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Positive Engagement through restorative approaches
May 21, 2016
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I joined a group of colleagues in getting advanced training in restorative practice about 5 years ago. It was the best training I have ever received – and any of my colleagues will confirm I am a bonafide grumpy pants so I don’t offer praise on CPD stuff openly!

As a standard issue bloke, five foot ten, size ten shoes (but with safety packaging added around the waist) I was always able to pack an intimidating figure if I needed to. If a child yells at me, I can shout over them, arch slightly over them and make them defensive. Why? It was what I was trained to do.

My first acknowledgement of how this didn’t quite fit in education was when I met an American colleague who never shouted and operated what she called a ‘safe classroom’ which sounded impressive but, when she got threatened by a group of angry teenagers who clearly didn’t operate such a classroom policy, she yelled for me to ‘save her’ from the unsafe experience. It was my ‘classical’ training that indeed saved her.

Over a decade later, things have changed. I have since worked in three regions, three schools and for six head teachers (plus a few acting HTs) and have had a flavour of current and evolving behaviour strategies. I have read and listened to a lot of dialogue regarding behaviour management over the years and before Restorative practice, I had one other gem from Andy Vass. That was to instruct, when a child is being a pain and maybe throwing insults (or bricks), you should rise above it. ‘Two reasons. One – He/She is a child. Two – you are not.’ That always stuck with me. So beautifully put.

When I explain my day to day interaction with restorative practice as ‘behaviour management’ I fear that I undersell it. It is about building relationships and trust and success and, the word we fear using in high schools, love. We need to build up our pupils. Some arrive in school with a significant need to be built up.

It is those pupils who misbehave and get into trouble can be categorised into different groups. I will let the reader divide them into groups as suits themselves, but I want to declare one group. This is the, ‘just yell at me and be done with it’ group who have grown up with anger. It is a skill they learn, switch off and let the adult scream. When they are finished, nothing actually changes. The adult is more stressed, the pupil is more stressed, but it is a way of life. Lessons learned by pupil through yelling? Be bad. People will yell. Life goes on. Nothing actually learned there.

Yelling at a pupil also introduces the Amygdala Hijack. This is not something I am an expert at, but I understand the theory through my own experience. If you have ever been yelled at by an irate or grumpy boss, colleague, parent, wife etc, that feeling of “woah…shut up…I can’t think here…” kicks in and processing ability reduces. So yelling at any pupil creates only negative lessons. Adults hate me…teacher is awful…I hate school…I hate learning…life’s unfair. They may not do the ‘crime’ again, but we aren’t there to police them, we are there to engage with and nurture them, even in later years of high school (and even with the ‘bad boys.’)

I found the principle outline of restorative practice allowed me to develop my pupil relationships the day I started introducing it. Those pupils who just want a yelling at to get back into class and get on with it hated the question, ‘What were you feeling when you said/did…’ Not asking what they did, not asking why. Asking what they were feeling and have the focus on feelings on them, their ‘victims’ the whole class. Wow, what a difference. On my class registers this year, I have perhaps two pupils who don’t engage well with this method. And two more who struggle a little – and I focus on the disengaged pupils as part of my remit.

What was even more surprising for me was this: with the improved relationships and higher expectation of engagement, and my deeper understanding of how anger comes from fear (The Anger Onion….), I have been able to get the poorest achievers in my school to attain more. Every single S4 pupil (including the ones who are ‘Special cases’ or ‘not our fault that…..’) have achieved something this year and many exceeded their own expectations.

I know that many readers will think that last paragraph is nonsense. Me too, I removed it three times and wrote it back in three times. There is more to that success and perhaps another posting as it involved intrepreneurship (google that word if you need to – I believe every teacher is, or should be, one), working with social work, empowerment by Head Teacher, PT, families etc etc. But if the ethos of the restorative classroom/school isn’t there, what do we have to build on for those kids who don’t traditionally love school because the rules say we should?

If we want to make outstanding, non-faddy, differences in our classrooms, it really has to start with the relationships with the children.

Get into the pit – it’s great!!
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I recently had the privilege of hearing James Nottingham from Challenge Learning speak about how to use the Learning Pit to develop resilience and a growth mindset in pupils. This was part of Midlothian Educational Psychologist’s drive to develop visible learning in Midlothian, which is having a tremendous impact in schools (many thanks to Sarah Philp and her fantastic team).

