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How can we differentiate in a way that gives pupils ownership of their learning pathways?
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I’m a big believer in pupil ownership of learning. After all, it’s not my brain that’s doing the work; it’s not my skills that are developing; and it’s not my exam result on a piece of paper at the end of the year. As teachers, I see our role as facilitators: enabling pupils to achieve their potential in a way that develops the skills to do it time and time again. For pupils to do this, they need to develop the independence and resilience that comes from making their own decisions about how they learn; what pace they learn at and how to approach success and failure.

I’ve been trying to achieve this with a group of Higher Biology students. These pupils are in a slightly unusual position of studying a two year Higher beginning in S4. Although this gives a lot of time for teaching the course and developing understanding, I find they often lack the independence and study skills that you might expect from older pupils taking a Higher course. To try and encourage them to make their own decisions about learning, I’ve been using SOLO taxonomy stations as a way of structuring- and differentiating- revision or flipped classroom lessons.

The idea is to use a simple quiz- usually multiple choice questions- alongside a SOLO taxonomy framework to help pupils self-assess their current levels of understanding. Once they decided which level they are working at, they set about on the task designed for that level, sometimes physically moving between tables designated for each station. The pictures below show the SOLO taxonomy framework and the recommended next steps. So for example, a pupil who is pre-structural or uni-structural may need to catch up on notes or work on keywords. At the multi-structural level, pupils are ready to try Knowledge and Understanding type questions that help them revise the facts; whilst those moving to relational are ready for more challenging questions that link the topic together, such as an essay. Finally, pupils who are working at the extended abstract level are challenged to apply and link up their knowledge, either to problem solving or new topics not yet studied.

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I’ve had a lot of success with these lessons. Firstly, it gives a quick and visual way to assess individual confidence and understanding of a topic around the room, by the level at which pupils choose to work. Although I generally encourage collaborative working, it’s good to see that pupils tend to work at the level they feel confident at, rather than just following their neighbour. Secondly, it gives me the chance to provide support to ALL pupils at appropriate level. Because everyone is working at their own pace, everyone is able to at least start the task independently- even if they may require help over small challenges- which means I’m not stuck trying to help one or two of the pupils who are struggling most. This means that all pupils, including the most able, get some of my time, and get the support and push they need. Thirdly, over the course of a lesson, pupils make progress that is obvious to me and them. The tasks are designed so that around two levels can be completed in a lesson (and sometimes I use timed targets to encourage some of the lazier pupils to achieve this!), so pupils can clearly see how they have improved by moving up the levels over the course of the lesson. And from there, they know what they need to do next to achieve a deep understanding of the topic. If they get the self-assessment stage wrong, and their understanding was better or worse than they thought, they quickly realise the task is too easy or too hard and adjust their working level appropriately.

I was observed a while back delivering this style of lesson to a Higher class. Whilst the feedback was very positive, the observer posed one key question: if this were a large class of challenging S2 pupils, instead of my eleven delightful Higher pupils, could this still work?

I was intrigued. Could it? Could my S2 class, who find self-assessment and working independently a real challenge, cope with making decisions about their learning in this way? Would they engage with the challenge, or would they simply use this as a way to avoid anything difficult? Inspired by a wonderful resource I found on the TES website, I used the idea of Nando’s takeaway menu as a lesson framework for a revision lesson on space and forces, with pupils selecting a starter, main course and dessert task:

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Just like with the SOLO stations, pupils took a quiz prior to choosing their tasks, and used the result to inform their decisions about what to do next. Pupils choose their three tasks based on its heat level: from extra mild through to extra hot. There was a nice twist here, as I have been working with this class on higher order thinking skills, and as the heat increased, the thinking skills required became gradually HOTter… get it?!

