Easter is a great break, weather fantastic and a well-earned rest.
However, May, and all it brings, approaches rapidly. Students and staff have been slogging away. This is, as they say, it. A few weeks of final pushes and we will be in the thick of it, putting our faith not in chance, but in the collective imparting and communication of knowledge and skills over the last five years.
In Sapiens, the study of Humankind, the author writes of us as the ‘one species whose success depends on cooperation’ (Yuval Noah Harari) whose rise to the top has been characterised by a cognitive revolution thousands (70ish) of years ago that brought brought with it the power of communication. This allowed larger quantities of information to be transmitted about the world, social relationships and ideas, myths and cultures. The 1st victims were the megafauna of Sabre-toothed Tigers, Mammoths and ultimately competitors like our Neanderthal cousins. This was a result of Homosapiens’ better organisational and communicative skills.
These cognitive skills are in our DNA, and on Monday we celebrate this with our Inset day, looking at what we as Westfield teachers believe should be the blueprint for the school – in our teaching and learning, our classroom and behaviour expectations and how we conduct ourselves professionally in carrying out these roles. The Carousel sessions will share our ideas so that we all have input in developing a consistent system of shared values, beliefs and strategies.
This week we looked at how we utilise our own learning and understanding and make destinations crystal clear for our students.
Words are vital here – their clarity and precision and how we express them. John Lydon has a view on this,
“I’d like to thank the British public library system: that was my training ground, that’s where I learned to throw those verbal grenades…I was throwing words where they really mattered. Words count.”
So how can we use our verbal grenades to detonate learning in the classroom?
Chloe presented 2 connected concepts: the learning direction that we establish in our classroom, and how we consistently present ourselves – as Einstein’s of our subject.
Learning direction involves interrelated strategies,
–Shared, understood objectives and outcomes
–Relevant, Sequenced activities lead to the ultimate goal
This will involving talking with the class, developing aspirations and long term goals with the right amount of challenge and support. Return to the objectives and outcomes throughout the lesson, with each activity taking the students through their learning journey. Alongside the lesson journey, underpin it with the long term goal – success in the year, key stage and exam.
Where are we going?
“What we’re working towards today is each writing an amazing comparative paragraph – so first of all we will compare how the key themes are presented in each text, then we will write a model paragraph all together using our notes before you produce one by yourself for the final part of the lesson.. Obviously this is really important for our exam as our AO3 is all about how well can compare the texts…”
Being a subject Einstein.
Show off ways you know to support the learning in your classroom.
–Exemplar scriptsto discuss
–Exam-speak broken down to enable peer-assessment
Below you will see a list of what needs to be in a piece of work.Fill in this sheet while reading the other piece of work.
Afterwards, you will have a chance to feed back to the other person.
Both people should decide upon the improvements that they need to make next time.
The criteria are as follows, depending on the amount of ‘yes’ boxes ticked below. The tick system levels will only be accurate if the work has used emotive language.6 ticks = 8c
5 ticks = 7a
4 ticks = 7b
3 ticks = 7c
2 ticks = 6a
1 ticks = /
Does the work have the following?
How could it be improved?
Effectively juxtaposed a sense of happiness with a sense of loss throughout the letter.
Used a range of language techniques to achieve emotive effects.
Includes emotive language effectively to describe how Fran feels both sad and scared.
Often uses upgraded vocabulary with emotive connotations.
Captured a sense of the fear and paranoia people felt during the cold war.
Uses TipToP to take new paragraphs.
–Scaffolds & structures
PEEL is great – each subject can develop its’ own structure and format.
Supporting the learning journey
So as teachers we need to get the words and explanations right so they truly are verbal grenades.
Throw these grenades in the right direction to map the path that learners need to take.
Use our own understanding and knowledge to support their journey through a variety of strategies that scaffold, support and challenge this journey.
Our Building Learning Power programme aims to equip our learners for the 21st Centre, and this term students have been looking at Resourcefulness and specifically Re-cycling. The culmination of their work is a re-cycled fashion show, and their dress rehearsal on Wednesday was designed to try out the outfits and practise their walks.
Sam Cole supported this with some outside help to show the students the essentials. Modelling how to walk (no pun intended) gave the students some extra tips and allowed them to focus on the best way to show off their re-cycled outfits.
Giving students expert advice, based on our own experience and learning can be a fantastic support for students, particularly those who are at the early stages of learning a skill and need some scaffolding. In the case of their modelling, shoulders back, serious face and eyes ahead was the advice, alongside taking a pride in their outfits and showing them off. Students were to live and own their work.
The Horticulture group are another good example here. Once the task had been shown they were up and running. Their sense of achievement in preparing the plot below was fantastic.
Emma and Paul presented today on their specific strategies for establishing the right environment. The personalised approach that we looked at last week is reinforced by the environment that we consistently establish in our work with the students.
