Why?To raise achievement in my Year 12 and Year 13 classes, I knew that this year I needed to have an embedded exam focus in all my lessons and not just at the end of topics. At the same time, I also felt that the trend for differentiated learning objectives that are leveled or graded in every lesson was becoming meaningless for my students who knew full well that the learning that we were going to cover in a singular lesson would not mean that they were going to achieve a ‘C’ or ‘B’ grade by the end of that lesson. My objectives needed to become SMART: measurable and achievable steps to success with a focus on practicing exam skills and demonstrating exam knowledge in every lesson.
Why? Does anyone else find that every time they think of a brilliant, challenging, barnstorming question, their classroom suddenly resembles this image? No? Me neither. Too often I’ve found that after asking a question, I wasn’t placing a high enough demand on all of the class to consider it. I also noticed that, on occasion, I would ask questions which meant that most pupils did not need to do any thinking. For instance:
“Alex, why might Shakespeare have chosen to start ‘Macbeth’ with the three witches?” Potentially quite an interesting question, but by stating the name of the student first, it’s more difficult to guarantee that other students are also considering the question. Easily fixed:
“Why might Shakespeare have chosen to start ‘Macbeth’ with the three witches? (pause) Alex?” This seems better on the surface, asking the question, then giving wait time, then referring to Alex. But is there any real guarantee or that all students will be thinking?
Possible solution? In the video below, Dylan William describes the difference between ‘table tennis’ and ‘basketball’ style questioning, an analogy which I’m sure many teachers are familiar with. This ties in with the technique Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce which you can read about here.
However, if we want to use these techniques, we need to ensure that all students have fully thought about the question. In order to achieve this, I’ve been trying to make my initial question much more tenacious, demanding that everyone thinks about this question, and making sure that I’ve repeated the question at least twice. Now my question looks something like this:
“Right guys, I’m going to ask you a question and I need everyone to think about it. (pause to check listening) Why might Shakespeare have chosen to start ‘Macbeth’ with the three witches? Think really carefully about how this might affect the play. How would starting the play with the witches affect his audience? Think about it. Why might Shakespeare have chosen to start the ‘Macbeth’ with the three witches. (pause)”
After repeating the question, and giving plenty of wait time I’ll ask a student to offer an answer, before passing the question onward and building a discussion.
Variation. After the repeated question, give everyone a short amount of time to jot down their initial thoughts. Doug Lemov, in Teach Like a Champion calls this technique ‘Everybody Writes’. In his words:
“Effective teachers also set their students tp to hold rigorous discussions and reach rigorous conclusions by giving them the opportunity to reflect first in writing before discussing”
Often, I return back to this post from @HuntingEnglish, giving ten clear and easy to follow questioning strategies. This is also where I first saw the Dylan William video.
Outcome. Just as repeating instructions tends to lead to greater clarity before an extended task, repeating and rewording the question tends to lead to more thinking and more valuable discussion. With enthusiastic younger classes this means more excitable faces, more hands flying up into the air and more incredulous expressions as I demand on ‘no hands up’. With older classes, more meaningful discussion, more students willing to build on each other’s ideas, and less students idly letting just one of their peers do all the thinking.
Post submitted by:
Why? Plenaries should be one of the most important parts of a lesson where the teacher assesses the progress students have made during the lesson and begins to plan the direction of future lessons. Sometimes we just run out of time and plenaries end up being a quick round of questioning before the bell goes. How do teachers plan for more rigorous plenaries that examine the learning that has taken place whilst empowering students to work independently and lead their learning?
Possible solution? ‘Roll a plenary’ grid:
A grid of different plenary activities that students select by rolling dice. All you need to do is…
1. Get a class set laminated.
2. Get some dice.
3. Ask students to roll dice over grid to select a personalised plenary.
roll a plenary (PDF)
roll a plenary editable (docx)
Outcome. Allows students to take ownership and feel empowered to show what they have learnt during a lesson. This grid can be further developed to include differentiated tasks using blooms stems/solo levels. The grid supplied is generic but the editable version can be tailored to any subject.
Post submitted by:
Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Roll a plenary’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.
Why? The start of a lesson is extremely important for engaging students and getting them ‘hooked’ on the learning that is about to take place. It’s tough to do on a consistent basis. It needs lots of creativity from the teacher when planning the lesson and requires the teacher to know their students.
Below is a summary of a #UKEdChat hosted on Twitter earlier this year with contributions by teachers from around the UK.
Date of UKEdChat: Thursday 5th September 2013
Host: Jon Tait @TeamTait
What is your number 1 starter activity for engaging students as soon as they walk through your door?
What is the 1 routine in your classroom that you couldn’t live without?
Which top tip from tonight’s discussion are you going to use tomorrow?
@teachertonytips Engaging question on a slip of paper given to kids in the queue outside classroom.
@gceyre A Mystery – keep the students guessing and wanting to find out more.
@with_ict Must work harder after assembly. Kids hold it together during and are often in need of an active exciting task afterwards.
@with_ict After lunch register, response is giving a number out of 10 to show mood/feeling. It gives a good indication of playground drama.
@georgeEblack After lunch, sympathise with them (who isn’t sleepy after lunch) have shorter tasks prepared, plan accordingly, build in down time.
Tweet of the Week:
@ReachPsychology Be mindful that some Friday afternoon non-engagement behaviours are not about your lesson. Not every pupil loves the weekend!
Post submitted by:
Feedback. Please let us know how any of these engaging starters worked for you and your students. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.
First in a series of posts about quick wins in the classroom. The aim of these posts is to provide teachers with ideas that can be tried in their classroom with minimal preparation time.
Why? I wanted students to become more independent and rely less on me for help. Quite often I see students giving up too easily and going to the teacher for help rather than persevering with a problem. I’ve also noticed that students ask a lot of lazy questions (when they can ask an unlimited amount of questions) without any real thought behind them.
Possible solution? Question tokens. I gave each student three question tokens and set 2 rules for the entirety of the lesson:
1. You can only ask the teacher 3 questions throughout today’s lesson.
2. You can ask each other as many questions as you like.
Question tokens (Download for free – please share with colleagues)
Outcome. I tried this with a year 11 GCSE Computing class who were working through some programming challenges. The question tokens encouraged students to seek advice from their peers and if this led to a dead end, they had to research a possible answer using the Internet or come up with a well thought out question to ask me. I witnessed the students demonstrating more GRIT then in previous lessons as they appeared to be quite precious of the question tokens – they would rather struggle through a problem and find a solution themselves then ask me for help. Quite remarkable!
Post submitted by:
Feedback. Please let us know how ‘question tokens’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.