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Eyes Down for Bingo!
June 18, 2015
0
bingo-491228_640

Using bingo cards is something I’ve done since I was an NQT and I’ve always found it to be a useful way to test pupil knowledge of characters or quotes. It’s simple enough to include a group of either on the cards and then call out a clue which the class have to decipher in order to cross off enough to get a line or full house. It’s fun and as a simple knowledge test, reliable but it can take up a lot of time both during the lesson and in the planning stages.

Recently I’ve been thinking about developing the quality of the content as well as making it more focused on pupils taking ownership of the game. Most recently with Year 9, I was hoping to embed their knowledge of the characters at the beginning of a unit on Romeo and Juliet (particularly now that they need to have a much greater depth of knowledge with the new GCSE assessment approach) and ensure that they were able to link these with key quotes in preparation for a scene analysis of theme.

Each board had a slightly different layout to ensure that the whole class didn’t match everything at once but in order to foster a more independent approach; the pupils worked in pairs with a set of coloured character cards each turning over the cards and matching them to an appropriate quote or analysis point. As you can see in the pictures, cards can be laminated and two coloured highlighters can be used too. Wipe clean and reusable!

This format is so versatile that it can be developed from Bingo to Connect Four according to the rules that you set as a teacher. It can be used as an indicator of gaps in knowledge or as a springboard to prompt further and more detailed discussion. Rather than having simply characters and quotes, the boards can be developed to include analytical statements about characters and events which pupils must discuss before ‘marking’ or blank squares can be left in order for pupils to add their own thoughts. Used as an individual or paired task, for a quick warm up, plenary or as a revision tool before the exam, it never gets old. Let’s face it, the novelty factors will always be there. After all, who doesn’t love a good game?

Cross-posted from The Ramblings of an Enthusiastic Teacher

Using a short, silent film to stimulate independent learning, discussion and writing
Untitled

I was really delighted to be asked by Pedagoo to explain how I would use this short film to enliven learning in my classroom. In this post I am mindful of how to harness the abilities of our visual learners. By using this visual text my aim is to generate extended thinking and learning and to encourage engagement with the writing process. I was inspired by David Didau’s hexagonal learning (Solo taxonomy) strategy to create genuine pupil-led independent learning and to find some evidence that this, often alchemical aspect of teaching has taken place.

Activity One
1.Watch this short film prior to showing it to your class. It lasts for 7 minutes.

2. In the classroom you might PAUSE the film mid-way when the little girl is resolute that she won’t accept the boy’s charity. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ?– cue class writing activity… Five minutes of writing

Join in with this activity teachers !

The whole class including you writes the story. Write frantically, announcing an amnesty on spelling (just for this activity). What really matters here is that ideas are being blasted onto paper. After a strict five minutes, (set a timer) everyone must stop. Then enjoy reading all of the weird and wonderful responses this writing generates. Don’t be precious, read yours out too and accept the fact your pupils may be a little ahem… underwhelmed !

Leave it there fizzing with potential for next time. Your pupils will love this unrestricted burst of writing. Deliberately don’t be too prescriptive about using certain vocabulary banks in advance, see what your students will try, what might flow.

3. Don’t forget to read lots out even if it’s only a paragraph or two – then watch the film to see who the future script writers might be in your class !

Activity Two
Hexagonal Learning – Independent Learning using this visible thinking strategy and discussion tool.

  1. In groups of 4-5 pupils list the narrative moments in the film on hexagonal post-it notes. One event/word per post-it note. Ideally you would use lots of different colours and link the colours to the content.
  2. The pupils then list some of the themes they think may be emerging in the film.
  3. Together the group joins the hexagons up and discusses why they are placing them in a particular order.
  4. The hexagons are photographed and then using Bluetooth or other alternatives are linked to the classroom white board for all to see. Two members from each group go to the board and explain the connections they have made collectively, their decisions and the group thinking to the rest of the class. See below for an example:

Untitled

Figure 1 Hexagonal Learning using Hexagonal Post-it Notes

This activity ensures that pupils, come up with ideas, lead the discussion and make decisions and links independently.

