On Saturday, Romeo and Juliet was being performed at The Globe, just down the road from London Bridge and Borough Market. Shakespeare’s language can be a struggle, keeping up with the words and devices. Watching from above, however, whilst Romeo and Juliet professed their anguish and love in the Balcony scene, what I really noticed was the raptness of the audience. They surrounded Romeo – that’s him with the face paint, on a ladder below on the left. People were just looking and listening so intently, carried away by the words and their message of love. It was magical.
Every now and then this turns up on social media, and I remember how important it is:
Previous posts have set out the Westfield Way – see March post.
These are our expectations, our non-negotiables and our culture for both staff and students – this is the way we do it at Westfield Academy.
Because we have seen over time that this works for our students and staff.
So next question is what conditions are needed here to make them work?
- Collegiality – the power of the team and creating alignment
- Creativity – working with these foundations and making them part of our own day-to-day professional practice in our classroom. As subject teachers embedding them in how we teach our subject and mesh with our own personalities and practice.
- Forward-looking – using all that we offer with regards CPD and developing this practice, especially subject-wise. This next half term there will be a real focus on moving onwards from the foundations now in place and embedding key next steps:
Assessment for Learning
Differentiation/ Scaffolding/ Extension
Broadening subject knowledge through use of twitter / social media
- Modelling, always modelling – we never know when students and staff need us to hold the line and tough it out. Believe the culture, and trust the system.
- Habit – “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
- Relationships – these will come with the emdedding of the systems and expectations. The context, and quality of any school is based on the human relationships within, and these relationships are the glue for our Academy, and get us out of the bed come November
- Be open – do I need support on this, as well as…
- Who can I help?
The text below comes from Andy Buck’s Leadership Matters:
He writes of leaders at all levels helping to create great schools, and with it great learning. And that is the context for all of us.
It is getting to that time of the term when you are due your PMR review. This can be stressful and at times, quite an overwhelming process, especially when you want to show off your skill and show that your precious pupils are making the progress expected of them.
so how do you plan a brilliant lesson and help the observer know your class?
The success is all in the planning and your observation pack!
So what exactly is a PMR observation pack? and how will it help me?
This is evidence of you, your class and how you help them take the necessary steps to succeed and make progress. That’s a big task- and sometimes a lot of what you do in the classroom can be overlooked, especially when you only have 60mins to highlight the 60 hours you have put in place that week! So therefore, we need to break it down and make it very clear- exactly what we have done and HOW it will impact your learners.
1st. Context sheet- the bible of your lesson plan.
2nd. Seating plan- annotated.
3rd. Lesson plan- 5 min plan- very clear breakdown of the direction of the lesson.
4th. Annotated/ labelled lesson ppt/ resources
5th. Scaffold/ differentiated/ extension tasks and labelled with what students.
You need to question and check pupil progress and every given opportunity. Go between higher and lower order questioning. Check their understanding- reflect on their understanding- adapt if necessary. challenge them- stretch their capacity. Don’t give up on them.
Make sure you have made it explicitly clear which students will require scaffold work and what their starting point is. This makes it very easy for the observer to understand what progress has been made and if it is sufficient. The clearer you make this for your observer the easier your observation will be.
Lastly, Please do not try some new and technical strategy on the day of your observation- this is bound to be difficult and could be a disaster. Practise what you want to get better at in the lead up to your observation. Try new techniques and try them every day until they are a success- new strategies take time, effort and care to be successful. Remember Observers are looking for progress over time.
PMR can be a stressful time for colleagues and it involves a lot of planning and preparation- especially when we want to achieve our targets and grow into the best teachers we can.
So for our recent CPD cycle, we decided to change up our training and design a pick and mix style session- where staff brought their Pre-Pmr observation booklets and evaluated their successes and where they wold like to improve.
We then provided a range of support/ resources and guidance for staff on a number of areas, that we, as the teaching & Learning team, decided were crucial for staff development.
Below we have broken it down into essential sections for a successful observation (whether you are NQT, training or a well-established teacher) there are resources that everyone can use and adapt and more importantly make your life just that little bit easier!
