfall level around Great Britain is expected to rise above all records in two weeks. In fourteen days we expect these areas of the UK to be under water.’
10. Hold discussion of what needs to be done immediately. Ideas such as relocation to higher ground, the problems of overcrowding, the building of boats and rescue craft, etc. What advice should now be given to the population of Doncaster? How should they prepare for the imminent disaster? 11. In pairs ask students to sit facing each other. Label each other A and B. A is now a telephone helpline operator offering advice to B, who has a specific problem to do with the flood and needs some advice. Improvise a short conversation and then reverse roles. 12. In small groups ask students to prepare three rolling images that show how people reacted to the news that the flood was just about to hit. The first tableau should show the reaction to that sound, and then
subsequent tableaux can represent gathering items, getting on a boat, being left behind, swimming for safety, etc. – but they should follow a plot. Play some suitable music whilst the students perform. 13. Inspired by one of the tableaux stories and/or one of the helpline conversations, small groups will now create a naturalistic performance based on how a group of people dealt with, or didn’t manage to deal with, the arrival of the flood. Performances should be naturalistic and serious. They could deal with reactions to the Flood’s arrival that are: Positive and inspiring Sad and emotionally upsetting.
14. Sit the group in a circle and then ask them all to stand in silence. Announce the beginning of the Flash village council meeting; Flash is officially recognised by Ordnance Survey as the highest village in England. Teacher in role as council leader to start with, but that role can be passed to a confident student. Announce that a rescue boat from Doncaster is on its way, but there are serious concerns that the town is overcrowded so we should make decisions about: Can we accept any more refugees from flooded areas? If yes, how many, and on what grounds?
15. Put the students into a reasonably large rowing boat shape facing inwards. Play the sea or water sound effects quietly in the background for this scene. Allow a brief time for the sound effects to set the scene and then ask the students to imagine they have been on board for a week and are now heading to a safe area, a small village at the top of a big hill that cannot take them all. What do they think is the fairest method to decide who will stay? 16. Go around the boat and ask the students to state the fairest way to decide. State that the town has decided the fairest way is to draw lots. Hand out the folded pieces of paper created in advance with the black crosses on them. Instruct the students not to open them yet, but in a moment, one after the other, they are to open their piece of paper and they must not react to what they see. Ask them to do this in silence, one after the other, then ask all those who did not have a cross to stand and mime climbing out over the side of the boat onto dry land, leaving those with black crosses to remain on the boat. 17. Ask those remaining on the boat to close their eyes while you ask those who have left, on the count of three, to begin to create a soundscape of the sea. Add in the sound effect of the sea and the rowing oars over the top of the vocal sounds of the students and gradually build up the volume and then bring it slowly down. If you are using lighting, this is a very useful scene to bring down finally to a black out. 18. Discuss thoughts, feelings, learning, relating to objectives of session. Have this discussion videoed for evaluative purposes.
Abigail Gaines shares some top tips for marking inspired by Mark Colley (school ex-SIP) and KS4 leader in English, Martin Ford. As all teachers know, marking and feedback is essential in teaching. As teachers we use it to assess understanding and the development of skills and therefore reshape lessons based on this feedback. For students some views are summarised in the comments below; “It helps us work out if we’ve done things right” “It shows the teacher cares about our learning if they look at our books”
I’m not going to discuss the merits of marking in this article though, or debate whether formative or summative marking should be used. I just aim to share some ‘top tips’ which appear so obvious when we think about it! There are a lot of teachers who do an awful lot of marking, but what are students then doing with the marking? Are we giving them the opportunities to act on our comments and make those targets meaningful? Are teachers using marking to inform lesson planning and/or support for individuals? Is differentiation clear in books? Can progress be seen in a student’s book helped by marking? •
Early on in the book, the teacher should be identifying problems the student faces (skills they lack, literacy problems etc.) Then the teacher and student should be then acting upon these and this is shown through the work/targets set.
