Mr Woodard (D&T) – Year 8 students were busy thinking about what a design specification involves, as they were due to begin a project that challenged students to build a functioning clock. Mr Woodard challenged students through a series of questions to try and assess what students already knew about design specifications. Through a class discussion students were introduced to a design specification and were given one for their project. Mr Woodard then modelled the end product by showing clocks designed and built by former students to give the class a concrete example of what excellence looked like.
Ms Ridgeway (English) – Year 7 students were being exposed to a really challenging text and being asked to describe a passage using specific vocabulary. It was really clear that Ms Ridgeway had really high expectations of students both in the content of the lesson, how students articulated they’re understanding and also of the written work in student books. Ms Ridgway also expected much of student responses when questioning the class. She made really good use of follow up questions to force students to think more deeply about each question with almost all questions immediately followed up with ‘Why?’
Mrs Williams (English) – Mrs Williams engaged students with a really difficult text and challenged students to identify vocabulary they were not familiar with. Students had to then attempt to identify the meaning of the word by looking for clues within the text. She modelled this brilliantly by explaining the thought process of how to approach this problem. Students were then given time to practice before feeding back to the class. Mrs Williams demonstrated really high expectations of students through the use of language and the level of text she was using with the students.
Mr Bunnell (History) – Year 7 students were in the middle of discussing skills required for different jobs during this PSHE lesson. Mr Bunnell made a great use of a simple routine (5,4,3,2,1) to get students quiet. By the time he arrived at ‘1’ the room was in silence – a good sign of an established routine. In questioning students about different types of skills required for different jobs the class had come up with a list of important skills. Foolowing a really clear and concise explanation about why skills like communication, confidence, e.t.c. were important, Mr Bunnell then questioned students to more depth asking them to explain what skills were needed for a particular job. Students were expected to justify their answers and were challenged to think hard through follow up questions.
Mrs Baker (Learning Support) – Year 9 Science class. Mrs Baker was supporting a number of SEND students with challenging ‘Electrons’ task set by Mr Rogers (really high expectations here!). Mrs Baker used great questioning to help students make links between key bits of knowledge before being challenged to extend their answers. She also made really good use of a mini-whiteboard to model the process and outcome to students which helped the students to attempt questions and work independently.
Ms Kirk (English) – Year 7 students were preparing for a creative writing task that was coming up in the next lesson by extending their vocabulary. Ms Kirk had provided students with a simple list of vocabulary and had challenged the students to come up with alternative words that could be used. Ms Kirk made good use of questioning to draw out answers from students and then force them to think really hard by elaborating on their answer, “Why is that word more extreme than…” The presentation of work in books was of a really high standard as highlighted by a piece of written work about a Greek myth.
Mr Gandon (Astronomy) – Year 11 students were engaging with retrieval practice by re-capping an assessment from 6 months ago to see what they could remember (a vital part of learning!). They started by using a knowledge organiser to self evaluate their current knowledge, which helped students to identify areas to improve. Questioning was really focused and forced students to think about specific bits of knowledge. Mr Gandon quickly switched between knowledge recall style questions and more in-depth questioning that encouraged students to apply the knowledge to a broader problem. Mr Gandon also made his explanations really concrete by using appropriate analogies, for example he likened the dust tail of a comet to the tail of a kite.
Mrs Guy (PE) – Year 7 Dance lesson and students were listening to instructions from Mrs Guy. She explained the sequence of moves that students were learning and modelled them to the students using diagrams projected onto the wall. Students were then able to engage in some deliberate practice and work towards emulating the techniques that had been modelled.
Ms Curley (Learning Support) – Ms Curley was in the middle of leading a small reading intervention group for SEND students. Having just read a chapter from a book, students were being challenged to think hard and comprehend what had happen to the characters in the chapter. Ms Curley created a competition using the ‘hang-man’ game to get students to think about key vocabulary from the text. The element of competition appeared to spur the students on!
This weeks blog of the week goes to Chris Hildrew for an older post entitled: ‘Closing the gap marking.’
At school recently we have been discussing why pupil premium is important and looking at things teachers can do in order to ‘close the gap.’ This post gave some real practical advice on how the act of marking and feedback is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal as teachers to enable all students to progress with their learning.
It’s the gap between students receiving the feedback and acting on it that we need to address.
How often do we spend a lot of time and effort providing feedback to students but don’t insist on all students acting upon it?
This weeks blog of the week is great reflection on effective questioning and what the purpose of questioning is.
