I’ve been teaching for nearly 10 years now, always in challenging contexts. My first school was more mad than sane, and managing behaviour in a broadly system free school took up more of my time and energy than I care to admit. When I moved to my current school, behaviour was better, but, more importantly, the systems were in place to support me and my students. I started challenging myself to improve my teaching without worrying about the impact on behaviour. I tried structured group work, independent research tasks. I had the kids out of their seats and moving around. In my previous context, this would have been simply frightening.
In 2011-12, two things really improved my teaching. Firstly, I introduced co-operative learning in to all of my lessons. All of my students, no matter their needs, were able to participate in structured group and pair tasks. Talk for learning became positive and constructive. My classroom became a more enjoyable place to be. Although sometimes my students will moan about having to get up and do Quiz Quiz Trade, within a few minutes they are laughing and learning.
The second thing I did was to improve my marking. For me, initially, I marked every book, every lesson. I had previously either ‘ticked and flicked’ or done detailed marking of assessments. I hated marking books, as I would try to do two weeks worth of work in a single Sunday afternoon. This transformed my kids’ work. They really appreciated the fast turnaround. I was able to pick up on presentational issues. My marking really started to inform my planning. Levelling work and marking assessments became much faster, and my feedback became more relevant. I got my kids to do the things I had asked them to in my feedback.
This year (I spent 2012-13 on maternity leave), I have developed this. This has been a whole-school initiative, but now, I mark in green pen. If it is a formal assessed piece, I complete my feedback on a table, which the student has stuck in for me.
Underneath my feedback, which contains a ‘Do It Now’ task, I stick a yellow sticker. In the following lesson, the students complete the ‘Do It Now’ task, in read pen. Their response to marking is clear and obvious. You can really start to see the learning journey and the progress over time.
So my marking is pretty good. My behaviour management is pretty good (after years of refinement). My students make good progress. They are challenged, and the pitch and pace are generally good. This is all fine.
However, I think my teaching could be much more engaging. My students don’t really enjoy my lessons as much as they could. They aren’t memorable enough. So this year (and I do appreciate that we are now half way through it), I’m focusing on engagement.
I’ve got a list of things to try – all nicked from twitter and teaching blogs – and I’ll work my way through. I plan to blog about them on the way. I’m definitely not the most creative person in the world, and with a small child, I can’t be spending all weekend creating fancy activities. But I am prepared to spend a bit of time, energy and thought into making my lessons stand out from the rest.