Think about whether you are giving students the chance to act on targets. If you’ve written ‘please use capital letters’ – do you give them time the next lesson to go back over the work and correct this? If you write ‘please complete work’ – do you give the opportunity in the next lesson before moving on to the next task? The key point is- give students time at the beginning of the lesson to act on targets set in marking. Avoid writing lots of targets through the book. If you write a target and it’s not been acted on – don’t set new ones until the previous target has been met and consolidated. Similarly, the same target should not appear constantly through a book because you should have given the student the time to act on the target. Is the departmental/school literacy policy applied consistently?
An observer may look at students books to see ‘attitudes to learning’ – think about how you enforce presentation skills. Do you make sure titles are underlined? That there is no doodling? That work is completed? What do you do to help persistence absence students? Do you copy parts of other students work for them? Include worksheets to help them catch up? With regard to differentiation; is this clear in books? You could get students to note in the margins of work when they have used scaffolding/forms of support. This could also include oral support from teachers, group work for support and so on.
asked questions to encourage a balanced answer or help formulate conclusions. This could always be printed out questions (3 types for examples) given to different ability students. When you use peer and selfassessment – make it obvious! Students mark in different colour pens, sign their name and date with their comments. Use peer and self-assessment checklists that can be stuck in books.
One of the best examples of marking I have recently seen has been in Martin Ford’s book. He gets students to engage in learning dialogue through ‘MRI’ (My Response is…). The teacher marks, the student responds, and the teacher may respond again. In his books are also examples of where the teacher asks questions to further thinking and students are clearly given the time to respond. Martin has also recently produced some handy ‘marking packs’ for the English department to help prevent them ‘drowning’ in marking. This pack includes: •
Again with regard to differentiation – in your marking, you could ask further thinking questions on a piece of work and give students time the next lesson to answer these questions. For example, on a piece of work where students have discussed whether Hitler or the allies were to blame for WW2, a students who has already completed a well-balanced answer with a clear conclusion showing an opinion could then be asked ‘when should the allies have intervened? What could they have done?’ Whereas other students may be
Stickers to give to students to stick in books following oral feedback – “Mrs Gaines said I should…” Peer assessment sheets where students give a positive comment and a target. (Martin uses Thumbs and targets as symbols, the same ideas include two stars and a wish and glow and grow etc.) Further peer assessment sheets that also include space for students to write in the success criteria prior to completing the task, so they
are assessed by others against this clear success criteria Self-evaluation sheets that include asking students what they think they did well, what target they would set for themselves next time, teachers response and MRI to this. •
Sheets to structure ‘MRI’ that includes questions such as; “How do you feel you did?’, ‘what can you do to improve next time?’ as well as the chance for students to state how well they think they are doing in lessons (Via faces) and asks students ‘what the teacher can do to help’ as well. Also question son other sheets include ‘have you got a question to ask?’, ‘Is there something you are proud of?’ At the beginning of a half term, sheets are given out that give students the chance to reflect on previous marks/levels/grades, whether they are working at expected or good progress, with a teacher comment about the last term and what they need to do this term, then room for the students response. Martin states this resource has been
well received. It’s easy to see why, they will make the student feel valued as the teacher is individualising sheets and welcoming them back, praising them for efforts so far and suggesting how to keep on improving. Stickers that include details of extension tasks. This is a great way of highlighting differentiation in books. The extension tasks can be differentiated to ability. An example may be “Read back through your work, using a different colour pen, circle what you think are the most effective language choices you have made and explain why”. ‘Self-Improver stickers’ often used with those who rush to complete rather than use detail. It may include comments like “Read back through your work. Use a dictionary, your class mates and a different colour pen, and correct any mistakes in punctuation and spelling.”
Hopefully some of these tips may be useful in your own marking, feedback and intervention.
Gifted and Talented Richard Belk, G&T Coordinator explains some ideas for challenging
GIFTED - (Monitored Cohort) The top 10% of pupils from each year group that demonstrate attainment well above the average academic ability in the core subjects based on their KS2 levels.
