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Rewarding the Hard to Reach
April 20, 2015
0
Reward Room

Every school strives to reward their students with meaningful rewards that celebrate effort, achievement, attendance and behaviour;  but for most of us the tricky part is trying to find a suitable and cost effective reward that motivates the hard to reach students. Every school has them and every school is working hard to motivate them, because it’s that group that seem to hurt you in attendance, behaviour and achievement. So if we could just find that silver bullet that motivates them, we’d all be in a better place.

Although I’m not selling this idea as a silver bullet, it’s certainly made a lot of our harder to reach students sit up and take notice this week.

We have just created two reward rooms and installed two Xbox consoles, wall mounted LCD TV’s and bean bags. The reward rooms are designated to one year group per day and there are slots available to book the rooms before school, during lunchtime and after school. There is of course, strict criteria that students must meet in order for them to eligible to use the room.  Each Year Leader uses their own criteria specific to their year group to determine which students can use the room (the criteria for year 7 might be based upon behaviour and effort points, but year 11 might be based upon attendance at after school revision sessions).

As a school we believe that this strategy is going to appeal to our white, pupil premium boys who (like many other schools), quite often need to be significantly motivated to perform in line with their targets. For the cost of 2 consoles, 2 tv’s, 15 games and 8 beanbags (approx £1000), we can reward up to 125 students per week with the use of the rooms, creating a sustainable strategy all year round for no extra cost. Our aim is to use the rooms to not only reward the students who demonstrate fantastic behaviour all of the time, but to also target students who need motivation and a carrot that genuinely means something to them. Having students on a behaviour report is one thing, but working towards playing FIFA with their mates at lunchtime in the reward room when it’s cold and wet outside is another prospect all together! The same strategy can also be employed to potentially remove disruptive students at lunchtime from the yard or the field, giving them a positive focus and something to do rather than causing trouble because they are bored.

As this is a new strategy for us, we are letting the students decide which games they play from our stock of 15 titles. However, in the future we have plans for FIFA tournaments across year groups, time trials on the car racing games, staff v student games and Minecraft build off’s as we look to increase the publicity and hype of these events in order to further motivate these students in the classroom. Staff will be encouraged to also come and join in with the students, helping to create strong positive relationships. Entry to any of our Xbox reward events will be strictly for students who meet the specific criteria.

There is something out there that motivates everyone, it’s just about finding it……and we think we’ve found just the thing to motivate some of our harder to reach students!

How to engage students in lessons.
Dream team

As a History teacher, or any other subject teacher for that matter, how many times have you thought how you can “jazz” up a topic? There are some topics that just generate teacher and student enthusiasm and some that even an experienced History teacher thinks are dull. So here are a few tips of bringing that “lust for learning” into the classroom.  They are all tried and tested and guaranteed to motivate and enthuse. Why not give them a go?

Tarsia Puzzles

These puzzles are brilliant for motivating and engaging pupils. This is because the students are competing against time and each other. They are really good for independent learning but students do often find it much easier to work in pairs. Students are given a series of questions and answers on a topic and they need to match them up by either using prior knowledge (revision exercise) or by using textbooks, information sheets or the internet. This doesn’t sound too hard I hear you say! However, the activity is to test the higher order thinking skills as the questions and answers need to be placed into a hexagon shape and this requires a lot of logical thinking.

The puzzles are extremely easy for teachers to make. You simply download the programme from the Tarsia website, input your questions and answers and the programme does the rest for you. This is an excellent resource for differentiation – you can use less questions, resulting in a smaller hexagon or even change the shape of the puzzle completely. My students of all abilities love this challenge.

tarsia

 

 

Topic competition 

This is another lesson that is based around competition and students do become a little frantic during the lesson, so be prepared for some noise. This is probably not the best lesson to try when another class nearby are sitting an assessment.

Students need to be placed into groups of three or four. Each group is given their own set of coloured cards but those cards are kept on a desk in the front of the classroom. One student from each group comes to the desk, collects their first card and returns to their group. The card contains a question. Again, this could be used as a revision exercise or the introduction to a new topic. Together the group find the answer to the question and write it down. The answer is brought to the desk by the second person in the group. The answer is checked, if correct the second card is given, if incorrect the student returns to the group and they try again. The first group that completes all the questions correctly are the winners. This is where the noise comes in as the students are frantically running backwards and forwards in the room. However, there is always a “buzz” in the room and it is a fun and different way of learning. This activity also lends itself to differentiation as you can have mixed ability groups, ability groups, a MAT group with more challenging questions. The possibilities are endless. The only downside to this activity (apart from the noise) is the preparation of the cards beforehand. However, as with all resources, once you have made them you can use them over and over again.