- Input-Activity-Review Cycle
- Starters and Plenaries
- Questioning Stems Question Stems- Blooms
- Questioning Ladders Questioning Mat
- Pose-Pause-Pounce-Bounce PPPB.pptx
Stretch and Challenge
- Learning Pit resources
- Challenge cards Challenge-Cards
- Extension tasks Challenge-Wall.ppt
- Higher Order questioning (thinking Hats (cats)) thinking cats
Learning Objectives and Outcomes
- Blooms Taxonomy Blooms Challenge Wall
- How to use Success Criteria effectively
Context sheets & Lesson Pan
- what should go into a context sheet?
- How much Information is too much?
- Seating plans
Assessment for Learning
- Mind maps for reviews and consolidation
- In lesson strategies
- Keyword Tennis as a fun consolidation activity
- Blue Stickers and Whole School marking Policy
Behaviour For Learning
A successful observation is a combination of fantastic planning, enthusiasm and ensuring you do everything to ensure your pupils make adequate progress.
- Ask colleagues to team teach/ look over your lesson plans in the lead up to your observation- subject specialists could give you great ideas.
- Don’t plan to use a new whizzy AFL strategy in your observation if you have never trialled it beforehand.
- Prepare using a simple 5min plan
- Be consistent and follow policy procedures to ensure a calm learning environment
- Question throughout your lesson- ensure you know where pupils are at in their learning cycle. Act upon it- adapt- if they are not sure.
One term in at our new build and we are looking for new teachers to join us for 2017-18.
We have an Open day for teachers on Wednesday 29th March from midday, so get in touch at Recruitment@westfield.herts.sch.uk if you would like to meet us and look around.
We have opportunities for colleagues of all experiences, including training for those wishing to join the profession. We believe our CPD programme, outlined in the Blog, will support colleagues to continue developing their skills, and deliver outstanding learning in the classroom.
We believe the following applies to schools as much as it does classrooms.
The best classrooms are those where nobody feels anonymous, unsupported or under-valued – and that includes the teachers and teacher assistants.
Every school is a unique environment, and that concoction is often what gets under our skin, and us up in the morning. In setting out our core procedures, we wanted to establish a set of expectations for the classroom, and specifically for the new build, based on what we know about our students and how they learn best.
We make no apology for this, some are very much old school, and they are what we believe in and have found to be conducive for successful learning. Our CPD goes hand-in-hand with these expectations so we ensure that staff are supported in driving them.
So without further ado…
The Westfield Way
- Meet, Great and Learn
Teachers meet their classes, 1 foot in 1 foot out. Pupils stand behind their chairs, based on the class seating plan and take out equipment and Planners. A Hook should be visible and ready for pupils to complete.
The classroom is a safe, engaging and stimulating environment for all to learn.
- Learning Objectives
Objectives ensure pupils are given clear and precise guidance on what they will learn by the end of the lesson (the lesson direction). Outcomes must stage the skills they will learn (Blooms) and embed during the lesson, and must be linked to grades / levels. They should link with the I-A-R cycle and be referenced and reviewed throughout the lesson.
- Input Activity Review I-A-R
Teachers must plan lessons making maximum use of lesson time and coordinate resources using the IAR cycle. This allows for exposition, engagement and assessment / feedback throughout the lesson.
- Challenge for All
Teachers differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to learn effectively (scaffold up & down). The class context sheet must be used to illustrate an assertive understanding of all pupils in the class, so that consistent high expectations of learning and behaviour are embedded.
- Checking for Learning
Teachers must check the learning and progress of all pupils, through effective questioning and formative assessment strategies. This will enable teachers and pupils to be aware of the gaps in their understanding.
Teachers will use examples, models or exemplars to model quality and less than quality work.
- Regular Testing & Assessment
Teachers will provide summative assessments, as per the marking Policy: 1 blue Sticker and 1 regular test, per half term. Teachers will record this data on Go4Schools, and use this to provide descriptive feedback and guide students to set improvement goals.
Teachers will promote and use ICT to design focused lessons, to meet students’ technological needs in the 21st century. Teachers must use their Promethean board to deliver engaging and purposeful lessons.
Teachers will set Homework, as per the Homework guidelines: KS3 ½hour once a week and Ks4 1 hour once a week. Homework should extend the learning in the classroom and be engaging and purposeful, promoting a love for independent learning.
Teachers must incorporate a plenary/consolidation phase into the end of the lesson, to ensure pupils are able to present their learning and what skills they have used and developed. This is essential for teachers to be able to reflect and address any obvious gaps in knowledge and plan for a successful sequence of learning over time.
