Author Archives: @lecfarnborough

The Thinking Classroom. Don’t Call it Challenge!

“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.

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The Complete Guide to DATEs – Subject Specific CPD

The Complete Guide to DATEs

Developing approaches to Teaching English
Developing approaches to Teaching &Education

Embedding CPD which allows for the development of subject specific knowledge and subject specific pedagogy. Skip straight to The Concept to avoid my preamble!

About me
I’ve been an English teacCPD modelher for 15 years and Curriculum Leader for 6 years. In January 2015 I was given the opportunity to join the Senior Leadership Team and among other things I have responsibility for NQT, ITT, Strands 2 and 3 CPD (targeted and opt-in), the Teacher Guide and Literacy


CPD menu
Background
Over the last 12 months our school’s CPD has radically changed and developed, building our structure from Shaun Allison’s Perfect Teacher-Led CPD book and including approaches through blogs that have influenced our thinking and ideas from our Academy partner school. CPD is no longer exclusively a top down model but a model where staff are empowered to share, explore and collaborate through a wide range of avenues.

Part of my SLT remit is to increase CPD opportunities for staff in ways appropriate to roles, career stages and interests. There is a pleasing appetite for personal development and engagement in the opt-in programmes (such as 15 Minute Forums, EduBook Club, the Teaching & Learning library) is continually increasing. Directed CPD such as the Inspiring Leader Meeting (where TLR holders – all those who are not Curriculum Leaders – and aspiring TLR holders are trained on things you are expected to know when you have a TLR but no one ever shows you) is going from strength to strength.

As much as the whole school CPD offerings have been going well, at the start of this term I found myself increasingly considering the need for subject specific CPD. This was partly through reading a variety of materials online/in books and partly as a result of staff changes in my own department:

• Reading blogs which highlighted the need for subject specific CPD and the benefits it brings, for example, this from Mark Anderson @ICTEvangelist http://tinyurl.com/nbraaow, many things from @ShaunAllison https://classteaching.wordpress.com/, interesting articles from Joe Kirby, Kev Bartle, Chris Chivers and David Didau on CPD.
• Revisiting The Sutton trust’s Report on ‘What Makes Great Teaching?’ made me consider the importance of a teacher’s subject knowledge to improved outcomes for students, particularly the depth of knowledge needed.
• Evaluating our approach to CPD over the last year and reflecting on how we can take the things we think have worked and translate these in a more bespoke way to different subject areas.
• We’ve had a major change to the make-up of our department. I have a superb team but much of the knowledge and skills that develops from teaching over a number of years has left us – we have NQTs, NQT+1s and overseas trained teachers (experienced but unfamiliar with our texts at KS3 and KS4) making up a significant proportion.
• My super KS3 co-ordinator, Rachel Kilburn, undertook a SWOT-style audit which flagged up implications for KS3/4 teaching as we progress through the year. She found some aspects could be addressed though 1-2-1 help and others from the innovative ‘thinking moments’ cards she developed to aid self-reflection but common threads cropped up which would require an alternative department approach to boost the impact in lessons.
• We have significant changes to English with the new GCSEs. I’ve co-ordinated and organised this from a long and medium term position but was concerned how confident (or apprehensive!) were we with the new poems and texts.
• Other than continuing to create pre-made lessons (which are great but I have always had reservations about how much someone can really take a pre-planned lesson and understand the thinking that has gone on behind it), I pondered how we could use our individual expertise to help others with the various parts of English teaching many admitted fearing.

The Concept
Introduce DATEs to our weekly English Department meetings – developing approaches to teaching English.