 

Motivating students into writing extended answers.

Once upon a time this generally just applied to those students who took History at GCSE. This is no longer the case as with the new curriculum changes there is a greater emphasis on extended writing for everyone as well as spelling, punctuation and grammar. So as a teacher how can you possibly make this task engaging? My exam board love questions that allow students to explain a series of events. For example, Why was Hitler able to gain complete power in governing Germany in the years 1933 – 1934?

This lesson needs to be completed as a series of lessons. Around the classroom I place a lot of topic information that the students need to cover in their answer. Then begins the information hunt. Students are given the opportunity to work alone or in pairs. They circulate the room and complete a headed table by collecting as much information as possible about each topic. Information can be differentiated.

Many of our students have no idea of how to revise for exams, so this is the next part of the lesson.  They are all issued with six small postcards. The idea is to use the information that they have collected to design revision cards. For each topic, the information should be bullet pointed, short and snappy and contain key words and dates. Students are only allowed to use one side of the card for their notes forcing them to choose the information that is the most important.

The following task is the extended writing task. For this, students need large sheets of sugar paper, coloured pens and to work in partners. In pairs, they write the first paragraph to the question – this is their introduction. After five minutes, every pair swaps their paper – this is much easier if you go clockwise around the room.  The new pair of students reads through the work, they correct any factual and SPAG mistakes, then they use their revision cards and information table to write the next paragraph. They will need slightly longer for this so I usually give seven minutes to each paragraph after this. This then continues around the class until the whole answer is completed.

The final part of this activity is for students to produce their own individual answers. All class answers are displayed around the room. Students need to pick and choose which paragraphs they believe will produce the best answer. This is another form of differentiation as it allows lower ability students to see how to write a higher grade answer. They can then use this model to answer similar questions in the future.

Engagement for boys – but not just for boys!

This was originally set as a homework task to encourage students to complete research and explain their reasons for their choices. It became the most popular piece of homework that I have ever given. Enthusiasm went through the roof. I had students stopping me on the yard, coming to my room at break and e-mailing me to tell me their ideas. I have to say that there were a lot of parents involved in this task as well.  The task was simple. Students were asked to create a historical football dream team. They could choose any one from history but every person they chose had to be given a position on the team and this needed to include an explanation of why that person should play in that position – what qualities did they have? Students were given the option of e-mailing their homework to me or simply just writing it down. I was absolutely inundated with ideas. The results were all read and I used my tutor group at the time to help create the final “Dream Team”. This was then developed into a display in the classroom and it always generates a lot of interest.

Dream team

As a teacher, I have to say that developing lessons that create so much enthusiasm gives me great pleasure. Despite the planning and the noise, I get great satisfaction when students leave the room with a smile on their face and say how much they enjoyed History today. However, what gives me the most satisfaction is when they tell me as they are about to leave in Year 11 “Miss, do you remember when we ……..?”

Lead Learners
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I’m the G&T Co-ordinator at a sixth form college and am exploring different strategies to improve provision for our most able students within a classroom setting. I’m working with a wonderful group of teachers to develop new approaches and revisit old ones. After a lunchtime discussion with colleagues, I set up a lesson this week where students acted as teachers and was taken aback at just how successful it was. I selected 4 of the most able students in each AS class – although I also selected a couple who, on paper, are not quite so high achieving, but who have real enthusiasm for the topic we’re doing – and gave them the task with resources and ideas attached. I told them they’d be teaching up to 4 of their classmates and also told them they’d be scored (by their classmates) on how well they explained, answered questions and how much progress was made in the lesson.

 

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, particularly as I’d given the students the instructions on a Friday to be delivered on the following Monday morning. I had also chosen a student who is very able (target grade A) but who makes little effort to concentrate and work in class. I was particularly interested to see how she would tackle the task after she commented “oh great – so I get extra homework?” when I explained what I wanted her to do.

 

Several emailed me resources to be printed off for the lesson over the weekend and I was really impressed with the understanding the resources showed and the effort they had employed in the task. One asked for scissors and glue (that always makes my heart skip as a Geography teacher!) and two more asked for mini whiteboards and pens. I was feeling very optimistic and excited about the lesson and I wasn’t disappointed. Each group started by assessing their level of confidence in the topic on a scale of 1 to 5 (they revisited the scale at the end of the lesson) and then spent the next 40 minutes being taught by their peers.

 

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I was amazed at the quality of explanation and questioning that ensued. For 40 minutes the classroom buzzed with discussion, demonstrations, quizzes, sketching, card ordering and, most impressively, sustained student engagement with the task. I had organised mixed ability groups for each Lead Learner and made sure personalities were balanced as well. One outcome which I had hoped for (and which did actually happen) was that the quieter, less confident students would ask their Lead Learner as many questions as they wanted. What happened was that if they weren’t satisfied with the answer, they asked the question again and again until they understood. This would never have happened in a whole-class setting.

