This is a must watch for all Pedagooey teachers! Find out more here: thersa.org/teachers
This is a must watch for all Pedagooey teachers! Find out more here: thersa.org/teachers
When Hamlet says that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” he isn’t too wide of the mark. We can think ourselves into all sorts of nonsense if we work hard enough. There are still Flat Earthers, people who think global warming is a myth, and that JFK was killed by the CIA (well, actually the jury may be out on that one…). Some people in my profession – teachers and parents – see the internet as a similarly polarising issue. On the one hand we have the advocates who argue that the internet has democratised access to knowledge and information and has fundamentally revolutionised the role of the teacher. On the other hand we have the opponents who see the internet as an unregulated hotbed of disinformation that undermines the pivotal role of the teacher as guardian of learning. Just to be clear, and in a spirit of full disclosure, I fall into the first of these two positions, and I would like to say why.
Good schools (and good teachers) are in the futures business.
Schools do not produce stuff for the here and now. Our job is to help build the future, one learner at the time. What we do now should be as relevant as we can make it, but the gauge of what is relevant must be defined by what learners will need for the future, not what they used to need in the past.
Good schools (and good teachers) genuinely put learners first.
Today’s young people live in a world that is saturated with technology – and it is developing at an ever-increasing rate. We all have a duty to make sure that today’s learners grow up as adept, skilful, discriminating and ethical in their use of the tools available to us. That means each and every teacher has that self-same duty. It cannot be outsourced to Tech Support. It isn’t somebody else’s job. Simply put, if you do not help young people to develop their use of technology for learning in your classroom then you are not putting their needs ahead of your own. Likewise schools that do not find ways to invest in technology cannot be said to be genuinely meeting the needs of learners in the 21st century.
Good schools (and good teachers) are excited, entrepreneurial learners.
There is not a teacher preparation system in the world that has prepared teachers for the world in which we now live. Back in 1987 when I qualified as a teacher, nobody knew what was coming. Only the occasional wild-eyed futurist could have foreseen the revolution that Web 2.0 would bring. But now it is here and we need to deal with it. The way in which we do this says a lot about our preparedness to be part of the revolution. If we take the path of suspicion, mistrust and denial, deluding ourselves that we are “holding on to traditional best practice” (sic), then our profession has a problem. We each need to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset committed to taking personal responsibility for our own learning. We need to embrace our professional duty to be problem-solvers and inquirers. People who wait around to be “upskilled” will not only miss the boat but they will undermine the learning needs of each and every student they share time with
Good schools (and good teachers) identify and hold on to fundamental principles.
In a world where change is a constant it has never been more important to identify and hold on to the fundamental principles upon which we believe schools are based: schools put student learning first; effective teaching is a thoughtful, planned activity; intellectual rigour isn’t a passing fad; and skills and values trump content every single time (but it is a fallacy to think it is one or the other).
Finally, good schools (and good teachers) practice what they preach.
If we want our young people to grow up as creative, knowledgeable, skilful, ethical, technologically adept inquirers then we have to have those self-same expectations of ourselves and each other. And that is a big ask. In education we face probably one of the biggest challenges any profession has ever faced: reinvention.
If you are reading this as a teacher or an administrator in schools, which side of the divide do you fall on? And before you start to prevaricate, there really are only two sides: you can’t be a little bit pregnant. Then again, you can’t get pregnant by kissing either, but is doesn’t stop some people thinking you can, or that the earth is flat, or that global warming is a myth, or that JFK was killed by…
Marking and debates around it are in vogue at the moment especially after Ofsted latest clarification about lesson observations and what they expect on marking.
However, I’ve always been a firm believer like many in education that high quality marking and feedback are hugely important to learning. Yet, I know I’ve been guilty of wanting to take responsibility for feedback and I’ve neglected the power of both peer assessment and in particular the impact of self-assessment.
With my Sixth Form groups this year I’ve been trialling a new way of students completing practice questions for their Home Learning. I’d become concerned that students were sometimes simply completing practice questions because they knew they had to and were rushing to get just something done rather than focusing on their best. If they truly reflected on their work themselves they would concede it was not their best work or something they had tried hard enough on. They were being extrinsically motivated by handing in a piece of work rather than intrinsically motivated by the chance to learn by going through the process of completing a practice question. I was also concerned in reading some of my students work that this rush to simply get things done meant they were not engaging with the questions properly or breaking down the questions to consider what they truly mean.