Our Approach
• We made the DATEs high status – they are always the first agenda item regardless of anything else that may be deemed urgent or important in that meeting. DATEs can be scheduled to last different periods of time depending on what is needed.
• After Rachel Kilburn established which aspects of English teaching held the most ‘fear factor’ she calendared DATEs for the year ahead, looking at where things would be best placed for maximum effect. She then approached English staff who she knew had specific skills/knowledge in each area to deliver. New staff have also been encouraged to look at where they would like to contribute. Topics such as how to analyse quotations, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g able students in English lessons, scoring highly on Q4 H Tier, tackling pre-19th Century poems with reluctant learners are all on the schedule.
• I used the AQA enhanced results analysis facility from this summer to determine which question areas we must work on and built in DATEs for these, whether that’s rethinking how we teach it or ensuring staff whose students achieved better than others have the forum to explain how they teach it.
• Where we had spaces to add extra DATEs, we looked at previous highly rated 15 Minute Forums which new staff haven’t been able to see to rework them in an a English specific way.
• We will take other opportunities to have DATEs as/when they will benefit teachers and enhance their knowledge/skills/understanding in a manner that will improve not add to workload.

Types of DATE
• First DATE – the launch session
• Hot DATE – one that covers up-to-date ideas, popular methods receiving twitter/blog time
• Speed DATE – maximum three minutes when something only requires a short, snappy burst
• Cheap DATE – where cost effective extra resources might help the teaching of a complex skill (Poundland Pedagogy/@WallaceIsabella style)
• Dream DATE – talking about a poem or section of a novel: what every English teacher loves to do!
• Double DATE – two in one meeting
• Bad DATE – things to avoid (for example I ran a VAK one last week)
• UnDATEable – the particularly difficult areas to teach that we might try to avoid (grammar for me…) but by looking at them from a different point of view we can see they are worth a go
• Blind DATE – surprise session
• DATE night – a series of sessions in one go

Next Steps

These sessions are proving really popular in the department. Staff are enjoying the opportunity to have the time to really think and talk about the subject in a way that builds confidence, enthusiasm and excitement in lesson planning and delivery. I appreciate there is potential for some limitation – where depth of subject knowledge is needed for great teaching this won’t be resolved in one CPD session. However, it is a start to promoting and developing areas that we’ve perhaps neglected up to this point or just assumed everyone knew on account of the fact they’d been employed to teach English. Also, whilst I have always worked on the mantra of start meetings on time, regardless of who is missing, there has been a noticeable improvement in the promptness of attendance – teachers don’t want to miss any of the DATE!

Over the next half term I’ll be rolling out the concept whole school under the name developing approaches to teaching & education. I’ve already met with the maths department who expressed a strong interest and have already started to map out their sessions. I’ll meet other CLs in pairs to explore how DATEs can be enhance their curriculum area CPD. For me it’s crucial that CLs don’t have anything added on to an already challenging workload without something being taken away so I’ll work alongside them to see how this can work.

Later in the year we’ll have a calendared school DATE night in one of our Monday whole school CPD slots, almost like a mini-TeachMeet but with the focus on departments. We’ll start with a whole staff 15 Minute Forum (we still have some teachers who’ve never attended one so this will give a flavour of what they’re like and hopefully encourage some to come to future ones), progress to department based DATEs and will have a few blind DATEs thrown in for staff who like a bit of spontaneity so they can drop in elsewhere and see what they can pick up!

Differentiated CPD – It’s The Future! I’ve Tasted It!

Have you ever been forced to sit through a whole day training session on an area of teaching you consider to be one of your strengths? Has a trainer visited your school to say that you should be teaching in a style that really wouldn’t work for you? Did you go to the same Teachmeet as me last year where an ‘Educational Consultant’ stood up and spent ten minutes telling a room full of qualified teachers what the difference is between formative and summative assessment? (She gave me her business card if anyone’s interested.) How about a death by Powerpoint experience? An evangelist with an annoying amount of enthusiasm for an idea that’s a tiny bit rubbish? If you are like me, the answer will be yes to all of these questions.

It’s funny how we are all busy differentiating our lessons for the benefit of the children we teach. But what about our learning? How can we make sure that we are getting the CPD we need to be the best we can be? The answer is something like Pedagoo Hampshire.