You could also use a template, depending on your class and the ability ranges, where you direct the learning and the pupils develop the initial ideas. I would use this sort of template below, which is a PowerPoint that can be tweaked according to whatever you are teaching. I would have at least 20 prompts on the hexagons. Print and cut the hexagons out, for longevity you may also wish to laminate them. (Do this while they are still in sheet form and use the school, paper guillotine for cutting out.)

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Figure 2 Hexagon Generator Pam Hook
pamhook.com/solo-apps/hexagon-generator

Cleaning your work
How to washHow to wash

Hi all!

This is my first ever blog about teaching! Please apologise for my ramblings – if anything is unclear then don’t hesitate to tweet me @MrRDenham . Or even better, if you have a go at this, then tweet me some pictures to the above handle.

Context of the class:  Students have come a long way in recent times. It is the first time we have seriously considered entering a set 3 class into higher tier – normally only sets 1 and 2 get this chance. School has had the mantra of ‘safety in numbers’ when it comes to getting a C. Thankfully, this all changed now we are measured on progress. A change I am really glad of. Now the whole school has to focus on all students. Not just the ‘C’ grade ones. Students in this class range from an E to a B (got high hopes for one girl even getting an A) so differentiation is key.

Cleaning Your Work! The idea came to me when driving home… I felt that I was banging the same old drum with my year 10 class when it came to successfully analysing thoughts and feelings within a text: look at a text; show good examples; they attempt it; we mark it; I mark it; repeat! This was becoming very monotonous for me and the students – some were not excelling. I needed to attack this at a new angle.

The task:

The task involves students reading a text and then answering a question on it – developing sustained responses. We were answering a ‘thoughts and feelings’ style question. Using the washing up instructions provided by me, students had to ‘clean their clothes’ and create great examples of text analysis. They were tasked with creating 5 clean clothes. Along with this they had to purposefully create 2 dirty clothes – these were rubbish examples. I recommended they took out a step from the ‘washing instructions’ to help them achieve this. I feel that the latter part was the most successful for lower ability students as they were now able to recognise what a bad answer looks like. They were having to think how to make a bad piece of work, rather than concentrating on creating excellent examples and stressing themselves out with keeping up with the rest.

How to wash

How to wash

During the washing process, I also provided washing up ‘tablets’ to enable students to break away from just saying ‘suggests’ all the time. Like when we wash clothes, we lose a tablet to the process, thus eliminating a ‘suggest’ word. This helped them to increase their vocabulary and enabled them to stop their work sounding repetitive (C – E grade students were struggling to get out of this habit).

Then it was…walla – peg, or throw out (I used my working board to stick a bin bag on – always find that it’s good to have a blank display for you to use in class) your work as you go along.

Bin bag used to get rid of dirty clothes

Bin bag used to get rid of dirty clothes

These are two 'clean' examples pegged out to dry

These are two ‘clean’ examples pegged out to dry

To finish we stuck our work into our books: 1 clean, 1 dirty. They had to then reflect and state why the clean work is ‘clean’ and the dirty ‘dirty’, once again reinforcing their exploration in the lesson (it took us two x 50 min lessons to achieve this).

Reflection

Reflection

Note: During the final lesson of the week we did a ‘mock’ exam to help consolidate their learning further – a number of students requested the tablets to help them. If you have read down to here… then I thank you for your time. Hopefully this blog isn’t as bad as I fear! ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND FOLKS – I’M OFF TO MARK THEIR (AMAZING) WORK!

Sentence Pong
IMG_0175[1]

I recently blogged about Moosing about, a table cloth I used with my Year 7 SEN Class. The ideas and stories generated from this were fantastic and it really helped them with their paragraphing however they all started pretty much the same way- The, Then, I and She/He.

So I decided my class needed to do some more work on making their sentences interesting and the thought processes/ editing that takes place.

This is where Sentences Pong comes in, I have used ‘sentence roll a dice’ exercises and I have a few laminated boards in my classroom with mixed success. So I decided to cut up the boards and put them into yoghurt pots and then students could throw a ping ping ball into the pot which would generate a sentence opener/starter.