The Learning Pit approach is all about teaching children how to think, not what to think. It challenges children to question ideas, their own and others and be able to consider both sides of the argument. It as well as developing these essential life skills, using the learning pit approach also leads to more memorable, deeper and more purposeful learning. (At least that is the idea, I haven’t tried it myself yet, but it is hard to listen to James and not be utterly convinced!)

We were then given a run through of what a learning pit lesson would look like. Let me do my best to share it with you…

1. Concept
You need to start by finding a concept for the group to discuss. Make sure you don’t choose a fact, it must be able to be questioned. E.g. risk, friendship, fairness…Pupils need a surface level understanding of the concept. Using a story or picture is a good way to find a concept; it can even just be a front cover or recall of a well-known tale. Then you are going to set up cognitive conflict – two or more ideas in their mind that they agree with which are in conflict. Causing dilemma to teach them how to make judgments (critical thinking).

2. Conflict.
Once you have found a concept to focus on, you need to introduce some conflict. You want them to move from one idea to many ideas about the concept. Raise questions, it should be fun and it should make them think, and make them wobble. It is not about proving them wrong, but about blocking their normal way of thinking, the way a blocked road would make you think about your route to work, which is normally easy – easy is boring. Model wobbling and challenge for them to imitate. Don’t link challenge with making things harder, but with making thinks more interesting and fun. This is where you are putting the children in the pit. Their brains should be in a state of flux! Put them in the pit before they go off to work/discuss a topic.

Work with our group to find questions and develop dilemmas: give question starters on wall and refer to, using these as part of your habit will gradually become easier and become part of the pupils’ vocabulary too.

What is?
How do we know what …is
Who says what…is
What if
What’s the difference between?
When would it be good/bad/not to?
Is it possible to…
Add always /never
Should we…(difficult one to use)

Challenge commonly held ideas by reversing what the pupils come up with when they answer “what if?” If a=b does b=a?

3. Construct
You don’t want to leave the children I the pit, after any work or discussion you need to help them back out! You want them to come to a better understanding, the eureka moment (I found it). You have to struggle to reach and enjoy the eureka moment.

There are several tools you can use to help children out the pit such as:

– venn diagrams
– grouping
– ranking
– thinking hats
– PMI (Plus, minus, interesting)

4. Consider
The final stage is to consider the journey you have all been on. “What have we learned, how does this transfer, how did we get out of the pit, how did it feel, how do we feel now?”

I hope that makes sense, but you can learn more from taking a look at jamesnottingham.co.uk/learningpit and challengelearning.com

ICT and Languages Conference 2016 #ililc6
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It was not without a little trepidation that I headed to Dorking from Glasgow for my first #ililc event hosted by @joedale and @helenmyers at Ashcombe School Language College, sponsored by Sanako making it a free event for the first time, hence why I made the effort. Would my two tablets and smartphone connect, download the necessary apps and not show me up as still being at entry-level with regard to the wonders of the tablet-world? Would everyone be appsmashing over coffee as I remembered I’d forgotten to charge my gadgets? But no, I needn’t have worried, MFL teachers really are the best. Being a subject with communication and openness at its heart, MFL teachers are a chatty lot and so happy to share experiences.

Knowing Joe Dale’s inimitable style, we were all poised to keep up with his full-on whistle-stop tour of apps and websites as he set up a todaysmeet for us to post live comments on, as well as opening up a ‘top tech takeaway padlet, with Chrome ‘talk and comment’, ultratext and Speakpipe add-ons.I could have gone home happy after that first half-hour but there were four sessions with three presentations to choose from in each so, focussing on cross-platform sessions as we are not an ipad school, off I headed to Session 1 ‘Apps r us’ with Amanda Salt.

I would love to be in one of Amanda’s classes, her enthusiasm is infectious and the range of apps and websites she uses brings learning alive in so many ways. Far too many to list but a couple of key ideas I’ve taken away and have already used are

  • quizletlive which has engaged bottom set S3s (Y9), tested Higher Spanish (Y11) on the preterite describing a past holiday, and focused Higher French on the passé composé, (quizizz  and quizalize are similar)
  • creating a Department ‘brand’ to tag everything you create and share/upload

Some of the apps were ipad-only but looked great. I’m also the process of creating a loooooong list of website to request be unblocked by the authority firewall, sigh.

