Two blogs this week that have helped with reflecting on what great teaching may be…
If you are looking to reflect upon a particular aspect of your teaching this post by Shaun is a great place to start.
In this post Tom outlines and commits to act on his reflections by listing things he intends to try in order to improve his teaching.
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
Stop doing I.T. wrong! by David Morgan (@lessonhacker)
Digital learning is not something to be scared of or to be worried about.
It’s just learning.
No one called it ‘Pen based learning’ when we moved away from slate tablets, but I’m sure there were a few people reluctant to change their ways, or that didn’t quite ‘get’ the point of pens. In any case, digital learning is here to stay and should be a part of every lesson in some form, if only because it saves you time!
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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Feedback. Please let us know how ‘SLANT – Building habits in the classroom’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.
As every school does we wanted to improve the quality of T&L and I am a firm believer in doing this through the sharing of good practice, as we have, and had, loads of great practitioners in school in lots of different departments. To share all of the ‘gems’ that everyone had in their toolkits we put together ‘Robert Blake’s Best Bits’ which is a collection of all the bits that make our teaching great. We asked every member of staff to contribute at least one idea that could be used generically by other staff in other subjects around the school, all of which were completed on a common format of a powerpoint slide. These were then collated, organised into different sections and shared with staff. Immediately we had helped create a culture where people were more open about sharing their teaching and helping others. The off-spring of this was we had more staff doing learning walks to see these gems in action in the classroom and T&L took on a greater priority with staff.
Resource. NSL TeachMeet presentation (PDF)
From this we wanted to further embed the culture of sharing T&L so we created the ‘Learning Lunches’ where every fortnight we would put on a buffet (£1.50 per head!) for teachers where 3 ideas from RBBB would be presented and explained. This led to a huge uptake in the ideas and the resultant conversations that were generated as a result of seeing the idea. Our SENCo then developed the idea for LSAs (as we couldn’t fit all staff in our food room where we have the Learning Lunches!) as they have a Learning Breakfast every fortnight, during PSHE lessons, to share their best practice.
The beauty of RBBB is that any one person can initiate and develop the idea. As a class teacher you can create your own ‘best bits’ then begin to share with other people, hopefully making the scheme whole-school. The Learning Lunches can happen informally without providing lunch for staff but putting on the buffet is hugely appreciated by staff who value the school’s commitment to developing T&L.
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Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Learning lunches’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.
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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Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Getting students to articulate their learning’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.
Differentiation by Chris Moyse (@ChrisMoyse)
Our students differ from each other in so many ways:
· Prior knowledge and expertise
· Language development
· Family background and values
· How they learn best
· Where and when they learn best
· Speed at which they learn
· Levels of concentration
· Confidence and self esteem
There are several ways by which we can make the learning more accessible for all our learners…
· Steps to take in an activity
· Support – peer/adult/virtual
· Pupil choice
· Assessment & feedback
The top two sound too much like hard work for busy teachers so in this workshop we briefly looked at the possibilities of differentiating by choice.
Before though we considered the fact that John Hattie suggests that…
A teachers’ job is not to make work easy. It is to make it difficult.
He goes on to say that…
If you are not challenged, you do not make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes, feedback is useless.
Lev Vygotsky suggests that our students should operate within their ‘Zones of Proximal Development’. This involves facing challenges just beyond their current capabilities: a level of challenge that students can meet with help. Learning should feel tough, tricky, challenging, puzzling but not impossible.
To provide a challenging level of learning we need to know our students. Ensure that you have simple, understandable and usable pupil data available and use this data when planning and structuring teaching and learning in your classroom. Data together with any other relevant information about your students is best collated on an annotated seating plan or student profile. Have this annotated seating plan to hand and in the forefront of your mind as you prepare fabulous lessons. Remember to also have their recently marked books with you too as marking should always inform your lesson planning.
Start with the end in mind: plan for learning. Establish a clear objective and tangible outcomes avoiding the devil of low expectation – Must Should Could. Quite simply the wrong language to be using with teenagers!
Same task, different level of challenge. When you differentiate, you plan for the most able in terms of outcomes and then look at how to overcome the barriers for other groups in your class to enable them to access these outcomes – you then adapt resources, support and grouping to differentiate.
Research from Professor Robert Ornstein indicates that when learners feel as if they have some control and choice over the type of task that they are about to do, they feel positive and motivated.
