Author Archives: Miss Tonks

Entry and Exit Slips

This week I tried Entry and Exit Slips.

I’ll come clean from the beginning: this was for an interview. I didn’t get the job. But it’s a strategy I would definitely use to get students to reflect on and articulate their progress and their learning. I’d definitely use it for an observed lesson again.

The slips themselves were simple. They had two columns, the ‘Entry’ part slightly smaller than the ‘Exit’ part, and they had a question related to the learning objective repeated in both columns. For this lesson, it was ‘What do you know about how to identify the meaning, ideas and emotions in a poem you have never seen before?’ (I’d been asked to teach Year 10 Unseen Poetry.) I’ve seen several templates which just use ‘Exit’ slips, getting students to write down what they’ve learned, but I wanted them one the same piece of paper, so students could compare what they knew at the beginning to what they knew at the end.

As the students were entering the classroom, I gave them the slips. This was a useful ‘Bellwork’ task, as it got the students doing something as soon as they came in. It also got them immediately thinking about the topic and objective of the lesson.

I gave students permission to write ‘I don’t know,’ and most of the students did that. Some wrote down things like ‘Pick out key words’ and one or two wrote ‘PEE.’ One wrote ‘Read it through,’ which I thought was a good start!

Then I taught the lesson, based around ‘Funeral Blues’ by WH Auden. As they were an able group, I challenged them to look for alternative interpretations and to engage with the emotions of the poet.

In the last 5 minutes, I asked the students to complete their Exit Slips. There was absolute silence as 28 students tried to articulate the strategies they had learned in the last hour. Across the room, the exit slips were filled. I read a few (chosen at random) out at the very end of the lesson, to celebrate achievement, but I have read them all since coming home. They are packed with strategies they used during the lesson, and, interestingly, each is slightly different.

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It’s a strategy I’ll definitely be using again, and an easily adaptable resource. Just what I like.

Mapping the Learning Journey

This week, I tried mapping a learning journey, as described by The Learning Spy. I did it with my Year 11 class, who were studying The Yellow Palm from the GCSE English Literature Anthology. They are half-way through studying the cluster, and I’ve taught them (on and off) for a long time. They are also my most able and best behaved class. I really like them, and I;m confident trying new things with them.

Showing them a visual representation of their Learning Journey gives them an outline of the lesson. This gets them to link where they have been with what they are doing and where they are going.

Mine looked like this:

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I had it on the board when they came in. Although they are used to having a starter or some bellwork on the board when they come in, it needed some explanation, but they were soon able to join in: “So, then we’ll annotate the poem?” and “Why’s the same picture at the start and the end?” “Because we’ll answer the questions at the end that we had at the start.”

One of the most useful features of this technique is that it gives your students a sense of direction. They like knowing where they’re up to, and what’s going to happen next. It also gave them a sense of purpose: we used the Question Matrix¬†at the beginning, knowing they were going to answer the questions at the end. Incidentally, I hadn’t used the Question Matrix before, but I’ll definitely be using it again, especially for the Unseen Poetry – their questions were excellent.

Yes, preparing the slide did take a bit of time, particularly finding the images, but I do think it was time well spent. Many of the images can be generic, like the ‘Activity Stations’ one, so that’s an easy thing to do.

I’ll definitely be doing the Learning Journey again.

Focus: Engagement

I’ve been teaching for nearly 10 years now, always in challenging contexts. My first school was more mad than sane, and managing behaviour in a broadly system free school took up more of my time and energy than I care to admit. When I moved to my current school, behaviour was better, but, more importantly, the systems were in place to support me and my students. I started challenging myself to improve my teaching without worrying about the impact on behaviour. I tried structured group work, independent research tasks. I had the kids out of their seats and moving around. In my previous context, this would have been simply frightening.

In 2011-12, two things really improved my teaching. Firstly, I introduced co-operative learning in to all of my lessons. All of my students, no matter their needs, were able to participate in structured group and pair tasks. Talk for learning became positive and constructive. My classroom became a more enjoyable place to be. Although sometimes my students will moan about having to get up and do Quiz Quiz Trade, within a few minutes they are laughing and learning.

The second thing I did was to improve my marking. For me, initially, I marked every book, every lesson. I had previously either ‘ticked and flicked’ or done detailed marking of assessments. I hated marking books, as I would try to do two weeks worth of work in a single Sunday afternoon. This transformed my kids’ work. They really appreciated the fast turnaround. I was able to pick up on presentational issues. My marking really started to inform my planning. Levelling work and marking assessments became much faster, and my feedback became more relevant. I got my kids to do the things I had asked them to in my feedback.

This year (I spent 2012-13 on maternity leave), I have developed this. This has been a whole-school initiative, but now, I mark in green pen. If it is a formal assessed piece, I complete my feedback on a table, which the student has stuck in for me.

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Underneath my feedback, which contains a ‘Do It Now’ task, I stick a yellow sticker. In the following lesson, the students complete the ‘Do It Now’ task, in read pen. Their response to marking is clear and obvious. You can really start to see the learning journey and the progress over time.

So my marking is pretty good. My behaviour management is pretty good (after years of refinement). My students make good progress. They are challenged, and the pitch and pace are generally good. This is all fine.

However, I think my teaching could be much more engaging. My students don’t really enjoy my lessons as much as they could. They aren’t memorable enough. So this year (and I do appreciate that we are now half way through it), I’m focusing on engagement.

I’ve got a list of things to try – all nicked from twitter and teaching blogs – and I’ll work my way through. I plan to blog about them on the way. I’m definitely not the most creative person in the world, and with a small child, I can’t be spending all weekend creating fancy activities. But I am prepared to spend a bit of time, energy and thought into making my lessons stand out from the rest.