Starting a lesson and sharing the intention of the lesson.

A few years ago, a parish church worried that their original tradition was lost. The new priest and some parishioners went to visit the oldest, original priest who had set up the parish fifty years earlier.

“Father, when we say, ‘Let us Pray’ we all then kneel down. Yes?”

“No, no my child!”

“As so, I was right?” Asked the young priest. “That is when they all stand up?”

“Not at all.”

Worried the old priest’s last breadth was about to leave him, the young parish priest explained the problem.

“The problem right now is that every time I say ‘Let us pray’ half the congregation stand and half them kneel.”

The old priest beamed with delight. “Now THAT is the tradition!”

I found this story particularly funny as a church goer having experienced this sort of confusion several times.

The relevance to teaching? Ask a group of teachers about the sharing of Learning Intentions and Success Criteria and some will kneel, others will stand. Whatever happens, most do something.

Having completed several observations over several years, I know the start of a lesson tells you so much about the lesson ahead. Maths teachers do seem obsessed with starter questions. Many of them giving questions that either provoke twenty minutes of off-topic recaps. I witnessed one (promoted) teacher make the starter questions last more than half the lesson (35 long minutes out of 60) then tell me to notice the starters took only five minutes.

My personal conclusion was that every teacher was able to offer a “normal” outline of how their lesson goes and was prepared to justify the rationale behind this. Many departments, or even entire schools, have a policy. These departments sometimes even bravely use the phrase “Well Embedded” to describe policies on such strategies.

My own observations suggest this term must mean “Those staff who are still here from when we did the initial whole school Inset still do it”

I met with a very insightful set of teachers at a school last week where I had been part of a team delivering a session on Higher Order Thinking (I shared a self evaluation tool in an earlier post.) This session was the feedback so was more informal. Our naturally occurring topic was Learning to Learn. Blooms Taxonomy is a good topic to evolve in to L2L.

Before any time, we were talking about the use of Learning Intentions and Success Criteria.

What is a Success Criteria, rather than a LI?

To find the answer to this, you are more likely to find success in the Primary sector. Why? I do not know it is even true. I have been told by several primary colleagues they are secure in their understanding. I have been told by some secondary colleagues they “don’t have a clue” what a SC is at all yet I have never met a primary colleague who doesn’t know.

Personally I use LI and SC but with the headings WALT and WILF (We are Learning To and What I’m Looking For) as it helps us all focus what the difference actually is. Some people may use Outcomes and Objectives. Some of my pupils hate WALT and WILF as they met this at primary school in the form of a pair of characters personifying the terms. Another unexpected problem with WALT and WILF? “Sir, you showing us a MILF too?” (google it, I had to!)

I recently asked for input from the teachers who follow me on twitter. The responses I received were as follows :

Pretty much embedded across the school and pupils now ask if they are not up during regi as they copy them in to planner (Secondary)

2) Usually put up LI and, where possible, they come up with their own SC. Depends on the task though (Secondary Computing)

3) LI for every topic but not every lesson. Done verbally and not for ever lesson. Usually give the kids the week or month view/expectation. (Secondary)

4) Done every lesson but nine times out of ten it is done verbally as I hate the idea of kids copying them off the board. (Secondary Chemistry)

5) I share learning intentions in primary, as a class we discuss the success criteria so we know what need to do to achieve L.I. (Primary)

6) I do at the start of a new unit of work and frequently revisit them to ensure we are on track – not necessarily in every lesson (Secondary)

7) Not at the start of the lesson but at the end where pupils build their own SC. It makes pupils consider what they are doing and why when working on a problem. (Secondary)

Indeed, I have involved teachers from other parts of the world in a separate list and get results that follow this pattern too.

I look forward to your input. New, old, middle aged. Please comment and let me know what works for you. In fact, fitting this response in to 140 characters and tweeting to @pedagoo would be a brilliant help. If we start a discussion or debate, all the better!

A document, from Northern Ireland, that helps us focus the LI and SC is found here

So, keeping in mind my focus was to look at the way lessons are started and how intentions are shared, I now ask for your own input. Either responding to this post or by tweeting to @pedagoo would be a good way of reflecting on our own teaching practice as the term nears to an end. Do you stand or kneel?

5 thoughts on “Starting a lesson and sharing the intention of the lesson.

  1. George McKinlay

    Hi Eddie

    Thanks for post. LI & SC really important yet I started to think that despite the best of (L) intentions the classroom may be more complex – so I have been giving more time to reflection (whilst still using LI & SC) – what did you learn? It often surprised me what the pupils felt the most important / relevant/ engaging, thing about the lesson had been.

    1. Danielle

      I do the same. I ask if they have questions about the LI. Then ask them to discuss what this actually means to them. I take a couple of ideas to check they’re on track and understand the vocab. I ask what they’re learning during and after. Often we learn more/ different things than what we set out to accomplish even if the LI wasn’t achieved.

  2. Danielle

    I have recently completed a placement where not only the LI, SC, list of Vocab, learning powers/ blooms, but also the names of child detectives of these powers adorned the first power point slide – totally rediculous!

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