A menu selection of 40 mini seminars, each delivered by different speakers who ranged from primary, secondary and further education teachers from across the south east of England, was available to choose from before arrival. After a talk by @graham_irisc which set the tone superbly, it was off to the starter course – Telescopic Education by @chrischivers2 and Collaboration by @hayleymc2222. Hayley bought to the table a plethora of suggestions on who to follow in the Twitter world as well as some wise words on how to organise a Teachmeet – something I would recommend to anyone looking to develop their own, as well as their school’s teaching and learning philosophy and delivery. I love the fact that Hayley organised one in her NQT year – amazing! It was nice to get a mention on one of Hayley’s slides (they say everyone is famous for 5 minutes don’t they?) but I didn’t let this go to my head. Instead, I concentrated on the importance of learning from each other. Next, Chris Chivers stimulated a discussion between a group of primary teachers on the barriers faced when trying to implement a bottom-up teaching model to secure progress. Admittedly, the group digressed into a sharing of ideas on curriculum enrichment and CPD opportunities and what the barriers to these are instead. The message was loud and clear – lots of teachers feel scared to digress from the core subjects – a terrible shame in my opinion, and that of my peers in the group.

The sorbet course to cleanse the pallet came in the guise of @basnettj on giving pupils feedback and @lizbpattison on how differentiation might just be counter-productive. There were some great discussions generated around the importance of involving students in feedback. I raised the question of peer feedback in mixed ability groups and whether this can work for the higher attainer – I haven’t yet found my answer. Then my clever (sorry I mean able/gifted/talented *delete as applicable) friend Liz stepped up with some fascinating thoughts on the effectiveness of differentiation on the growth mindset we are all looking to expand. What did I take away from her talk? Well, it reinforced my view that differentiation is brilliant when done properly but can be disastrous when done badly – as it was for Liz during her school days when she was labelled ‘middle ability.’ (You wouldn’t know it to hear her now!) Unfortunately for Liz, but fortunately for us, she still can’t let it go, which means I am very much looking forward to hearing about the research she continues to do into the subject.

The main course was a corned beef and pickle sandwich (me) paired with a fillet steak and triple cooked chips (@graham_irisc). Graham invited a discussion on what is important to focus on – is it inspection? Is it budgets? Is it the standard of biscuits in the staffroom? No, the room came to the conclusion it was teaching & learning. Although, in my opinion, biscuits definitely feed into this. (Pardon the very accidental pun) Then it was my turn to evangelise on the benefits of empowering middle leaders along with some tips on how these vital members of staff can empower themselves to deliver brilliant learning experiences for their pupils. Thank you to everyone who turned up – I hadn’t slept for a week wondering if I still would have delivered my presentation to an empty room! I think I would have – it would have been a terrible waste to have not given it an airing.

And then, just when the full-up sleepy feeling started to take over, there was @natalielovemath to wake us up from our slumber with a very inspiring talk on using objects bought from Poundland to enrich Maths lessons. I don’t teach Maths anymore and this session only served to make me sad about this fact. Although, the idea of pasta graphs, children writing on disposable table cloths and sticking numbers on fly-swatters have been enthusiastically received by the Maths teachers at my school! Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal (in a brilliant and inspiring way!) @haslemeremuseum extracted woolen brains from a poor Egyptian rag doll. Learning through objects is very under-rated and can be the key to unlock the door of learners who struggle to take an interest.

Before departing, the classy port and cheese board came in the form of @lcll_director who pressed home the need for using days like this to actually make changes in our practice. “All of these brilliant ideas are no good just stored in our heads,” murmured the rag doll from session 4.

So there we have it – a day of differentiated CPD just for me. Imagine if groups of schools got together to do this at the start of every school year – giving teachers a choice of CPD suited just to them through the sharing of strengths and passions of their peers. Would that be better than a whole-school INSET day which doesn’t differentiate for the needs of every learner; in this case, teachers? I think so. How about you?

#LOVEOFLEARNING : Where has all the active learning gone? The demise of some great pedagogy?