- Smooth Dismissal
At the end of the lesson it is expected that pupils pack up silently, stand behind their chairs and wait to be dismissed. It is expected that teachers follow them out and ensure behaviour and conduct is appropriate in the corridors.
These expectations are the foundation for improving learning in the classroom.
When Olivia and I were first asked to look into extensions we began to ask ourselves: just what is a meaningful extension task?
Our starting point was reflecting on how we usually set extension tasks. The most common way of setting an extension was to have an extension task displayed on the board, typically a task that related to the main activity, but which required the application extended writing skills. The other way we would set extensions was to have a more difficult question displayed under the subheading, ‘Challenge Zone’. Many enthusiastic learners are keen to get stuck into the ‘Challenge Zone’ when it’s pitched right and when it’s advertised positively (e.g. a raffle ticket will be given to anyone who tries the ‘Challenge Zone’ and manages to get x amount of marks). In many ways this kind of extension task is like a variation of the teaching strategy ‘Into the Pit’ where we clearly signify to learners that the task will categorically be difficult, but we sell this as the opportunity to really learn. The picture below summarises:
This prompted us to reflect on the quality of extension tasks we set. If More Able students finish tasks at a more rapid pace from the outset of the lesson, how frequently do we need to set extensions on our slides or lesson plans to challenge them and make sure they have something to do? Even when we include extensions on extended writing activity slides, are they always purposeful? We realised that sometimes this style of extension task can lack real purpose and involve writing more rather than learning more. We came up with the following table of advantages and disadvantages to an ‘extension task’ on slides approach to extensions:After this , we started to think about and research alternative styles of extension tasks and happened upon another education blog (https://misstait.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/finished/) which had a range of excellent ‘ready-made’ extension tasks with handy hyperlinks to all the resources. Thank you Miss Tait! We printed off some of these colourful, useful and thoughtful extension tasks and shared them with our Butterfly group and they went down a storm!We especially loved the idea of running with an extension of DeBono’s hats (or, as we discovered on Google, Thinking Cats!) across the entire school. Have a look!
There was definite agreement that there is scope to have students associate colours with particular skills relating to critical thinking (“today you excelled with your black hat – thinking critically and negatively – now have a go at approaching this question with a red hat, thinking about the emotions involved in this kind of decision”). The best received idea was, without a shadow of a doubt, the idea of ‘Extension Cards’ with a different colour card for each extension. An excellent editable example of these kinds of cards can be found thanks to this lovely TES user: extension cards. Since these tasks tend to be more taxing and time-consuming (e.g. ‘Throughout time many books have been banned by governments. Write an essay exploring why Literature can be seen as dangerous’), we suggested that perhaps the back of student books could be dedicated exclusively to these longer project-style extensions which require critical thinking and higher-order skills.
The final style of extension we considered the benefits of was creating a laminated ‘extension card’ much like the Reading Group Accelerated Reading Cards used down in the Learning Support Base. Individual copies of this extension sheet could be glued into the back of student books.An example of this that the teachers had fun having a go at is shown below:
The terms, ‘Developing’, ‘Securing’ and ‘Mastering’ have been used here to indicate increasing difficulty, but this could be adapted to the levels or skills involved in any subject. The purpose in this style of extension task is that students who finish earlier than their peers must work their way down through each and every task on the ‘Extension Sheet’. When they complete it, the task is ‘checked off’ by the teacher, before they move on to the next one, to ensure they really have mastered that skill or successfully achieved that task. Each task can be levelled depending upon the skills required within your unit and an extension task card could be issued half-termly or termly, depending on the subject.
Ultimately, we enjoyed putting on our ‘green hat of creativity’ when preparing for this session. The traditional PowerPoint slide extension task can, if done right, be highly useful and relate to the task and learning challenge at hand. However, this approach can be time-consuming and can mean more written work for the sake of completing written work (and thus more work to be marked!) A viable and creative skills-based alternative is to create a display wall packed with pre-prepared and relevant extension tasks which gives students some autonomy over their extension work. The final idea we suggested was an extension card which students can work their way through, with rewards for completing every level (e.g. moving from ‘Developing’ to ‘Securing’) to help incentivise completing the extension card.
We hope that you have found the ideas we have outlined here useful – now it’s your turn to put on your blue hat and figure out what’s next for you and your future extension tasks! Thanks – Chris and Olivia.