So… was it a success? Well yes, hugely in my opinion- and that of the colleague observing my lesson. Pupil engagement was massively improved compared to other lessons with that class. Pupils had a clear understanding of what they needed to do and seemed to be genuinely enjoying undertaking the tasks set. Misconceptions were being quashed left right and centre, as I found I had more time to spend talking about the topic with individual pupils. Pupils were tackling tasks involving applying, evaluating and creating with confidence, and pupils were also clearly proud of what they were achieving at each stage. And best of all, pupils could explain clearly not only why they had chosen each task, but what thinking skills they were practicing by doing it- developing metacognition around their own learning that I’d just not realised they were capable of.

Next week I’m leading a learning conversation about this at the BOCSH conference, Talking About Learning 2015 at Inveralmond High School. I’d like to talk about the opportunities but also the challenges I’ve found using these strategies, and how others are achieving these aims. My questions will be:

1. How can we help pupils to identify current understanding, to inform their targets and next steps?

I’ve found SOLO taxonomy to be an excellent framework for helping pupils to identify the current level at which they are working. However, it is limited by how well pupils understand what is required at each level. Do they comprehend the increase in understanding required to progress? What other strategies do people use to help pupils self-assess?

2. How can we ensure pupils challenge themselves, but have the chance to succeed?

Even if pupils understand what is required at each level, are they making good decisions about what task is the most likely to help them progress? Interestingly, boys often select tasks from a level above where I would have put them; whilst girls often work below where I think they are capable. Is this due to confidence? Are they too scared to fail at the more difficult tasks? Pupils often state that they are ‘making sure they get it’ before they move. This seems like a good thing, but maybe it’s a barrier to their progression. I often encourage pupils to revise ‘outside of the comfort zone’: to revise the topics or skills that they really don’t want to- because they’re hard! How can we encourage pupils to work outside of their comfort zone, without them losing confidence in what they’ve already achieved?

3. Perhaps most importantly, how can we help pupils identify the progress they have made, and understand how they got there?

Through these lessons, pupils can see what progress they have made in their understanding, and I often ask pupils to reflect at the end of the lesson what progress they have made, and what kind of studying has helped them achieve that progress: be it revising content, applying knowledge or creating links. Is this valuable? Does it help pupils to see where they’ve come? And what strategies do others have to achieve this?

Using ideas around metacognition to tackle examination questions
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I’ve seen the term ‘metacognition’ banded around on Twitter recently and it’s definitely something I want to read up on. I also watched a video on John Tomsett’s blog (@JohnTomsett) of friend and ex-colleague Lisa Kirby teaching a maths class about simultaneous equations. She used a technique I often use which I sort of thought was intuitive but it seems it has a fancy name: metacognition! According to the TEAL website, metacognition can include doing the following:

“Teach learners how to ask questions during reading and model “think-alouds.” Ask learners questions during read-alouds and teach them to monitor their reading by constantly asking themselves if they understand what the text is about. Teach them to take notes or highlight important details, asking themselves, “Why is this a key phrase to highlight?” and “Why am I not highlighting this?””

It’s something I always do with GCSE and A-level questions, especially towards the start of the course, to get students used to how to approach questions. Rather than assume that they have an intrinsic understanding of what to do, I model my own thinking. I’ve made my Year 9s a booklet of past GCSE questions to prepare them for their end of year exam and the first question was horrible! Not in terms of subject knowledge but it’s got pages of graphs and diagrams to work through. The question was Question 9 from the June 2013 BL1HP (AQA) about feeding relationships and pyramids of biomass.

I gave the booklet out to one of my Y9 classes yesterday and was very quickly met by puzzled faces and lots of questions like “what do I do on this page” (referring to a page with no questions, just graphs and text). Today, I took a different approach with another Y9 class and modeled my thought processes with them. MUCH different results!

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I used the Visulaiser to project the image of the question on to the board. I started with the basics – making sure I had a pen and highlighter to hand. I tried to talk aloud every thought process which came into my head which is a little bit weird as lots of things we do without being aware of them (as experienced adults). I read each part of the information carefully, highlighting key words, but more importantly talking about why I thought they were important and what background knowledge I could link to them.