The blog post outlines the reasons for questioning and includes a range of different strategies that can be employed across all subjects. It finishes with a set of questions to reflect on your own questioning…
This weeks ‘blog of the week’ has another revision theme and goes to Head-teacher John Tomsett – This much I know about… what really works when preparing students for examinations.
In the post John shares his vast experience of preparing student for exams and enlightens us with some tried and tested strategies.
15 minute forum: ‘Positive relationships with staff and students’ | Sharon Porter | @sporteredu
Summary of forum.
Make it a habit.
- Make an effort at all times (even if you are feeling ‘crappy’).
- Smile and say “Hello!”, “Good morning!”, “Good day!” Even if you don’t know that member of staff or even if you don’t teach that student…it can make a difference to someone’s day.
Positive relationships with students.
- You will need to do the usual text book stuff
- Praise students
- Let them know that you are proud of them (verbally or written amongst feedback in books)
- Make sure that students are aware of your expectations; be firm, be fair be consistent.
Positive relationships with colleagues
- Make eye contact when you are talking (it might feel a bit strange to start with but it just comes across as rude if you don’t!)
- Listen. Really listen. Try not to sit there thinking about what you are going to say next…you’re not really listening. Summarise what you’ve heard and clarify this with ‘informed’ questioning.
- Express yourself; don’t just agree all the time. Challenge colleagues in conversation and occasionally ask “why?”
- Why do you think that? Where did you get that information?…..
- Give someone a compliment – I really liked what you had to say in that meeting because…; I thought that proforma you produced was really good; I particularly liked….
- Don’t shoot folks down if you don’t like what they have to say. Suggest alternatives
- Offer help – even if you are really busy, can you take on a small task to help a colleague? There is always someone in a worse position that you.
- Be positive…it will make you feel better!
I wanted to write a definitive post for NQTs but was struck by how many useful posts already exist. Instead of repeating what others have already written, this post will serve to index some great advice from some remarkable people. The is predominately for new teachers but will also serve as a timely reminder to all teachers at any stage in their careers.
- It is completely normal | Sue Cowley | @Sue_Cowley | Blog
- ‘Crowd wisdom for NQTs’ iBook | Rachel Jones | @rlj1981 | Blog
- A letter to my NQT self | Chris Hildrew | @chrishildrew | Blog
- Contemporary educational ideas all my staff should know about | Tom Sherrington | @headguruteacher | Blog
- The pedagogy postcards series | Tom Sherrington | @headguruteacher | Blog
- This much I know about why all of us must improve our teaching | John Tomsett | @JohnTomsett | Blog
- Back to school series | David Didau | @LearningSpy | Blog
- Some quick tips for NQTs and Trainees | @OldAndrewUK | Blog
- What I wish I knew then | Mark Anderson | @ICTEvangelist | Blog
Why? I’ve struggled to get 100% attention from students 100% of the time. Quite often when I instruct students I’ll use the “3,2,12 technique to get students attention, which works well. But I then struggle to retain attention. This is made especially difficult when teaching in a Computing room – the lure of the computer screen can be too much for students. A typical instruction will have to be halted within seconds to address students who’s eyes have wondered back to their computer screen.
Possible solution. I needed a routine to retain student attention. I started my research by looking at Doug Lemov’s excellent collection of videos for his ‘Teach like a Champion’ book. I came across the video below.
It was during the video I saw a poster on the wall of one of the classrooms with the word ‘SLANT.’ Further investigation led me to discover the meaning of this term. SLANT is a strategy used to get students to pay attention not only when the teacher is talking but also when a student contributes to a discussion. An overview of the strategy can be found below…
Sit up: What is the right posture to sit in the classroom? Is it to rest your head on your hands, sit slouched in your seat or put your head down on the table? These are all positions that will put students to sleep. In order to develop attentive listeners, it is essential to encourage students to sit up straight with their back against the seat, feet placed firmly on the ground and hands on the table. This is the optimal position to ensure good learning and processing of information.
Lean forward: Another position that is critical to promote active listening is leaning forward. Students should be taught to lean forward during a lesson. It may also help teachers understand the interest level of the class and fine tune their presentation to make it more interesting for the students.
Ask and answer questions: This component can liven up the classroom and encourage students to be active in their learning process. Encourage them to clarify their doubts, answer questions, and discuss or debate on ideas. These question and answer sessions can help activate their thinking, encourage critical analysis of the content and strengthen their understanding of the lesson.
Nod your head: Nodding one’s head is a form of nonverbal communication to indicate that the lesson has been understood. When a teacher observes a student nodding his/her head, they may proceed with the lesson. On the other hand, failure to nod will signal that the student has not understood the lesson and the teacher may need to clarify or explain further. “N” can also stand for ‘noting down and naming key information’ which enables students to retain the information and makes learning stronger.