Session 2 was with Serena Dawson creating a storybook on the lines of a russian doll with layers, inserting audio Speakpipe again and sharing student work on Googledrive. I also loved the simplicity but attractiveness of pic collage  but have yet to access it in school. Serena gave the first mention to qr codes and how she sticks them in jotters for parents to access their children’s recordings.

Teaching in a school on the south coast in a community hosting a large number of refugee families, she also spoke with passion about inclusive education and making the MFL curriculum more relevant to current events by using websites such as 1jour1actu, which I do use with my Higher classes. The site has great cartoon video clips explaining all manner of questions sent in by French children. As I write this, today’s question/clip is ‘Why do we do tests at school?‘.

Session 3 was hosted by one of Ashcombe’s teachers, Anna Sichla, with different uses for apps/websites previously mentioned, in additions to  Zondle to make games, Kahoot  for more quizzes, using Vocaroo to generate a url to in turn generate a QR code. Anna is a big fan of youtubing and explained how to use Powtoon , although I think that’s one step too far for me just now. I’d love to use Chatterkid app but sadly it’s ipad only.

With my mind whirling I headed to Session 4 with Aurélie Charles on using Google apps for education. Very much a hands-on session with a helpful interactive ticklist of tasks to work through as she explained different aspects, allowing us to work at our own pace.

Short walk to the hotel and feet up for half an hour before heading back for the evening’s pizza and ‘show and tell’. Us MFL teachers are totally committed to our job! Amongst other presentations,

  • Charlie showcased the website for a school exchange he’s launching on Monday (before heading off to run the London Marathon!)
  • Alison described a very effective transition day, themed around arriving at an airport then taking a plane, with departments across the school contributing a linked activity. It sounded wonderful!
  • Jonathan described how his school has signed up to Global Learning through Global Dimension . Also how, post Y9 options, he keeps  pupils engaged by them making primary MFL language games.
  • Rachel shared ideas for making learning relevant by describing a module on ‘a new school for the Jungle’, the migrant camp in Calais.
  • Joe couldn’t resist playing with msqrd , another video/audio tool to take the focus of speaking for pupils, but serving an educational purpose.
  • David explained how he has built up a popular Duolingo club, celebrating the success of pupils at assemblies.
  • Maxime, and NQT, shared images of a practical homework he set which surprised him by how engaged pupils became, the task being to cook a French dish and photograph/record it.  Some of the pupils had gone to great lengths to produce the food and images.

At 9pm I headed back to my hotel, shattered, but of course I had to start trying out some of my new ideas…

Sunday morning’s first session was with Annalise Adam on QR codes. Inspiring isn’t the word! She showed very clearly how to use QR code generators such as Kaywa or qr-code-generator to link to websites. She gave a practical demonstration of how she created a simple listening exercise by recording German weather phrases on Vocaroo , generating QR codes and posting them around the room for us to scan, identify the weather and note down. Pupils could then use Padlet  to post key phrases as a plenary. So simple but so effective and engaging! Annalise also uses QR codes to bring worksheets to life.

Putting learning into practice.

  • The #ililc6 weekend totally re-energised me. I emailed my Headteacher before I got on the plane home, evangelising the wonders of ICT (when the internet isn’t buffering, the sun isn’t shining on my interactive whiteboard and the websites aren’t blocked) and offering to run a school Teachmeet.
  • Once I got home, I created a departmental poster of QR codes linking to activity websites such as Linguascope, reference sites we use such as Word Reference  and exam support via SQA . Copied, laminated and distrubuted Monday at coffee!
  • This week’s DM was dedicated to a handful of ideas and I intend for us to focus on one idea per month so staff don’t feel overwhelmed but they’re used to me getting carried away with ideas. Some staff have already tried out some of the new ideas and love them, as do their pupils.
  • Having been inspired Serena and Annalise, I created a powerpoint for my Higher French class on the death of Prince and also of David Bowie earlier this year, using QR codes to link to French tv news reports and a 1jour1actu cartoon clip on Bowie. P2 Monday morning was maybe a bit early for my poor Highers to appreciate my even more energetic enthusiasm for my new ‘toys’, but they too used to be getting over-excited now and then.
  • Quizlet live has been a big success and colleagues are similarly enthused.
  • We subscribe to textivate  and when I created an activity this week, I remembered to give it the dept tag ‘invacad’ so it’s easy to find again.