This is how it worked

Before the lesson

  • I cut up sentence criteria for example use alliteration, a metaphor, simile, indicate a location, personification ( If you Google sentence roll a dice activities some fantastic ones pop up)
  • I put them into the yoghurt pots

Start of the lesson

  • Went through the terms with the students to refresh/ recap what the terms mean and why they are used
  • Explained the classroom rules and that if there was silly behaviour with the ball then they would not participate

Sentence Pong

  • Students ( I only have 8 in one SEN class and 6 in the other) throw the ball and aim for a pot
  • Once landed in pot, the group stopped and came around the table
  • As a group they then came up with a sentence, I then wrote this down

As the game went on, they decided they didn’t want to do it one at a time and instead wanted to write a few sentences together, they worked collaboratively and generated some fantastic creative writing.

I have now typed up the writing that was on the table, so next lesson they can D.I.R.T and write their own paragraph using the techniques used during the group lesson (they will have the sentence openers/starters grid with them).

I really enjoyed this lesson and so did my class as for once on Friday P5 they were not rushing for the door to leave :)

IMG_0173[1]

Moosing about!!
Moose

This is by FAR.. the BEST 80p I have ever spent!! and this lesson had me hanging off the edge of my seat…. but also in fits of laughter!! and turned out to be one of the highlights of my Y7 (SEN/LA) class.

I was reading numerious tweets about #poundlandpedagoo and decided that I wanted to go on a hunt and track down all the bits and bobs I had seen. So off I went and got the post it notes and eggs etc and then I found this… an 80p party table cloth (from Wilko).

So… how I used it! I simply put across the table and gave each student a multi link and advised them that today we were going on a journey… where we went was completely up to them….

This is how I set it up…..

  • Students placed their counter on a location
  • Then roll the dice and move across the squares in any direction
  • They then need to describe the journey, surroundings, use 5 sense, adverbs, adjectives and to try and create a vivid image and engage their audience (me and class mates)
  • Students were peer assessed throughout, as class mates could hit the buzzer if vocabulary could be improved, sentence could be improved or if they had any questions.
  • On some of the squares I had placed prompt cards- if they moved to one of these they had to include this in their story
  • I also had a buzzer that sounded like a klaxon, when I pressed it ALL students had to include what ever I said into their story (a text message- used laminated Iphone post it notes, seeing something or simile/ alliteration etc.)
  • All the sentences (mainly in green) are the fabulous sentences, vocabulary that my class generated. They then copied these into their books (some drew little pictures) so they could be used when they start to write up their story next lesson.

The students really enjoyed the lesson, they stretched each other, engaged each other and I was able to listen and be transported into their stories.

This could be easily adapted, as students could create their own table cloth.

 

Moose Moose

 

Moose  Moose

 

Snakes and Ladders
Snakes and Ladders  board

Revision and reviewing does not have to be boring… it can simply be a game!

My Year 8 class (SEN/LA boys) have been working extremely hard to not only recap the poetic techniques they learnt last year but also locate them in the poem and construct PEE paragraphs. Their assessment is to compare two poems (Hard Frost and Winter)  the class started the comparison by completing an interactive Venn Diagram and this brought up gaps in their knowledge and ability to lengthen their responses.

I could have made a work sheet got them to complete a table but I wanted to do something different, where I could sit and listen to their answers…. SO I came up with this.

Its really simple (buy and outdoor snakes and ladders game- this one is from Amazon) put questions on as many squares as you like and then play Snakes and Ladders.

I chose to use the questioning stems from the thinking dice and then the students generated 10 questions of their own relating to the 2 poems (these tended to be questions that they still had about the poems).

Students then played the game, answering the questions they landed on. The rest of the class listened to the answer and told them whether they were right/wrong or needed to add more to their answer. If a question arose that they could not answer, we then paused the game and had a class discussion ( some of the questions became the starters for the following lesson to check).

My class played the game for a whole hour, and were thoroughly engaged, answered the questions in FANTASTIC detail and really stretched and encouraged each other. It was a delight to witness.