TALENTED - (Subject Specific Cohort) The Subject Specific Cohort who may be exceptional or very able in all subjects that are identified by subject staff based on teacher assessment, observations etc. Teaching Styles
information in a visual format to present ideas
Teachers need to respond to the learning styles of the students. Failure to take consideration of these differences can lead to a curriculum that is neither
Auditory – preference for verbal instructions, talk and discussions Kinaesthetic – preference for active and hands on learning.
accessible nor engaging. Recognising learning style helps to influence the
Depth and breadth
teaching style. Gifted and talented learners require opportunities that offer stretch and challenge. They like to understand 'the big picture'; to know the context and purpose of their learning. Investigative tasks where outcomes are not fixed or limited provide valuable and stimulating learning experiences. These opportunities can be provided by offering experiences that Learning styles include:
provide breadth of learning and go
Visual – through visual cues, facial
beyond the curriculum. However, to make
expressions and utilisation of maps and
them worthwhile they must include content and experiences that sufficiently stretch
learners. Extension activities offer depth
encouraged to work independently; to set
of learning. These encourage the student
their own tasks and to have a range of
to work with either more complex tasks
material and routes to work through.
(i.e. which combine or apply learning
However, they must also be 'taught' and
objectives in less familiar contexts) or to
should not be left alone to work through
provide them with a greater degree of
set activities. It is also important to
complexity or abstraction. Gifted and
encourage learners to reflect on their
talented learners can also be presented
work, to clarify their understanding and to
with opportunities that accelerate their
consider what they have achieved and
learning through content. Gifted and
their next steps.
Talented learners should also be Most Difficult First – Don’t get GT to do everything – only give them challenging work and open ended activities
Differentiate by Process and Content – By outcome is NOT enough!
Higher Order Questions – use Blooms Taxonomy for prompts. Create Questioning Classroom. Allow time to answer Qs.
Grouping – use a variety of groups to engage GT
Activate Prior Knowledge and Accredit Prior Knowledge – build on what they know – use mind mapping, concept maps, graphic organisers to demonstrate knowledge and understanding
Develop Independence – allow GT students some choice in their learning – use Activity Choice, set own targets etc. Build in time for reflection of learning
Gifted & Talented Checklist
Use of IT is ♦ ♦ carefully planned ♦ as and is not seen add-on – ensure ♦ activities relate to objectives.
Planning – ensure all abilities planned for with extension activity for more able – consider breadth and depth
Develop collaborative learning with Thinking and Problem Solving Skills in all areas of curriculum.
Planning issues – ensure activities for GT children ties in with their interests and learning styles.
Consider whole class teaching – look for ways to offer extension in each part of your lesson – from the starter session to the plenary session. Allow time for thinking and use high level language
Much of the provision for the most able occurs through challenging lessons for pupils. Teachers increase both the pace and complexity of the lesson to match the pupils’ needs for challenge and intellectual excitement. In these classes teachers routinely teach high, with an expectation that most pupils will gain the highest grades.
It is clear that the very able grasp concepts quickly and need less consolidation of new learning. They need to move on to the next stage of learning sooner than the rest of the class to be provided with different, more demanding work.
Where a class contains only a few such pupils, teachers need to plan separately for them after the initial learning has taken place. Pupil grouping by ability within a class can allow a teacher to interact at a higher level with some pupils, challenging their thinking and extending their ideas. The use of text books from the next key stage can be useful where topics are visited at different levels of complexity throughout the curriculum.
Where individual pupils are far more able than their peers, teachers may need to be set work, which is completely different. This is relatively common in mathematics. While this has the advantage of maintaining social contact with his or her peers, it can become intellectually isolating. The school might consider whether the pupil concerned could join an older set for some lessons in that subject if this is viable.
An alternative, where there are several pupils who would benefit from intensive teaching, is to provide occasional withdrawal or tutorial groups. Where neither of these can be offered, the teacher has to supply the intellectual stimulus for the child.