Sage on the stage or guide on the side? A false dichotomy

There is no “correct way” to teach. This is a rather obvious statement, which has been reiterated by professors of education, school leaders, psychologists and OFSTED. The problem with this is that rather than protect the profession against “fads” of pedagogy, this stance can in actual fact encourage them. If there is no correct way (which there isn’t) then the tides of opinion effect the teaching climate even more. What used to be seen as effective teaching has been criticised to the point where we are in danger of replacing one “fad” with another. It seems that “active learning” (which was never a panacea anyway) has been replaced with more “traditional” practices such as write and listen. If learning is complex we should not forget those active strategies which not so long a go were seen as so effective. Here I argue that active strategies can create a love of learning with students. This is not saying that other methods can’t either. As with most things in teaching “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it”

Over the past few years there has been somewhat of a backlash to “active learning”. Trends come and go in teaching and this one had its day… or has it?

Rightly so OFSTED over the past few years responded to the criticism that it was judging lessons and teaching against a “style”. For a while probably from 2005 -11 this perceived style was characterised by whizzy activities, performing arts, teachers as facilitators and measuring progress every twenty minutes, with a “plenary” that involved going back to the learning objectives that students had copied down at the start of the lesson.  Whether or not this is actually what OFSTED was looking for is down up for debate, (I suspect the truth is that it was a communication breakdown between the inspection regime and school leaders) but nevertheless many schools designed lesson judgement criteria around this perceived “Outstanding Lesson” format.  People made money out of courses on OFSTED active learning strategies etc.

However, over the past few years this “style” has been rightly criticised. Michael Wilshaw has publicly come out stating that it might be totally appropriate that students sit and listen… and that passivity should not be criticized as a matter of course. At the same time there has been a rise of what I call the “anti-fad” brigade which rightly attacks fads in teaching that promised “outstanding lessons” and “rapid and sustained progress”. This is good, but there is a danger that the baby is thrown out with the bath water.

At Debden Park High School we have a tradition of “active learning” strategies. When specialisms mattered we used our Performing Arts status to spread effective teaching. It bound the school together. It helped us win the battle against special measures by engaging often very disengaged students.  Far from a “style” of teaching active strategies enhanced effective teaching.

Much of what is seen on Twitter, and #PedagooFriday is exactly the kind of strategies that engage students. Yes students can be engaged through silent reading, yes they can demonstrate a “love of learning” through essay writing, but let’s not forget some of the innovative and interesting techniques (there I said it techniques) that can be highly useful to teachers and students. Here are some of the strategies that have been spotted in the past 5 days, they engage and create interest as part of a “varied diet” of effective teaching.

Speed dating

Yes this was a staple of the “active learning” repertoire. But how effective if used properly! Seen in a science lesson where students “dated” around some very challenging questions and used the power of peer collaboration to learn.

Image-1

Class debate.

Two sides debating the effectiveness of Gustav stresemann’s leadership in Germany.  The teacher was the “guide on the side” but what a way for students to demonstrate their hard earned knowledge. Not only this they extended their understanding by debating, listening and reconsidering their views based upon the presentation of evidence and argument.

debate

Character mind –map

How about a twist to Mind mapping? Here students carousel around characters writing down in depth analysis of them. Memorable. This also encouraged a level of dialogue between students which would have been unlikely in a tradition mindmap. In addition the teacher could (and did) circulate around monitoring student responses and extending them via questioning.

Image-3

 

Teacher in Role

A great way to engage students in the subject matter. The “character” can question students and give them “knowledge” about the topic studied. Moreover, who forgets a loon enter the classroom dressed up? Look at the levels of engagement in this classroom when Charlie Chaplin starts dancing:


chaplin from Pedagogy Prowess on Vimeo

These strategies were seen in classrooms in the past 5 days, and they were very effective. Could other things have been as effective? Probably, but these did create a huge amount of engagement and may just work with your class.