Whilst working with a Science teacher last week I came across a lovely acronym of BUSY which helps focus students on reading the question properly. I think they themselves discovered it on TES. I like this acronym because the very word Busy implies hard work, grit, determination and effort. The B stands for ‘boxing’ the command words so students focus on what they have to do. The U stands for underline so students have to underline key words which is especially important when considering things such as data parameters. The S stands for scribbling a plan. I like the word scribble because it implies a free flow of creative ideas in the planning process which is often important for students to reflect and think. Then the Y stands for You’re ready to write a brilliant essay. Hopefully, this acronym will focus students on thinking about what to do.
The self assessment sheet (pictured above) requires students to re-read and mark their own essays before handing it in. Crucially, when setting this up with students I explained why I wanted them to do this. I shared that they often knew if they were handing in ‘sub-standard’ work. I explained that my feedback could only be useful if I was marking what represented their best effort. Otherwise, my feedback would simply tell them to work harder which they would have known before they handed it in. If they truly put in their best effort then I could really give them diagnostic feedback which would challenge them and move them on in their learning. Importantly, re-reading their work would help crystallise their thinking but also hold them to account more for the quality of their own work. I think this is a simple but potentially powerful device to embed for my students to make them work towards even higher expectations. Importantly, as they have to give themselves a mark it will force them into reading and make more use of the level descriptors and success criteria for every piece of work. The proof was in the pudding. Having shared with my class this new idea and why I was doing it one student refused to hand in her essay which was due for that lesson. Their reason? They knew their work was sub-standard and this had prompted them to redo and refine their essay so they could hand in their best possible piece of work. If this small tweak gets my students to achieve and aim for their very best for every piece of work then the quality of my feedback and their understanding will improve exponentially.
I find myself in an unusual and yet a privileged position. I currently work in 2 schools – 3 days in my own school and 2 days on supply in another. This has allowed me to have a new perspective on my own practice and it has highlighted some surprising things.18 months ago our department were lucky enough to acquire 20 iPads. To be honest our first year with this new technology was not without its struggles. Work flow had to be organised, new routines had to be established and as staff, we had to get used to the new technology that we had been gifted.
Without doubt the use of iPads has 100% supported the work that we do. We have seen increased engagement in class, we have been hugely creative in our lessons and our confidence in the use of technology has soared. We have also had our down times, not connecting to the network, lack of Internet and lessons we thought would work that have just simply bombed.
Until now I have not noticed how independent the use of iPads has made our students but they most certainly have. For many a year I have felt, as I am sure many MFL teachers do, like a walking dictionary; “Miss how do you say…?” Even before the advent of our iPads I had tried to encourage independence amongst our students by using the acronym SNOT; self, neighbour, other teacher. I created some snotty looking posters and readily displayed them around my classroom. The phrase “have you snotted?” became a familiar one in our classroom and yet I never felt that students were really moving towards independence. iPads arrived and the SNOT phrase still rang out in my room. I really felt that we were making no headway with this independence thing at all and yet unbeknown to me we were.
Last week it was independent learning week at my other school where students were asked to get into groups and research life in a new country. This was all well and good but they just couldn’t do it. In spite of the fact that they were sat at a computer on the internet I was still subjected to such questions as “is the Ivory Coast in Africa?” “Is the currency of Japan the Yen?” To be fair, I had a bit of an annoyed teacher rant that they had all the information at their fingertips and that they really didn’t need me, but to no avail. The lesson was a bit like swimming in porridge to be honest but we gallantly ploughed on. This got me thinking, this wouldn’t have happened at my school I simply knew that it wouldn’t but why?
At the beginning of our iPad adventure I set up some simple classroom routines based around getting the iPads out, logging into the network and doing it without fuss or bother. I taught the students simple finger gestures so that they could efficiently and effectively use the technology. I then placed some posters of QR codes on the classroom walls, these linked to basic language tools like an online dictionary and an online verb table.
Throughout our 1st year with iPads we experimented with a variety of apps with differing degrees of success. Nearpod was very effective and the students enjoyed working through the online tasks that I set them. As we only have 20 iPads students often shared but this still worked well as they discussed their learning with each other. Apps such as bookcreator and 30hands helped to promote both writing and speaking in the target language. As we grew more confident, we began to try some simple and then some more complicated app smashes these can be reasonably tricky and require some serious thinking, collaborating and creating from the students. What’s more, once given a task they just get on with it whilst I act as their guide.