Track the speaker: The attention span of every student is different. Tracking the speaker is a visual cue to be attentive. Students should be encouraged to track both the teacher and other students who are presenting in class. The conscious effort to track the speaker will help students to be attentive at all times and prevent them from getting lost or daydreaming in class.
Taken from Professional Learning Board.
Outcome. I am in the early stages of trialing this technique with Year 7, 8 & 9 students. I have found ‘Track the speaker’ particularly useful as a cue for students to pay attention to whoever is speaking. At the time of writing it has taken a lot of hard work to embed the routine but I am beginning to see more students listening to instructions and positively engaging in class discussions. Other teachers in my department have also started to embed these commands and the initial feedback from them is positive. One restriction at the moment is that students are only exposed to the routine in my classroom for 50 minutes a week so they don’t get to practice as often as I’d like. This means I have to continually remind them, but I believe the effort I put in is worth the outcome.
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Image by @gapingvoid
I am no expert! I am not basing these ideas of MINE on research/theories (that I have read) but on the data of students that I have taught and the outcomesthey have achieved. (I guess, I have just figured these things out…) If you disagree, please do comment with how I can better my practice for the students I am responsible for.
Time to wrap up our delivery of content, vital information, key facts, formulae, dates, people and so on. It is now time to focus (again/more) on ensuring students know everything and anything they will need in order to secure an excellent grade in the exam.
A-C grades are not the only grade our students need to achieve to be successful. Ensure your students know what their personal targets are?
By definition revision is about updating, revamping, reworking, redrafting, rewriting and so on… It is important to note revision is not LEARNING from scratch. Therefore, the following information and ideas I will be presenting will work best, when some sort of learning has already taken place!
I believe revision is a very personal process. I do not believe generally that one hat fits all. There are many factors to consider in order ensure revision is effective; (This is not a definitive list!).
Picking the right time of day to revise is vital. Knowing when one feels most active and alert is crucial in ensuring the brain functions the best. I liken myself to an OWL or a vampire? I love staying up late to study/write/prepare. I would much rather a lay in then getting up early to revise.
`Ensure your students know what time of day they are most active?’ Let them build on this, if they get up later, they would get to bed later, so in theory they will have the same amount of time in a day.
Knowing how much time to spend on revision is also vital! We must be realistic, students do have OTHER things to do. We need to accept that. Therefore, creating a reasonable, valid, achievable timetable is essential. This might sound easy to us; i.e telling students to write a timetable, however, I have always found it time well spent getting students to do this in class with a template provided.
I always ask my students to write down their essential ‘other‘ tasks in a day, then their non-essentials. Next to these, I ask them to place a count of how long they spend on these. I ask them to then tally up the amount of time they spend on these in total. This is usually enough of an eye opener for students!
The brain is like a muscle, we can not expect our students to revise all day and night. When we workout, our muscles need a rest. However, I do not feel we should be prescriptive with the amount of time we tell our students to revise for and when to take a rest. I personally feel we all have different thresholds and it should be down to the student to decide.
The message however is clear, take regular breaks to refresh and rest your mind.
Do not get ‘junked‘ up with sweets/sugar/caffeine. Eating properly is important, but eating what you like/enjoy is also vital. Otherwise, in my opinion revision gets linked to horrible tastes?! It does get boring, it does get mundane, eyes do get fuzzy, so being able to intersperse these feelings with a little bit of chocolate cake isn’t too bad!? 🙂
@ActionJackson shared this rule with my students…
work, work, work play rest.
3- 1- 1.
See the video here for more info!
Students must be able to work in an adequate environment. Sometimes, some students homes can not provide this. Research for your students their local library opening times, the facilities they have there. What bus stop is nearest? Find out other places students can study?
Can you lend your students and exam desk to work on that can folded away. It is important to de-clutter and focus.
Motivation to be successful this isn’t for a revision post… See my last post regarding this!
How does it all work:
In order for information to remain in our long-term memory, we must understand it, we must link it to already acquired knowledge and then attach meaning to it. Ultimately, we want to then apply it to examination questions.
Therefore all revision sessions/games/lessons should take on board those concepts.
- understanding– do the students know exactly what this concept/idea/topic means? Can they explain it to others?
- Linking to knowledge- can the students link the information to other ideas, areas, concepts?
- meaning– do the students know the reasoning behind the learning?
- applying– will the students be able to applying their knowledge and meaning to the exam?