 

Reciprocal Reading in History

As Head of History I often find that when presented with text heavy sources our students are unwilling to spend the time reading them. This then impacts on their understanding and results in answers that lack detail.  For me to read aloud to the class meant that far too many students just sat back and switched off, having individual students read aloud resulted in much of the same.  I began to look for ways to encourage them to read while gain a deeper understanding of complex text. I also wanted them to take ownership of their own learning. It was for this reason that I decided to implement the reciprocal reading strategy. What is reciprocal reading?

  • Reciprocal teaching refers to an instructional activity in which students become the teacher in small group reading sessions.
  • Teachers model, then help students learn to guide group discussions using four strategies: summarising, question generating, clarifying, and predicting.

Once students have learned the strategies, they take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading a dialogue about what has been read.

Why use reciprocal reading?

  • It encourages students to think about their own thought process during reading.
  • It helps students learn to be actively involved and monitor their comprehension as they read.
  • It teaches students to ask questions during reading and helps make the text more comprehensible.

Roles of Students

Students are placed into groups of four or five and allocated roles. The roles are:

A predictor. Predicting involves previewing the text to anticipate what may happen next. Readers can use the information from the text and their prior knowledge to make logical predictions before and during reading. Prediction can also be linked to text type.

A clarifier. Although students can be taught to identify difficult words and work through them, it is much more difficult for some to recognise unclear sentences, passages, chapters or ideas. Clarifying helps students to monitor their own understanding and identify any problems in comprehending portions of text.

A questioner. Good readers ask questions throughout the reading process but formulating questions is a difficult and complex task. In reciprocal reading students learn to generate questions about a text’s main ideas, important details and about textual inferences.

A summariser. To summarise effectively students must recall and arrange in order only the important events in a text. Summarising helps readers to construct an overall understanding of a text, story, chapter or paragraph.

There can also be a group leader if required. The group leader will be responsible for ensuring that everyone participates and that the text is fully understood. Each member of the group is given a laminated role card. The cards contain prompts for the students to think about during their reading of the text.

reciprocal reading roles Use of reciprocal reading in History.

Students are presented with information relating to the reign of Mary I. Taking it in turns each student reads aloud one paragraph at a time. At the end of every paragraph, everyone completes their role. Included in this information are the two sources that students will be expected to make inferences from in an assessed piece of writing. The sources are:

Source 2 - The execution of Latimer and Ridley, two Protestant bishops who refused to become Catholics.

Source 2 – The execution of Latimer and Ridley, two Protestant bishops who refused to become Catholics.

 

Source 3 – From John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs”, about the burning of Latimer and Ridley.

“So they came to the stake. Dr Ridley, entering the place first, looked towards Heaven. Then, seeing Mr Latimer, with a cheerful look he ran and embraced him, saying, “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either ease the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to endure it”.He then went to the stake and, kneeling down, prayed with great fervour, while Mr Latimer following, kneeled down and prayed also. Dr Ridley gave presents of small things to men standing near, many of whom were weeping strongly. Happy was he who could get the smallest rag to remember this good man by. Then the blacksmith took a chain of iron and placed it about both their waists and then knocked in the staple.Dr Ridley’s brother brought him a bag of gunpowder and tied it about his neck. His brother did the same to Mr Latimer.They then brought a lighted faggot and laid it at Dr Ridley’s feet. Upon which Mr Latimer said “Be of good comfort, Mr Ridley, we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out”.

 

Student Activity

  • Summarise the main points of Source 3 in no more than 100 words.
  •  Do you think that Source 2 shows the same event as that described in Source 3? Explain your answer in detail.
  •  Answer this question using inferences:

 What can you infer from the sources about Queen Mary’s attitude towards the Catholic religion? 

Benefits of reciprocal reading

Learners can gain an improved understanding of complex text in content areas. This leads to:

  •  Greater knowledge of the topic.
  •  Improved skills.
  •  More positive attitudes when extracting, organising, and recording information.
  •  More self-confidence and motivation to read.
  •  Improved leadership skills.
  •  Increased co-operation and greater initiative.