I really can’t emphasise how much I appreciated this weekend, it has easily been the best cpd-event I’ve ever attended and has had an immediate impact on my teaching practice and a knock-on effect on my colleagues. I’m fairly new to Twitter and have been using our Department account @invacadmfl to share the #ililc6 love. Thank you @JoeDale!

 

Making feedback feed forward – printed post its
feedback sticker

I got the idea of post it feedback from the Art Department at my previous school and liked the idea that the post it notes were moved to the back once students had acted on that target. I liked the idea of the movability of the post it notes and was interested in how this might work for targets to be carried through several pieces of work so the target to feeds forward rather than something that is seen as done as DIRT and then perhaps forgotten increasing the risk that the same EBIs are repeated. I had been thinking about this over the last summer term and on the beach in the summer holidays when I should definitely have been more ‘present’ I wondered – can you print on post it notes? When I searched on-line I realised you can and so found printing templates easily – why had I never thought of this in the previous 11 years of teaching? This unlocks so many possibilities but helped formulate the idea of using post it note feedback. I wanted students to be in control of using the post its notes to use their previous targets as a checklist in subsequent pieces of work to link up the feedback cycles to ensure progress over time. I also liked the idea that a target should be revisited several times to then be seen as securely acted upon. I went with the idea of feeding forward the same target 3 times (in DIRT and then in 2 subsequent piece of work I felt worked well with the idea of emerging, developing secure etc.). These work particularly well with our KS5 feedback Sheets which have a dialogue box for students to complete before submission. They can stick their post it note there when they hand in their work and comment on how they have tried to meet this or indicate where in their work they believe they have achieved it etc. which really focuses the feedback dialogue on progress over time.

 

post it

 

feedback sheet-1

topper

 

 

To print on post its – find a template to print post it notes (there are different templates for the different sizes.) save it and print some hard copy. Then create whatever you want to print using the template online. Then stick one post it in each box of the hard copy template and then send it through the printer.

 

template

 

feedback stickers

 

 

 

 

 

The Thinking Classroom. Don’t Call it Challenge!
April 20, 2016
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“Is History hard sir?” Year 8 student asking about options

“Only if you aren’t good at it” replies the teacher

Challenge and high expectations. That’s what you would expect to see in an evaluation of a lesson which was highly effective. They are words which indicate that students were “stretched” and that their learning was maximised. This is all very positive, but what does challenge actually mean? It could mean lots of things to lots of people, which is why I dislike the phrase when thinking about developing teaching. For example; In a one hour History lesson if students have to sift through twenty sources to find out information is this challenging? Possibly, possibly not. It’s “only” selection of materials and some students may find this easy. If however, on closer inspection students really had to think about the selection of information then in actual fact they are thinking like Historians and this could be highly “challenging.” It is not the task that is challenging it is the thought that goes into it. Watch a professional sportsman run through drills, it may seem “low level challenge” but they are thinking about every movement.

What a lack of challenge in a lesson really means is students didn’t think enough. They didn’t think about the problems in front of them, they didn’t “self –regulate” they didn’t think “Meta-cognitively”  they weren’t given enough to think and struggle and then succeed. In short they didn’t have to think.  In terms of effect size the two biggest things teachers can do to have the biggest impact on student achievement is to give effective feedback, and make students think “meta-cognitively” (think about their thinking).  In other words create a “Thinking Classroom”

Seems a bit odd to suggest that a classroom has be a “Thinking Classroom” surely that’s what happens in a classroom? Well yes, mainly. But, learning is messy, unpredictable and as Graham Nuthall suggests in his book, often “hidden” ( The hidden lives of learners will change the way you think about classrooms)  In order to be a great teacher you have to light up the classroom, because you can’t see learning easily.