More recently I have been using the excellent iTunesU App to help promote independent learning. The courses are incredibly easy to set up. You will need an iTunes account to be able to create and manager your courses. You simply need to log into iTunesU manager and then it is just a case of finding all the materials you are going to use in your topic and dragging and dropping them into your iTunesU course. Courses can be made public or private, mine are private at the moment, students need either a link, maybe via QR code or an enrol code in order to enrol in your course. Once in, they can access all the materials in there. By giving students access to all of my materials it has helped them hugely when preparing for controlled assessments as they can easily refer back to previous lessons or they can check online grammar lessons that are also uploaded to the course. Students can work at their own pace, as once they finish a piece of work they can easily move onto the next in the course without fuss, bother or paper! Listening tasks can also be uploaded to the course which enables students to control how often they listen to at ask and which parts of that task they listen to again. It has taken some time but students are getting used to the idea that the classroom is not focussed on me or the whiteboard. It’s about them, their peers, collaboration and independence.
These days and without me even noticing, I rarely get “miss how do you say…?” In fact I very rarely to say “have you used SNOT?” The reason for this is the effective use of technology in the classroom. Students now know that if they want to look up a spelling or gender they simply scan the relevant QR code and bingo they have their answer. They are used to working together to create and overcome challenges that they have come across through our app smashes or through the use of apps such as nearpod. I have never explicitly taught these skills although I have always tried to foster them and yet my students are becoming more and more independent and confident in their handling of the language. This shows itself in their written and spoken work whereby they are writing phrases, sentences and indeed whole paragraphs off their own backs, not simply vocabulary that I fed them but stuff that they have found, created and worked on. So when other teachers ask me have iPads had an impact in my classroom?I can categorically say yes they have but the move towards independent learning is often shadowy, it creeps up on you and suddenly you have that moment when you have your eyes opened for you and it’s there for all to see – independence in all it’s glory!
It seems a long time ago when we all gathered to reflect on #lovelearning14 at Preston Lodge but I remember the surprise when our Scottish colleagues shared the fact that some teachers in Scotland don’t get observed. After me asking them to clarify the point they explained that Scotland hasn’t traditionally had a strong lesson observation culture with practices varying in different local authorities. Some observe, some don’t. The amount and frequency of observations varies in England but having your lessons observed is as much of a certainty as death and taxes.
This resulted in some dialogue over the positives and negatives of observations or the possible lack of them.
Observations done well lead to leadership having a reasonably accurate picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their team. This means the expertise can be shared, utilising those strengths. It also means that support and training can be provided to develop staff, in regards to weaknesses.
When the cycle of observations is effective coaching to develop staff and reflective practice become embedded in school culture and many staff share their plans and ideas for lessons.
With the shadow of performance related pay some unscrupulous school leaders may choose to use observations to control staff pay and manage their budget.
Some staff feel stressed when lesson observations are scheduled which has a detrimental rather than positive impact on learning.
It can also be argued that observations don’t give a true picture as staff and students will behave differently whilst being watched.
No Observations: Positives
The lack of stress and avoidance of artificial teaching to tick boxes or meet new criteria and expectations is the most obvious. This would mean that a teacher could focus on honing their art without the distractions of initiative overload.
There is also the issue of performance management not being linked to a snapshot of a teachers performance throughout the year.
No Observations: Negatives
One colleague mentioned that they had a teacher in their department whom they believed to be exceptional from their results and their reputation from the children they teach. This teacher would not allow anyone to enter their classroom. A precious resource in terms of expertise was not being utilised to support and develop their colleagues.
Another issue is ongoing development; one part of the observation cycle is the reflective coaching which, when done well, is an invaluable CPD tool.
The most worrying aspect is that poor performance could be overlooked. Issues that could be spotted and resolved with support and training might go unnoticed in a system without observations. Our colleagues and the learners in our care deserve better than that.
This list doesn’t even begin to cover all the positives and negatives and I would suggest that this be the beginning of a discussion rather than the end of a reflection…
We recently had a finance week at our school and in Primary 6 focussed on bank accounts and budgets. This seemed like a good time to start Class Economy with my class. Class Economy, is an idea that a colleague gave to me a few years ago and I’m sure many other teachers around Scotland and the world have used. In our version, learners are given bank books and each week are ‘paid’ wages, bonuses for class jobs and gain interest on savings. They also have to pay tax, hire their seat and pay fines for late homework and other infringements of class rules. The children check each other’s calculations and sign off on them and roughly once a fortnight the class bank opens (run by them) and they can withdraw cash. In our version, we also have a class shop where they can buy things small items like pencils. This year when I told the children about the project, I also told them about previous businesses other classes had run. They blew me away with how quickly they responded to this. So far they have opened 3 hire businesses, an art shop, one shop and a face painting pop up for Halloween and I was presented with my first contract for a business who want to buy and sublet seats. What strikes me most though is the excitement that can build up and the issues they have to deal with. Some of them are saving and aiming to invest. Some are starting to think about how to stop other people just pinching their best ideas. They are already grappling with questions like: Should everyone in the business get the same share? How do they make their idea unique? How do they promote their business?