 

Snakes and Ladders Snakes and Ladders  board

I Don’t Care What You Think Of My Music
Image by flickr.com/photos/dbl90Image by flickr.com/photos/dbl90

A couple of years back a young boy in school came sauntering along the corridor towards me with those big trendy headphones on. I approached with my stern teacher face on and asked him to remove them, which he did.

‘What are you listening to anyway?’

‘(Some band I’ve never heard of),’ he replied.

I hammed up a comedy sneer.

“ I don’t care what you think of my music,’ he said, in not a nasty way at all, but incredibly matter-of-fact. ‘It’s mine.’

And he was right, of course. At that precise moment I realised I was turning into my dad. And it hurt.

Following on from my previous post about how words, and language in general, have made me into the person I have become, who could argue that our early experiences of music don’t do the same. I don’t mean the silly, childish music we might enjoy when we are nine or ten but the earth shattering discoveries we make in our teens. My obsession with lyrics on album covers; the constant repetition of the same L.P. (ask your parents, kids) for weeks on end; the almost tribal protection of any of my favourites. That boy brought it all home to me, just how much it meant back then.

Since the inspiration of that day I’ve taught a unit of work in class called ‘I Don’t Care What You Think of My Music.’ It’s a unit which prepares pupils to write discursively or persuasively so we look at loads of exemplars of those sorts of writing. We develop a checklist of techniques and critique each others work as we go – yes, I write too – but all with a back drop of the class playlist. Each pupil picks five songs which they think should be included and argue their case. I usually choose one from each and Spotify provides the soundtrack to our summer term.

That musical DNA is of course inexorably linked to our literary DNA. What you find is that the kids with the most passion for music are the ones who relate to the lyrics that cry out to them. And it is incredible to remember myself at that age- moody, isolated, indifferent. A teenager, indeed – and think about what these kids are going through. How much can we influence them or is it all just a matter of circumstance? Channelling that very personal attachment is incredibly powerful for their writing but also allows quieter kids who have lacked confidence, write in more personal ways than I’ve ever seen from them.

They always comedy sneer whenever I tell them who I listen to. But back when I was walking out to winter; when I was up on the pavement when they we’re all down in the cellar of their basement flat; when I was writing ‘Do I love you? Yes I love you’ on cards and giving them to girls I fancied; when I was in the darkened underpass thinking ‘oh God my chance has come at last’, I knew exactly how they feel now. And you may laugh. But I don’t care what you think about my music. It’s mine.

Cross-posted from Just Trying To Be Better Than Yesterday

High Impact
Image by flickr.com/photos/spettacolopuroImage by flickr.com/photos/spettacolopuro

‘Impact’ is a word which has become increasingly popular in pedagogy. Teachers and leaders in education – increasingly skeptical of an implied focus on school data which comes with the word ‘progress’ – have seized on ‘impact’ as a term which more directly encompasses the concept of practice informed by and for pupils. Reflecting on this, I’ve started to look at what makes the most impact within my classroom. In this reflection I found myself constantly returning to the now almost cliched phrase: high expectations. The increasing use of these words in school promotional material and on blogs – my own included – makes it easy to consider this as pure rhetoric or as something which should simply be part of any classroom. Yet, I think it means more than this and requires deliberate development and focus, both on how you teach and what you are teaching.

The HOW

My observations both highlighted to me techniques that I had worked on over time, which had begun to create a culture of high expectations within the classroom. Two fairly simple techniques which centre around a key aspect of teaching: questioning. A number of bloggers have posted on the important impact of questioning within the classroom. I believe it is central to the practice of teaching and has made the most impact on my pupils. In my early years of teaching, I therefore made it my personal aim to get it right – I thought about questioning all the time whether observing others teach, reading educational material or perusing blogs. As I developed as a teacher, I drew a more narrow focus on the types of questions which forced pupils to really think; to move beyond expected or simplified responses. Over time I had built up the teacher instinct which allowed me to actually recognise when the cogs were turning in my pupils’ minds – an instinct, which is actually only instinctive after several months of close observation and thought about those you teach. This is key and allows you to identify the all important difference between the “I don’t know” which signals disaffection and that which highlights panic; when a pupil is not trying and when they are genuinely struggling. It was this deliberate development of this area of my teaching that made a huge impact on the level of discussion and thought within my classroom; the fact that this was verified by an observer was reassuring. The class was a wonderful bunch of Year 11s who I had built a good relationship with and who were mostly willing to engage with the work but for both the observer and myself, the questioning/interrogation was the time I saw them pushing themselves to really think. In a time where it is all too easy to panic spoon feed them (I think I was probably guilty of that when it came to the English Language exam nightmare) this has an impact including but also beyond the realms of the examination hall.

