Author Archives: Montserrat2901

String Thing – A way to stretch , challenge and engage

Last week staff who are part of the GO Barnwell coaching project @GOBarnwell were each set their respective GO Gold teaching and learning missions. Some staff were allocated ‘string thing.’ I deliberately kept the title rather vague so that it could be open to a variety of interpretations allowing for creativity and an individualization of the task. My colleagues, Emma , Jackie and I have written up three different activities we devised within our own subject specialisms. We all found that our individual string thing activities stretched our students ,encouraging them to develop and use their high order thinking skills.

 

String thing – MFL

This string activity asks students to use thinking skills and categorise vocabulary. I prepared six grammatical categories (verbs, cognates, false friends, nouns, adjectives, pronouns). Each category must be linked to another with a piece of string. On this string students must place an individual item of vocabulary (which had already been cut out and placed in an envelope). For example, if one of the items were ‘visiter’ to visit, students attached this word to the piece of string that connected VERB and COGNATE. The task became harder when students had to use translation skills, discuss grammar and watch out for false friends (words that look/sound like English words which do not mean the same thing). Students had to use a range of skills involving, dictionary use, knowledge of grammar (both in French and English), guess work and team worThis activity was a huge success, students felt motivated, challenged and each had a role to play in their team. All Groups discussed grammar at length which enabled me to ask more challenging questions about the grammar system or play devil’s advocate. After preparation of this task, the whole activity was student led and independent. I would highly recommend this activity with the following advice: include sticky tape in your packs for vocabulary/ string to sit properly, include blank cards for students to write their own vocabulary (I gave bonus points to students that could include as many of these as possible)

 

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String thing – Geography

My GCSE Geographers were at the end of the Urban World topic which had included a large number of case studies. I was keen to draw out the similarities and differences between the different locations. I colour coded the case studies to show if they were in the developed or developing world and then stuck them to the two rows of tables. I then connected the locations to each other with string forming a sort of web. Students were then asked to come up individually throughout the lesson on a rotation basis and either note a similarity or difference between examples. Similarities were recorded on yellow and differences on green. Students then stuck their respective post -it notes onto the string which connected the two case studies they’d been asked to compare and contrast.I was able to differentiate by asking different students to work on particular combinations which were more tricky. This activity encouraged them to not only think about content linked to the current topic but also material we’d covered in the rest of the syllabus previously.

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String thing Geog GCSE 1

String thing – Biology

My gold mission was to complete a “string thing” activity. I chose to create knowledge webs with year 11 to support their revision of the B1 and B2 units and help them to develop a deeper understanding of how biology “fits together”. I separated the students into pairs and gave them a topic within the units. They had 10 minutes to create a mind map of information about that topic. I then asked students to link their map with others with string and explain the link they had made on a placard stuck to the string.  They found the concept challenging and initially found it difficult to understand how the topics linked together. The students were really engaged in the activity and worked hard to find the links. Upon reflection, I think I left the task too open, I might improve it next time by providing some links that students can then put in the correct places to begin with. I will certainly use this activity again, it was an enjoyable and visual way to link concepts together to develop an holistic understanding of biology.

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Learning by Mistake


Learning by Mistake

Over the last few months I’ve become enthused by Carol Dweck’s work on the concept of a growth mindset. As a result of this I decided that it was time to make much better use of students’ learning mistakes in my classroom. Typically most students tend to not want to dwell on mistakes they’ve made, as they don’t want to be reminded of what they and others perceive as failure.

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My Best Learning Mistake

My year 8 Geography classes had been working on an assessment about Cheddar Gorge and today was the day they were going to find out how they’d got on. I always allocate a whole lesson dedicated purely to feedback and reflection when I return an assessment but today I added a new activity to our usual repertoire. I asked students to identify their best learning mistake – the one that they’d learnt the most from. This is actually quite an abstract concept, the class I first trialled this with found it tricky. I had another year 8 class after break so did some tinkering and provided a framework to help them structure their answer. I could almost hear both classes’ brains stretching as they completed this activity.

 

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Mistake Marsh
The second activity I created evolved after reading about the concept of a learning pit. I wanted to develop a variation on this theme and add a geographical flavour. Marshes are notoriously difficult to cross, so to is climbing to the summit of a towering mountain – a good analogy I felt for a learning journey. I returned assessments to year 9 and we did our usual review and reflection but added the ‘mistake marsh’ to our menu of activities. This was the final step in our evaluation process. Students were asked to note three mistakes that they’d made in the boxes on the marsh – these represented mistakes they’d made on their learning journey. They then had to decide which mistake was the most important one and write it in the box at the base of ‘Mistake Mountain.’ Once again there was lots of silence and cranking of brains. My hope is that by identifying crucial mistakes they will not make them again.

 

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I know that these strategies are not ‘perfect’ yet and that students will need more practise; I plan to revisit and refine as well as devising new activities to get the most out of mistakes. There always has to be a starting point and being afraid to make a mistake shouldn’t be a reason not to have a go!

I feel a bit like that about this first post – it’s the first blog post I’ve written for years and I know that I’ve made lots of mistakes but one thing I know for sure is that I’ll get better 🙂