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We looked at the graph showing the population of animal and plant plankton over a year. I talked aloud about things I noticed, like the y-axis scales being different on the left and right, and patterns I noticed in the trends. I talked aloud about the summer being warmer with greater light intensity. I modeled reading figures from the graph and why I chose to do a rough reading rather than a precise one.

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When I’d verbally analysed the data we moved on to look at the questions. I read the questions aloud and talked about the command terms and bullet pointing and looking at how many marks the question was worth.

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To look at this 5 mark question took about 15 minutes. I explained to them that this would happen much more quickly in real life as they’d become faster with practise. I was so impressed with how attentive they were; even the ones who like to race ahead and get on with their work were patient and could see the value in what we were doing. They were really positive when we’d finished the question giving unprompted comments such as:

“I would never have thought to do that”

“I never would have been able to do that”

The power of the red pen!
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As a teacher I value pupil voice and understand the importance of quality feedback which needs to be more of a conversation than a statement. In practice though it can be difficult to achieve this without it becoming unmanageable. One change to my teaching practice this week has really made a difference to the quality of the feedback between myself and my class. The red pen!

End of the red pen as a teacher’s weapon

Under guidance from GwE our school dropped our use of the red pen this year and switched to green. I have never really appreciated the negative connotations of the red pen and believe that if you switch colour any negative connotations pupils do have towards one colour pen will simply be switched to the new colour. As a result of our switching we had a stock of red pens going spare in the store cupboard.

Reintroduction of the red pen for pupil voice

Red is naturally a prominent colour that stands out and it stands to reason that as a teacher you want to hear the learners voices as loudly and clearly as possible. Giving learners ownership of the red pens in order to make comments on their own work has really made the thoughts of the learners obvious within their exercise books and highlighted any changes they make to their work as part of the editing process following completion of draft pieces of work.

The result of red pen revival

Since using the red pen learners have really thought about what the good points of their work are and also been keen to show that they know how to improve. As a teacher this saves me from making suggestions for improvements that they can make for themselves and instead focus on the more subtle ways that they can raise the quality of their work. It is such a simple and effective idea that I can’t understand why I didn’t think of it earlier.

Viva la red pen!

Cross-posted from Enjoying Education

Boarding Pass – @FernwoodDT
Used as a starter (Boarding Card) and plenary (Departure Pass)Used as a starter (Boarding Card) and plenary (Departure Pass)

I saw this idea on Twitter originally and like most of our resources it was amended to our students. The concept is simple the ‘Boarding Pass’ is given to students as they enter the classroom and are instructed to fill in their name and ‘One fact from last lesson’ the teacher then goes through some of the answers with students writing them on the board. G&T students and students that finish early are encouraged to write down a ‘key word’ from last lesson too. Again these are reviewed and shared on the board. This is a great way to link previous learning.

Lesson objectives/todays outcomes are then presented to the class by the teacher. Students are asked to digest this information and fill in an individual ‘target for todays lesson’ and ‘what level I aim to achieve’ these are kept by the student throughout the lesson.

At the end of the lesson students are asked to fill in the ‘Departure Card’ (which is eventually torn off via a perforate edge). Students write ‘One thing they have learnt’ and ‘What level did you achieve’ based on the learning in todays lesson. Students then love tearing off the Departure Card with the perforated edge and handing it to the teacher as they leave the lesson. The ‘Departure Card’ can then be used at the beginning of the next lesson again linking prior learning/showing progression and/or stuck in a work book. Questions can be changed to suit the lesson/subject I imagine it could be used in all subject areas it has worked particularly well in our schools MFL lessons too. This shows fantastic knowledge and understanding of a topic in an engaging yet simple method!