 

The Lead Learners clearly enjoyed the experience and so did the rest of the class. The written feedback the students gave showed significant progress made in the lesson and they all voted to repeat the exercise again with a different topic. After the 40 minute group work, I gave the class a hinge question test with some deliberately misleading options. Each group continued with the same level of discussion and engagement and every student got every question right. They’re now writing an essay on the topic for homework.

 

And which was one of the most lively and productive groups in the room? The one lead by the student who didn’t want extra homework! She blushed when I praised her for the effort she had made and reluctantly admitted that she had enjoyed the experience.

Reflecting on exams – how can I improve?
March 22, 2015
0
Addressing the common misconceptions.Addressing the common misconceptions.

Usually the best ideas are born out of necessity, having over 100 students sitting either an A level or GCSE exam in the coming weeks marking was becoming the only task I had time for. Whilst marking numerous pieces of work I realised I was writing the same thing over and over and… over. Surely there must be a more efficent/streamlined way of doing this that still remained personal to the student?

I created a marking grid based on the mark scheme and marked a couple of tests to pilot whether I had included everything necessary. I copied and pasted the blank grid as many times as there were students in the class. The grid took between 15 – 20 minutes to create but streamlined the process massively as I marked each test, this was then printed off and attached to the exam paper of each student. As I went through I created a tally of common mistakes on a piece of paper of WWW (What went wells) and EBIs (even better ifs) that were common for the majority, I then used this to create a reflection poster for us to go through as a class as opposed to just talking through the main errors. It was a combination of addressing the common misconceptions and being given the opportunity to react to the feedback they had been given – a colleague introduced me to the concept of “show me growth” which is incorporated here.

After showing they had purposely reacted to the feedback students were given the time to reflect – why had they lost marks and crucially what are their next steps in order to be successful for their forthcoming exams (post it and footstep boxes respectively)?

I feel there are many advantages to these posters -

  • 1) It has streamlined my marking process immeasurably
  • 2) It requires active participation from the students
  • 3) It is taken away and can be used as a revision tool
  • 4) I have further developed this by creating “Show me growth” worksheets of AFL questions that share similar principles to the ones they had already completed so they can use their feedback and improved answers to enable them to make outstanding progress on future tasks.

There are some drawbacks, however, they are fairly time consuming to make initially, they are class specific – I have two year 10 classes but their targets are very different due to the make up of the class and it also needs to be differentiated by ability (I made a higher and foundation sheet for one of the classes). Overall though I’ve had some very positive feedback from the students and colleagues who have utilised this resource.

Personalised to each student and filled in as each test was marked.

Personalised to each student and filled in as each test was marked.

Addressing the common misconceptions.

Addressing the common misconceptions.

 

Completed by the student.

Completed by the student.

 

Stop motion videos to demonstrate learning
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We recently have been lucky enough to get the use of five iPads in our biology department and we have been trying to integrate them into the classroom.  I recently came across the Lego stop motion app when making movies with my own kids and thought about applications for use in the classroom.  The app is free and I very easy to use.  My s4 class has used it to create videos to show their understanding of pyramids of energy, biomass and numbers.

My advanced higher class have used the app to demonstrate their understanding of cell and tissue culture.  

Both classes loved it.  They were very engaged in the activity and were on task throughout.  They shared ideas about what to add to the videos and showed me a few new features in the app that I didn’t know about.  

The advanced higher class worked in groups of 3/4 each choosing a different cell type to culture. They then shared their video with the rest of the class (using a vga cable and adapter linked up to the projector).  It made a great explanation tool for each cell type as well as a good revision tool.  It can be used in so many areas of the course and I plan to use it more and allow pupils to be creative in explaining what they have learned.  I have added a few of the videos (the ones without the kids in them) to let you see what they did.  We have to learn how to slow the videos down a bit but I’m sure the pupils can teach me this! Hope this helps

Sarah Clark

Arts learning resources from The Fruitmarket Gallery
Installation view Possibilities of the Object at The Fruitmarket GalleryInstallation view Possibilities of the Object at The Fruitmarket Gallery

The Fruitmarket Gallery is an art gallery funded by the taxpayer displaying exhibitions of work that are not for sale. The Gallery brings the work of some of the world’s most important contemporary artists to Scotland. We recognise that art can change lives and we offer an intimate encounter with art for free. The Gallery welcomes all audiences and makes it easy for everyone to engage with art. Gallery facilities include a bookshop and café. The Gallery is physically accessible and family-friendly.