Do your revision sessions allow for those processes to take place? (Naturally you would hope so, as the above is also applicable to ‘normal’ lessons!)
Often, I worry that revision games become exactly that. A game. The focus on understanding, or linking is lost through the ‘fun’ nature of the game and the objective of winning becomes more important than the learning that should be taking place.
Here are some revision station games/ideas I use. Click HERE.
I have listed under each activity what the focus is. I have also come to realise some students do not like doing a variety of tasks as they know what works well for them. Only believe this feeling/confidence from the students if they have proven this. Meaning, have they achieved good grades previously? Therefore does their style of revision work? Ask them to talk through it with you; how did they revise, what did they do, how did they ensure they achieved a good grade? If they answer well, then allow them to the independent to choose their method of revision. This will motivate them too.
Spice of life:
Revision to me is also ensuring that students know about a variety of ways they can revise. I often go on and on and on about the importance of taking information and linking it to your knowledge, transforming the information to help understand it and applying it to examination questions.
Reading and highlighting notes is the pre-cursor to revision, those are the tasks that are carried out in lessons or completed at home. All students revision notes should already be annotated/highlighted BEFORE revision begins? Those elements are learning. Therefore, hand out revision guides well in advance, give your personally created booklet of advice before the holidays, before the course may have even finished.
A great way of ensuring students do not become too complacent, thinking they understand information because they have simply over familiarised themselves with it by reading it constantly, is to apply the magenta principles to text/information.
Students should aim to do one of the above to the information they must learn/understand. This will help link to knowledge, show meaning and apply to examination questions…
I have compiled a list of over 40 different ways to revise here. (Some are for revision sessions/methods for teachers, some are revision methods/ideas for students.) Share these with your colleagues? Students? Parents? Use the hashtag#EXAMS14 to search out great posts by other teachers.
Show students there is a multitude of ways to revise, but make sure they are sticking to the core principles.
Some top tips: (In no particular order!)
- Download and share this literacy/command word wheel. This helps break down for students exactly what each question is asking the student to do. Understanding the subtle differences is paramount.
- Revision should be on ongoing process checking for understanding throughout the course, (marking and feedback,) Know your students understand the meaning and are able to apply concepts in exams. I have always shown exam past papers and mark schemes to students from thevery first week of my lessons. I have ensured students are familiar with the layout, the way the questions appear, the style of the questions. I have ensured students read examiner reports, know where to download past papers. Check out my GCSE RE blog- www.cheneyre.edublogs.org where I have shared this info.
- Content Dependent Learning- try this really useful idea by Sir Tim Brighouse. Click here. Includes a 2 minute video presentation explaining this concept.
- Remind students how long they have until their exam. Remind students how many lessons they have, how many school days they have, how many hours this totals up to. I do this often. At the start of a lesson, I may just simply put a countdown timer up on the board as they enter…
- Running revision sessions is excellent; however ask the students BEFORE hand what they want to revise, add a Padlet to an email? To your class blog? Ask students to fill in a piece of paper…however you do it, ask students to tell you what they need most help UNDERSTANDING, knowing the MEANING of and how to APPLY.
- Involve students in the revision process as much as possible. Get them to create the revision guides for the year below, ask them to run the sessions. See here for a student based lesson. Get the students to create google drive revision questionnaires on a topic each. Get the students to then complete each others quizzes. Click here for an example.
- Ask students to tweet (run a subject twitter account for themselves. The teacher doesn’t need to get involved.) Get students to create a Facebook group? Teacher could set up an Edmodo page. Students should email (maybe more like FaceTime/Skype/snapchat/bbm) each other to remind each other to revise.
- Practice…practice…practice… in the real conditions in the real environment. Give students past papers, photocopied and stapled as they would in the real exam. Get students to write in the examination booklets. Get them used to it. Familiar with the obstacle.
- Collective approach to revision; Ask subject leaders to coordinate their approaches. Check teachers are giving the same/similar message? Check what the revision catch up schedules are of other subjects. Ensure they do not clash. Here at my school we have a designated day for Eng, Maths, Science. To help alleviate the problem of students having to chose which subject they will miss.
- Link examination grades with outcomes. Why would it benefit the student to do well in your exam. Why is it important? What is the end goal?
- Use Youtube/Websites/APPs- videos (We have a revision channel on our school Youtube channel) and online quizzes (Such as Getrevising.co.uk or tutor2u.com) can be an essential ‘extra’ to revision. Don’t forget the core websites- such as Mymaths.com SamLearning BBC Bitesize and so on.