This observation made me realise that in fact much of the impact lies in the space between the first answer and the second/third/fourth. An oral version of Austin’s butterfly, if you will. This was made even clearer to me in the second observation, a few months down the line in a different school, this time with a Year 7 group. In this case I had asked a pupil a question to which he didn’t know the answer (this was during the first activity, which was a consolidation of the previous lesson). I could see both that he clearly wasn’t sure of the answer and that he should have known the answer; he hadn’t learnt it in the last lesson, which meant that there was a failing somewhere along the line, which could have been me/him/a combination of both. I needed him to know that answer, I also needed him to know that it wasn’t ok that he didn’t know that answer – not in a cruel or negative way but in a way that said come on you, this is important, you’ve got to show a little more faith in yourself by making sure you remember it.  I asked someone else in the class to answer, then I went back to the first pupil and asked him to repeat the answer. “Uh, I don’t know”. Ok so this time I knew that focus was evidently a problem, he also still hadn’t grasped that he couldn’t just be let off knowing this once he wasn’t in the spotlight. NB: At this point I was starting to feel a bit nervous – here I was in an observed lesson and my pupil was clearly not getting it. I considered leaving it and moving swiftly on to a pupil who I could be relied upon to get it right, but I decided instead to pursue it, to make sure this time he got the answer.

“Alright” I said to him “Well this is important and you need to know it. So, I’m going to get the answer to this again and I’m coming back to you. Ok?” I had to spell this one out. Process repeated. This time he got it. I asked him to repeat it. Then again. Then again. It sounds potentially evil but I promise it was done with gentleness, encouragement and a warm smile (from both me and the pupil ‘in question’). Throughout the lesson I came back to him with the question – a reminder that this wasn’t an ‘in the moment’ piece of information, this had to be stored. I went from nervousness to pride as I saw him become more confident each time he answered. He knew that answer. He hadn’t known it at the beginning. I could have hid this or let it slide so it wasn’t obvious to the observer that my last lesson hadn’t hit the mark with every pupil. But by not doing that, by putting it out there in the open space of the classroom I felt more confident than ever before that I was not only showing the observer a decent stab at progress but more importantly I was actually making some.

As an observer in a few schools recently it is these type of moments that I have seen in other teachers’ classrooms where I too feel the impact. On reading Doug Lemov’s book Teach Like A Champion earlier this year, it was with excitement that I discovered this technique formed part of his chapter on creating high expectations, it was called ‘No Opt Out’. More than that, he provided more detailed and developed ways this could be used, with real concrete examples. I was transfixed by Lemov’s recommendation to focus on your teaching strengths and develop that. It made so much sense to me and it also gave me something real to hang my ethos of high expectations on. Reading Dweck’s Mindset. How You Can Fulfil Your Potential has similarly given me a narrative which shapes my thinking about what I am expecting from my pupils. Whilst having an impact in your classroom can come from the ‘tacit knowledge’ of being a teacher, I appreciate the value of academic literature to help teachers consolidate and put into action their instinctive teaching strengths.

