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Teaching and Learning Bulletin Issue Seven - June 2015

CONTENTS PIXL CLUB SIX WORD SENTENCES WALKING, TALKING MOCKS EXTENDED WRITING INSIGHT PARENTAL PORTAL UPDATE ACTIVE LEARNERS SUGGESTED READING

PiXL CLUB

Last year, PiXL (which stands for Partners in Excellence) schools – achieved an average increase in GCSE results of 4.6%, compared with a national decline of 0.4%. As a fast improving school it was natural therefore that St Chad’s became a member of this club to enable us to work in collaboration with other schools to improve

Design by Adam Tate

LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE A successful school needs outstanding leadership and the beginning of May saw the St Chad’s Senior Leadership team take the opportunity to share expertise and good practice with their counterparts from their National Support school, All Hallows, Macclesfield. The weekend conference which took place at the Cottons Hotel in Knutsford gave the teams the chance to consider how they could use PiXL to help drive up standards and performance, plan their curriculums for the next academic year and

complete a SWOT analysis on their individual schools. The conference was both successful and productive and it is hoped that similar sharing of good practice can take place again in the future with leaders at all levels becoming involved in the process.

pupil performance, particularly at GCSE level – with impressive results. The schools involved are passionate and there is a real feeling of shared goals and shared purpose. At the heart of the PiXL club is a commitment to high-quality leadership, schools supporting one another and a desire to give all young people – regardless of background or ability – the opportunity to achieve their very best. They also get access to resources and revision materials, including online tutorials and webinars. Member schools are assigned an “associate” – an experienced school leader who helps to identify problem areas (such

as particular groups of children not achieving their potential), devise appropriate solutions or interventions and, crucially, measure whether they are working – an approach known within PiXL circles as “diagnosis, therapy, testing”. Over the past five years, the group has grown from 40 to nearly 600 members and expanded the breadth of its work to include key stage 3, primary schools, pupil referral units and international schools. In future editions of ‘The Steep Learning Curve’ we will report back on the progress being made with the PiXL programme and the effect it is having on pupils performance.

To contribute to this bulletin please forward any thoughts you have about TEEP or associated topics to alan.bennett@st-chads.halton.sch.uk


Walking, Talking MOCKS

Preparing for examinations is expected and at St Chad’s it has been an annual activity in the run up to the summer examination period. The notion of taking a mock exam is a key part of this preparation and students are given an opportunity to revise for and then sit exams in the usual exam hall setting, However, this year’s preparations have been somewhat different with students being given a new, radical approach to this age old routine. Last term we saw

the introduction of walking talking mocks which have proved to be integral to improving exam grades in recent years. Students can be sitting in the usual rows of desks in the exam hall, but the teacher can be at the front of the room reading out the questions and explaining how to answer them. They may well be explaining how many points to make to achieve the maximum marks or suggesting which parts of the text students

should highlight to ensure they emphasize certain points in their answer. Eventually students will complete the questions or simply demonstrate they understand how to structure the answers. If completed it will be marked and can then form the basis of group or individual discussions with students. By boosting confidence in their ability to correctly answer questions students will ultimately do better in their final exams.

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Extended Writing The recent changes to specifications have meant that many pupils studying GCSE subjects have had to come to a shocking realisation. To achieve good marks they will have to write more than a sentence for many of the questions and cannot simply bullet-point their responses. Suddenly teachers of all subject areas have felt that they have become teachers of English and have been frantically including how to write extended answers

»» into their programmes of study. Here are a few simple tips that you can use to help your students develop the skills they need to become extended writers capable of producing answers that earn them top grades. When answering questions requiring an extended writing response students should; »» Circle all words and phrases that give you a clue about what you should include in your

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answer. Write a quick plan for how you would structure your answer – do not try to answer the question. Consider how many sections your answer should have and the key words you should include. Plan an opening sentence. Fill in the details for each of the sections. Demonstrate that you understand the question. Write in continuous prose. Put the points in a logical order and link them together. Make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are all correct.

Extended writing is most definitely a skill that needs to be developed so preparing students at all key stages is the key to ensuring that we have confident writers across all subjects and all age groups.


P E S E E C T R U O S E R ‘Six

’ s e c n e t n Word Se

It has been good to see our newly appointed TEEP champions demonstrate their desire to drive forward the TEEP principles over the past couple of weeks and in this edition it is nice to be able to include some resources provided by Helen Aspinall from the ICT department. The first is a very useful prepare for learning exercise called ‘six word sentences’ which involves providing students with an image for which they have to provide a suitable six word sentence. The image below is an example provided by Helen and is

part of a collection which can be found in the TEEP folder on the staff shared area. The second is an extended writing exercise called ‘Digging Deeper’, which involves students writing a sentence on a set topic and then adding to the sentence gradually till it becomes a piece of extended writing. The image shows a classroom poster which demonstrates how this can work and be used effectively.


ACTIVE LEARNERS Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Teachers who adopt a studentbased approach to learning increase opportunities for student engagement, which then helps everyone more successfully achieve the lesson learning objectives. Having an active

learning style can ultimately lead to students who want to learn and will actively seek opportunities to develop their own learning. Active learning requires students to participate in class, as opposed to sitting and listening quietly. Strategies include, but are not limited to, brief question-and-answer sessions, discussion integrated into the lesson, impromptu writing assignments, hands-on activities, and experiential learning events. As you think of integrating active learning strategies into your TEEP lessons, consider ways to set clear expectations, design effective evaluation strategies, and provide helpful feedback. Having compliant learners may make for an easier lesson, but having engaged learners will be much more rewarding experience for both you and your students. As teaching and Learning moves forward, having active learners will be key to our success.

SUGGESTED RESEARCH The Whit half term break saw the arrival in school of a collection of outdoor table tennis tables which have proved to be extremely popular with students. This ties in nicely with our recommended reading for this edition which is a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed. Written by a former table tennis world champion, this book makes you think: “If I can find out what a child is really enthusiastic about, and put in the right support, they can become really, really good.” And once people become good at something it boosts their confidence and they become good at other things. Since Bounce was published (in 2011), schools really are now, from Year 7, looking out for what children are good at and then helping them improve. Hopefully the introduction of table tennis will encourage students across the school to embrace learning to do other activities that will ultimately boost their learning. Bounce is not only a useful educational book it is also a good read and is full of interesting facts and stories.

As announced in our last edition the beginning of May saw parents have an opportunity to attend workshops in school for our new parental portal Insight. The workshops gave parents an introduction to the site and provided them with a chance to discuss the new portal with staff and our technical team. Having time to become familiar with the new system and discover how they can engage with their child’s learning proved to be extremely valuable and although it is early days for Insight at St Chad’s, so far it is proving to be a popular and more user friendly alternative to the system we had in place previously.

The Steep Learning Curve  

Issue Seven - June 2015

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