My lessons have shown that when Reciprocal Reading is implemented, learners make substantial gains in understanding what they read. This then impacts on the progress that they make.

How to engage students in lessons.

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 ……..?”

Ten easy ways to demonstrate progress in a lesson

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:

  1. Progress Clocks are very simple. Students are issued  with a template of a blank clock. The clock face is divided into four, each quarter represents twenty minutes of the lesson. The first part is to find out what the students know about a topic. This could be a completely new topic or one that you taught last lesson and are going to expand upon. The clock is revisited throughout the lesson and used a mini plenary check. Students use this alongside success criteria so they can see themselves how much progress they are making and what they need to do to achieve the next level.
  2. Mini Mysteries are used when you want the students to learn independently and demonstrate progress. In History, we use evidence packs that allow the pupils to work together in groups – good for differentiation. They are also provided with a key question. For example, “What was happening at Grafeneck Asylum?”. Students then have to come up with an answer and complete a concept map to show their thinking. This allows them to share their ideas with the rest of the group. Based on what is then discussed in the class, groups are given the opportunity to change their original judgment. The answer is revealed and students have to connect the event to their prior learning. I usually do this in the form of a piece of extended writing.
  3. Three Tiers of Progress. This is a visual way for the students to see the progress that they are making in the lesson. It can be a display board in the classroom or simply a template displayed on a power point slide. The board is divided into three horizontal columns, each column containing the title “Novice, Apprentice and Expert”. Students either have small pictures of themselves or just their name and move themselves into the category that best suits them at that particular time in the lesson. Students should be using the success criteria in the lesson to move themselves higher up the tiers – the aim is to become an expert in the topic by the end of the lesson.
  4. Progress Checker. This can be a laminated card that can be issued at any point during the lesson. It contains statements that allow students to comment on their progress at different points of the lesson. Examples of statements are  “I feel confident about my progress in this lesson because….”, “The thing that I have found most difficult in this lesson so far is …..”. Statements can be adapted for any subject. Students complete the statements in their book so there is evidence of clear progress.
  5. Are you making progress this lesson? This is best done with a smaller class or where you have the advantage of having a teaching assistant with you. It simply involves giving a red, amber or green dot with a marker pen in the student’s book against a statement that they have made. It is an excellent way to start the lesson. In History, I use it with the bell activity which is usually the key question. The coloured dot represents correct knowledge – red means totally incorrect, amber, some of it is right but it needs improving and green is correct. Students are obviously aiming towards the green dot somewhere during the lesson to show that  they now fully understand.
  6. Mr Wrong paragraphs. Students are given paragraphs that contain deliberate mistakes. This task is used to check understanding of knowledge or for spotting literacy errors. However, I often use it as a combination of the two as there is so much emphasis placed on improving literacy in every subject. This could be used to check for understanding of knowledge or used for spotting literacy errors (or a combination of the two).
  7. Enquiry Based Learning or KWL Charts. These are similar to the progress clocks in that they check what the students already know, what they would like to know by the end of the lesson and what they have learnt during the lesson. They need to be used in conjunction with the lesson objectives so that the right questions can be asked.
  8. Tactical Titles. What can be easier than having the student write a title in their book such as, ‘What I know now’,   ‘Pre-assessment’, ‘Draft 1’, ‘First attempt’? Students complete the relevant information under each title. The more they are used throughout their books, it becomes very easy to see that progress over time has been demonstrated.
  9. Exit Tickets. Most teachers will have used these in one way or another. Some use post-it notes for a student to write down what they have learnt during the lesson. Mine are a printed ticket for each students that are handed out towards the end of the lesson. They contain the titles, “Three things that I have learnt, Two questions that I would like to ask and one final reflection”. Exit tickets help with the planning of the following lesson as you can get a good idea of which aspects of the lesson the students did not fully understand.
  10. Marking and Feedback . I know – this is what we all hate the most!  Detailed marking is time consuming but I truly believe it is the best way for students to make progress. I use the system of including an empty yellow box after a piece of written work. I give feedback in the form of “What went well” and “Even better if ” comments. It is the responsibility of the student to act upon the comments given and make the improvements in the highlighted yellow box. The box also highlights the progress that the student has made. Students act upon their feedback at the beginning of the next lesson. We call this “DIRT” time – dedicated improvement and reflection time.