Emma spoke of this being under-pinned by:
‘Respect is earned, honesty is appreciated, trust is gained and loyalty is returned.’
High expectations encompasses instilling the right attitudes for success and achievement, alongside taking a lead on behaviour – developing respectful, responsive and responsible students. This does not just happen, and the successful classroom environment develops these relationships through:
Ensure students have a routine on entry and exit of your lesson
Greeting students at the door- they are entering your space- you have ownership
A seating plan which has been carefully crafted using levels/behaviour information- should match your context sheet.
Clear success criteria at the start of lesson- by the time you leave today’s lesson you will have completed…..
Give opportunities to ask questions/peer assess to find out whether they are on track
Be consistent with whole school policies- what is expected, what is fair…
Mutual respect- caring for the students whilst in your lesson- wanting to stretch and challenge for their best interests
Be realistic- for stretch and challenge- offer support when required-know your student
Chase up incidents- if you say you are going to call home, call home
The 3 Cs:
Consistency– ensuring that students are held to account for their actions/standard of work- even if it means chasing things up outside of the lesson.
Confidence– A lot of the time students have low expectations because they lack confidence in their ability. Knowing how to support their needs is key- guide them to success. Be confident in yourself.
Communication– Clear line of communication between staff, parents and students- ensure that every member is clear on what is expected in school and in lessons.
10 Fleming spoke of their preferences:
Lessons are interesting and well planned….There is respect for the teacher and from the teacher- the way they speak to you reflects how you will speak to them….Target grades are always included as well as ways to improve on current levels/grades….Teacher arrives on time and looks ‘smart.’
In the classroom, routines are key. Not to regiment the students, but to provide the consistency that young people need.
Paul’s classroom routines provide consistency and fairness, which in turn allows the classroom climate to focus on learning:
-Use of behaviour management system
-Routines for everything!
Logging on to computers
Logging off computers
Instructions and reviews
Leaving the classroom
The Physical environment supports this,
-Seating to support students
-View of the room for all
-Participation of all students
Pose, pause, pounce, bounce
-Behaviour Management – positive and negative
-Evidence of mastering objectives rather than getting grades
Importance of objectives
Showing off their skills
The starting point for the 23 Butterfly sessions that we have held this year was the London Challenge programme and the Marginal Gains apporoach of the British Cycling team, coached by Sir Dave Brailsford. In this recent clip he speaks of his 5 key principles, and a marginal gain that is easily implemented:
‘The easiest marginal gain is a smile. if you walk in and smile and say ”Hi, how are you?” that would make you feel better. It’s only small but if it happened every day that would be a better place to work. That’s a marginal gain.’
Creating an Out-peforming team (in the classroom!):
We know so much about our students – their friends, their interests, what phone they have, and most of all how they work and what ticks their boxes in the classroom.
Without us knowing it, information from this personal connection is tucked away, yet it is probably our greatest resource.
The more we think about our groups, and what actually works for them, the more accurate our provision and their learning will be. This can be allied with what we can find out about them:
-Our data systems and assessment – SEND, CATs & G4S
-Our colleagues – form tutors and previous teachers
–Home – contact and Parents evenings
-Our own observations, reflections and the dialogue we have with the class, both on a 1 to 1 basis, but also the general classroom dynamic.
From this can emerge our personalised understanding of the class – what we know and what works with the class.
Our session this week looked at how this personalised information can be laid out clearly and consistently in our context sheets, as a starting point that introduces the group, and lays out what we do and what works. Updating this will keep the focus on what we do that works with the students:
I see the class once a week for History. They are enjoyable to teach and have an interest in the current Unit – the Tudors. As Historians the group are quite weak. Source analysis is a particular area for development, with the aim of developing an understanding of bias and reliability in this unit. This continues to develop, with the most able at level 6, and the vast majority in mid-5. The class enjoy the narrative side of History, and finding out more about the Tudors. Books and the Library are used for this, and their creativity encouraged in re-imagining events and considering the reliability of the sources of evidence that they use…
…There is a group of boys whose behaviour can be affected by their concentration and focus – M, I, A, H, M and C. They are separated or in smaller pairs and kept focused with questioning and scaffolded work. They are reasonably able, with some issues with literacy and presentation. Again, clarity of expectations and scaffolding supports this…
This prose is the starting point of our new Context sheets – a focus and aide memoire for what we know works. From this, further information can be provided, including SEND and EAL information and strategies that work for these students. Another area of development will be the addition of current achievement data to class seating plans, outlining pairings and groupings that support further progress.
Developing a consistent approach to our context sheets across the school is a priority area, and will support our provision for all the students that we do teach.
Next week we look at our learning environments – respect and high challenge in the classroom.
-Dialogue – with the students, tutors, previous teachers & home
-Our marking & previous assessments
-Pupil feedback – talk with the students & get to know them!
Group 3: What are we learning today?
How clearly are the lesson destinations clarified with classes? Are we certain ourselves?