Students “hide”; after because they can, and it helps them cope. With 25-30 student in a class, mountains of content to “cover” and the 1 hour lessons, revolving door, factory system we have, it is little wonder that in this controlled chaos students can tactically hide. They hide in a number of obvious ways, they don’t put their hands up, or they give short answers, often knowing that the teacher will “move on”. They do “just enough” so that when the teacher looks at their books they nod, moving onto those who for many reasons haven’t written anything down, or who are distracting others. This is not always deliberate, cunning – work shirking, rather a mechanism to cope with 5 lessons a day. If you have ever shadowed a pupil for the day, and tried to do their work you’ll understand how confusing and tiring a day can be when you are 13.  Thinking is hard, it takes deliberate effort and often support. Ever wondered why students like writing in the title and date? It gives them a rest-bite form “thinking”.  Our brains are great at conserving thinking energy. Consider why the staff car park looks exactly the same every day; people park in the same spot because they then don’t have to think when they finally traipse out at 6.30pm.  Students are the same.

So how do we stop this? How do we “light up” the hidden lives of learners and create thinking? Lighting up the classroom is an area that has vastly improved since the articulation of “formative assessment” by Black and Wiliam back in 2001. Assessment for learning as a buzz word  almost doesn’t exist anymore as it is so entrenched into teaching practices.   A better phrase would be “responsive teaching”. Trying something with students, measuring it there and then, evaluating if it has been effective (students get it or not) then adapting the teaching.  There are a huge host of ways to do this that most teachers are aware of these use them regularly. As effect sizes go, effective feedback is about the best thing you can do to improve achievement. Please note “EFFECTIVE” feedback. If you feedback too soon, or it is too shallow the feedback can actually have a negative effect. However, teachers are generally good at AFL. They use Traffic Lights, thumbs up/ down, no hands , post-it notes which all help during the lesson.  Peer Assessment, Self Assessment, Criteria in student speak, personalised learning check lists, exemplar answers, the list goes on and on and on.  Not to mention; diagnostic marking, quizzes, mock exams (mocks after mocks, after mocks) doddle and online testing,  grades reported every six weeks. Students are monitored more than they ever have been before. This is a good thing. Mostly.

“Mostly” because challenge and thinking do not automatically come about because a teacher can “light up the classroom”. There is absolutely no point in a teacher demonstrating a host of AFL strategies which clearly show that students have moved from A to B, when they could have moved from A to E. Often you will hear OFSTED inspectors and observers to a classroom use the phrase “Expectations”. Expectations were too low of both students and teachers, or that the teacher had high expectations. This is a non- sensical phrase in many respects. I had great expectations of my guitar playing at 13, doesn’t mean I’m a rock star driving 15 cars. Expectations have to be high of course, but what really has to be high is the level of “Thinking” in a classroom. Teachers have to create thinking in their classrooms. Not challenge, that can mean lots of things to lots of people; they have to create thinking.

Creating the “Thinking Classroom”

This is a challenge (no pun intended) because “thinking “ is almost impossible to see. Performance is easy to see: Students are set them this, they did (or did not) do it. Thinking though? Other than the obvious signs of head scratching it’s difficult to see. But there are some things teachers can do to allow students to “think” :

It starts with the planning – make things harder not easier

Do not mean simplify. Do NOT simplify. It is worth saying twice because as teachers we are brilliant at it; we often have to because we are “breaking down” complex things for students to learn. BUT this habit can betray and our students.

Consider this; A Geography teacher is planning a series of lessons on the Amazon Rainforest to a year 7 class. Logically they want to break this down into manageable “chunks” for students. So it goes something like this:

  • What lives in the Rainforest?
  • Why is it so wet?
  • What is the temperature of the Rainforest?
  • Where is the Amazon Rainforest ?
  • What is it like there?/ Why is it called a Rainforest?
  • Why is it so hot?
  • What grows in the Rainforest?
  • Why must we conserve the Rainforest?

Once these questions are thought through is it logical that lessons are as follows

Scenario 1:

Lesson 1 Q1-2

lesson 2 Q3 – 5

lesson 3 and 4 Q6- 7

lesson 5 and 6 – Q8

They are very logical lessons, they follow on from each other, with the effective teaching at the end of the 6 lessons students would have gained new knowledge of the Amazon Rainforest without a doubt. How much thinking would have occurred though? Well perhaps lots, but how else could this series of lesson potentially create more thinking?

