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.
Possible solution. SMART objectives: differentiated objectives that are set within an achievable context of progress towards full marks in a specific exam question by the end of the lesson.
Differentiated SMART objective with achievable outcomes.
I adapted a lesson objectives template to refer to marks towards a specific exam question rather than overall grades as outcomes, using the mark scheme for that question to guide my wording, which allowed students to very clearly see the success criteria needed to achieve each progressive band of marks.
Students felt a real sense of success as suddenly they could very specifically measure their progress in the lesson and in real, achievable terms for that lesson, work steadily towards gaining increasingly more marks. The objectives were the launch pad for regular AfL opportunities – I kept returning to them and asking students how many marks they thought they had gained so far after the last activity and then saying to them ‘prove it’. This then led into lots of self and peer assessment opportunities where students used different coloured highlighters to highlight evidence of where they were picking up the marks for different skills or knowledge in their work, and we could then discuss what the colour patterns of their highlighted work revealed about where they were not picking up the marks. By the end of the lesson, students were very confident about how to gain full marks for that question and able to reflect well on what had held them back from gaining full marks. The next lesson then looks at a different exam question but covering the same topic so students have the opportunity to repeat this pattern of learning over again and secure higher marks after reflection from the first time around.
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Why? – My students were always asking when their homework was due in and I had to keep looking it up or couldn’t even remember when I set it.
Possible solution – Stick a mini white board to the wall. Every time you set homework, write it up on the mini white board so the class can see you writing it. When you are next asked when the homework is due in, just point to the board. The students will get used to coming into the room and reading it.
Resources. A mini white board per class, attached to the wall.
Outcome. Students no longer ask when homework is due in and there are no arguments about when homework is due.
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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.
Question tokens used to force students to think about what they are asking and consider whether their problem can be solved independent of the teacher.
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!
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Mr O’Callaghan’s blog
Feedback. Please let us know how ‘question tokens’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.