The WHAT

On the subject of literature; it has also become clear to me (particularly in the last year where I have been directly responsible for curriculum design) that the content of teaching is as important, if not more than the way you teach it, on creating an impact on your pupils. I have been in debate – both internal and external – about the content which should be taught as part of an English curriculum. In particular this has come back to the types of texts we should be teaching our pupils. When I first started teaching, I was concerned about picking easy to access, relevant texts; the schools I worked at generally taught the likes of Skellig and Holes to KS3 and KS4 was a mad rush to ‘fit in’ literature around the English Language paper; thus teaching Of Mice and Men to most was often justified because it was short, whereas To Kill a Mockingbird could be delivered to those elite, higher sets who would ‘cope’ with it. At KS3 some of this came from time pressures and bad teaching, most of it came from a genuine desire to try to engage pupils in the love of reading, and what I now see as a misguided idea about how this worked. I find the argument around text choice fairly complex – I’m a huge fan of contemporary fiction; my study of it at university made me alive with passion for studying literature, both contemporary and classical. I also struggle with the ‘pale, male and stale’ aspects of the canon, but want my students to have the opportunity to know these works so they have the chance to be critical of them. I also think that the studying of contemporary fiction is enriched by a knowledge of the literary heritage that has influenced it. Equally, as pointed out here by Chris Curtis, contemporary children’s texts often lack complexity and challenge. I now lean towards a curriculum with a range of canonical texts studied as part of a chronology of literature, with additional units of work/comparative studies of challenging adult contemporary fiction. After all don’t great teachers have the ability and responsibility to bring all texts to life; to allow our pupils to see the beauty of texts beyond those they would find for themselves? In this debate I also found myself coming back to the idea that if I think my pupils can only enjoy and appreciate texts which are about their own experiences or written for them in their own time, am I lowering my expectations of them and what therefore is the impact on their learning?

This question was answered recently when I taught a unit studying the play Macbeth. Lessons were pretty much get on your feet, let’s act this out and get to grips with the play and Shakespeare’s language. As part of their end of term test, I decided that this acting approach needed to be represented – they were also writing an essay – but I wanted to give room for the acting out of the play to be as important. So I set them the task of learning and acting out a scene/soliloquy. They had a number of prep sessions (our in-school homework time) to work on this and could come to me for guidance but were largely left to tackle the task independently. The first moment I had a vision of the impact this was having was when one of my pupils who is a struggling reader turned up after school to spend an hour of his time getting help learning his speech. The next day another pupil turned up to do the same. At lunchtime I walked down the stairs ready to confront the noisy crowd of pupils evidently up to no good only to find full rehearsals ago with pupils acting to each other and asking for feedback, or using their tablet computers to record and analyse their performances. For over a week, every corridor, stairway and empty classroom rang with the sound of Shakespeare; so much so that the other day a quotation from Macbeth came to mind and I heard it in the voice of one of my pupils. Many of the performances themselves were spectacular – with pupils learning whole scenes and speeches and performing them so expertly that I felt like I was in an audience at a real theatre. Of course the outcomes varied amongst pupils; there were certain pupils who had worked really hard on the scenes and set themselves high standards, whereas others had attempted some learn lining or some acting but not quite pieced this together. In this was a lesson for me – the task had set the challenge but imagine the impact if I hadn’t been blindsided by the fact they were only Year 7. If I had set that expectation higher for all my pupils then they could all have made it there. Now I have exemplars to show and have tried this out, I won’t make the same mistake again.

So in answer to my earlier question – I do think the impact is lessened when you don’t push yourself to expect more, when you allow yourself to narrow your thinking about what they can or will engage with. Impact for me comes when I expect more, both of my pupils and of myself.

SOLO Squares
SOLO Squares

When it comes to analysis, some students struggle to develop and extend their ideas. The ‘SOLO Squares’ resource is an effective way of encouraging students to explore deeper meaning within texts. It’s great for group work and useful for planning extended writing pieces. The resource is simple to use and can be applied to all subject areas. As you can see from the example, I have used it recently in GCSE English Unit 1 exam preparation which requires students to identify presentational features and explain how they are effective.

Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  1. In the centre square write ‘The Big Question’ or key focus for the lesson. In this case I used Question 3 from the exam paper. Character names can also be used – my Year 7 class have recently analysed the protagonist Stanley Yelnats from Holes.
  2. The second square should link explicitly to a SOLO Taxonomy skill. Here, I have started with the ‘Multistructural’ strand as students already have several ideas about presentational features. Within this space, construct a question that leads students to ‘Identify’ features/quotes/words.
  3. The third square requires students to ‘Describe’ their findings linking their ideas to the key concept/question. Notably, the prompt questions are progressive and link to the ‘Relational’ SOLO level. You’ll see in the picture, students had to “describe each feature, where it is located and why it has been put there.”
  4. The outer square should stretch and develop student responses. It is linked to the ‘Extended Abstract’ SOLO strand and pushes students to ‘Explain’ and evaluate their ideas. In the example, students were required to “explain what effect each feature has on the reader” and explore their “connotations”.