- Posts such as these can really help focus students on examination questions; Revision Mats, Concentric Squares/ Rotation Squares/Overlays. Check out bit.ly/agilitytoolkit for many more.
I do not have all the answers… I imagine this post will be constantly edited/updated when I remember more ideas!
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Why? I guess I was never really convinced by the idea of getting students to articulate their learning; I thought it was one of those tokenistic additions to lessons, something that would please the observer rather than having an impact on students’ learning. So, when students were clearly making progress through their written work, I was little concerned if they couldn’t express precisely what they were learning, verbatim, like they had regurgitated every word of the specification. I was also very cautious of time that this took; I feared it would slow down the pace of the lesson, that I would lose the students before I had a chance to engage them. I was wrong…
Possible solution. I now think that getting students to precisely articulate their learning is integral to their engagement and to their progress. So, what changed? Persistence and developing habits. Just like Einstein said,
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Although I had always shared the lesson outcomes with students, their interaction with them was something that I tried to build on, every lesson; before, I had just assumed that reading the objectives to students was enough. However, David Didau’s book, The Perfect English Lesson, was something which helped me to question this process. He talks about getting students to interact with the lesson objective in creative ways – getting them to guess missing words; to write the lesson objective as a facebook status and then allowing students to comment on this. Therefore, I took inspiration from this.
Firstly, I started with the language in the outcomes of the objective. I stripped the specification down, picking out the key words. For a reading lesson in English this usually translates to getting students to explain, explore, analyse language or ideas. Through questioning, I then got students to define – precisely – what these words meant. To help with this I added pictures beneath my outcomes and I asked students to match up the correct pictures to the outcomes. This led to an increased sense of clarity. For example, students were able to link the picture of an explorer surveying a landscape to the need to look everywhere in a text; to find more than one quotation to support a point; to look at more than one interpretation when looking at a quotation. Discussion evolved further to looking at sentence starters which would help students to demonstrate that they were explaining or exploring an idea.
Outcome. This strategy has worked successfully. Students are now clearly able to say what they are learning in a lesson and they can also precisely say what level they are working at, as well as being able to articulate how to move to the next level. This has motivated students: their next learning milestones have shrunk, becoming tangible, and within their reach. Also, with a new emphasis on lesson grades being linked to ‘progress over time’, students’ ability to articulate what they have learnt and how they have progressed is more paramount than ever. In a recent observation it was great to see students explaining to the observer what they had learnt and how they could progress further. However, I don’t think this has solely been achieved by getting students to interact with the lesson objectives and outcomes alone; the language used in the objectives has permeated all aspects of learning. I have used it repeatedly through questioning and book marking, too. In this respect, it has also sped up the latter as, in some cases, I am able to write ‘explain your point’ or ‘analyse these words.’ In short, having high expectations around students being able to articulate their learning has led to significant improvements in my classroom. So, if you are worried about this absorbing too much lesson time, fear not: just persist. And slowly, students will possess a clear understanding of what they need to learn, and know exactly how to get there.
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Solo Taxonomy by Mat Pullen – @Mat6453
I have been thinking about SOLO taxonomy for a while and the impact it can have on student learning in PE. I have also looked at ways to make it easier for students to access.
I have previously blogged about Project Based Learning here and the feedback has been really positive. both staff and teachers are engaged in this approach to co construction of the curriculum and lots of teachers are telling me about their plans for embedding it in their schemes.
To move things on a bit I wanted to look at ways of supporting students to create their own learning models. To help facilitate the process of finding out what they need to improve on and where to find out how to do that.
That is where the link with SOLO comes in. I have used SOLO to great effect in practical sessions and students are really showing great progress in lessons and more importantly they kbow what they need to do to keep progressing.
In order to support this further I have created posters that I can use in sessions that allow the students to acces some visual cues to support them in their construction of lessons. The posters trigger augmented reality links to images and videos to help students check on technique and to assist in giving detailed feedback to each other.
The process is fairly simple, I created a poster on my iPad using Comic Life. Add this image to Layar.com in their creator section, add in video and images to the relevent sections and voila, augmented reality posters. The students can now access these with any device with the Layar app installed.
So now in a session, we start with students looking at a problem that they need to solve, they look at the skills they will need to develop to support them in overcoming the problem. Around the hall are posters with links to images and videos to help support their learning. They integrate numeracy to support their understanding of success, they use literacy to improve communication and feedback and they can see how they can progress using the SOLO stages.
This is a real change in lesson structure but really engages students to be active whilst learning a whole wealth of key transferable skills.