Mr Bates (Music) – Year 8 students were busy practicing a scene from a common nursery rhyme. Students were challenged to think about their placing on the stage using technical language and in small groups were developing a scene. After a period of practice (during which Mr Bates gave students feedback and further challenge) students were then asked to perform their scene. This is something students often find difficult or are reluctant to do but Mr Bates had built a safe environment in which students could perform. Strict rules were enforced so that the audience respected the performers. Mr Bates questioned the audience following the performance to elicit feedback to the performers based on the success criteria discussed earlier in the lesson. The questions often probed deeper and challenged students to elaborate on their answers giving reasons.
Mrs Horrill (Business) – Year 10 students were working on a piece of coursework as a result of a series of lessons leading up to some extended writing. Students were able to work independently and made good use of the course textbook. Students worked in silence which in this particular situation appeared to enable students to work to depth. If they needed help they were able to consult the textbook first before asking the teacher. Whilst this was going on Mrs Horrill was giving 1-to-1 verbal feedback to each student to ensure they understood how to improve. The set up for this lesson showed clear planning that focused on students practicing the skills and knowledge they had built up over a series of lessons.
Mr Ferguson (Technology) – Mr Ferguson began this lesson with some retrieval practice in the shape of an exam question. Students were given time to complete the question before going through possible answers. Mr Ferguson questioned students to depth asking them to offer answers and give reasons for their answers. He also modeled the thinking behind the approach and asked students to explain how they approached the question and came to an answer. Mr Ferguson had really high expectations of student responses and encouraged them to always a give a reason for their answer. In the lesson students had also been making use of a knowledge organiser to start assessing what they knew and what they needed to revise.
Ms Campbell (History) – Year 8 students were acting on feedback from their most recent assessment – an extended piece of writing. Before students got started Ms Campbell spent some time recapping the PEE (Point Evidence Explain) method for tackling long answer questions. She did this really well by modelling a paragraph on the board and then asking students to pick out the different parts of the PEE method. Ms Campbell used questioning to challenge students to think about how this might help them with their own work. With a clear understanding of what was expected of students they were then given time to act on the feedback Ms Campbell had given them. She had used ‘code marking’ to reduce marking time and students were being trained in how to do this. Students then worked in silence to improve their work whilst Ms Campbell circulated the room to give more verbal feedback.
Ms Harry (Drama) – Year 9 students were being introduced to a new topic about ‘Developing empathy.’ Ms Harry started by questioning students of the word ’empathy.’ She then followed this up by giving students the example of young homeless people to discuss: “What are the common assumptions we make?” This led to a rich discussion partly due to the choice of example planned for this discussion – something all of the students were already aware of. The talk in small groups was really purposeful and when Ms Harry got the class back together to feedback some wonderful responses were shared. Student oracy was really strong in this lesson which was down to Ms Harry’s high expectations of student language.
Mrs Dixon (Maths) – Year 9 students were revisiting a topic from a previous topic and were given time to practice their skill in substituting numbers. This was great retrieval practice. Student voice suggested that students could remember the topic but were a bit ‘rusty’ when it came to application of the skill. Retrieval practice is absolutely vital for learning so it’s really encouraging so see this happening in many lessons across the academy. Whilst students were practicing Mrs Dixon was able to move around the room offering 1-to-1 feedback and further challenge. The task had been designed so that it gradually got harder as students moved from left to right.
Mrs Atkinson (Computing) – Year 8 students were engaging with some DIRT time following a recent written assessment. They had been given feedback on their assessment and were now practicing skills based on knowledge gaps identified through the assessment. The class was quietly working and being supported through additional resources and feedback from Mrs Atkinson. In order to dissolve some common misconceptions Mrs Atkinson spent time modelling the process of converting binary numbers on the board so that students could revisit the process. This then enabled a number of students to work independently through the practice materials.
Ms Jenkins (Science) – Year 8 students were investigating how mass effects the speed of an object falling. Ms Jenkins had used the example of aid agencies dropping food parcels into hard reach areas of the world. This example gave students a concrete starting point for understanding the concept they were learning about. Next, students built mini paper helicopters for an experiment that involved dropping the helicopters from a set height multiple times, adding more weight after each drop. Before carrying out the experiment students were asked to make a prediction as to what would happen as more weight was added. They then went out into the academy to test their predictions by dropping paper helicopters from the first floor to the ground floor. Students had been put into groups and assigned roles to carry out this experiment. As students conducted the experiment Ms Jenkins visited each group to question their method and challenge them further about their results and what the results meant. Students appeared to enjoy this practical but at the same time felt challenged by the science!