The skills in each square can be changed or adapted to suit the needs of your students. As you may have spotted, I often include QR codes on the resource too in order to ‘support’ or ‘stretch’ learners – this always goes down really well!

Please feel free to contact me if you would like the resource or if you have any questions.

@JamieClark85
www.jamieleeclark85.wordpress.com

Grid(un)locked-inspiring creative poetry analysis
image

After 18 months in Special Measures and being constantly under scrutiny (a particularly devastating blow to our department – we’d just attained 81% A*-C against a target of 69% when it happened) we’re always looking for new and interesting ways to bring engaging ideas into our classrooms. This idea came about in February as we were bracing ourselves for another Ofsted visit and has been a massive success with Year 10 and Year 11.

Here’s how it works:

1. Students work in pairs/groups with a poetry grid and two dice (tip-use foam dice!)
2. Take it in turns to roll the dice and answer the question. Others can add to/ expand an answer to raise to overall level of response once they’ve exhausted their ideas
3. If a double is rolled, talk on the topic area for 30 secs without hesitation, deviation… (you get the gist)

It’s simple, effective and fun but there’s more to it than just being a grid with pretty colours. Firstly, the questions are all linked to the mark scheme descriptors for the exam. The one in the picture is designed for the AQA unseen question and I’ve also created an adapted version for the Anthology poetry. This allows students to respond to the poems in a way that is directly beneficial to the exam skills they have to demonstrate.

Secondly, The colours aren’t random. Each colour is linked to a different area: pink=structure, purple=feelings and attitudes/mood and tone, yellow=language, blue=themes and ideas, orange=talk for 30secs, green (without doubt the favourite with students)=creative connections and ideas (not directly linked to a specific mark scheme area but to access the poem in a different way and just maybe come up with something that unlocks the poem in a way they wouldn’t have considered).

Thirdly, the way they choose the question to answer is differentiated. Say they roll a two and a four. If they take the larger number horizontally across the grid and the smaller number vertically, the question will be more challenging than if they do it vice versa. All the questions require thinking about but I think that to access discussion and ideas at the highest levels students often need to ‘warm up’ and this is one way they can do it.

You’ll see in the picture I also made a vocabulary grid to use alongside the game. Eight of the boxes link to the question areas, one includes the tentative language (could, may, might, possibly) we’d encourage students to use when exploring Literature. Whilst the words on the vocabulary grid are pretty comprehensive, I also made sure they fully covered anything students might need for the ‘Relationships’ cluster in the AQA Anthology.

For Year 11 who have studied all the poems and are preparing from the exam, they have used the grid in a few ways. Sometimes we focus on two specific poems. This is particularly useful prior to writing a ‘powergraph’ (more on this another time but it’s transformed the approach for our more able students). I mentioned creativity earlier. Combining the questions with a pick-a-poem style (ie pick two poems randomly from a bag/spinner) has generated all sorts of links and connections that students might never have thought about otherwise.

In whole class feedback, there a couple of ways it can been taken further. I usually ask what the most perceptive point is that someone in a group has made so everyone can benefit from different ideas. I’ll also ask which question has promoted the best discussion in the group-it can vary for different poems. I’ll then give students extra time to continue discussions, possibly looking at questions mentioned in the feedback part but they can also look at questions of a certain colour if the dice have missed out any areas or even just choose a question they fancy.

One of the other benefits that my less confident students have found is that certain questions really help them unlock ideas. These are the questions they revise and when going into an exam they can consider them if they are stuck. Many of my Year 10s reported this was the technique that helped them the most in their recent Unseen Poetry mock.

It’s interactive, fun and relevant. The responses are genuinely worth it and encourage students to think in a way that isn’t gimmicky but genuinely higher level. That’s been my experience anyway!

I’m happy to email the resources via DM.

Aimee