How about this:

Scenario 2:

Lesson 1 to 4 – What is the climate of the Amazon Rainforest?  Why is the climate like this and how does it affect what grows and what lives there?

Lesson 5 and 6 – “There is no need to conserve the Amazon Rainforest, we can cut more trees down for farming, homes and resources” How far do agree with this statement?

As you can see lessons 1 – 4 now create more thinking. Students have to consider what “climate” is, and the relationship this has to what grows and lives in the Rainforest. They are forced at the start of the series of  lessons to think about the relationship between location, climate and environment.  The last two lessons of scenario 2 force students into arguing and evaluating.  Scenario 1 and 2 could have exactly the same resources, exactly the same teacher, and exactly the same “challenge” in the resource but in all probability there will be more thinking created in scenario 2

Of course it all depends on how these lessons are managed. If for example students are just given the two questions in scenario 2 and the resources, without the teacher effectively explaining and questioning there is a real danger that this “independence” just results in confusion.   The “independent” classroom should not be confused with the “Thinking classroom”. Independence does not of itself create thinking, in fact the opposite can happen.

What these two scenarios do illustrate though is that planning a series of lessons with “Thinking” in mind is crucial. As teachers we are naturally very good at breaking up very complicated things into smaller parts so that people can understand. It is our default setting, because we do it all the time; we have to, we are teachers. But what we really want to do is to create learners.  To do this we have to sometimes stop breaking things up, not so they are more difficult or more “challenging” but so they create more thinking.

Scenario 2 could and I stress could create more thinking than scenario 1. But equally it could descend into chaos (as could any lesson) because the teacher does not consider that when you make students “think” you have to make them think! This takes time.

Below are five “tips” for scenario 2:

  • Be sure students understand the key words (climate, affect)
  • Give them TIME, time to investigate, to get stuck.
  • Discuss/engage students with the questions – Get them to work out what is being asked? What information will they need to have in order to answer these questions and how might they go about this?
  • Because there may be more chance of getting stuck than in scenario 1 have a mechanism for students to ask questions – a question wall, post it notes , traffic lights
  • Create a culture of three before me? Book, Buddy, Board. So students have to look at the board, ask a friend, refer to the book before asking for help.

Creating a thinking classroom is hard. It is much more than what is in this blog. It is about creating a culture of thinking through high quality questions and series of lessons. It is about giving students the opportunity to stop, wait and struggle.

download

Any Questions?
March 19, 2016
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It’s been a busy week. Busy at school, busy at home.

The ‘to do’ list has kept growing and it has felt like every time I crossed something off at the top of the list, another four things have appeared on the bottom.

Most people I meet seem to be the same. Hurried ‘good mornings’ with colleagues in the corridor at work as they race from one lesson to the next and hurried catch-ups with friends as children are bustled from one after school activity to another.

Why do we do this? Why are we living our lives at such a break-neck speed?

I feel like I spend my life rushing through tasks, head down, keeping going, with the constant knowledge that to let one of those tasks slide would be to admit a fatal weakness; I’d be a bad mum, a bad teacher. ‘If you were just better organised’ I chastise myself whilst folding the kids’ washing at 6am. ‘If you’d worked through lunch today you could have got that done by now’ I mutter to myself while marking jotters at bedtime.

The impact of all this busyness and negative self-talk is stress. Oppressive, shove-you-to-the-ground-and-sit-on-you stress. That breathless, panicky feeling like someone’s hand is round your throat, even when you are asleep.

I am a big believer in authentic teaching and learning- to get the best out of my learners, I know I need to be the best version of myself. I need to be in the room, present and ready to create the conditions that will allow my learners to flourish. That means not thinking about the homework my own kids still need to finish before tomorrow morning or the emails I haven’t replied to.

Stress + Busyness = Poor Quality Teaching

Having a teacher that is constantly in motion is like trying to learn long division from a whirling dervish; it simply does not work. I have come to realise that, instead of deserving an award for keeping on top of everything, instead I am short-changing my learners by trying to do too much.

 My busyness has become toxic. And what’s worse, it’s highly infectious. Rushing my learners through one lesson after another, trying to pack everything in, infects them with my stress. The message they get from my hurried glances at the clock and reassurances they’ll be time for questions later, is that learning is linear and speed is king. Do it right, do it once, do it fast.