Here is a link to a presentation that shows how the boarding pass is used/presented to the students – Boarding Pass – PowerPoint

Here is a link to the guillotine we use – http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/A4-Paper-Trimmer-4-in-1-Card-Crease-Wavy-Cut-Straight-Cut-Perforation-/281181932948?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item4177bfcd94

See @FernwoodDT and @Me77ors on Twitter https://twitter.com/FernwoodDT for more ideas and resources

Any questions/feedback please email m.mellors@fernwoodschool.org.uk :)

Learning by Mistake
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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 :)

Marking Grids
March 8, 2015
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I saw this post by Fiona Old on twitter about marking grids and thought that it would be useful in science. Recently I set my Y7 groups a takeaway homework on particles. I had some wonderful examples of work handed in : comic strips, 3D models, songs, posters and cake! I wanted to provide detailed feedback as the students had put in so much effort – but found myself wondering why I hadn’t thought about the marking when I set this homework to two classes in the same week.

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I decided to try using a marking grid. I looked through the homeworks to get an idea of comments that I would give and what pupils would need to do to improve. I also looked at some level ladders for the topic and the ‘I can’ objectives for the unit and came up with some statements for the grid. I think that some of the statements probably need to be modified but as a first attempt I think it was successful. I highlighted 2 things that I thought that students had done well and I also highlighted something that they could do to improve their work. I then left them a question that they could answer related to the improvement in DIRT time. I found that the grid made marking much quicker – but hopefully the quality of feedback for the students is not compromised. 

An example:

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I have used this approach with my Y7 and Y8 classes so far and the response from pupils has been positive. They find it easy to see the things that they have done well and what they need to do to improve their work.

Originally posted on my blog here.

Using hinge questions for formative assessment
Image by flickr.com/photos/75001512@N00Image by flickr.com/photos/75001512@N00

I’m trying to get better at formative assessment. I work in a sixth form college and so pretty much everything I do in the classroom is about exam results. The students that come to our college arrive from a broad range of feeder schools and have a similarly broad range of skills and knowledge. It’s a constant challenge to make sure they are learning the content on the spec at the same time as developing the skills they need to reach their target grades. In the rush to get through the syllabus I find it’s all too easy to forget to check whether students have actually understood what I’m trying to teach them. I’m guilty of assuming that students have understood the content because they’ve scribbled down the 3 things they’ve learnt that lesson on a post-it note in a rushed plenary bolted on at the end. It’s with this in mind that I’ve turned to Dylan Wiliam’s, Embedded Formative Assessment, and started to implement some of his strategies in my teaching.

One of the first techniques I’ve been trying to master is hinge questions. These are diagnostic multiple choice questions used as a mini-plenary at a turning point in a lesson. It’s a pause in proceedings to check understanding before you move on to the next part. I used it last week with year 12 when we studied several theories about the relationship between population and resources: Malthus, Boserup and the Club of Rome. The students did a jigsaw learning activity to get down the main points and answered a set of questions as a group. I then gave them two hinge questions:

The principle behind Malthus’ theory is…

  1. There is a fundamental mismatch between population growth and resources.
  2. Fundamentally, humans have no way to increase food supply so food shortages will lead to population checks.
  3. People cannot control how many children they have.
  4. Food supply increases geometrically and population increases arithmetically.
  5. Positive checks increase birth rate while preventative checks reduce death rate.

Boserup’s theory states that…

  1. Malthus was wrong: there is enough food in the world.
  2. Population pressure doesn’t lead to food shortages.
  3. As population reaches carrying capacity, societies are forced to make agricultural changes to ensure there is enough food.
  4. Population checks are preventable through the use of technology, as seen in the Green Revolution.
  5. Optimum population can be reached through the inventive use of technology.

Each student wrote and held up their answers on a mini whiteboard for me to see. At a glance I could see whether they’d understood the two main theories or not. One class had, the other hadn’t. Satisfied, I moved the first class onto the second part of the lesson where they completed an evaluation of the two theories, culminating in an exam question. The second class had far more students who got both answers wrong so I explained the answer to each hinge question (and why the 4 other options were wrong) and then set a different task. They mind-mapped the theories using a different text and a set of key words I’d prepared and then answered some different questions as a plenary.