Last year, one of the learners in my previous class, ran an event where he auctioned seats for a raffle and the excitement was tangible. Some people were buying seats for huge prices, others waiting for cheaper seats, others still wondering what exactly people were paying for. When I asked the learner, “what exactly are they paying for?” His reply was, “it’s all about creating a buzz.” He then ran a very successful event but had to deal with keeping staff on side and the reactions of others to his success (with help).
Play is often a great way to explore and learn. I am new to this blog and am looking forward to exploring other ideas and approaches that people are using.
In all honesty I’m a little uncomfortable with competition in the classroom. I hate the idea of anything which develops one students confidence whilst harming another’s. This means when I do use it I carefully select the group and make sure the relationships and atmosphere is such that the challenge aspect raises everyone’s game; not some ruthless free for all.
With the philosophical bit safely out of the way I’d like to share one competition which we tried last academic year and will be relaunching with our students after half term… The boys vs girls progress challenge.
in order to create clear targets and display progress visually we have target boards. Each Y11 GCSE class will have their names displayed against the number of levels of progress they are making against prediction based on current working level. This meant that we could have students compete fairly as their targets were personal and appropriate to them, we only compared progress, not ability. For info: five levels of progress being the bullseye and one level being the outer ring of the target board.
When we were looking for ways to close the attainment gap for boys in RE this meant that we could have a competition which showed a reasonably fair representation of effort/progress as the comparative point. The idea was to have a boys vs girls competition to fire up the boys to close the gender attainment gap with a bit of effort to not be beaten. This concept came from our SLT link and wasn’t about gender divide or stereotyping, just an attempt to squeeze some more effort from our tired Y11′s.
After each topic assessment the average progress vs target was calculated and the winning gender received a reward. It could be anything from doughnuts to prom points; the key was to keep the momentum going for weary students in a tough academic year. There were also separate mini-challenges such as making revision materials, etc. We even had separate target boards in blue and pink with “heroic” figures from each gender next to them to build on the competition and give them a clear view of how they compared.
It took a lot of effort and drive to make it happen but the result was +9% C’s for the boys group against Fisher Family Trust target grades. I’ll admit I’d like to see more for what we put in but it was worth it for those students.
This is the video blog detailing my TLC focus and the impact it has had.
Below are the feedback videos that I made:
Below are some photos of the students DIRT. One student is targeted a grade A the other a grade C:
Cross-posted from @Westylish’s blog
My official title is Assistant Head Teacher: Director of Inclusion. However, what does inclusion actually mean… The definition to me means allowing everyone equal access to a service, in this context, education. Irrespective of age, gender, race, sexuality, class, status, religion, learning ability, physical ability and so on. It is a term that has increased in popularity over the years, a simple google search for jobs including the term inclusion in it provides us with many, many results!
But why the upsurge? Why the new found belief that we should all be treated equally? (I didn’t say treated the same on purpose.) This wasn’t the state of play when I was at school in the late 90s… In this short blog I aim to explain why I love my role and why it is so important. Nature: I think as Human beings (especially in teachers) we are naturally a little possessive, a little territorial. I think we always defend, protect and champion our subjects, our students, our personal classrooms. It is not to say that we do not value, agree or appreciate others and their roles, spaces and beliefs it is just, we simply think ours is… better? (Open evenings or options evenings are a class example of this!)
Our territorial instinct apply to roles in the senior leadership teams too. All of us have very clear roles; Director of Teaching and Learning, Pastoral Lead, Data and Attainment and so on. Therefore during senior leadership meetings, staff training sessions, whole school INSETs, internal/external CPDs and morning briefings. We all promote and seek to push forward our areas of charge. We all want the time/effort/foci to be spearing towards the areas we are leading. However, as with everything in education, all responsibilities fundamentally come down to effective, quality first teaching. If only it was that easy. Nevertheless, why is it that if you are poor, in care or from a certain area you will not do as well as others? You will not be as successful, you will not achieve as highly as others. You will not get certain jobs, go to certain universities, live in certain areas. (I obviously know there are exceptions to this.) I hate this fact. I hate that the actions/prohibitions/inhibitions of others before us can determine who others will/can be in their future.
I do know there are many ‘reasons’ and ‘obstacles’ that students from poor backgrounds, poorer areas or in care face. Natural hurdles that life has thrown at these people to either dodge, jump over, or burst through. However, this influx in jobs, the introduction of Pupil Premium grant and the realisation from many that these obstacles should not stand in the way of young people achieving is what I want to discuss further.