Able children need, perhaps even more than others, detailed and honest evaluation of their work. Dialogue, both verbal and written, with their teachers helps them to sharpen their thinking and understand how they can improve. It also helps them to validate their own achievements. Praise and high marks (A/excellent) for meeting the criteria appropriate to less able pupils are unhelpful. Any child consistently receiving this response is being given work, which is too easy and is not really making the progress they should.
There are also some relatively simple ways in which the teacher can increase the level of challenge through demanding high levels of skill or a greater range of knowledge. This is clearly less fundamental than extending pupils’ conceptual understanding.
Abigail Gaines discusses some of the barriers faced with a particular class and the action that resulted. In the fairly recent whole staff Ofsted feedback meeting, Nicole Henderson spoke of ‘professional confidence and aspiration’ - that it is the individual teachers responsibility to ensure students’ progress; that a teacher should be reflective, look at their classes, consider what the teacher can do to help students improve and we should be constantly trying to achieve the best. That is what teaching is about. I have a personal story I’d like to share about a particular class I taught last year. I may not be fully addressing in this article everything Nicole was alluding to, but I aim to show that I believe as teachers we are all always learning and having to find new ways of doing things. In September 2011 I recently returned to teaching following a year’s maternity leave. I had been teaching ten years. I’d been an Assistant Head of Year, Head of History and Sociology and was now an ‘Advanced Skills Teacher’, therefore I suppose I didn’t expect the challenge that faced me with a particular Year 9 class/form. The first lesson seemed to go well. The second lesson students needed to move around the room to acquire information then evaluate it and show learning in a written piece of work. I saw the lesson fall apart in front of my eyes. Classes I had taught before could move sensibly around the room with clear instructions and gentle reminders, and got on with the task. Classes before enjoyed the active learning style. However, the students in this class just chatted, showed no motivation to complete the task and even my encouragement and later warnings didn’t seem to have an affect. I came away a bit shocked at the lack of motivation and discipline the students had shown. At the same time it encouraged me to rethink the next lesson. The following lesson students were asked to reflect on their previous lessons learning and given questions to consider. They were told they would repeat the task during this lesson. They could share any information they had already acquired, use the resources from last lesson or new resources provided. I had to be clear in what I expected as a minimum from each student and what would happen if I didn’t see effort. The work for many improved, but not all. A core group of boys had now, in my opinion, wasted two lessons and the work was inadequate. I wanted to act quickly so had made sure I looked at the work straight after the lesson. I was also lucky enough to share a form so I
arranged with my co tutor to miss a form time and visited the class the following morning to speak to individuals about their own, and my, expectations. I wish I could say there was instant success. However, although some students came on board, it took a lot of hard work, time and effort to get others. I soon realised that despite being Year 9, the majority of students lacked some basic skills. They didn’t have pride in their work, were happy to do the minimum work, they lacked independence, couldn’t work in groups – the list went on. Each lesson felt like a battle. There were a range of behavioural issues including some dominating boys. There were the quiet unmotivated girls; there were even a handful of students who were clearly fed up of their form and characters in there. I learnt early on that the dominating boys were good in discussions. They liked to talk, they liked debating, and they liked watching videos. However, whilst trying to engage them and utilising their skills I couldn’t let them dominate the others and had to find ways to use their skills whilst allowing others to gain confidence in sharing ideas and getting involved.
I soon noticed that the majority of the behavioural issues arrived when work was challenging. They didn’t like having to write ideas down, they didn’t like having to think independently, they didn’t like working with others and having to actually focus on work rather than chat. I could have had an easy lesson with them and hardly any behavioural issues if the lesson lacked challenge. Too often students commented “can’t we just do a poster?” when asked to explain the reasons why something happened, or “can’t we just copy?” when asked to summarise key points. I didn’t take the easy option, I made sure each lesson was challenging and focused on teaching them the skills they needed to cope with challenge. Group work could be a disaster. But each time it failed, I looked at
why and rethought how to approach things the next time. Extended writing could be a failure as some students would not stay on task longer than five minutes. Again I had to find ways to make students stick at it and achieve.