I’ve also used hinge questions as an end-of-unit test for A2 Geography and have also got students to write them themselves as part of team quizzes and revision activities. The trick is to make all 4 (or 5) answers sound plausible. This forces students to look (and think) beyond the obvious and become more precise and subtle in their writing. Hinge questions are hard to write and hard to answer if you’ve done it right but that’s the point.

There are some clever ways in which you can use a Quick Key app on your phone to do diagnostic tests using hinge questions as well. Simon Renshaw discusses this technique in his blog http://srenshaw.wordpress.com/ extensively. I haven’t ventured that far yet, but it’s something I plan to.

Hinge questions are a simple but very effective method of formative assessment which any teacher can use. I’m currently writing them about oxbow lakes and meanders: the true realm of a Geography teacher.

Using Hexagon Learning for categorisation, linkage and prioritisation
Students at the International School of Toulouse studying the rise of Stalin using the hexagon approachStudents at the International School of Toulouse studying the rise of Stalin using the hexagon approach

Hexagon Learning Case Study: The Rise of Stalin

The ability to select, prioritise, categorise and link evidence is a valuable skill that students learn in History. It is also highly transferable to other subjects.

Using hexagons is a particularly simple and effective way of developing these skills, as the following case study seeks to demonstrate.

Historical Context

How Stalin was able to emerge as leader of the USSR against apparently overwhelming odds is one of the most intriguing questions which we study at IB Level. In the years that following the Bolshevik Revolution, due to a series of blunders and miscalculations, Stalin had lost the support of the party leadership: so much so that on his deathbed, Lenin dictated a formal ‘Testament’ describing Stalin as a liability who needed to be removed from his post. He was also hated by Lenin’s closest ally, Leon Trotsky, who was widely expected to step into the leadership position after Lenin’s death. Yet just five years later Stalin was undisputed leader of the USSR and Trotsky was in exile.

The story of how Stalin transformed his fortunes so dramatically is a great story revolving around Stalin’s treachery, cunning and downright charm. But the danger of this is that the essays that are then written become mere narrative, storybook accounts which do little more than provide a step-by-step account of the main events between 1924-1929.

The Hexagon Approach

After a study of the events culminating in Stalin emerging as leader of the party, I made a list of factors which could be used to explain why Stalin became dictator of the USSR. I then put these into my Classtools.net Hexagons Generator to create two single-page documents containing a total of 40 hexagons.

Stage 1: Selection and Categorisation

The class was divided into pairs for the activity. Each pair of students was given a copy of the first sheet of hexagons, which they cut up and started to organise on their desks into categories of their choice. This process, involving the categorisation of 25 hexagons, took about 20 minutes. Students were encouraged to come up with no more than five categories overall. They could also choose to leave some of the hexagons to one side if they were considered less important than the others.

We then spent five minutes comparing the different categories that students had identified. Each pair of students took turns to suggest one idea for a category heading until all the ideas had been shared.

Following this, I gave each students a blank sheet of hexagons. The challenge was to identify other factors which could help to explain Stalin’s rise to power and write these directly into the hexagons. After five minutes, each pair of students took it in turns to suggest an idea. If this was a valid (and fresh) idea, then the other students copied it into their pair’s version of the sheet, and the students who shared the idea were each given a sweet (we had a bag of these left over as a result of our ‘Rise of Stalin through sweet-eating’ lesson which had preceded this lesson!). This process was repeated until the students had run out of ideas.

Each pair of students then cut up this new sheet of factors and used them to develop their existing diagrams. In some instances this involved merely adding fresh evidence into existing categories. Sometimes though it involved adding new categories, or amending earlier categories.

Finally, each pair of students was given the second sheet of hexagons and the process of categorisation continued.

Stage 2: Linkage and Prioritisation

By this stage, the students had decided upon the main factors to explain Stalin’s rise to power, organised into key categories. Each of these categories could form the basis of a paragraph in an essay. However, it was still necessary to decide two things.