How awful to reduce the magnificent, sprawling, gloriously creative mess of learning to a sad little straight line, from A to B.

Twitter (via @FifeEduTeam) led me to a quote this week:

“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been–it may even be greater–for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.”

Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown wrote children’s books. She died in 1952. I can only imagine what she would have made of how as a society we have continued to worship at the altar of activity (with increasing devotion) in the sixty years since her death.

The idea that quietness is an essential part of learning is often overlooked. It does not sit well beside Government benchmarks for progress in learning or tracking attainment. It is jostled out of the way by a curriculum bursting at the seams. School leaders are nervous about teachers embracing quietness. ‘What’s the point of this?’ they’ll ask crossly when they see a class reading for pleasure or taking a walk down the corridor after a Maths lesson. ‘Where’s the learning here?’ ‘What is this achieving?’ Such school leaders cannot see the invisible, subtle importance of weaving quiet space into the busy tapestry of teaching and learning and this is a fatal mistake. The downtime to process learning is fundamental to the learning process- it needs to be built in and respected. It is not a skive if, as a result of twenty minutes of quiet reading, learners and teacher are refreshed and ready to move on to new and greater heights.

So, my plan this week is to start from quiet. I am going to carve out spaces for quiet in my professional and personal life and I am going to infect my learners with this instead of my toxic busyness. I am going to breathe in deeply and avert my eyes from that hateful ‘to do’ list and just start doing. And I am going to break up the doing with quietness. I am going to say:

That’s an interesting idea, let’s explore it.

How would you like to tackle this problem?

Let’s take time out now to let that sink in.

And best of all:

Any questions?

 

[This post was first published on https://knowitshowit.wordpress.com/]

 

 

 

#100wordTandL Irresistible Feedback
February 27, 2016
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Research says a fraction of our feedback to students has impact on learning. Knowing this ought to make us look up from our marking labours and try to work out where we might be wasting time.

Using a ‘feedback wall’ is immediate and irresistible. Set a challenging discussion-based activity for groups. While they talk, you eavesdrop. Use post-its to ask questions or make comments to develop ideas. Simply stick them on the wall near the students and watch them race to read what you have written once you give the signal.

Your feedback will have greater impact. Try it!

@kerrypulleyn

Midlothian Teachers reflect on Visible Learning World Conference
February 23, 2016
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In January, a group of Class Teachers from Primary and Secondary Schools in Midlothian were among 12 Midlothian Council delegates who had the opportunity to attend the Visible Learning World Conference in London.  Along with representatives from the Educational Psychology Service and the Midlothian Education Team, we had the chance to attend Keynote Presentations and Workshops over the course of two days from John Hattie, Shirley Clarke, Andy Hargreaves, Guy Claxton, James Nottingham and more.  It was a truly memorable and thought-provoking trip which has prompted lots of reflection and professional dialogue on our return.  We have identified some of the key messages we took from the Conference which can be found below.

There were many themes that emerged over our two days in London; deep learning, independence and self-regulation, thinking skills, learner dispositions and metacognition, to name a few.  But the overriding theme for me, was the importance of the teacher in making learning visible.    Indeed John Hattie informed us that ‘collective teacher efficacy’ is now the influence with the most positive effect on learning.  Hattie argued that it is the teacher, more than the curriculum, teaching, school and student that makes the difference.  This view was supported, over and over, by the presenters at the conference, including in evidence from case studies.  Visible learning requires a committed, well informed, evidence-based, reflexive and collaborative profession.  In short, we need teachers who believe in their impact, know it and act on it.

Kat Mathers, Roslin Primary School (Nursery)

The World Visible Learning Conference offered a wonderful opportunity to learn from experts in the educational sector, and to meet and share ideas with teachers from a diverse range of school settings.

The two key messages I took from the Conference were, firstly, the importance of effective collaborative practice and, secondly, ensuring that pupils have mastery and depth of knowledge, not just surface level knowledge.

The first key message

Collective teacher efficacy is now ranked as the biggest influence on attainment: and is now thought to underpin successful learning. This highlighted the importance of creating a collective responsibility in school and ensuring that as a staff we support each other as well as the pupils.  Examples cited of methods to achieve collective teacher efficacy included peer observations, professional reading groups, professional dialogue and clear goals in our vision, all of which we could strive to put into practice within our schools.