I did have to follow behavioural policies. I agreed behavioural targets with students, used department reports, all the detentions available, I contacted home and so on. I had to make sure I was consistent and fair. Making sure students were praised when behaviour improved. This sometimes involved the Curriculum Leader. I got a core group of boys on board this way and my behavioural students were reduced to just two students. In truth, it felt like the some of the class hated me and hated their History lessons. Each lesson was hard; I admit that I didn’t look forward to it. I would like to say things got easier, but in truth maybe it did by Easter but the battle with some realistically lasted until summer. Expected Progress was perhaps still not what it should be, but the majority had made significant progress from their starting point both academically and behaviourally. With History being an ‘option’ subject I was slightly surprised to find that so many of the group had opted to take History GCSE. This included some boys who spent half of their lunch time with me on a regular basis due to lack of work and behaviour issues. In my option advice I’d made it clear the subject was academically challenging, they were expected to write a lot and would have to work hard. It hadn’t discouraged them. I found it useful to talk to individuals about why they’d made History one of their choices. Replies included that they enjoyed the subject matter, they felt they progressed in this lesson, they knew they were doing well due to regular feedback and advice, they felt they achieved as others were not allowed to disturb/derail their learning, and also some of them referred to the fact they enjoyed the challenge of the lessons. I knew I wasn’t getting a Year 10 class this academic year, but I have kept an eye on some of my previous students. They are now taught in different groups but
all of them appear to being progressing well and behavioural issues are minimal. On reflection, I learnt an awful lot last year about students and myself. However, I am pleased that I tried not to get disheartened and take things personally and instead was constantly reflective and consistent in my approach. I feel like I achieved success and the hard work was worth it. On lunch time duty recently I approached a member of my Year 10 form to check his punctuality report. He was with one of the boys from last year’s group. The boy stated to my form member “is she your form tutor? You poor thing, she is always on your back!” The ultimate praise in my opinion.
To summarise - What did I do? • I had to be clear in my expectations each lesson regarding behaviour and quality and amount of work • I had to check work constantly through the lesson and look at books prior to the following lesson (marking before wasn’t always possible) to be ready to pick up any problems. Mark was worked each week and students had to act on comments. • I visited individuals in form quite regularly – in front of the form I would praising some and offering rewards whilst coming to agreements, setting targets, and setting sanctions for others. They also saw I was liaising with their form tutor • I had to be consistent with my approach to rewards and sanctions • I did not avoid skills that they lacked. I taught them group work and independence skills. • I had to chase up instantly any detentions missed. • I contacted home and also informed parents when there were problems and when things improved • I would make students re do work, improve work and realise we won’t just ‘move on’ if things are inadequate. This also included copying out work that was poorly presented. • I constantly asked colleagues for advice or opinions on my next strategy/tactic or ‘what they would have done if…’ • I spoke to other teachers who taught the form to gauge their views • The form tutor of the group even came to observe a lesson as she was interested in what they were like in lessons and she shared any ideas she had for dealing with them. • Ultimately, I faced up to the problems and set about trying to solve them.
Resilience Abigail Gaines, AST, continues to discuss ideas for developing the resilience of students. In the last edition of this magazine, I wrote about the lack of resilience some of my students were exhibiting and some of the ideas I’d come across and tried to over come this. Through the teaching and learning group I have found out that other teachers are also concerned about the lack of resilience amongst some students. Therefore I thought I’d dig a little deeper and research a little more. In this article, I intend to explore in more detail some of the top tips to help encourage resilience (see edition 1 for top tips) Through my research I came across an interesting experience by a London school called ‘failure week’ with the aim of building up ‘courage in the classroom’. The school held workshops and assemblies that allowed parents and students to tell their own tales of failure, as well as using clips of famous people. The aim was to let students know that they need to fail well and how to cope and get over it. It is worth considering the opportunities we build into lessons that allow students to ‘fail’. It is essential students learn to ‘try’ and accept failure will happen but it’s how you overcome it, and what you learn from the experience that matters. I have delivered a number of training sessions over the last couple of years that promote the use of hypothesis lesson and independent enquiry. Such lessons are the perfect opportunity to allow students to fail. The hypothesis lesson is best described as a typical science experiment. Students make a ‘guess’ (prediction) on a topic or similar, they then investigate if their hypothesis was right. They may have been wrong, but does it matter? What have they now learnt? I take this further and try to provide a range of teaching and learning styles that student use to investigate the hypothesis. These may include the internet, videos, oral accounts, written cards, pictorial evidence and so on. Students pick what method they will use to research and have a set time. If they complete with one method or decide it’s not working they can change in the time. What students are expected to do at the end of the task is evaluate the learning method and if it worked for them. Often they haven’t gathered enough evidence to support or refute their hypothesis because the method they chose wasn’t the best. In their evaluations they have to consider why it did or didn’t work and what may have been better on this occasion.
