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.
The workshop on Differentiated Homework came about due to us considering the differentiated lesson. “We differentiate in lessons so we should differentiate homework…right?” Right!
How can we as teachers insist upon differentiating our classwork but then feel justified in giving the entire class the same piece of homework? It can become boring for the more able, consistently annoying for those who are finding the work challenging and it can be boring for the teacher too! To an outsider, it may seem strange that we are not differentiating homework, so what’s happening? Why are we all giving our students the same homework? Let’s consider the “Why? How? & What?” of this homework scenario
Why do you want students to complete homework?
o Practice? 10000 hrs makes perfect (Malcolm Gladwell)
o To cover more content? The flipped classroom (Bergmann & Sams)
How do you want them do it?
o Paper based or On-line?
o Weekly, Bi-Weekly?
What are the next steps?
o How can you maintain this level of homework?
o How much effort are you putting in when setting and marking the homework?
o How can you ensure that your students learn from the homework and not end up with lots of pretty displays? What level of feedback/marking is the most effective (#Takeawayhmk – how can you fairly assess the homework… S. Porter is currently researching this.)
Knowing the current approaches that are taken with homework and the completion rates, the following is a list of different homework that can be tried with classes – Differentiated Homework
- Two sided worksheet / laminated card
o Basic questions on one side and an extension of the concept or a problem solving task on the other side.
- On line homework (SAM Learning, MyMaths, ShowMyHomework, etc)
- Concept Cards – some staff made their own in the workshop
- Choice Boards
Alternatives to Traditional HW
- Suggestions by the students of Kathleen Cushman “Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery
- Takeaway HW (from “100 teaching ideas for Secondary Teachers” Ross Morrison McGill aka @TeacherToolkit)
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!