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.

 

 

Grid(un)locked-inspiring creative poetry analysis

After 18 months in Special Measures and being constantly under scrutiny (a particularly devastating blow to our department – we’d just attained 81% A*-C against a target of 69% when it happened) we’re always looking for new and interesting ways to bring engaging ideas into our classrooms. This idea came about in February as we were bracing ourselves for another Ofsted visit and has been a massive success with Year 10 and Year 11.

Here’s how it works:

1. Students work in pairs/groups with a poetry grid and two dice (tip-use foam dice!)
2. Take it in turns to roll the dice and answer the question. Others can add to/ expand an answer to raise to overall level of response once they’ve exhausted their ideas
3. If a double is rolled, talk on the topic area for 30 secs without hesitation, deviation… (you get the gist)

It’s simple, effective and fun but there’s more to it than just being a grid with pretty colours. Firstly, the questions are all linked to the mark scheme descriptors for the exam. The one in the picture is designed for the AQA unseen question and I’ve also created an adapted version for the Anthology poetry. This allows students to respond to the poems in a way that is directly beneficial to the exam skills they have to demonstrate.

Secondly, The colours aren’t random. Each colour is linked to a different area: pink=structure, purple=feelings and attitudes/mood and tone, yellow=language, blue=themes and ideas, orange=talk for 30secs, green (without doubt the favourite with students)=creative connections and ideas (not directly linked to a specific mark scheme area but to access the poem in a different way and just maybe come up with something that unlocks the poem in a way they wouldn’t have considered).

Thirdly, the way they choose the question to answer is differentiated. Say they roll a two and a four. If they take the larger number horizontally across the grid and the smaller number vertically, the question will be more challenging than if they do it vice versa. All the questions require thinking about but I think that to access discussion and ideas at the highest levels students often need to ‘warm up’ and this is one way they can do it.

You’ll see in the picture I also made a vocabulary grid to use alongside the game. Eight of the boxes link to the question areas, one includes the tentative language (could, may, might, possibly) we’d encourage students to use when exploring Literature. Whilst the words on the vocabulary grid are pretty comprehensive, I also made sure they fully covered anything students might need for the ‘Relationships’ cluster in the AQA Anthology.

For Year 11 who have studied all the poems and are preparing from the exam, they have used the grid in a few ways. Sometimes we focus on two specific poems. This is particularly useful prior to writing a ‘powergraph’ (more on this another time but it’s transformed the approach for our more able students). I mentioned creativity earlier. Combining the questions with a pick-a-poem style (ie pick two poems randomly from a bag/spinner) has generated all sorts of links and connections that students might never have thought about otherwise.

In whole class feedback, there a couple of ways it can been taken further. I usually ask what the most perceptive point is that someone in a group has made so everyone can benefit from different ideas. I’ll also ask which question has promoted the best discussion in the group-it can vary for different poems. I’ll then give students extra time to continue discussions, possibly looking at questions mentioned in the feedback part but they can also look at questions of a certain colour if the dice have missed out any areas or even just choose a question they fancy.

One of the other benefits that my less confident students have found is that certain questions really help them unlock ideas. These are the questions they revise and when going into an exam they can consider them if they are stuck. Many of my Year 10s reported this was the technique that helped them the most in their recent Unseen Poetry mock.

It’s interactive, fun and relevant. The responses are genuinely worth it and encourage students to think in a way that isn’t gimmicky but genuinely higher level. That’s been my experience anyway!

I’m happy to email the resources via DM.

Aimee