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…
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.
Great teachers by Chris Hildrew – @chrishildrew
What makes an outstanding lesson? And who decides? Ofsted set out their criteria for evaluating the quality of teaching and learning in an institution as a whole. In their School Inspection Handbook, footnote 42, it says:
“These grade descriptors describe the quality of teaching in the school as a whole, taking account of evidence over time. While they include some characteristics of individual lessons, they are not designed to be used to judge individual lessons.”
We know that plenty of schools ignore this and adapt the criteria to apply them to individual lessons – for some very understandable reasons. We also know that this leads to teachers teaching “observation specials” to try and jump through the hoops of the taken-out-of- context criteria. You can read about the impact of this in @cazzypot’s blog: Is Michael Gove lying to us all? and in @BarryNSmith79’s Lesson Objectives, Good Practice, and What Really Matters.
Let’s start again.
A typical teacher’s directed time is 760 hours in a year. How many of those will be formally observed by someone else – three? Five? Ten? Whatever the number, there’s a lot of hours in a year when it’s just you and your learners in the room. Forget outstanding. Think about a great lesson you’ve taught – not a lesson where someone else was watching, but one of those lessons where it all worked. Where you and the kids left the room bathed in the warm glow of achievement. Where teaching felt really, really good. What were the ingredients? What made it work? And which of those features can you replicate in your classroom on Monday? If you were to start with a blank sheet of paper, how would you define a great lesson?
And, if that’s a great lesson, what are the qualities of a great teacher? And how can we live them in the classroom for all 760 hours of the year?
If we want are students to amaze us we must first amaze them with our relentless, endless pursuit of learning. The role of a teacher offers the greatest opportunity in the world coupled with a complex set of responsibilities. The moment we stop reflecting on our practice, the moment we settle, is the moment we veer dangerously close to mediocrity. It’s the commitment we make as teachers to never stop learning that will build good habits, develop great teachers and ultimately move the lives of the young people in our care forward.
Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.
The above quote from Dylan Wiliam was one of the reasons that led me to start Never Stop Learning. I wanted to encourage colleagues to reflect on what they were doing and offer some help in doing that. So I founded this idea upon the following principles (via Jamie Smart):
Last night at the first annual Never Stop Learning teach-meet #TMNSL over 150 teachers from around the south-west (and beyond) volunteered for the opportunity to exercise and experience the above three principles to deepen their understanding. When remarkable people congregate in one place with a shared vision for improvement, something magical happens that is difficult to measure but very much experienced.
The people who think they are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do.
The evening began with a truly inspirational keynote from Hywel Roberts. I’ve seen Hywel speak at a few events and he never fails to send his audience away with lots to think about and a renewed vigour for teaching great lessons. He speaks at a very personal level which is engaging, heartfelt and also very funny – a perfect way to start any teach-meet! Hywel is perfectly summed up in his website address – Create | Learn | Inspire – please pay it a visit.
The keynote was followed by a series of 10 workshops offering a wide selection of opportunities from leading whole school change to differentiation to using video for CPD. All workshops were planned and delivered by teachers committed to making a positive change, spreading their influence beyond just the school in which they teach. The typicality of comments coming from people who attended followed this theme…
The crazy ones responsible for delivering expert workshops at #TMNSL were:
Chris Hildrew – @chrishildrew – ‘Great teachers.’
Amjad Ali – @ASTSupportAAli – ‘Creativity in the classroom.’
David Morgan – @lessonhacker – ‘Stop doing IT wrong.’
David Bunker – @mr_bunker_edu – ‘Teach like a champion.’
Dr Dan Nicholls – @BristolBrunel – ‘Leading change in schools.’
Chris Moyse – @chrismoyse – ‘Differentiation.’
Mat Pullen – @mat6453 – ‘Solo Taxonomy.’
Kate Heath & R Escourt – @artedu_kheath – ‘Practical ways to show progress over time.’
The workshops were followed by further opportunities to connect with others and share discoveries through a series of micro presentations, opened up by the powerfully motivating Action Jackson – @ActionJackson (leader of the FixUpTeam). This was a remarkable second half to the evening with lots of teachers still going strong at 19:30 on a rainy Thursday evening in the middle of March. What followed was a series of short presentations that included lots of tips, ideas to think about and consider coupled with motivation and encouragement to continue to explore the role and practice of teaching.
The crazy ones responsible for presenting were:
@ActionJackson – You are AMAZING!
@edubaker – The behaviour triangle.
@hrogerson – Confidence grids.
@theheadsoffice – Improving writing through blogging.
@ASTSupportAAli – Teaching tips & tricks.