As part of our learning programme, we produce free resources to help teachers, families and community groups to get the most out of each exhibition. Links to our resources are below.

The Learning Through Exhibitions series helps schools and community groups to explore exhibitions before, during and after a visit to The Fruitmarket Gallery. They can also be used for arts activities at any time alongside our other resources documenting the exhibition. Developed with artists and teachers, the series suggests ways to think with and through art and be inspired to make it. Creative Challenges are open-ended and adaptable to any age group. Covering artists including Louise Bourgeois, Gabriel Orozco, Jim Lambie and our current group exhibition of modern and contemporary Brazilian art Possibilities of the Object, resources cover curriculum areas including Expressive Arts, Literacy, Social Studies, Religious and Moral Education, Health and Wellbeing and Languages. Activities include dance, storytelling, poetry, drawing, sculpture, installation, music, film and photography.

Little Artists are activity sheets for families and primary school groups to explore and respond to the exhibition together. Activities include colour poems, storyboards and designing a display of sculpture.

Possibilities of the Object:

Stan Douglas:

Jim Lambie:

Tania Kovats

 Louise Bourgeois

 Gabriel Orozco

“I am very impressed by the learning resources available which accompany the exhibitions. They are comprehensive and motivating as well as being relevant to the curriculum.” Kathryn Malcolm, Teacher of Art and Design, Inverkeithing High School

Learning by Mistake
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Learning by Mistake

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

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My Best Learning Mistake

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

 

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

 

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

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

Marking Grids
March 8, 2015
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photo 1 (12)

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

photo 1 (13) photo 2 (12) photo 3 (11)

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

An example:

photo 1 (12)

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

Originally posted on my blog here.

Pedagoo Primary
March 4, 2015
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There have been many Pedagoo events in Scotland. Each has been highly successful, and enjoyable. Both those presenting and those joining workshops left with heads full of new ideas, feeling inspired to make changes. In my opinion the reason these events work so well, is that all the presenters are fellow practitioners. Not only does this mean their ideas and experiences are highly relevant, but you also know that if it works in their classroom, you can make it work in your own.

The one downside to the events I have attended, has been the lack of primary colleagues presenting. The strange thing is, on my Masters course, I reckon about 75% of the cohort were primary teachers. There is clearly no lack of inspiration or ambition in the sector, so I’m not sure why Pedagoo hasn’t inspired more primary teachers to attend or present at events. Any ideas?

Whilst I have learnt how much links teaching and learning across all stages, it would be nice to look down the list of workshops and see more than a couple of primary colleagues presenting. I also believe that bringing more primary colleagues into the Pedagoo community would benefit them and the schools they teach in. In fact, I believe that if primary teachers became involved in sufficient numbers it could revolutionise the whole sector.

So, in an attempt to rectify this imbalance, a group of us (all primary teachers) are organising a one-off dedicated primary event – #PedagooPrimary. It is a one-off as we don’t want to become a seperate group, we want to introduce more people to the wonders of Pedagoo, and as I said before, we have learnt the value of sharing and learning from each other across all sectors. Pedagoo Primary will take place on the 9th of May at East Edinburgh Library.

Please help spread the word, please consider whether you could lead a learning conversation and please come along on the day – lets start that revolution.

Go to www.pedagoo.org/primary for more details and to sign up.

Technology crossover
March 1, 2015
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Image by flickr.com/photos/adactioImage by flickr.com/photos/adactio

I have been teaching for around 13 years now and this is my first blog post. I have been making great efforts to keep up with technology and all it’s exciting developments but, I must confess, I am finding it harder than I thought I would. Having recently acquired ‘Plickers‘, ‘Socrative‘ and ‘Memrise‘, I am ready to try new things out in the classroom.

Very recently, I used QR codes combined with Vocaroo to get students to hand in ‘speaking’ homework and, apart fom the obvious “my computer crashed” excuses, it worked very well and spurred me on to refine it and improve it in future. This is definitely a positive thing as I feel as though I am not just using technology for the sake of it, I am using it to enhance my practice.

This Monday, I will try using Plickers in the classroom for the first time and I am not hugely confident. The management of the individual cards plus the iPad plus the PC seems like a lot of things to manage but hopefully it will all come good and I will feel invigorated and enthused by this next step in using technology in the classroom. I will let you know how it goes…

Also, I have been very aware of stress levels at work lately and so am trying to focus on making staff feel valued and important. I already send out a positive message every Friday but am trying to develop this further following the example of someone else’s wellbeing bags (which include treats and motivators). Fingers crossed this has a positive impact!

I will let you know how the Plickers experience goes!