Students often flock to the internet and assume this will be the best way. After 10 minutes on the most complex Wikipedia page ever, they start to reassess their choice. What do they learn? Next time they are to research they may choose alternative methods (or websites). Students then have to be given the time to try again! As teachers we need to move away from the idea that they must have acquired everything we want them to know by the end of the lesson. Using methods that allow them to fail, they learn from their mistakes and ultimately become better learners and more motivated. If you think about group work in a similar way, rather than the teacher enforcing expectations and disciplining the group, the group should be selfregulating. They need to think about whom they have chosen to work and whether they would work with the same people next time. They need to set their own group rules and allow one another to enforce rules and expectations. You will find that group work, in the long run, becomes so much easier when the group control themselves and have learnt how to overcome problems. The teacher does have a role in this; we provide the scaffold to help them be reflective. This may include worksheets for target sheeting and reflection for example. There are many other ways to encourage failure, but it is something we must do if we want our learners to become more resilient and motivated.
Diane Lewis, Assistant Principal, shares some facts and ideas to wow and amaze students! Statistics show that around one in four of the adult population struggle with maths and many individuals find everyday maths tasks such as calculating which offer gives the best deal challenging. I’m sure just reading this has caused at least one person to panic! Fear not and amaze your tutor group with your mathematical skills by trying one of these…………….
Taking 1 away from the number being multiplied gives you the left part of the answer. Taking the number being multiplied from 100 gives you the right part of the answer. An example: 66 X 99 Step 1 66 – 1 = 65 (left part of answer) Step 2 100 – 66 = 34 (right part of answer) Answer = 6534, simple! Surprise members of your tutor group by asking them to give you a 1 or 2 digit number, and multiplying it by 99 ‘in your head’. Or try this ……………
Tips and tricks Remember the 12 Times Table the Easy Way! Let’s take the fraction ½ and write a list of equivalent fractions in order… ½ 2/4 3/6 4/8 5/10 6/12 7/14 8/16 9/18 10/20 11/22 12/24 That’s great, you might think, but so what? Let’s see how we can get the 12 times table … The first few are hopefully obvious ……… 1/2 12 2/4 24 3/6 36 4/8 48 5/10 60 Carry the 1 and add to the 5 6/12 72 Carry the 1 and add to the 6 7/14 84 Carry the 1 and add to the 7 8/16 96 Carry the 1 and add to the 8 See if you can continue the sequence.
99 Heaven Multiplying by 99 is difficult, right? Wrong! Multiplying any 1 or 2 digit number by 99 couldn’t be simpler using this method:
Ask someone to think of a two digit number. Give them a calculator and ask them to multiply their number by 3, and pass the calculator on, ask that person to multiply it by 7 and pass it on again, ask the next person to multiply it by 13 and pass it to you. If you now multiply by 37 you will see the person’s number appears three times in the answer! Try it out on a friend or relative and then see if you can work out how this ‘trick’ works.
Did you know? In China, 8 and 4 have a lot of meaning as numbers. This is because in Mandarin, the way ‘8’ sounds also sounds like the word for ‘rich’, and so is considered lucky. The number ‘4’ however sounds like the word for ‘die’ and so is considered very unlucky! No piece of paper can be folded in half more than 7 times.