My role: I see my role as advocating for the needs of the ‘others.’ I am not suggesting that my colleagues/teachers do not do this at all. Nevertheless, I see myself as the person with information, advice and guidance about these sub groups I ‘look’ out for. It would be impossible/unfair to assume that teachers can know everything about everything that is happening. Which is ultimately the reason why we have sliced the key areas in education into different leadership responsibilities to give a champion in this area a way of policing(?) their field, their domain, their team? (Coming back to the whole territory point…?) I actively search out information, ideas, think about these students and their well being, attainment and the schools direction in everything I do… if we all do this will we have a rounded school? Or a medley of priorities? (Think school development plan?) The role of Director of Inclusion to me means that I am able to provide a one stop shop for all the staff at my school. (IF they need it.)
With my team (I have to commend my team here- I work with such committed individuals who come together to form an amazing team. My Assistant SENCO is a fountain of knowledge, my nuturing Learning Support Manager provides a calm presence when needed. My SEND Teachers, Literacy Specialists, Education Inclusion Tutor, My Lead TA for Looked After Children, My Physical Disability Lead, My two behaviour unit coordinators, my Teaching Assistants! I can not fault!) With these people I am able to offer training sessions, personalised departmental CPD, online support, representation in meetings, agency involvement and so on. Most importantly I am able to advocate, promote, plead for, hold a torch for, defend, protect, uphold, support, back, espouse, ally oneself with, stand behind, stand up for, take someone’s part, campaign for, lobby for, fight for, battle for, crusade for, take up the cudgels for; propose, sponsor, vouch for, stick up for, throw one’s weight behind, plug, shout, smile and raise the profile (hate that word) for my students. For the students.
Sir Tim Brighouse stated that he has never been to an Senior Leadership Team meeting that is so in harmony about their vision of inclusion. (We invited him along to hear the action points from our whole school Inclusion review.) He feels that our roles in SLT integrate seamlessly in ensuring we ask for the best in everyone for everyone. This made me so happy to hear. However, why then do our results not show a smaller gap between our students. Don’t get me wrong, we are narrowing and have continued to narrow the gap over the years, this year by 6%. But, I do not think this is enough, nobody can really. BUT, I am in two minds about whether we can effectively ever close the gap entirely. Whatever the state of play all I want is to know that we all have given our students the best possible chance in life by plugging their barriers as effectively as possible.
Taking over the leadership of the Pupil Premium grant has allowed me to be more creative with the ‘plugging.’ I can now designate money we receive to reduce the gaps in English and Maths attainment and socialisation. I have also recently hired a Pupil Premium Lead; a research champion to look into effective ways to use this money. I have read a lot about how others use this money, I have been inspired and dismayed at the same time. For me, whilst at school students are all relatively equal, same classes, same teachers, same books, resources and so on. Their learning and physical abilities obviously differ but I feel the gaps are when they leave school daily, when they are at home/care, around their homes/place they stay, or when they are with their peers. These are the areas I want to develop further… I want to promote a love of learning, a desire to succeed.
Is it simply just instilling aspirations, ambitions and future chances in these young people that will make the difference. Unfortunately, we do not really know yet what some of the many issues are with these students that do not have as much income in their household as others… I am hoping between my Pupil Premium lead and I we can find out. Do you know why there is such a gap of knowledge? This is in contrast to what we know about SEN/D students.
My team and I have for provided all staff with a SEN/D register with information, strategies, advice and information. There isn’t this information for students who have poor parents, or from a ‘rough’ area.
Everything: I have been asked in the past whether a teacher can really be expected to know whether all their students are either/and Pupil Premium, Free School Meals, Looked After, Adopted, have English as an additional language, Special Educational Needs, a young carer and so on…
YES! Yes you are expected to know all that. Not off by heart, but just be aware. Be open to their strengths, areas for developments and the difficulties they face. Daily.
How will we really ever know the real difficulties they face? Maybe if we came from those backgrounds? Had an insight as to what it was like? Differentiation: I have read numerous posts about this recently and lots of posts err on the side of negativity towards the expectation that all students should have equal access to education. I have tried to respond to some of these posts and usually it ends with total agreement that we all want the same thing. We want all of our students to be stretched and challenged. However, due to years of this word being used inappropriately unfortunately it is tarnished with a colour that is hard to see past. I won’t write much more here as I have a post about it here. Below is the training session I recently delivered to some of my colleagues.
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:
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.