The second message

The vast majority, around 90%, of the learning that happens in classrooms is surface level. This highlighted that we should strive to provide more opportunities for challenging learning and analytical thinking, to lead to a deeper understanding.  Methods which could be used in this way to develop these skills (FAIL, The Learning Pit and Solo taxonomy) were all discussed.

Jen Gardiner, Kings Park Primary School

In his opening keynote, John Hattie recognised that success is already here. It is all around us in our teachers and in our schools.  How do we make sure however that what we do in schools not only works, but works brilliantly? The answer lies in collaboration.  When we as teachers work together, we can accomplish so much more.  By focusing on collaboration as opposed to competition, a collective efficacy is developed which enables us to continue to get better at getting better.  For me, the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from Midlothian on this journey and share our learning is an experience that I know I will take with me throughout my career.  Every minute of our teaching counts, so together we must ‘know thy impact’ and ensure that our learners not only achieve their full potential, but exceed their full potential.

Lynsey Binnie, Lasswade Primary School

The World Visible Learning Conference has inspired me to think differently about what is happening in my classroom and around the school. In the words of John Hattie; “It’s not what the teachers do, it’s what and how they think that makes the biggest impact”. I want to now inspire the rest of my colleagues to think the “visible” way, and to start thinking about and measuring the impact they have on the learning of their pupils. The conference also reassured me that in Midlothian, we are making great progress and much of the Visible Learning mind frames and concepts are embedded across many of the schools. The overarching belief I took away is that we should be teaching kids to become their own teachers and take responsibility for their own learning.

Georgia Jennings, St. David’s High School

The Visible Learning Conference was extremely beneficial, especially for those in the secondary school sector. It provided secondary colleagues with many different ideas about how we could further implement Visible Learning across our classrooms. The main things that I have taken away with me from the Conference include, the development of a consistent language of learning is absolutely essential in order for Visible Learning to be successful. As a result, Lasswade High School is working closely with its feeder primary schools in order to develop a consistent language of learning which will only benefit our young people. Secondly, Guy Claxton’s presentation on becoming a learning powered school was very influential. I now realise that it is important that we develop the metacognitive strategies in our young people so they ‘know what to do when they don’t know what they’re doing’. As a result, the Lasswade learning and teaching council will be working in order to develop strategies that can be used across all subject areas. Finally, tracking and monitoring of pupil progress is just as important as tracking attainment and achievement. As well as developing high achieving and attaining young people across Midlothian we also need to ensure that we, and they, recognise their progress in their learning and equip them with the learning skills that will serve them well whether in further education, higher education, training or employment. Better learners will lead to learning better!

Jack Mackay, Lasswade High School

The opportunity to attend the World Visible Learning Conference has been extremely valuable in allowing us as teachers to continue to reflect upon the Visible Learning Journeys in our classrooms, schools and in Midlothian more widely.  The Midlothian Council delegates who attended the Conference continue to meet together to reflect and plan next steps.  We hope that by working collaboratively we can continue to support the development of this exciting journey in Midlothian.

Throw away the lesson plans… #100wordTandL
February 20, 2016
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So…

lesson_plan_2[1]having held QTS for going on 2 months now I feel eminently qualified to tell everyone to throw away their lesson plans and become reactive teachers.  Why do I say this?  Well if we consider every learning objective as an individual lesson then we are failing to use the best resource we have in our armoury, our students.

Reacting to our students’ needs it perhaps the most important thing we can do as teachers (I can say that now!) – every comment can be turned into a learning opportunity if we try.

I heartily recommend this approach to any student.

AFL Bell #100wordTandL
February 18, 2016
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Recently, I was introduced to a chain of stationary stores, called Tiger. Every time I go in, I see a multitude of wonderful items that ignite teaching ideas, for £2/£3 – bargain!

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My last purchase was a reception bell. AFL can get a bit dull, however, I have used the bell to start classroom competitions based on success criteria and literacy targets. Every time students meet part of the success criteria/use sophisticated language and structures, they get a ding. The student with the most ‘dings’ wins. It creates cheap laughs, and also stretches students by throwing them off course. Great fun!

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