-Being the Einstein of our subject works here, knowing the scheme, syllabus and what you want students to learn today. All this encapsulated in clear objectives, outcomes and success criteria.
-Hook them in with a clear, relevant starting activity. How does it relate to what they know already?
-Consolidate learning throughout the lesson, in-line with the objectives & outcomes
-Scaffold learning to build understanding & support progress
Group 4: How do we know?
What strategies do we use to highlight and test proof of learning amongst the students?
-AfL, but variety – self, peer and teacher assessment. Give time for a response following the Blue stickers
-Questioning – plan this, but respond to the flow of the lesson and the learning that you hear& guage from this assessment. Thumbs & traffic lights will help here.
Group 5: Challenge and motivation, pitch and engagement are vital in the lesson – so how do we do this, and how do know both are on the money?
A trip back to the context sheet would be good here, knowing what works with the class you are teaching.
-Different activities, making it competitive and developing independent work
-VAK, and a balance of activities in each, so all learning styles are developed
-Group work, wirh specific responsibilities so all are accountable
-Scaffolding where necessary
Group 6: How do learners know how to close the(ir) learning gap?
How do we enable learners to untangle the web? What feedback strategies can be used with our classes?
-Exemplar work, past papers & model answers
-Level & grade descriptors
-Planning in our lessons, with specific progress checks built in to lessons
-Success criteria are easier for peer assessment
-Marking, with clear feedback and response time
Group 7: How can all these ingredients be brought together into a collective whole, comprising a well-planned and successful lesson?
Packed with creative, artistic colleagues, there were high hopes with this group. Would they pastiche a smorgasbord of ingredients to make a satisfying dinner? A business approach of flow diagrams leading to a final product? A Christmas tree football formation a la Brazil 1970?
The task was clear – how can these ingredients come together to form successful learning for our students?
A man in green Y fronts was sketched. His super powers encompassed the 6 ingredients of successful lessons.
So far, several connected ingredients have been looked at in our sessions this term.
Expectations, vision and destination, clarity and engagament all combine to provide successful opportunites for great learning in the lesson, allied with our really knowing our students. So with this in place, how do we let students know where they are at, and what they need to do to really nail the lessons’ learning?
This is through the feedback we give, alowing the closing of the learning gap for the students. Katy presented this week on a key strategy that can be used to let this happen.
Peer assessment is a really easy way to make sure that students know the mark scheme and can apply it to a piece of work. Additionally, this enhances understanding through more independent work, challenging students to develop their understanding.
Through peer assessment,
-Deep learning can develop
-A clearer grasp of assessment criteria, and exam success can be instilled
-Feedback can be built into the lesson, from peers as well as teachers
-Reduced workload, without reducing progress.
So how can this be done?
Blue stickers and assessment sheets
-Set out a scaffolded sheet that supports the dialogue between students
-Plan for these opportunities during the lesson, and develop routines and learning environments that allow this to happen
-Provide structures and clear success criteria that take the students along the path of peer assessment. They can do it, but will need support along the way.
Success Criteria to Help Others Improve
1.Below you will see a list of what needs to be in this piece of work2.Fill this sheet in while reading the other piece of work
3.Afterwards, you will have a chance to feedback to the other person
4.Both people should decide upon the improvements to make next time
The criteria are as follows. Depending on the amount of “yes” boxes ticked below.6 ticks = 6c 1 tick = 4b
5 ticks = 5a 0 ticks = /
4 ticks = 5b
3 ticks = 5c
2 ticks = 4a
Does the work have the following?
How could it be improved?
Let us know which character is speakingE.g. Ben: Hello
Use stage directions (using italics or brackets for stage directions gets an extra tick)E.g. She doesn’t reply
Use “new speaker, new line”?
Have a beginning and an ending?
-Routines are vital. Don’t spring this type of assessment on studnets, but build their confidence steadily.
Teacher feedback is another way of doing it…
Variety is key here, and we need to remember that we are the experts to impart the knowledge and understanding, and support the closing of the gap.
This can be done through our questioning, conversations around the classroom, and our marking.
Closing the gap is the final ingredient for the lesson, and the obvious aim – have students made progress during their time in the lesson, and how have we planned and provided opportunities for this to happen?
Feedback to let students know where they are and how they can move on is key to this gap closing.
Routines are vital , but so is the timeliness of when and how we do this feedback, and how we do it.
Teaching Backwards writes about how our Driving Instructors teach us, particularly the dreaded hill start. Timely, specific and kind advice gets us through this, from an expert. A friend in the back offering peer assessment is probably not the best form of assessment at this point (You didn’t want to do that!)
Choosing the best form of assessment at the right time is down to our professional expertise, our planning, as well as how we know our students and our classrooms.
So feedback is the final ingredient. This week we will review all the ingredients and see how we can implement them for Great Westfield teaching.
Teaching and Learning information and ideas at Westfield Academy