So try to differentiate through choice eg Let the students choose their level of challenge or use workshops or drop in sessions: a series of inputs or demonstrations that students come to if, and only if, they need them
Differentiation top tips:
· Know your class and demonstrate this through annotated seating plans and student profiles. Use this ever-developing knowledge base to enable you to adapt your approach for who is in front of you.
· Challenge them. Have high expectations. Present learning without limits.
· Encourage your students to make and learn from mistakes. Then feedback can come into play.
· Opportunities for students to express their understanding and articulate their thoughts should be designed into any lesson. The more you hear and see the more you find out and the better you plan, respond and adapt to what happens during the lesson. Great teachers are great listeners too.
· Mark their books and provide your students with more work. Provide them with an opportunity to make your suggested improvements: the only time you will ever have 30 different lesson plans.
@ChrisMoyse on Twitter.
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.
“The truth is that only a tiny fraction of people get lucky.” (Gove, 2013)
This week Simon Cowell said: “I didn’t work hard when I was at school. I left at 16 and I didn’t have any qualifications. I was useless. The secret is to be useless at school and then get lucky.” Gove responded: “This is an irresponsible and stupid thing to say. Teachers strive every day to ensure children understand the importance of learning, hard work and discipline. Simon Cowell’s comments undermine their efforts. The truth is that only a tiny fraction of people get lucky.”
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ he describes the importance of opportunity and circumstance in becoming successful,“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.” (Gladwell) – the contrast with Cowell is that opportunity is one part of the success equation. Opportunity is nothing without Grit or the“persistence, doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.” (Gadwell)
A short insight into outliers, 10,000 hours and what makes people successful is provided in this interview of Gladwell:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz4hPbHIZ6Y – it ends with Gladwell urging, “society to build institutions that provide opportunities to work hard.” …it is opportunity that is seized that creates success not chance or luck or talent alone.
David Beckham provides an excellent example. Whilst at Man Utd Under 15 Academy, he spent every school holiday in Manchester. Like many other successful individuals Beckham had four things, opportunity, competition from like-minded individuals, GRIT and deliberate practice…he writes:
“The incredible thing about that generation of lads, who came into the youth team (1. opportunity) with me in 1991, is that they were committed to hard training, as I ever was. We couldn’t get enough of it. Gary and Phil Neville had a Dad whose basic motto was ‘give everything and you will reap the rewards.’ At the end of practice, while most of the older lads were sitting in the canteen with their feet up, Gary was still pounding the ball against the wall… I already had a strong work ethic because of my family background (rise review – background counts four times more than school attended). Practice was like second nature. But with these guys (the Nevilles, Giggsy, Nicky Butt, Scholsey) (2. competition from like-minded individuals) I knew I had to take it to another level, to put in the extra shifts, to leave nothing to chance. We had to show commitment like never before…and that is exactly what we did. (3. GRIT) …the more we practiced the better we became. Soon we were overtaking the older boys who were realising, a little to late, that they had taken things to easy… It wasn’t just the quantity of practice, it was the incredible focus on quality. (4. deliberative practice)” (David Beckham, 2013)
Even with opportunity, only effort and commitment over time (GRIT) combined with practice that is …”intentional, aimed at improving performance, designed for your current skill level, combined with immediate feedback and repetitious.” (Malcolm Gladwell) … will allow individuals to succeed, to become over-performers based on their context and background and to be outliers.
At our Bristol Brunel Academy it is precisely these conditions that will allow us to over-perform and create an Academy of Outliers;
- Opportunity (getting teaching and learning right – teaching that is… intentional, aimed at improving performance, designed for your current skill level, combined with immediate feedback and repetitious?
- Competition from like-minded individuals (Peer groups, ethos, language, aspiration, pastoral support, House system?) – growing an epidemic of strong work ethic.
- GRIT (an ethos of possibility for all through effort) Outliers focus on long term goals, ignoring short-term distractions. – they are unswervingly future-focused.
- Deliberative practise approach… learn-revise-test-feedback-learn…marginal gains increasingly creating outliers compared to starting points.
Whilst in the world of celebrity the role of luck maybe high; we live in a world that requires a series of conditions to exist and an attitude and approach that enables individuals to succeed. At Brunel we are increasingly providing, supporting and developing these enabling conditions and opportunity … indeed we cannot afford not to secure over-performance, to buck-the-trend and to create an Academy of OUTLIERS.
“To build a better Academy we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks, context and arbitrary advantages that determine success…with an Academy that provides opportunities and the conditions for all to feel success.” (Malcolm Gladwell, adapted).
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Dr D Nicholls