@sporteredu – The ace of… spades, clubs, diamonds or hearts.
@leading_in_pe – Plenaries – voting with your feet.
@mrgmorrison – Robert Blakes best bits & learning lunches.
@lessonhacker – Mid-term lesson planning.
@cgould6 – Working with newly arrived EAL students.
There was a great buzz and atmosphere throughout the evening which was down to the excellent calibre of speakers / presenters and the amazing audience who supported and engaged throughout. The evening was captured brilliantly through the artwork of David Jesus Virnolli.
Thoughts have already entered my mind for the next #TMNSL. Over the coming weeks I will endeavour to share, in more depth the ideas from the workshops in a series of shorter posts. Whether you attended #TMNSL or not I implore you to take time to reflect on your practice, re-visit your moral purpose regularly and make a pledge to never stop learning.
Thank you to our sponsors for the evening!
Why? Proof reading – self assessment. I am forever correcting the same mistakes which arise from a lack of proof reading. As soon as I question a student they know how to correct their work, but they don’t seem to do it!
Possible solution. Walking dictation. Students work in group of three – one student is the scribe and the other two are runners. Differentiated texts, images or sound files are placed across the classroom from where the groups are based.
One runner from each group at a time ‘walks’ to their allocated text, reads part of it and returns back to the group where they dictate to the scribe what they read. The other runner hears how far their team mate read and goes up to the text to read and then return to relay the next part of the text to the team. The scribe is using listening and writing skills and the runners are using listening, reading and speaking skills.
All members are working on their communication and team work skills.
What’s the carrot? Well there has to be a success criteria and I use the least amount of points win. Winners win one point, second place two etc. However, points are incurred for misspelt words, or indeed missed words.
Outcome. Challenge and drive for accuracy. It is an engaging task where students realise the importance of accuracy and to check over their work to eliminate avoidable errors.
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Head of MFL
Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Walking dictation’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.
Why? Students, due to apathy or due to the state school pandemic of not wanting to sound clever, often avoid giving a thorough explanation to reveal the depth of their learning; rather, given the chance, they will utter a barely audible ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and quickly retreat back into their protective shells. Sound familiar?
Possible solution. To combat this – a simple solution: have high expectations of students’ oracy so that they respond in full sentences.
a) To achieve this, get students to rephrase your question as part of their answer.
For example: Why does Dickens open his novel, Bleak House, with pathetic fallacy?
Student answer: Dickens opens his novel, Bleak House, with pathetic fallacy because…
b) When posing an open-ended question, provide an oral scaffold to extend students’ thinking.
An example slide scaffolding oracy.
Outcome. Having high expectations around students’ oracy has resulted in students providing in-depth feedback as opposed to giving one word answers. In English, levels can also be attached to the quality of student responses: level 5 is linked with being able to explain your ideas; level 6 requires students to explore ideas, thereby showing that information can be interpreted in different ways. As a result, students have evolved to see the value and importance of talk in a lesson – no longer is it an opportunity to doze off or give a mere one word answer, which had previously given them the impression that they were making a meaningful contribution to the lesson – but, by giving extended answers, students now realise that this is an integral part to the lesson. It has also helped to bridge the gap between the talking and writing stage of the lesson. Students recognise that if they can articulate their ideas verbally, this also helps them to translate their ideas to the page.
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Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Developing oracy: Getting students to respond in full sentences’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.
Why? To ensure that students are aware of the key questions that need to be asked and answered in a learning topic, and that pre-planned questions are appropriately pitched to the right students in a very mixed ability class (grades A through to E at A-level). Also, when questions are chosen carefully to have an appropriate level of challenge for each ability, this resource makes it easy to demonstrate the progress students make within the lesson.
Possible solution. As they walk into the lesson, provide each student with a slip of brightly coloured card with their key question on it and some space to write their answer on the card later on. Questions which are more open to interpretation can be repeated with different students. Students should keep their question card on their desk in front of them throughout the lesson as a visible reminder of the key question that they are seeking an answer for. Either use these questions punctuated throughout the lesson to draw students attention to what they have learnt so far after each activity, or use as a plenary at the end of the lesson.
A set of pre-planned and differentiated questions, a couple of pieces of coloured card.
Outcome. The key questions keep students intently focused throughout the lesson seeking the answer to their question. Student responses to these questions, and further questioning that develops from their responses, enables the teacher to demonstrate the progress made within the lesson. Pre-planned questions which are more open to interpretation enable the teacher to ‘basketball’ the questioning to develop a depth of response from a range of students.
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Feedback. Please let us know how ‘differentiated question cards’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.