Firstly, students would need to decide in which order to deal with the points in each paragraph. It would not be enough to simply introduce the category title, then randomly write about each piece of evidence from the hexagons in that group. This is where the hexagons are particularly useful. The six sides mean that factors can be placed alongside each other in various combinations to highlight connections between batches of factors within categories. After students rearranged their factors in this way, they stuck them down onto sugar paper with a glue stick. They could then write the title of each category over each batch of hexagons, and annotate around each group of hexagons to explain why they were arranged in that particulary way.

Secondly, students had to decide how to connect their main categories together to create an overall thread of argument. They did this by drawing arrows between the factors and explaining their connections over them. For example:

“Economic problems in the country > created > Divisions in the party > exploited by > Stalin’s Cunning”

Stage 3: Essay preparation

The final part of the process was to use the completed diagrams as an essay plan. I photographed each of the diagrams and shared them with the students. Their task was to use the diagrams as the basis of their essay on “Why did Stalin become leader of the USSR?”. Each paragraph was to focus on separate categories of hexagons, and the points made in each paragraph should have some logical order and ‘flow’. Moreover, the order of the paragraphs should be dictated by the arrows linking the categories, with the opening sentence of each paragraph after the first one being based on the explanation over each arrow.

Reflections and Conclusions

The ‘Hexagon Approach’ worked very well. It steered students away from a narrative approach and into an analytical frame of mind. It helped them frame categories of analyis, build up their command of the material step-by-step. It provided them with the opporunity to easily change their initial assumptions, connect factors together both within and between categories, and give them a very effective basis of an accomplished written piece.

It is also a very simple approach that can be transferred to other topics and other curriculum subjects. All that is needed is an initial list of factors – contributed either by the teacher or the students – which can then be written into a blank hexagons template or turned into hexagons automatically using my Classtools.net Hexagons Generator. Thereafter, all that is needed is a pair of scissors, some sugar paper and a glue stick. And, ideally, a bag of sweets!

 

Careers advice for Primary and Secondary school pupils
October 28, 2014
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Image by flickr.com/photos/124247024@N07Image by flickr.com/photos/124247024@N07

My wife and I both work in the education sector (my wife is a teacher and I am an administrator) and we both feel that, in our experience, the provision of careers advice for secondary school pupils is not particularly good, or more specifically that the way in which it is delivered is inconsistent. We also feel that children could benefit from being educated about different jobs and careers from an earlier age (a contentious view, I know!).

We are interested to see what the experiences and opinions of other teachers are, so that we can learn from them and improve the way in which we provide careers advice, and maybe even develop a more effective methodology and approach that we could then share with others.

I am therefore researching the various approaches and resources that are used to advise Primary and Secondary school pupils about the potential career options that are available to them. I am also interested to find out what your experience is of the level of involvement that parents have in the careers advisory process. I have put together a short survey of twenty questions and I would be extremely grateful if you could complete this: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XHHJ3QD. I would also be incredibly grateful if you could circulate the survey amongst your colleagues and to any friends who are teachers.

We thought Pedagoo would be a good way of reaching out to fellow teachers, and we would gladly share our findings with the community, if we thought it would interest you.

Thank you so much!

Ten easy ways to demonstrate progress in a lesson
Image by flickr.com/photos/audiolucistoreImage by flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore

This post is a result of my two minute presentation that I recently gave at the Teachmeet at Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough. It is one of those things that student teachers ask me all the time. How can I show progress quickly when I am being observed? I think that sometimes, people tend to over think this, as progress can be shown in a lesson very easily. So here are my ten easy ways to do this:

  1. Progress Clocks are very simple. Students are issued  with a template of a blank clock. The clock face is divided into four, each quarter represents twenty minutes of the lesson. The first part is to find out what the students know about a topic. This could be a completely new topic or one that you taught last lesson and are going to expand upon. The clock is revisited throughout the lesson and used a mini plenary check. Students use this alongside success criteria so they can see themselves how much progress they are making and what they need to do to achieve the next level.
  2. Mini Mysteries are used when you want the students to learn independently and demonstrate progress. In History, we use evidence packs that allow the pupils to work together in groups – good for differentiation. They are also provided with a key question. For example, “What was happening at Grafeneck Asylum?”. Students then have to come up with an answer and complete a concept map to show their thinking. This allows them to share their ideas with the rest of the group. Based on what is then discussed in the class, groups are given the opportunity to change their original judgment. The answer is revealed and students have to connect the event to their prior learning. I usually do this in the form of a piece of extended writing.
  3. Three Tiers of Progress. This is a visual way for the students to see the progress that they are making in the lesson. It can be a display board in the classroom or simply a template displayed on a power point slide. The board is divided into three horizontal columns, each column containing the title “Novice, Apprentice and Expert”. Students either have small pictures of themselves or just their name and move themselves into the category that best suits them at that particular time in the lesson. Students should be using the success criteria in the lesson to move themselves higher up the tiers – the aim is to become an expert in the topic by the end of the lesson.
  4. Progress Checker. This can be a laminated card that can be issued at any point during the lesson. It contains statements that allow students to comment on their progress at different points of the lesson. Examples of statements are  “I feel confident about my progress in this lesson because….”, “The thing that I have found most difficult in this lesson so far is …..”. Statements can be adapted for any subject. Students complete the statements in their book so there is evidence of clear progress.
  5. Are you making progress this lesson? This is best done with a smaller class or where you have the advantage of having a teaching assistant with you. It simply involves giving a red, amber or green dot with a marker pen in the student’s book against a statement that they have made. It is an excellent way to start the lesson. In History, I use it with the bell activity which is usually the key question. The coloured dot represents correct knowledge – red means totally incorrect, amber, some of it is right but it needs improving and green is correct. Students are obviously aiming towards the green dot somewhere during the lesson to show that  they now fully understand.
  6. Mr Wrong paragraphs. Students are given paragraphs that contain deliberate mistakes. This task is used to check understanding of knowledge or for spotting literacy errors. However, I often use it as a combination of the two as there is so much emphasis placed on improving literacy in every subject. This could be used to check for understanding of knowledge or used for spotting literacy errors (or a combination of the two).
  7. Enquiry Based Learning or KWL Charts. These are similar to the progress clocks in that they check what the students already know, what they would like to know by the end of the lesson and what they have learnt during the lesson. They need to be used in conjunction with the lesson objectives so that the right questions can be asked.
  8. Tactical Titles. What can be easier than having the student write a title in their book such as, ‘What I know now’,   ‘Pre-assessment’, ‘Draft 1’, ‘First attempt’? Students complete the relevant information under each title. The more they are used throughout their books, it becomes very easy to see that progress over time has been demonstrated.
  9. Exit Tickets. Most teachers will have used these in one way or another. Some use post-it notes for a student to write down what they have learnt during the lesson. Mine are a printed ticket for each students that are handed out towards the end of the lesson. They contain the titles, “Three things that I have learnt, Two questions that I would like to ask and one final reflection”. Exit tickets help with the planning of the following lesson as you can get a good idea of which aspects of the lesson the students did not fully understand.
  10. Marking and Feedback . I know – this is what we all hate the most!  Detailed marking is time consuming but I truly believe it is the best way for students to make progress. I use the system of including an empty yellow box after a piece of written work. I give feedback in the form of “What went well” and “Even better if ” comments. It is the responsibility of the student to act upon the comments given and make the improvements in the highlighted yellow box. The box also highlights the progress that the student has made. Students act upon their feedback at the beginning of the next lesson. We call this “DIRT” time – dedicated improvement and reflection time.

So there you have it. Ten easy ways to show progress in a lesson. I would expect that there are many more which we do on an everyday basis without even thinking about it. Why don’t you add to my list?

Gillian Galloway, Head of History, Acklam Grange School.